Both beginner and advanced trumpet players are told at some point to ‘buzz’ on their mouthpiece. Unfortunately, too much of the time, we obediently follow someone’s advice blindly, either because of who they are, or because it sounds like a good idea. Whenever we are trying something new or even when we are doing something that is a firm part of our practice, we should always think: Why am I doing this? Or what am I trying to achieve by practicing this? Aimlessly blowing will not help nearly as much as working towards a specific goal, and can seriously limit your progress.
The first thing to say, before talking about mouthpiece buzzing, is that trumpet sound is created by air and vibrations. As trumpet players, we have all experienced the inconsistency in standard of our playing on a day to day basis. It is important to remember that the sound is created on the lips themselves, rather than on the instrument. We are, as brass players, similar to athletes in that respect. Athletes will often wake up with stiff legs and aches, the same can happen to the trumpet player’s lips. We always need to ensure that we have maximum vibrations. This is created by airflow from the lungs, which vibrates the lips, creating a very rich sound and tingling feeling on our lips. We do not want an ‘airy’ thin sound which can be caused by the lips not vibrating at maximum efficiency. Needless to say this method, also makes it harder work for us to produce any type of sound. Buzzing on the mouthpiece can help to improve your playing, but a clear understanding of how to do it is very important. Always make sure that your lips are relaxed before thinking about buzzing the mouthpiece.
Playing the trumpet is easier
Whenever we play any type of brass instrument there is always air resistance (back pressure) as we blow into it. The less the resistance, the easier it is to play, which means we do not need to push as hard with the air. When we play the actual instrument the tubing is narrower from the mouthpiece and becomes a lot wider towards the bell. This makes the resistance relatively less compared to just buzzing the mouthpiece, which starts off bigger and becomes smaller. The most important thing to remember when you mouthpiece buzz is to always concentrate on using your airspeed to change the pitch of a note. Avoid tightening the lips.
Focus on the air
Air is the most important component in creating the sound. The lips are vibrated by the air, so that when we want to change the pitch of a note, we should always focus on changing the airspeed, which in turn changes the vibration speed and therefore the pitch. When buzzing the mouthpiece we are trying to improve a lip vibration, which in turn means better sound, less effort and more stamina. However if we buzz incorrectly, i.e. tighten our lips and force the sound, we may limit our progress.
Always remember to ‘coax’ the vibrations out.
Never force your lips to buzz. (In fact never force anything on the trumpet.) Always remain relaxed and let the vibrations happen. Practice mouthpiece buzzing quietly, thus encouraging you to relax the vibrating lips. Going high does not guarantee good vibrations. However, the ability to buzz both quietly and loudly in the lower register will improve lip vibrations, which will also facilitate the higher register. It is not because playing low improves high notes, By improving ones lip vibrations, by relaxing the lips in the lower register (towards maximum efficiency) The reason why we start buzzing with the lower notes is because it is easier to improve ones lip vibrations (towards maximum efficiency), which will then enable us to then continue up the register, maintaining good vibrations to the high notes. In this way we build from a good foundation.
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