Dr GO last edited by Dr GO
The last time we had this discussion I was banned from TrumpetBoards by a past Moderator. So this time if you kick me off, you will have to kick Allen Vizzutti in addition. Please read:
Basics for Beginning Brass
By Allen Vizzutti
I can hardly believe I've been playing the trumpet for 39 years. Thousands of hours of practice, millions of notes, and multitudes of performances have come and gone. Thirty-two countries and a million air miles later I have come to understand some fundamentals of brass playing proven to me again and again by my experiences. I believe rapid improvement through daily practice is readily achievable when certain basics are in order.
Three words have led more brass players astray than any other common misconception. Three frequently used words have strangled the tone quality of brass instrumentalists for decades. Three frequently used words have perpetuated a concept in brass playing that is completely erroneous, a concept that actually inhibits development of tone and therefore constrains growth in all areas of brass technique. These three words of instruction have been taught with sincerity and consistency since the dawn of modern brass instruction; three words whose effect can result in months of work to undo that which was inadvertently established on the first lesson day. In most cases neither the teacher nor the player is even aware of having made a costly misstep. The three little words are: "Buzz your lips."
The sound quality created by an instrumentalist is the fundamental on which the technique is based. Tone quality is likewise a key barometer in gauging a player's progress. Great sound is the gateway to great technique. This includes range and endurance. Studying technique as such without having discovered the sensation of producing a beautiful core sound will prove fruitless on any instrument. My seven-year old daughter, when reminded to hold her violin and bow in a relaxed and proper manner, usually plays with better intonation and a decent sound. If I ask her to play with "her biggest and best sound" she not only plays in tune and beautifully, but her hands and arms become relaxed and properly positioned! If we teach our beginning brass students to buzz into the mouthpiece the inevitable result will be that pinched and fuzzy beginner sound we know all too well. As I have discovered in starting my 8 and 10 year old sons, (on cornet and trumpet), the so called "beginner sound" can be avoided all together. A really nice basic sound is possible from the first day. Once a beautiful tone is established no instrumentalist wants to sound the other way again.
The most important sensation to teach the beginning trumpet, or brass student, is that of blowing smooth aggressive air through the horn and feeling the resistance in sending the air through the tubing. The first critical prerequisite is a relaxed breath in. Open the throat and let the air fall in. Pulling the air in creates tension. Tension is an enemy. Letting the air rush in to fill the lungs to maximum level can create relaxation as well as give one the fuel to play correctly. Imagine the liquid captured in a drinking straw released as one lifts a finger from its end. Breathe using that imagery.
Hold the trumpet in a relaxed and comfortable fashion. The left hand should wrap around the valve casing. Larger hands should balance the horn in such a way that using the first and third valve slides is possible. Smaller hands should do the best they can and the smallest of hands might want to consider using a cornet because it is a little easier to hold. The right thumb should be placed between the first two valve casings and the three long fingers should be fingertips on valve tops. Avoid the right hand little finger ring as much as possible as it promotes excessive mouthpiece on lip pressure which can really inhibit progress. Stand or sit up straight to practice so that breathing is relaxed and easy. Don't be concerned whether or not the trumpet bell points up or as is more common, down. Bell position will be dictated by the over or under bite of teeth and jaw. Ask beginning students to blow air through the mouthpiece without regard to embouchure. They should create a long rush of white noise. Always encourage them to make the white noise sound bigger and longer. Remind the student often to consciously and deeply breathe in as part of the natural playing process. Repeat the process by blowing on the lead pipe of the horn, then through the mouthpiece and horn assembled, still producing white noise without regard to embouchure. Demonstrate as you go along. Deep, relaxed breathing and long sustained airflow are the goals.
Establishing an embouchure is the next order of business. If you are a brass player with a reasonably normal setup, demonstrate by example, with a minimum of words. If you are not a brass player remember these basics: 1) the concept of the embouchure is relaxed, 2) the mouthpiece should be placed near the center of the mouth so that the rim is not sitting on the red portion of the lips, and 3) the corners of the mouth should be firm against the teeth and a little bit down. The center of the lips should remain flexible and relaxed. One should be able to speak with the corners held firmly. Do not encourage the student to pull the corners back in a smile. Please use common sense. Embouchures vary from human to human like everything else due to variations in physical makeup such as differences in our teeth, jaws, chins and lips.
