The term for the rapid vibrating movement of your lips inside a brass instrument mouthpiece is called "buzzing." Though beginners are often challenged by the initial effort to produce the buzz—and create a sound with their brass instrument—it's easy to learn how to do it, once you understand what you're trying to accomplish.
The ability to buzz is so crucial to playing brass instruments that many band and orchestra teachers and most textbooks recommend that students buzz a brass instrument mouthpiece as a preliminary exercise before actually attempting to play their instrument.
For some players, buzzing is a part of their warm up. But recent research suggests that buzzing a mouthpiece may sometimes inhibit its assumed benefits. Buzzing may actually induce unwanted tension in a player's facial structure, though it has often been advocated as helping develop the embouchure—the correct positioning of lips, tongue, and teeth—for playing a trumpet, horn, trombone, euphonium, or tuba.
Respected trumpet professor William Adam describes an effective embouchure as having "the area behind the mouthpiece in a state of resilience and quite relaxed. At the mouth area outside the corners of the mouth there is firmness, but not a real tightness, and this feels like a warm tension . . . The muscles should form a passageway for the air to be accelerated through the lips and through the horn. If we can retain the resilience and relaxation of the embouchure, we make it possible for our air to get through the lips and the horn without too many restrictions. The more we can cut down on the resistance of the air stream, the better the tone will be, and also the easier the horn will play."
Adam maintains that using the mouthpiece alone to create a buzz could result in unnecessary and unwanted tension. He advocates using the mouthpiece and leadpipe in combination rather than the mouthpiece alone: ". . . just place the mouthpiece in the leadpipe and think of moving your air through that tube. Does that seem easier than buzzing the mouthpiece?"
If you believe that buzzing the mouthpiece alone creates too much pressure to include it as part of a regular practice routine, try limiting your time spent buzzing—or attach your mouthpiece to a leadpipe, lest your practice create unnecessary tension rather than relaxed playing.
Here is how to produce a good buzz if you are just a beginner: Imagine the sound children make when imitating a motor. Begin as if you are about to blow out a candle. Keep your cheeks firm rather than pushing them out, and allow the air to flow without tightening your throat.
Keep your teeth apart and your throat open so your airflow is not restricted. Then, as you continue to blow air, start to press your lips together leaving a small space in the very middle of your lips for the air to emerge. You may only hear the airflow at first, but gently press your lips a little closer together until you produce a sound.
Place the mouthpiece to your lips. Hold the mouthpiece by its shank or by the leadpipe as close to the end as possible. Use the least amount of pressure you can to avoid hurting your lips. Experiment with horizontal placement of the mouthpiece relative to your lips moving it up and down slightly to find a position that is comfortable and yields clear tone.
Focus your buzzing into the mouthpiece. Listen for clear tone in your buzz, and stay relaxed.
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