Buzz

Discussion in 'Trumpet Discussion' started by rmwtrumpet, Dec 6, 2005.

  1. rmwtrumpet

    rmwtrumpet New Friend

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    Dec 4, 2004
    Hello,

    I have been playing the trumpet for about 10 years now. I am not a sophomore in college, and seem to have reached my peak, which isn't very high at the moment. I have a very hard time with endurance, and I don't have much for a high range either. For years, I have been told, just breath and it will happen, but it isn't.

    After extensive observation, my lesson instructor and I have decided that my problems occur because my buzz in not proper. Instead of the buzz happening with some ease, I am forcing it to happen, mostly by smashing the trumpet into my lips. My lesson instructor believes that if I can get the buzz working, my problems will basically be solved. My biggest problem is that I can't even buzz without a mouth piece. This is the first thing that I am working on. Does anyone have any suggestions to help improve my buzz?

    Another thing that we have thought about is possibly switching me to euphonium to see if that will help any. The switch would only be long enough for me to fix the problems that I have.

    Any suggestions are greatly appreciated. Thank you.

    rmwtrumpet
     
  2. trickg

    trickg Utimate User

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    Ryan, my only suggestion (and keep in mind, if it's at all contradictory to what your instructor is telling you, it should be ignored completely) would be to play easy, mid range long tones (specifically a G in the staff) and gradually, but consciously work on reducing your mouthpiece pressure. At first, you will have to keep it jammed on there pretty good and the second you start to reduce pressure it will break down into a nasty double buzz. (probably) But, if you are dilligent with it, I think you will find yourself to a point where you will be able to pull so much pressure off of your lips that air will be hissing and escaping from the sides, but you will still be able to maintain a decent tone on the horn.

    How do I know? :D I know because this is what I do whenever I get to the point that I'm crushing my chops with too much pressure, and I have to rely on the pressure to produce a sound.

    I believe that what I have suggested to you promotes a natural focus of the embouchure and eliminates the need for excessive mouthpiece pressure to help create the sound.

    It's one avenue to approach and by no means should you think that what I have suggested is THE solution to your problem. Your instructor probably has much more to say about it, and knows more about it than I do - I'm merely suggesting what has helped me with a similar problem in the past.

    Something else you might want to consider, is trying Pop's pencil exercise, but don't over do it. From what I have read, the pencil exercise can clear up all kinds of problems for some people.

    Good luck and keep us posted.
     
  3. rmwtrumpet

    rmwtrumpet New Friend

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    Dec 4, 2004
    Thank you for your suggestions, I'll have to see if that works. Can someone explain that Pop's Pencil Exercise is? I'm not familiar with this. Thank you.

    rmwtrumpet
     
  4. trickg

    trickg Utimate User

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    Basically, the pencil exercise is an isometric exercise where you take a #2 pencil, and putting the eraser end between your lips, you clamp your lips on it to hold it so that it is sticking straight out.

    I believe that you are supposed to start with half a pencil, holding it for 30 seconds a day and I think only once per day, gradually lengthening the time to a full minute, and gradually working your way toward using a full sized pencil.
     
  5. rmwtrumpet

    rmwtrumpet New Friend

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    Dec 4, 2004
    Thank you. I will try that, it seems to make sense to me.

    rmwtrumpet
     
  6. trickg

    trickg Utimate User

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    Ryan, I'm a bit surprised that no one else has offered up any advice about this. Surely someone has more of a clue about this sort of thing than I do!

    Anyone?
     
  7. Derek Reaban

    Derek Reaban Mezzo Piano User

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    Jun 16, 2005
    Tempe, Arizona
    Ryan,

    You wrote:
    I’m guessing that your response (the ability of your lips to vibrate easily) is somewhat sluggish. Do you find that to get the sound to speak in most registers you need to blow a little harder? If that’s the case, there are specific exercises that you can explore that will help improve this piece of the puzzle.

    With the mouthpiece in the horn, remove your tuning slide. The mouthpiece / leadpipe combination will help you to find this ease of sound production that you are looking for. The fundamental of the pipe is about a concert D-Eb (depending on your horn). Play this note gently, starting the sound without using your tongue (some people call this a breath attack). The goal at first is to focus on the immediacy of the response. There should be no hesitation between when you release the air and when the note sounds. Do this 10-15 times until it happens easily and on autopilot.

    Now reinsert the tuning slide and play a second line G with the same approach. Take a relaxed breath, release the air, and play a gentle note, focusing on the response. If it doesn’t respond easily, don’t get frustrated and think to yourself, “I need to blow harder to crack this response openâ€. Keep working to gently get the response to happen. If all you get is air each time you try to get the note to speak, take the tuning slide out and remember what it feels like to have response that is immediate. Put the slide back in and try the G again. Be patient. It may take some time to get this working for you.

    After the G is working, there is an exercise called the Caruso 6 Notes. In addition to response, I use these to find the center of each note, and cultivate a resonant vibrant sound. The exercise is all breath attacks, gentle sound on a second line G, Whole, Half, Half, Whole (there are lots of variations, and this is the one that I like). Rest for as long as you just played and then move up a half step to the G#. This is where you have to be careful. You are now working in the next higher harmonic, and the note may not respond as easily as the G did. Absolutely DON’T blow harder to crack the response open. You’ll destroy what you’ve just worked so hard to achieve on the G. Back down to the G and get it working again, and then try the G#. Still not working? Try playing on the mouthpiece / leadpipe combination again. You want ease of sound production with a very vibrant, colorful, resonant sound quality.