With the horn in hands, lips moistened and the new embouchure in place, instruct the student to once again create the long sustained air flow through the mouthpiece and horn in an aggressive fashion. You may hear the first note at this point. If not, repeat the routine asking students to put their lips a bit closer together. Remember not to create a pass/fail situation. Any result is OK. Sooner or later the result will be spectacular. You'll be impressed with the quality of sound of the first notes and there is no buzzing involved. Shortly after the successful production of the first notes you will want to teach the student to add a beginning articulation to the notes. Tension and a choked sound can manifest themselves at this step. The feeling of blowing through the syllable "tooo" or "daaah" does not come naturally. You must consciously train the student to blow through the mouthpiece and horn, once again producing the "tooo" syllable for a sharp attack and a "daaah" syllable for a dull attack. Once again establish the sensation of blowing without embouchure and sound. Then transfer the concept to producing a note as before, only this time it will have an articulated beginning. Practicing without any attack is beneficial at any time.
Having said all of that, lip buzzing does have its place for more advanced players. It can be a fine exercise for warming up the facial tissue and muscles. Similarly mouthpiece playing is very effective for improving air flow, lip (aperture) control and ear training. Think of lip buzzing, mouthpiece playing and trumpet playing as separate entities. Simply remember that buzzing into a brass instrument creates a lousy sound. Blowing into a brass instrument creates a vibrating air column and a potentially beautiful sound. Once a solid core sound is established, technical development is a matter of manipulating the sound through practice, lessons and experimentation.
It's really quite amazing how powerful the pull of music is once we begin to play an instrument. It's equally amazing how challenging learning to play a musical instrument is and how many questions we still have about how to best go about it. After all of these years I'm still trying to figure out many aspects of trumpet performance. Fundamental concepts of trumpet playing and common sense seem to prove themselves to me over and over. As a young frustrated trumpet student I asked my father and teacher, "When will I learn to play the high notes?" I offer his answer to you: "Be patient. They will come."
So don't buzz to create your sound. Don't teach buzzing to create a good sound. A good buzz is not all that it's cracked up to be.
@dr-go Won't ban you for that.
GeorgeB last edited by
I agree with everything in your post, Doc. Most of that, especially the left and especially the right hand grip, proper posture and avoidance of buzzing was taught to me in 1953 by a professional player who was also my teacher.
I have never found buzzing the mp of any use to me. What I sometimes do for a quick warm is place the mp on my chops, cover the end of the shank with a finger and blow a scale or two, which is just blowing against resistance. This seems to awaken the muscles in the chops and leaves me ready to go.
What I sometimes do for a quick warm is place the mp on my chops, cover the end of the shank with a finger and blow a scale or two, which is just blowing against resistance. This seems to awaken the muscles in the chops and leaves me ready to go.
There is absolutely nothing wrong with awakening he muscles and yes, doing just as you say increases the blood flow to the muscle very effectively.
GeorgeB last edited by
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BigDub last edited by
I don’t buzz. For those who were interested.
I think it's useless. There is no direct comparison between "buzzing" your lips and creating a standing wave in a brass instrument. I can see how mouthpiece "buzzing" may be helpful, but lip "buzzing" seems worthless to me. We don't "buzz" at all in the trumpet -- we create a standing wave in the instrument with the passing of air through our embouchure. I think of the organ. In the organ, you have pipes which are sounded by a reed. You don't separate the reed from the pipe -- they are part of the same system. No reed, no sound, but no pipe, and you get a sound alright, but not anything like the sound you wanted.
I am against lip buzzing.
@administrator Lip buzzing a melody might not be helpful directly, but it can keep the embouchure in shape when you can't practice.
Well, knowing the true acoustical combination of wind and lips has helped me be aware of not having to muscle the lips. But nevertheless, I can't wrap my head around one blowing air into the mouthpiece then into the horn without the lips vi vibrating. And that vibration is what I've always known as a buzz.
