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Mouthpiece Buzzing

Postby FatCat » Thu Apr 20, 2017 7:27 pm

Hi all,

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?

Cheers :tuba:
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Re: Mouthpiece Buzzing

Postby Jim Andrus » Thu Apr 20, 2017 7:47 pm

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!
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Re: Mouthpiece Buzzing

Postby Slamson » Thu Apr 20, 2017 8:16 pm

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.
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Re: Mouthpiece Buzzing

Postby kmorgancraw » Thu Apr 20, 2017 8:26 pm

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...
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Re: Mouthpiece Buzzing

Postby happyroman » Fri Apr 21, 2017 9:56 am

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.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=x_a7o7-QiYU

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ClPnrPBnmpc
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Re: Mouthpiece Buzzing

Postby FatCat » Fri Apr 21, 2017 9:39 pm

Thank you very much for all of your ideas. I will be sure to implement your advice into my practice.
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Re: Mouthpiece Buzzing

Postby PaulMaybery » Sat Apr 22, 2017 3:07 am

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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Re: Mouthpiece Buzzing

Postby TubaKen » Mon Apr 24, 2017 5:31 pm

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...

I'm not trying to be snarky, but I really don't see how this is possible, especially in the low range. Can you even buzz a low F or below? If you could, all your air would be gone in about three seconds. Yet one can easily play much longer down there on the horn. Also, how do you know your "big beautiful tone" on the mouthpiece even translates to the instrument? I know Jacobs was an advocate for mouthpiece buzzing, but there are also well-known names (Tommy Johnson, for one) on the other side of the argument. And I personally know of two trombone players who permanently destroyed their chops with excessive mouthpiece practice. So, not a fan, except in limited circumstances.
Just my 2 cents.
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Re: Mouthpiece Buzzing

Postby kmorgancraw » Mon Apr 24, 2017 5:57 pm

TubaKen wrote:
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...

I'm not trying to be snarky, but I really don't see how this is possible, especially in the low range. Can you even buzz a low F or below? If you could, all your air would be gone in about three seconds. Yet one can easily play much longer down there on the horn. Also, how do you know your "big beautiful tone" on the mouthpiece even translates to the instrument? I know Jacobs was an advocate for mouthpiece buzzing, but there are also well-known names (Tommy Johnson, for one) on the other side of the argument. And I personally know of two trombone players who permanently destroyed their chops with excessive mouthpiece practice. So, not a fan, except in limited circumstances.
Just my 2 cents.


Sounds like your mind is made up.
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Re: Mouthpiece Buzzing

Postby tbonesullivan » Tue Apr 25, 2017 9:21 am

The trombone world is also pretty divided on the utility of mouthpiece buzzing. Notables such as Christian Lindberg and Ralph Sauer have questioned its usefulness, with Lindberg even saying literally "when you practice on a mouthpiece, you practice a horrible sound." You also have some proponents of free buzzing, without the mouthpiece.

For me, I do a bit of free buzzing to get the lips moving, but then it's all in the horn. I have found that if I ever have trouble playing a particular note for some reason, taking out the mouthpiece, buzzing that note, and putting it back in, I can then have a better more centered tone on that note. I haven't really had to do that for years though.

Anyway, if it works for you, that's great. If it doesn't, that's great too. The important thing is always to do what works best for you and your playing style/horn. For me, I just find that it's not the same as playing through the horn. I also don't have nearly the same range on the mpc as I do with the horn.
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Re: Mouthpiece Buzzing

Postby happyroman » Tue Apr 25, 2017 10:01 am

TubaKen wrote:
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...

I'm not trying to be snarky, but I really don't see how this is possible, especially in the low range. Can you even buzz a low F or below? If you could, all your air would be gone in about three seconds. Yet one can easily play much longer down there on the horn. Also, how do you know your "big beautiful tone" on the mouthpiece even translates to the instrument? I know Jacobs was an advocate for mouthpiece buzzing, but there are also well-known names (Tommy Johnson, for one) on the other side of the argument. And I personally know of two trombone players who permanently destroyed their chops with excessive mouthpiece practice. So, not a fan, except in limited circumstances.
Just my 2 cents.


