Breathing through the Riffs

By 
Katie Gibson
August 20, 2019

Kim Perlak and David Tronzo shared some often overlooked advice with Guitar Sessions students. 

Guitar Department Chair Kim Perlak
David Tronzo, professor of guitar
Perlak demonstrates a technique discussed in the clinic.
Tronzo and Perlak answer questions from guitar students.
Image by Ben Pu
Image by Ben Pu
Image by Ben Pu
Image by Ben Pu

“Breathe” isn’t always the first instruction given to guitar-playing students. But at a clinic during Berklee’s Guitar Sessions summer program, Kim Perlak and David Tronzo urged their audience to do just that. 

“Every guitar player I know has had to realize they’re not breathing,” said Tronzo, professor in the Guitar Department, to knowing laughter from the audience. He pointed out that while the guitar isn’t considered a “breath instrument” in the way of woodwinds or brass, breathing is still crucial to technique and relaxation while playing. “Your body runs out of oxygen if you’re holding your breath while you play,” he said, explaining that lack of oxygen makes it much more difficult to play with consistent technique or nail a tricky riff. 

Perlak, chair of Berklee’s Guitar Department, agreed. “You need deep breaths and then the blood can flow,” she said, before demonstrating several riffs of the type Tronzo had mentioned. “Eventually, that will become your default,” she said. “Then your body will be relaxed and your brain can pay attention to all the beautiful colors of your sound.”  

Listen to Perlak talk more about her own style in this episode of Sounds of Berklee:

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