Trumpet Topics

Beyond the Warmup

I recently discussed the advantages of mouthpiece buzzing as a "pre warm-up". I would also like to mention some further advantages to incorporating buzzing into one's practice routine, both with and without the mouthpiece. It's interesting to observe that buzzing is a technique which is rarely mentioned in most method books, however it is remarkable how many brass instrument teachers and professionals strongly acknowledge and advocate buzzing.

Mouthpiece buzzing

Mouthpiece buzzing exercises are good for attaining good concepts of air flow because the mouthpiece gives much resistance than the trumpet does, allowing for a free, relaxed feel while blowing. Furthermore, the embouchure tends to be very relaxed when buzzing the mouthpiece. When playing an ascending line via a glissando, the embouchure can remain much more relaxed than it does when "reaching" for the next overtone when playing on the instrument itself.

Mouthpiece buzzing can also be a good ear-training technique. Next time you encounter a passage that is particularly difficult to hear, play through it slowly on the trumpet, then try playing it slowly with just the mouthpiece. Play some of the difficult intervals on the instrument, then try to match the pitches on the mouthpiece. Add one note at a time, alternating between the trumpet and mouthpiece alone. When you return to playing the entire passage on the trumpet, you will see that your accuracy has been greatly enhanced.

Lip Buzzing:

Lip buzzing, without the mouthpiece can be a very good exercise for developing an "awareness" of proper embouchure formation. Lip buzzing is particularly good for working on embouchure focus. When focusing, or drawing in the embouchure as you ascend to higher pitches it is particularly important, however, to be certain that your lips always remain relaxed - not tense.

Lip buzzing exercises are good for working on embouchure strength because you can concentrate on developing fast vibrations (i.e. high pitches) without relying on the mouthpiece to maintain proper lip formation or even worse, using mouthpiece pressure to hit the hit notes. For this purpose lip buzzing can be even more beneficial than mouthpiece buzzing.

Edward Tarr once told me that if you can't buzz the pitch, you can't play it. While he probably didn't literally mean this, it is certainly likely that if you can buzz the pitch with your lips alone, you certainly should be able to play it.

Like many practice techniques, it is probably wise to not go overboard with excessive daily buzzing exercises. However, I do think that you will find that mouthpiece buzzing and lip buzzing can prove to be useful auxiliary exercised in your practice routine.

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