Regarding the amount of air used, I suppose that one will require less air as the embouchure becomes more efficient, but it will not likely approach the the amount used when you put the mouthpiece back into the instrument. The other point made kmorgancraw is absolutely correct. As the resistance provided by the instrument is removed, it is physically more difficult to get the embouchure to vibrate. As we learn this new skill, we are in fact developing an embouchure that wants to vibrate, as opposed to one that we force to vibrate. To take this to another degree of difficulty, get a rim, sometimes called a visualizer, and learn to buzz on that. Since you have removed the resistance caused by the cup and throat of the mouthpiece, it is more difficult to get the lips to vibrate on a rim than it is on the mouthpiece. One thing Mr. Jacobs warns about with the rim is that we may try to blow the air hard with the rim in order to get the lips to vibrate, creating unwanted back pressure inside the mouth. If this back pressure is carried over to the instrument, it will be detrimental. When going from the rim to the tuba, one must remember to play with very low air pressure while maintaining the sensation of the increased buzz. Playing on the rim, therefore, is a more advanced concept that should be used judiciously.

To address a couple of points made by TubaKen, I would say this. With respect to getting a big beautiful tone on the mouthpiece and whether that translates to the tuba, I would say it is self evident. Mr. Jacobs instructed his students to try and get a lot of "buzz" in the sound when playing the mouthpiece. This increased buzz correlates to a stronger vibration which is increased resonance when we go back to the instrument. This is the concept I discussed above where we are developing more efficiency in our playing by developing an embouchure that wants to vibrate.

The greater benefit in my mind, however, is how buzzing the mouthpiece creates a stronger link between the mind and the lips. If we want to play a C on the mouthpiece alone, we have to buzz a C. However, when we go back to the instrument, if we want to play a C, due to the distance between partials and the sympathetic resonance of the instrument, we could buzz as much as a half or whole step on either side of the desired C, and the instrument would force the note into the closest slot. It would sound bad, and may likely result in a split attack, but the C would likely be produced. Depending on the length of the tube, there is one place where the pitch being played will create the most resonance. If we lip the note up or down from that point, the tone quality suffers a lot. By buzzing on the mouthpiece, focusing on playing in tune, we learn very quickly to play on the center of the pitch. When we play on the center of the pitch, and have the tube set to the corresponding, and correct, length, the tone quality is improved.

Finally, one can find anecdotal evidence to support just about any point we are trying to make. By saying that Tommy Johnson was not an advocate of mouthpiece buzzing implies that there may be an equal number of prominent teachers on both sides of the argument. I can use a similar example by saying that Mr. Jacobs was not an advocate of free buzzing, yet two of his more prominent students, Gail Williams and Patrick Sheridan both found value in it from a personal standpoint. Does that mean Jake was wrong and everyone should do all of the free buzzing they want? Of course not. In both cases, Williams and Sheridan were advanced players that used the technique for specific reasons and found that it helped them.

The point is that there are many ways to accomplish the desired results. Just about any practice technique can be helpful, if done correctly. The same technique can also be detrimental if done incorrectly. As for the two trombone players you mentioned, my guess is that they were not using the technique of buzzing on the mouthpiece correctly. You said that "excessive mouthpiece practice" lead to permanently destroying their chops. I would say that someone who practices an "excessive" amount of long tones would likely find that detrimental to their playing. The point is that no one in this thread is recommending that anyone do anything excessive. Mr. Jacobs recommended 30 minutes a day, spread out over the entire day, as a good amount of mouthpiece practice. This could possibly be increased to an hour, but again, should be spread out over the course of the day.

For anyone that wants to start practicing on the mouthpiece, there are many resources available that discuss this and should be sought out. I know of at least five books about Mr. Jacobs approach to teaching that would be very helpful for additional study. Brian Frederiksen also has a list of articles and documents on his website that are available to read online or for download for free. I also encourage everyone to go to Michael Grose's YouTube page, TubaPeopleTV for more than 100 excellent interviews with former Jacobs students.

