Karen Tuttle Breathing Coordination

July 31st, 2019 | Posted by BaylaK in Body | Goal 05: Ease - (Comments Off)


The great viola pedagogue Karen Tuttle developed a system of breathing with the bow which she called Coordination. The genius of her teaching was to incorporate frequent muscle and breath releases during every bow. The muscles continually release, allowing the string to circulate freely under the bow. Your sound becomes open, rich, and never pressed, even in the loudest dynamics. This method can be used both to eliminate muscle tension and also to enhance musical expression.

This technique is most easily learned with slow bows at first.

         Before beginning a downbow, breathe out gently or say Lah-eee-Lah,” encouraging your stomach (really it’s your diaphragm!) to descend on the eee

As your stomach descends, everything softens: your shoulders, elbows and chest release down slightly, the head releases back slightly as the neck relaxes, the torso settles into the legs, the pelvis drops under as the lower back lengthens, and the legs bend slightly.  Releasing in this way before bow changes will allow your elbows to circle very slightly and naturally.

        Inhale in the middle of the bow, noticing the natural slight lifting feeling.

        Near the end of your downbow, breathe out gently or say “Lah-eee-Lah,” encouraging your stomach to descend. Notice how your arm weight deepens organically, without a sense of effort.

By breathing out near the end of your downbows, you will prevent the lifting of the shoulders and violin that often leads to tension in the upper half.

       Draw the bow an upbow.  Inhale in the middle of the bow, noticing the natural slight lifting feeling.

       Near the end of your upbow, breathe out gently or say “Lah-eee-Lah,” pushing your stomach down. Notice the small circle your elbow makes. Notice especially the softness in your chest.

Practice very slow open strings and scales with the breathing releases near the ends of the bows. As you become more comfortable with this, you can begin to incorporate the breathing into slow or lyric material. Sing your passage and vocalize the “lah-eee-lah;” then play it, breathing out or sighing before bow changes.

“Lah-eee-lah” can be used as well to energize the end of a long note or tie — long notes in romantic music often need to increase into the next note.