Quick Fix Friday

Quick Fix Friday: Breathe Like Kirby

I love video games, especially when I can combine them with clarinet pedagogy.

This week’s Quick Fix Friday is an analogy to help younger students (especially gamers) visualize proper breathing. I’ve taught dozens of beginner clarinetists over the years, and one of the most important fundamentals they must learn is air and breath support. Many younger students aren’t using enough air, and I can only say “More air!” so many times before we both get frustrated.

Enter Kirby.

He (or she??) is cute, cotton-candy pink…and a breathing machine! Anyone that’s ever underestimated Kirby in SSB (that’s Super Smash Bros., for any of my non-gamer readers) knows that his gale-force wind is a force to be reckoned with.

So next time you or your student are struggling to conceptualize using enough air, watch a few videos (or play a few games) to see Kirby in action! Channel your inner Kirby to support your sound while playing clarinet!

Happy Friday, and happy practicing!



  • Dan

    Nice analogy! However, I’ve just had a bizzare cross-disciplinary thought.

    Breath support in wind playing is like monads in programming. ;)
    There’s an excellent article about analogies, intuition, and learning process: https://byorgey.wordpress.com/2009/01/12/abstraction-intuition-and-the-monad-tutorial-fallacy/

    One issue is that people are rather good at controlling volume and pressure independently, and quite often take “more air” for higher volume, when what’s actually required is higher pressure. Analogies can be helpful, but it’s nice to have definite qualitative tests that help people see if they got the analogy right.

    I think it’s helpful to take everything but breath support out of the equation. My oboist friend is an advocate of the paper on the wall exercise: hold a small sheet of paper against a wall and keep it from falling with your breath. Volume alone doesn’t help with it, it takes pressure to hold it in place.

    • jennymaclay

      Great comparison! I’m also an advocate of the wall test to check quantity and also velocity of air!

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