I posted one earlier in the thread that discusses the value of mouthpiece buzzing. Dee Stewart had an interesting anecdote that I will paraphrase. He believed that buzzing the mouthpiece was one of the tools he learned from Mr. Jacobs that allowed him to develop to the point that he was able to win a job with the Philadelphia Orchestra. When he got there, he was buzzing the mouthpiece and was told by one of the other brass players that they didn't do that in the Philadelphia Orchestra, and that Jacob's ideas would eventually cause problems. So Stewart decided to continue what he learned from Jacobs, but just keep it to himself. Thirty years later, when he was playing with Summit Brass, they arrived at a gig, and when they got off the bus, every member of the group took out their mouthpiece and started buzzing. Stewart was amazed at just how widely accepted Mr. Jacobs ideas had become.
Last edited by happyroman on Tue Apr 25, 2017 10:22 am, edited 2 times in total.
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Re: Mouthpiece Buzzing

Postby happyroman » Tue Apr 25, 2017 10:19 am

tbonesullivan wrote:The trombone world is also pretty divided on the utility of mouthpiece buzzing. Notables such as Christian Lindberg and Ralph Sauer have questioned its usefulness, with Lindberg even saying literally "when you practice on a mouthpiece, you practice a horrible sound." You also have some proponents of free buzzing, without the mouthpiece.

For me, I do a bit of free buzzing to get the lips moving, but then it's all in the horn. I have found that if I ever have trouble playing a particular note for some reason, taking out the mouthpiece, buzzing that note, and putting it back in, I can then have a better more centered tone on that note. I haven't really had to do that for years though.

Anyway, if it works for you, that's great. If it doesn't, that's great too. The important thing is always to do what works best for you and your playing style/horn. For me, I just find that it's not the same as playing through the horn. I also don't have nearly the same range on the mpc as I do with the horn.


Once again, I would say that presenting anecdotes of two players (prominent as they may be) and saying that is evidence that the trombone world is pretty divided is incorrect. I can very likely list a lot more very prominent trombone players that are advocates of mouthpiece buzzing.

As for Mr. Lindberg, I have seen his video and believe that he completely misses the point. First, the sound he makes on the mouthpiece is poor. It is thin and airy, and when transferred back to the trombone, the trombone sound is also poor.

The entire concept that Mr. Jacobs taught was to think of the best possible sound you can, and then through intuition and imitation, try and reproduce that when you are playing, whether it is on the mouthpiece or on the instrument. Mr. Lindberg, in his video, is not trying to reproduce the finest sound possible, either on the mouthpiece alone, or as he slowly reinserts it into the trombone. He is trying to make a point that buzzing is not helpful, and is subconsciously producing a poor sound, which in turn appears to verify his point.

On the other hand, if he were to imagine an example of an excellent trombone buzz, consciously try to imitate it, and then transfer that to the trombone, all while imagining the best possible trombone sound and trying to reproduce THAT, the results would be far different than what we hear on his infamous YouTube video. The important thing is the signal being sent from the brain to the lips. Mr. Lindberg is either sending the message of a poor sound to the lips, or is not sending any message at all, and that is why his sound is poor in his video.
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Re: Mouthpiece Buzzing

Postby tbonesullivan » Tue Apr 25, 2017 12:08 pm

Yes, I do think Lindberg's take on it is very cursory.

However, he does bring up the very important point that playing through the instrument and through the mouthpiece is inherently a different environment. It's as different as a muffler and straight pipes on a carburetor equipped engine. Change the resistance and you need to change the jets, or it will never run right.

Learning to buzz with good sound and control outside of the instrument will never be the same environment resistance-wise nor vibration-wise as an instrument. The feedback isn't there from the resonance in the instrument.

However, I definitely recognize the value it has as a practice tool, especially as an extension of Arnold Jacobs' breathing techniques. It's all about the efficiency of air and effort. By learning to generate a strong buzz without an instrument present, you learn to use the air much more efficiently. At first buzzing with a mouthpiece is extremely tiring, and uses a ton of air, until you learn how to control your airstream, buzzing, etc properly.

