The bulk of the musical talk
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I am having a few issues creating a "beautiful", "big" sound when I am buzzing on my mouthpiece away from the tuba. It sounds very forced and "thin". However, as hard as I try, I can't improve the quality of sound.
What are some things that I can consciously be doing to improve the sound of my mouthpiece buzz. Also, what are some good video resources out there to improve my internal concept of a "beautiful", "big" sound?
I find that usually the problem for me in not achieving a big sound in buzzing (which transfers accordingly over to not getting a big rich sound on the horn) is not using enough air. Air is one of our greatest tools as brass players and it often takes more than we think it should. If done correctly, you really shouldn't be able to buzz a note for too long, since there is so little resistance with just a mouthpiece. If you're moving a big, thick stream of air and keeping that consistently flowing, not only should your buzzing sound get better, but your sound on the horn should as well.
Hope that helps!
I hate buzzing my mouthpiece.
I would rather do long tones for 30 minutes than buzz for 3. I feel much better after going through Bruckner excerpts for a half-hour than I do buzzing for any period of time.
For me, mp buzzing is more of a diagnostic than a practice technique. If I'm buzzing and not about to pass out, I'm doing it wrong. Problem is, that gets old really fast. I think that folks who strive for long phrases on the buzz may be unconsciously restraining their air flow from what it would be if they had a horn on the end. Besides, I can't make a solid connection between buzzing and articulation, especially when I'm working on multiple tonguing. Granted, if you're driving for 6 - 8 hours straight, a little mouthpiece action can break up the boredom, but if you're doing it right you're going to make a mess...
I get a lot of flak from some folks because I'd rather "free-buzz", but it is more fun - and it's better for your aural skills.
sorry, I don't do signatures.
If you consistently do mouthpiece buzzing practice, the amount of air you use will become more in line with the amount of air you use while playing the horn. Your buzz will depend less and less on the resistance of the instrument, and then will you realize the benefits of mouthpiece buzzing...
Drawing on my experiences studying with Arnold Jacobs, who was a huge advocate of mouthpiece buzzing, the first thing you have to remember is that any time you are learning a new skill, there will be crudity involved. The key is to know what you are striving for in terms of sound, and then allow yourself the freedom to be wrong at first. As long as you are keenly aware of your intention, keep trying to create the sound in your mind and do not focus on being right immediately. This will allow the "computer level" of the brain to figure out what is right FOR YOU.
A few things that will help include to sticking with lower middle register playing, approximately from middle Bb to low Bb, at a mf to f dynamic, starting with full lungs and using plenty of air. Also, do not force the sound by blowing hard against the lips. This creates too much back pressure that can be transferred to the tuba and will be detrimental.
One reason for learning to buzz on the mouthpiece is that it is harder to get the lips to vibrate on the mouthpiece alone than it is on the instrument. Therefore, learning to buzz on the mouthpiece helps develop an embouchure that WANTS to vibrate, which creates efficiency in playing. Mr. Jacobs taught that the lip vibration is a psycho-motor activity that is the result of a message sent from the brain, through the motor nerves, to the lips. This is very important. The lips are not like a wooden reed that vibrate just because the air is passing over (or between) them. They do not have to vibrate just because we blow. The air is the fuel source, and there cannot be vibration without it, but it is not the cause of the vibration.
Finally, Mr. Jacobs did not want his students to simply play random sounds or drills on the mouthpiece. Instead, he wanted artistry from them right away, even if it was at an elementary level. He always wanted his students to play music in the form of simple melodies such as Pop Goes the Weasel, When the Saints Go Marching In, or the Theme from the Carnival of Venice. The key is to play melodies that you are very familiar with so you can focus on making music and not on technical stuff. If you know the melody very well, it is simple to allow your natural trial and error system to make the corrections for you without your having to consciously do anything yourself. Mr. Jacobs stressed that by getting the product, you will subconsciously learn what the body needs to do to create that product.
Here are a couple of videos that touch on this subject.
Your body is part of the instrument, hence, part of the equation for what is a big and wonderful sound.
So much of what is required would benefit from a relaxed body, using the large muscles, avoiding tension anywhere in the system of things. I always enjoy what the Happy Roman offers, as I too sat in Mr. Jacobs basement and heard those same words and given similar exercises. But we do need to find something in our routine that steers us in a good direction. I will credit the low register, as in the Snedecor etudes, as a very worthwhile persuit. When I first approached this very low passages I was really not prepared for what was ahead. Yes, a lot of air, but conservation of that air is one of the keys to making those phrases sing. More recently I've worked on the Snedecor daily now for about 3 years, and now get those complements on the richness of my sound. But is was careful work on each little phrase. Understanding the pitches and centering them "dead on" is key. Learning to sing in tune with the voice I find is a big help. Transfer that to mouthpiece buzzing, and finally to the horn. And in all that, work on relaxation, and the tone will become bigger and bigger. As an older guy, I found that almost a normal amount of isometrics in the abdominal muscles resulted in a slight quiver. Avoid the fight between the muscles and the tremor is no longer there. Also the sound then is much freer and can more easily be made large and rich. But it is not an instant process... and all the remedial things that you will learn along the way need to be reinforced so they happen automatically. There are many new muscles that are now being used that need to be strengthened. It does take time. Practice smart. Great advice that I got from Mr.Jacobs was to listen to great musicians, and not just tubaists, but singers, violinists, flutists, etc. Strive for the best phrasing and the best sound imaginable and hold yourself acountable to a high standard. There ... I already typed too much. Cheers!!!!
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