Mouthpiece buzzing - how important is it?

Discussion in 'Trumpet Discussion' started by krmanning, Jun 5, 2013.

  1. krmanning

    krmanning Pianissimo User

    Apr 18, 2009
    Fayetteville, NC
    I am 52, now about 7 years into playing again (is it still a comeback after 7 years?), and I think I play OK. I generally play first in our community band, first in our German polka band, first cornet with the Salvation Army group at Christmas, and I get to play the occasional musical at the regional theater. I have been told my sound is good, I have no major intonation issues, and my playable range is up to E-flat above the staff, with an occasional E or F when the stars are aligned right. I wish I could play better and higher, but I think I do OK.

    When I take lessons from our local trumpet guru, he always starts out buzzing on the mouthpiece. Despite the fact that I have a nice tone on trumpet/flugelhorn/cornet/alphorn/etc, all I can ever get out of the mouthpiece is a very airy and disappointing sound. If I add a leadpipe, I am good to go. But just a mouthpiece and I am always found wanting.

    So I have 2 questions for the august sages of TM:

    Is this a skill that is important enough for playing that I just need to keep working on it until I get it right?

    Does buzzing a mouthpiece really have anything to do with playing on a horn? Without a horn to set up a standing wave and feedback to the chops, isn't this really something very different?

    Thanks in advance

    Harrelson Summit Bflat - Monette B4S
    Harrelson Bravura Bflat - Monette B4S
    Selmer Radial Bflat
    Conn Vintage One Bflat
    Harrelson Bravura C - Monette C4S
    Getzen 800 cornet - GR 3 66
    Kanstul 920 picc - Schilke 12a4A
    Hub van Laar Oiram ack flugel - GR 66 FL
  2. tobylou8

    tobylou8 Utimate User

    Dec 22, 2008
    Some like to mpc buzz (me) and some say it's a waste of time. I see benefits so I will continue to do it. A better thing to do is make a hose trumpet out of 3/8" I.D. pvc hose. Add a "bell" funnel and you can play while driving!!
  3. gzent

    gzent Fortissimo User

    Nov 5, 2003
    Rochester, MN
    To me it's like asking if swinging a rope around helps your golf game.
    Maybe, if you can't swing a real golf club then swinging something else in it's place
    might keep your skills up. But it's not like swinging a club, now is it?
    Same thing with buzzing - without the horn you aren't playing trumpet, you're just
    maintaining some skills when you can't play a real horn.

    Not to mention, it sounds awful and gets spit all over the place - yuk!
  4. mgcoleman

    mgcoleman Mezzo Forte User

    Jun 22, 2010
    Guess that means I shouldn't be answering, but I will anyway!

    If the choice is mouthpiece buzzing or actual facetime with the horn, facetime on the horn is best.

    If the choice is mouthpiece buzzing or no practice at all, mouthpiece buzzing at least keeps the chops somewhat in practice.

    I run into the latter situation when my work schedule gets nuts and practice time becomes nearly impossible. I will buzz on the mouthpiece while driving to/from work (~20 minutes each way). I buzz into a small wash cloth, which allows me to have just the right amount of backpressure and also keep from nailing my dashboard with spit! I would be a dime to a dollar that if you use a rag/cloth, you will immediately get a really nice buzz. I tend to run through from memory Schlossberg, Clarke and Arban exercises or, if the right songs are on the local classics stations, buzz along to the radio.
  5. GijsVis

    GijsVis Piano User

    Jul 23, 2012
    I doesn't work for me. I tried it, and apart from getting spit all over the place, I didn't get much other sound then a really thin airy beep. However, I know some people who say mpc buzzing helps them. Personally, I do do just lip buzzing, without the mpc, of which I find that it helped and helps me a lot, it got me to F above staff and all the notes below came out easier and with less effort.

    If your teacher only wants you to to mpc buzzing it's not a good teacher, because teachers should be flexible and adept to students' needs, and if something doesn't help, move on and try something different.

    I found mouthpiece buzzing to be a real personal issue, with opinions going from "It makes your playing worse" to "I can't play without it". It is always worth to try something new but move on if it doesn't work for you.
  6. Satchmo Brecker

    Satchmo Brecker Piano User

    Jul 19, 2010
    I'm more march parsley than august sage...but I've found mpc buzzing to be very helpful. I try to get as nice a sound as I can, and work scales, parts of music, etc. Maybe 5 minutes tops before getting to full practicing (and resting first of course). My tone with the horn always seems better, more stable afterwards. But you sound pretty accomplished anyways so I wouldn't worry.
  7. Vulgano Brother

    Vulgano Brother Moderator Staff Member

    Mar 23, 2006
    Parts Unknown
    Mouthpiece buzzing can be great for ear training. James Stamp wrote the book on mouthpiece buzzing, and had some very very fine players come out of his stable. One of the benefits of the Stamp method is we can learn not to "telegraph" the direction we are headed to the next note. His basic warm-up is based on a Schlossberg exercise, but Stamp added the ninth and sixth. The idea is to be able to get an instantaneous (or as close as possible) change from one note to the next while being dead on with pitch; a worthy thing to learn. It can also be useful in getting a good core to our sound--kind of a Zen-like thing, making the mouthpiece alone sound like a very tiny trumpet.

    Pipe-buzzing comes from the Bill Adam school, who also had some very very fine trumpet players emerge from his stable, and has merit as well.

    On the one hand, the trumpet creates this standing wave thingy within it; after a few round trips the buzzing lips that started the note are buzzed themselves by the note we are playing--a feedback loop. On the other hand, especially in the upper register, the trumpet works like a megaphone, amplifying our buzz.

    Bending notes a half step, whole step, etc. builds all kinds of strength by forcing the trumpet to play any note we want (Stamp). Letting the horn play us promotes efficiency (Adam). There is merit to both approaches, and danger if over-done.

    Hope this helps! Oh, uhh, here is an example out of the Stamp book:

  8. DaTrump

    DaTrump Forte User

    Oct 21, 2011
    Huntsville, Texas
    I used to HATE mouthpiece buzzing. I refused to do it, I thought I was good enough and didn't need to stoop so low. However, after the less than gentle "encouragement" from my studio professor and another teacher, I starting doing ten minutes a day in the morning, with a tuner. I played Stamp, scales, long tones, the good stuff on mouthpiece alone. When I first started out, it was an absolute nightmare; my pitch was all over the place, my buzz was weak, and I ran out of air quickly. I kept with that regiment even though my results were less than acceptable, and after about 2 weeks I really got the hang of it. What did that do for my playing? Note changes became more seamless, pitch and intonation greatly improved, I stayed playing in the center of each note instead of just finding it, I played efficiently and my sound became richer and fuller.

    The theory with mouthpiece buzzing is even though the resistance is different (Insert Vulgano magic bubbles here), the fundamental pitch SHOULD start at the lips anyway, so if you want to truly set up the standing wave at it's best, and most efficient, it needs to start at the lips.
  9. EdMann

    EdMann Mezzo Forte User

    Sep 20, 2007
    Los Angeles
    I love it.
  10. AKtrumpet

    AKtrumpet Piano User

    Jun 4, 2010
    I personally do not mpc buzz. However, I have experimented with it and like Vulgano Brother said, I think the main benefit of doing it is ear training. You absolutely do need to do some form of ear training. Personally, I like to sing. I find that you get ear training AND a better sense of phrasing through singing.

    EDIT: Also, lip buzzing (mouthpiece buzzing) has worked for A LOT of people! At the absolute least, every trumpet player should give it a honest try. (4 - 6 weeks)
    Last edited: Jun 5, 2013

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