Maybe you let the lips vibrate instead of using a forced buzz but you still have to relax and contract them as you ascend and descend, n'est-ce pas? And isn't that vibration a buzz?
@kehaulani A common misconception... many players believe in buzzing their lips without mouthpiece or instrument... good for some, but usually not really convincing for others.
I just see the lips and mouthpiece as one system -- you can't separate them, just like you can't separate the mouthpiece from the reed on a saxophone.
Well, I've just resolved the conflict by, finally, just ignoring it. I used to be a big, although relatively unsuccessful. buzzer, both free-buzz and mouthpiece buzz. i no longer try to have a buzz as the main source of the sound but thinking more of the sound emanating from a vibrating column within the horn which, in turn, causes the lips to vibrate. BTAIM, I no longer worry about the physics.
This what I do.
*Start with leadpipe blowing to start the sensation of letting the vibration come from as passive and relaxed lip formation as I can. Then, as I play the trumpet, I ty to keep that relaxed, passive formation as I blow. Then carry that concept throughout the playing day.
I too did long ago buzz wrongly - big mistake
Since then I have buzzed correctly, if I may use that odd distinction.
In my opinion there is wrong buzzing and there is correct buzzing. I need to clarify this apparently odd and bizarre statement.
Wrong buzzing is for me the creation of a buzz between the lips that can start a standing wave in an instrument and this creates an annoying raucous noise.
Correct buzzing is not something we create in order to make a standing wave appear. It is instead the result of the lips naturally vibrating together when air is passed between them.
The distinction is critical and profound, and you are absolutely right when you say "the sound emanating from a vibrating column within the horn which, in turn, causes the lips to vibrate", that is the best description I have heard for what is really happening.
Because the lips vibrate as a result of correct technique it is way too tempting to decide that making the lips vibrate is the goal and will result in correct technique, and many have made that fundamental mistake.
As in a case of placing the cart before the horse, no progress can be made when you make the buzz the goal.
I think it is the US Army Field Band who teach correct sound creation for beginners by this method - "place a tiny straw between the lips and slip a mouthpiece along it to rest on the lips, then blow into the straw steadily, and then while blowing through the straw pull the straw out and a beautiful and steady tone will then appear.
They do not teach to buzz they teach instead correct embouchure chops and mouthpiece placement coupled with a tiny and relaxed opening between the lips.
This is the lips buzzing (or vibrating) correctly as a result of correct technique and it is not buzzing in the hopes of correct technique emerging.
The buzz exists but it is a consequence of and is a result of how we play and it should never be considered what we must do in order to play.
There is an additional concern. If we play into an instrument, we can hear and the audience can hear poor tones and beautiful tones. If we just buzz our lips or into a mouthpiece it is far more difficult to hear the difference between the two and work on improving our tone.
Our task as musicians is to make the tones we produce the most beautiful humanly possible and we do this by making improvements to embouchure chops air support etc, and these changes will modify the way the lips buzz together.
What we must aspire to then is a modified buzz developed by improvements to the way we play. The buzz will take care of itself if we take care of the tone.
I understand and in the context of how you use the word buzz I agree, but a vibration of the lip double reed can also be called a buzz.
I think this is where the original issues sprang from.
If the lips move together and apart rapidly then the descriptive word for the sound that they create can be called a buzz.
What can we call it if not a buzz, a stuttering of air, a rasping, a flapping, a fluttering, a thrashing, a trembling, an oscillation, a quivering. When a student blows air into a mouthpiece and no sound comes out what do we do, give them a descriptive visual clue they can understand or simply say keep blowing, until they either get it or give up.
I have seen beginners blow and blow and blow and never get a sound, or they blow for 10 minutes and a raspy tone appears and then disappears and never reappears.
I would suggest that simply avoiding using the word buzz leaves us with "blow until your lips make a noise", and that is just plain unhelpful.
In Saxaphone circles buzzing of the mouthpiece is a well known and legitimate term and some players want to cultivate that sound and they use the word buzz to describe it, so why cant we use that term.
There are Sax pages named "That classic sax buzz"
And in describing Sax buzzing it is a legitimate way of playing and producing a Sax tone.
