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The Buzzing Book Page

The Buzzing Book

Buzzing on the mouthpiece has many benefits if done with a systematic and observant approach. Because the mouthpiece offers less resistance than does the instrument, buzzing helps accustom the player to using more air. This greater airflow helps let the lips relax and vibrate more freely, producing a more resonant sound. It also makes the player more reliant on his ear to place pitches, just as a singer does. Further, it aids in developing the most efficient and consistent mouthpiece placement. Finally, perhaps most importantly, mouthpiece buzzing allows the player to develop new and more refined aural/physical habits more easily.

Frequently Asked Questions

Some of these questions will be answered in the forward of the buzzing book. However I have learned that text, no matter how carefully composed, can still not convey to everyone what I’m trying to get the student to learn and experience. It’s always better to have this material presented in a private lesson, but that is not always practical. If anyone has questions or is confused about some of the concepts please write me and I will try to rephrase them. Also I’m always interested in any new observations anyone has.

What exactly do you mean by "lead with air" and "lead with lip?"

I assume you are asking about exercise #3. On upward intervals most brass players make a slight hesitation in the airflow at the exact moment of note change. This hesitation is extremely quick and most players don't even notice it. Another way to look it this would be to say there is a slight diminuendo. ( Some teachers will say you're not flowing the air.)The result is the lip contracts the aperture before the air support ( pressure) is fully present. The lip is leading the air. This often results in a choked tone on the upper notes as well as hitting notes in between on larger intervals.
Ideally we should time the lip contraction and air pressure increase perfectly.  I created exercise #3 with a long glissando on the mouthpiece to slowly practice this timing and also balance. More than likely you will notice the lip contracting before the air increases. (This is leading with the lip.) I want the air pressure to start sooner, so I like to have the student think of "leading  with the air" before the lip change. Like I mentioned earlier ideally both lip and air should move together perfectly. This will develope with this exercise.
As a guide, try to hear maximum overtones all the way through the gliss. on the mouthpiece.  On the trumpet crescendo on the lower note so the overtones increase then add a little grip till the upper note 'pops" out.


How long does it take for the new habits to become established in other playing, (community orchestra, praticing technique etc)? I do get frustrated that some days it seems to transfer over and other times it is a fight to keep the new habits happening.

Good Question!

What you are experiencing is normal. As I mention in the book habits are triggered. Many things can trigger them, sounds, motions, previously played exercises, even places and things!. Though you are establishing new and better habits when you play the exercises, the older stronger habits you created in different environments can still be triggered first. The process seems to be that it will be back and forth until the new habits become stronger than the old ones. Have patience, it will take a little time but it will work. Also, try to observe what might be triggering the old habits. Remember to stay in present time to prevent the habit from functioning.


Do I need to play along with the CD or can I do the exercises alone?

It’s best to do the exercises with the CD. You are also training your ear for pitch and for timing the breath so the attacks are exact. In addition, attacking exactly with an outside source of rhythm is extremely important in ensemble playing.


Do I need to do numbers 1-4 every day?

No, you don’t, but I like to treat them as yoga type exercises. Exercises 1-4 really demand stretching of both the embouchure and respiratory muscles. Athletes know that stretching before exercise gives them more strength, faster response and more resistance to injury.


When I can start adding new exercises?

I like to say the first 4 exercises should take around 4-6 weeks to gain maximum benefit. This could be slightly different for each individual. One way to tell is if there is no tingling the the lips after the exercises. However keep in mind that you’re training new habits as well and this takes time also.


Exactly what is tingling?

I DON’T KNOW! I think it’s the blood flowing to the capillaries much like the feeling after your leg or arm has been “asleep”. This would be an interesting topic of discussion from you more medically informed trumpeters


Can I drop some of 1 to 4 as I progress?

I don’t recommend it. The first 4 are like a yoga warm up. When you first start the program you should add exercises up through #9 without stopping. After you start adding later exercises you can drop some between 4 and 9.


How long should I rest between doing numbers 1 to 4 and going on to the subsequent exercises?

If you need to rest you haven’t done the first 4 enough


Why does using a buzz aid help?

Remember habits are triggered. When you pick up your horn you pick up your trumpet habits. By using a buzzer you create new habits that cary over to regular trumpet playing.


Are there some advantages to using a BERP vs. a regular buzz aid?

Yes. Some people are very sensitive to changes in resistance. The BERP gives you the flexibility to gradually change the resistance. You won’t hit yourself in the chops like you can with the longer buzzers! Also I find it beneficial to use more resistance when buzzing and playing exercises on the piccolo trumpet.


Is it necessary to keep the embouchure tight between notes or can I relax it?

Please relax but don’t move the embouchure during rests. The idea is to use the same setting to go through the various regesters. It does NOT add strength to hold the embouchure tight. This is isometric tension which I consider the enemy of any physical performance.


Are the breaks the same on every trumpet? Do they differ for different keyed trumpets?

Strangely enough the breaks seem to be the same on every key of trumpet. An E break note on the Bb trumpet is the same as the E break note on the C! The only exception I have found is the E (1 and 2) on the Piccolo.


Are there more break notes?

Yes. They are top of the staff A, D above high C and the A above that. We won’t worry about the higher ones.


What do you think of free buzzing?

It may have its merits but I don’t use it. I’m trying to train the embouchure muscles in the position they must be in normal playing.


If I have a big gig that night when and how should I use these exercises to prepare?

If it’s a big gig I would only do the first 4 at the most. Remember these exercises look easy but they really work the muscles in a profound way. Also on the other side of the coin, after a tough series of concerts or recordings ( Rite of Spring or such) doing 1-4 the next morning might create tingling again. It’s is a good thing as Martha Stewart would say.


What is the best way to get back on top of things after not playing for a week or more?

I like to play chromatics sofly in the middle register going over the lower break. I do this for 15 minutes and then rest. I would do that 4 or 5 time the first day then the following day strt on Buzzing 1-4. It comes very quickly after that.


When on vacation, can I just do the buzzing exercises and leave the trumpet at home?

Yes that would be good. But why not just take a vacation and get inspired? Music is like breathing: inspiration and expiration. We are always flowing physically and emotionally inward and outward when we play. I believe we need to recharge.

Many of you who do the exercises regularly may have noticed your warm up time is reduced. You will also find it takes less time to get back in shape.


Can I use the exercises to help with my picc playing? Should I play them up the octave, or as written?

Yes they help. I find a lot people pick up the picc and play high almost immediately. The buzzing exercises should be done mostly in the picc’s lower register. You might find yourself scooping below the lower notes like you do on the big horn. It’s that habit again!


Should I sometimes practise my repertoire/concertos etc. entirely on the mouthpiece only?

I think it’s beneficial. There are obvious excerpts like Promenade , Parsifal, or Pines (the three P’s) but you can do the more technical ones if you play slower. The benefit from buzzing the faster excerpts is in the fullness of tone and ease of production that good lip/air balance will provide.