Should Brass Players Use the Practice of Mouthpiece Buzzing?
Any musician well-versed in brass instruments is certain to be familiar with the practice of buzzing. Buzzing is simply the quick, vibrating movement your lips make inside an instrument's mouthpiece. Although this is a very common practice used by many musicians, novice students often struggle with the mechanics of buzzing.
Mastering the art of buzzing is important as many teachers and instructional books suggest students learn this technique before they even start to play an instrument. Experienced players in bands and orchestras often use buzzing as an effective warm-up before a show. There is a possible downside for playing a trumpet, horn, trombone, euphonium, or tuba however if not done correctly. Buzzing has the potential to produce uncomfortable tension in the player's facial muscles if done too hard. Although buzzing helps develop the embouchure (the correct position of lips, tongue and teeth) when done properly, there is a potential for awkwardness or distress.
There can be pros and cons to this practice. Esteemed trumpet professor William Adam is an advocate of buzzing. He states, "The area behind the mouthpiece in a state of resilience and quite relaxed. The muscles should form a passageway for the air to be accelerated through the lips and through the horn. 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." He believes using the mouthpiece exclusively to create a buzz causes unwanted tension and recommends attaching to a leadpipe to increase ease of use.
For those attempting to buzz for the first time, there is a simple simulation to help: visualize the sound made when mimicking a motor or the movement you make when blowing out a birthday candle. Let the air flow out keep the cheeks tight, teeth apart, and the throat open to keep the airway less constricted. As air is blowing through, press the lips together with a tiny space for air to emerge, producing sound.
Try holding the mouthpiece by the shank or leadpipe, attempting different horizontal placements until you find the most natural position for you with the best tone. To keep from injuring your lips, try to use the least amount of pressure you can to achieve a clear sound. Try to relax as you focus your energies on buzzing into the mouthpiece. Keep practicing until this technique is second nature. Buzzing is definitely an important part in mastering a brass instrument and through patience and perseverance, you're certain to succeed.
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