However we slice it a desirable musical tone in woodwind can be a buzz.
So in other instruments use of the word buzz is acceptable so why is any use of the word buzz unacceptable in Trumpet.
Maybe we should define the term buzz better rather than try to stop its use entirely.
I deeply suspect that because for many decades Trumpet teachers have been teaching students to buzz, the collective knowledge is that buzzing is good, and since some buzzing is known to be bad, I submit that we need to better define the term buzz and declare what is an acceptable buzz and what is not an acceptable buzz.
I am completely opposed to buzzing myself but I see buzzing as part of correct tone generation, and there are many advocates of buzzing possibly the majority of players and teachers see buzzing practice as essential.
In my case I see myself as buzzing as part of tone generation and I speak from experience here my tone has been complemented many times over the years as being very smooth so thinking of buzzing as part of tone generation does not have to mean we produce a bad tone.
If we cannot find a slightly better definition for teachers to use then they may just ignore the issue and continue to teach buzzing as they do now and students will continue to buzz badly and maybe students will make the same mistakes over and over again.
This perhaps is an opportunity to try to make a better future by describing to beginners better than at present how we generate tone and how buzzing fits in the picture.
I see two forms of buzz, the bad buzz that you correctly oppose as do I, and the buzzing that must happen when lips vibrate together.
When playing a low pedal for example what is sounded if not a buzz.
There must be a middle ground here.
I welcome your thoughts on this DR-GO.
Oh boy is this thread a can of worms.
In my view, there are many paths to bliss and even more to hell. What we thought that we understood is one of the major character deficiencies in people that can not get space between them and concepts. Lead trumpeters that are VERY convinced that their success is unique often have trouble with other concepts. I also would not recommend that fortunate, excellent players mess with (their own) success.
I will maintain that there are as many "extremely successful" players with and without buzzing. That is enough for me not to damn one side or the other. I would guess that there are also a great deal of players getting everything wrong, but they can only be cited as bad examples.
Up until a couple of months ago, I never buzzed (55 years). Three years ago I had an accident that has now lead to 100% implants and dentures. With my old routine and new teeth, I was able to get the basics back, but things above the staff were elusive (although previously range never was an issue). Since 6 weeks, I have a steady free buzzing program and my tone, articulation and range are coming back at about a half tone every 2 or 3 days. The targeted free buzzing may not be the only way, but 10-15 minutes per day have certainly done wonders for me in getting a grip on embouchure geometry.
Now, I consider Al Vizzuttis' rant to be "mostly true". The exaggeration however is that occasional buzzing will change/hurt our concept of tone. We are creatures of habit. If we do 5 minutes of buzzing per day and an hour of normal practice, what are the odds that buzzing would kill that? In my case 15 minutes of buzzing and 2 hours of practice seems to be a great mix. The targeted buzzing has built strength much faster than my standard routine did. I do not consider my "tone" to be the focus of buzzing. Maybe it is just teaching an old dog new tricks when the old ones don't work anymore. I don't know or care. I am now playing at a level (again) that gets me rebooked. Buzzing has no cost of business. I am sacrificing nothing.
I was fortunate that the accident and aftermath all happened in the Covid era where there were hardly any gigs.
So sad about your teeth Rowuk. I didn't know. Sorry.
I would guess that you already know this information and book but just in case:
Regarding buzzing, I was a proponent of it although I was never good at it. Learning the "Leadpipe Playing" and concept of exciting air in the tube and that the flapping lips are a consequence of that, have been liberating for me. Perhaps in the future I can take my lessons learned from that and combine it with conventional buzzing to have the best of both worlds but not for now,
Buzzing has always been a physical isometric activity for me. Top and bottom lips squeezing against each other. Leadpipe playing and concept have helped me play much more relaxed.
You say Potaytoes and I say Potahtoes. Trumpet pedagogy.
We already had two threads on Buzzing - Good or Bad?, and both led to indigestible altercations, and eventual forced locking-up. Everything that can be said about buzzing has already been extensively said over and over again. Can we please just agree to disagree, everyone to find happiness in their own fashion?
I don't like locking threads.