What Causes Lips To NOT Buzz?

Discussion in 'Trumpet Discussion' started by MikeDog, Mar 14, 2012.

  1. MikeDog

    MikeDog New Friend

    Mar 23, 2009
    Hi All,

    I have been playing trumpet for 30+ years and teaching band in public schools for 18. I almost hate to admit this, but I feel I need to ask a question about trumpet technique. Actually, I'm happy to ask because I feel we can and should always be learning.

    I have run into a couple occaisions where my trumpet students simply can't produce any sound at all, just air. I try to duplicate what they could be doing, but really can't. I tell them to use less mouthpiece pressure, wet their lips, tighten corners, pull corners back a little to stretch the lips thinner across the mouthpiece...anything I can think of. This morning I had a student literally in tears as he is preparing his solo for contest because he couldn't get a sound out. He was sweating like a dog, he was embarrassed, stressed, and frustrated. He probably should have just packed it in and called it good for today. I told him "we all have bad days once in a while. Athletes will have days where their game just isn't "on", too" to try to help him relax. Trouble is, he had the same sound yesterday in a lesson.

    This same thing has happened to a couple other players of mine, and I'm looking for some ideas on how to possibly fix this and what may be causing it. Am I leading them in the wrong direction with what I am telling them?

    I realize it's very difficult to tell from explanations on a message board, but at this point, any help will be welcome.
  2. altpt

    altpt New Friend

    Aug 15, 2011
    Sebastopol, CA
    Probably they're over practicing! Tell them to take a day off and everything should get better.
  3. chet fan

    chet fan Piano User

    Jul 3, 2009
    recently I have discovered that too much practice is not good. It tires your lips and chops, and they become stiff. you should practice only 2x20 mins a day; 20 mins in the morning, 20 mis in the afternoon with trumpet. and thats it

    but you should practice your breathing muscles nearly all day long -thats the trick. Breathing muscles should be strong. Chops do not need to be strong -they need to be fresh and controlble.

    think of it as a piano player, if you have too strong fingers you would most probably lose all the flexibility and precision -same with chops

    but breathing muscles do not need precision -so they should be as strong as possible

    JNINWI Piano User

    Apr 26, 2011
    I would assume, based on your description, the cause is tension, trying too hard which adds chop pressure, short breaths, no compression, tensed upper body, and the thought process in the wrong place. It’s a common mistake of students, at least from what I see.
  5. tobylou8

    tobylou8 Utimate User

    Dec 22, 2008
    Depending on how long they have been playing, 20min may or may not be enough. It could be over practicing or their embouchure is not very mature and they are too spread out aperture/lip wise. And a combination of the two will lead to no buzz. Is mpc buzzing part of their practice routine? If it isn't, maybe it should be introduced. Personally, I am a big proponent of mpc buzzing and free buzzing. I believe it helps a player to focus on their chops and it involves little to no pressure.
  6. acarcido

    acarcido Forte User

    Dec 28, 2009
    Ontario, Ca
    I am in agreement with the lip fatigue issue. Question, is their playing completely erradicated and they can't produce any sound in any part of the scale? I have seen and experienced some guys over practice and it kills their emboucher to the point where they cannot play effectively on gig day. It was mentioned here to try recommending them take a day off and come back to it in a pregressive manner. Tell them to play looooong steady notes after a day off while warming up.

    What type of music are you teaching and how old are these students? Just curious to know...
  7. jiarby

    jiarby Fortissimo User

    May 7, 2011
    Someone better tell Doc Severinsen he's doing it wrong!
  8. rowuk

    rowuk Moderator Staff Member

    Jun 18, 2006

    the first thing that comes to mind is SALT. It reeks havoc with the suppleness of the lips.

    The second is related - diet/hydration.

    A long ways down after that comes irregular practice with cramming the day before a lesson. Our bodies simply revolt!

    If your students play EVERY DAY, the bad days pretty much go away until marching band starts and they beat their faces up.

    When students come in and all I hear is air, I get a glass of tap water (no ice!) and have them sip between every long note until we find a functional base.

    Occasionally I get a black tea drinker. In black tea there is a substance used to cure leather - it makes my lips tough to vibrate too.
  9. richtom

    richtom Forte User

    Dec 7, 2003
    In addition to Rowuk's post, let me see if I can put into proper words my thoughts on this.
    Chicowicz (among other great teachers) discovered a vast majority of players with problems like this were air flow related. The embouchure was mirroring the fact that either not enough air was going in or too much air was going in.
    The lips must be supple and free to vibrate.
    The air flow must be constant and even.
    If you wish, try this and see if it helps. It certainly won't hurt.
    Have your students hold their hand out about 10 to 12 inches away from their mouth. Have them take a full even breath and in one smooth motion gently blow the air on their hand as if they were going to make a candle flicker, but not go out. Have them do this as many times as necessary until they get that easy in/easy out flow. You may even use a real candle for this.
    When they (and you) feel they have this breathing down, bring the mouthpiece into play and have the buzz the mouthpiece using this easy in/out breath technique. Once their buzz becomes free, they can put the mouthpiece back in the horn and see what comes out.
    If need be, demonstrate this yourself.
    This is easier to explain in person and demonstrate than it is to write, but I hope you can use this to help them.
  10. patkins

    patkins Forte User

    Nov 22, 2010
    Tuscaloosa, AL.
    Rowuk is right on as far as issues he raised. Although some are not in favor, my professor made me do free buzzing without the mouthpiece while looking in the mirror to make sure I had the smallest aperture possible. It actually helped endurance and range. He stated once I had a sustained buzz sound like a bee, i should try to go tighter to get a higher sound. It worked. Then he would suggest to put the trumpet to my lips as gentle as possible then try the buzz. It seemed to work for me. Best Regards.

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