    Keep moving up in half steps until you get to the 3rd space C, with the same W, H, H, W, rest approach on each pitch. Do this exercise at least once a day. If you can begin to get this sound and response happening in this middle register, then it’s a matter of carrying this quality up and down a half step at a time.

    I really like this quote from Thomas Moore:

    If you are buzzing your lips alone, you are very likely introducing a lot of stiffness to your brass playing system. That will in all likelihood drive you farther away from your goal. If you do choose to buzz your lips alone, do it for only a very small amount of time once a day (no more than 1-2 minutes). If you’re a sophomore in college, you very likely have all of the strength that you need to play well. It’s the balance that you are missing. The 6 Notes exercise is a great place to start working on that balance (lip vs. air). You need the right combination of both to get the sound that you are looking for. Too much lip leads to a pinched quality and too much air leads to a “loud†sound that doesn’t project.

    I’ve written a lot about this, but this should be a good start for now.

    Hope this helps.


    P.S. Patrick’s idea about backing the pressure off until a “leak†occurs is also good for an awareness of using less pressure (which will certainly help in improving response). In time, with breath attacks, working on the leadpipe, and the 6 Note exercise your balance will improve and it will feel more natural to play with less mouthpiece pressure because your embouchure is more balanced.
     
  8. Billy B

    Billy B Pianissimo User

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    Nov 5, 2004
    Des Moines, IA
    Ryan,

    How much time are you willing to devote to practicing?
    What do you mean by poor range and endurance?
    Wher do you live?
     
  9. trickg

    trickg Utimate User

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    Good post Derek!

    This is a question for Derek: If you work on buzzing the leadpipe, doesn't that promote a "center" of resonance that isn't necessarily the center of resonance for the whole horn? I've worked the leadpipe in the past, but I find that if I can get the leadpipe to resonate well, then my center for the whole horn is off. Does that make sense? That's why I tend to stay away from exercises that don't incorporate the whole horn. (i.e. buzzing of only the lips, mouthpiece or leadpipe) It could be that I'm not doing them correctly though - always a distinct possibility.
     
  10. rjzeller

    rjzeller Forte User

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    Maybe you should post this on one of the special contributor threads and get their take on this, they usually have outstanding advice.

    But here's mine:

    Stop worrying about the buzz at all. What I've seen in a lot of new students is they become consumed with trying to get the lips to buzz and create a nice tight embochure. The more you think about it, the more you're going to force it, and that's the killer.

    I would wonder what exactly is the problem? What is the upper limit on your range? How long do you play before you're wiped out? These are questions that will have completely different answers for every person they're asked of. Is playing to high C your goal? Is playing in the extreem register your goal? Would you be happy if you could just eek out an A or B above the staff in a pinch?

    When people start fretting over range, the comments of Al Vizutti come to mind -- "...far too much emphasis is placed on [range]..." He spoke it in the context of developing students, but I think it applies universally.

    Instead of focusing on how high or how long you can play, focus on how good the sound is coming out of your horn. Forget about range and just sit down and work on getting the best sound possible, letting your lips respond to the horn instead of trying to dictate to the lips what to do. As a prior poster said, let the horn play the lips, not the other way around. Break the old habits of forcing the sound. Here's how:

    1) Grab a lazy-boy or recliner, sit back as comfortably as you can; throw good posture and technique to the wind. Put the horn to your face and blow placing no emphasis on buzzing the lips. Blow a few notes like this, nice and relaxed.

    2) Now sit in a straight-back chair, sit up straight but let your back rest against the back of the chair. Just practice breathing in fully and lettign the air fall out for a few moments. Bring the horn up without the mouthpiece, keeping arms and shoulders relaxed, head back over the spine (believe me this matters -- it made a dramatic difference in my playing when I fixed the "head pushing out over my balls" problem). Keep the elbows off the chest, but otherwise relaxed. Blow air through the horn (literally wrap the lips around the leadpipe, which should hopefully be mostly round).

    3) Now close the mouth as though you were going to say the letter "M". (Teeth should not be touching, however -- let the lower jaw hang down so only the lips touch). Keeping the lips together, say "Pooh...", holding the sound/exhale for an entire breath: "pooooooooooooooooooooooh..." Do not let any air between the lips and the teeth (make sure the inside of the lips continue to rest against/touch the teeth), so that instead of the lips fanning apart when you blow, they stay nicely together and the air escapes only through a small hole in the center of the lips. The size of this aperture is not important, so long as the lips do not have any air pockets between them and the teeth (also -- no puffy cheecks, keep those back as well - the only thing moving is the air and enough of the front of the lips to let it escape). NO BUZZING!! Just do this a couple times to get the feel for it.

    4) Put the mouthpiece back in the horn, position over the lips, and blow exactly as stated in #3, you should get a nice, rich, full low-C. Work on this and other low notes until it starts to feel good and relaxed. Eventually you should start to feel the lips responding to all the subtle changes in the horn as you move up or down the scales.

    Sounds like a lot, but it's really just about shifting the focus from forcing the sound out to letting the horn do its thing -- let the lips react and respond.

    ....

    That's it, my 2 pennies. Probably utter crap and I'm sure the real pros will have much better insight, but this has worked for several students of mine (one currently the youngest trumpet player in the Southeast MN Youth Orchestras).

    Z
     

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