I guess this has given a bit more motivation to move my mouthpiece buzzing past a "warmup" tool.

One thing I do wonder though, is how mouthpiece buzzing differs from using the instrument in terms of the internal resonance that many players utilize from their mouth and throat cavity.
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Re: Mouthpiece Buzzing

Postby happyroman » Tue Apr 25, 2017 4:19 pm

tbonesullivan wrote:Yes, I do think Lindberg's take on it is very cursory.

However, he does bring up the very important point that playing through the instrument and through the mouthpiece is inherently a different environment. It's as different as a muffler and straight pipes on a carburetor equipped engine. Change the resistance and you need to change the jets, or it will never run right.

Learning to buzz with good sound and control outside of the instrument will never be the same environment resistance-wise nor vibration-wise as an instrument. The feedback isn't there from the resonance in the instrument.

However, I definitely recognize the value it has as a practice tool, especially as an extension of Arnold Jacobs' breathing techniques. It's all about the efficiency of air and effort. By learning to generate a strong buzz without an instrument present, you learn to use the air much more efficiently. At first buzzing with a mouthpiece is extremely tiring, and uses a ton of air, until you learn how to control your airstream, buzzing, etc properly.

I guess this has given a bit more motivation to move my mouthpiece buzzing past a "warmup" tool.

One thing I do wonder though, is how mouthpiece buzzing differs from using the instrument in terms of the internal resonance that many players utilize from their mouth and throat cavity.


I really enjoy an open minded discussion like this. A couple of points. First, I know nothing about internal resonance from the mouth and throat. Not only did I study with Mr. Jacobs, but I ave read everything I could get my hands on that pertains to his teaching and I have never heard him discuss this. The only thing he points out is that we need to keep the oral cavity as open as possible in order to get a thick column of air to the lips. The tongue is the main culprit in blocking the air, and it is easily kept low in the mouth through the use of the three low vowel sounds, OH, OOH, and AHH.

As for buzzing being different from playing the instrument, that is one of the main reasons Mr. Jacobs wanted his students to buzz. The instrument acts as a very powerful stimulus, to which we have formed conditioned responses when we play. If these are in the form of bad habits we need to overcome, buzzing the mouthpiece introduces "strangeness" which allows us to bypass the conditioned response associated with the instrument and learn a new habit that eventually replaces the old habit. Once we begin to have success on the mouthpiece, that success can be transferred back to the instrument.

But, Mr. Jacobs did say that, in terms of how the lips function, if what you are doing on the instrument is different than how you play on the mouthpiece, then what you are doing on the instrument is wrong. It is my understanding that this statement refers to how the mouthpiece is placed on the embouchure, and how the embouchure makes the necessary shape changes in order to vibrate the desired pitch. It is not meant that buzzing should feel like playing the instrument in terms of the added resistance provided by the instrument.

Which gets me into one other aspect of Mr. Jacobs teaching. He stated that we should not play by feel. The same area of the brain that issues the messages to the lips that creates the vibrations, also receives input in the form of sensory feedback. He wants 85-90% of our mental processes need to be on making a statement when we play. The brain can't do two things at once. So, if we are analyzing how we feel, we inhibit the ability to send the necessary message to the lips. He referred to this is paralysis by analysis. When we play, we must issue statements and not ask questions. This is particularly important if we are having trouble playing. Focusing on how things feel only reinforces whatever we are doing that makes it feel bad. We have to ignore how it feels and focus on how it sounds. or rather, how we want it to sound. He said that if it sounds good, it will probably feel pretty good too.
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Re: Mouthpiece Buzzing

Postby TubaKen » Tue Apr 25, 2017 5:11 pm

The instrument acts as a very powerful stimulus, to which we have formed conditioned responses when we play. If these are in the form of bad habits we need to overcome, buzzing the mouthpiece introduces "strangeness" which allows us to bypass the conditioned response associated with the instrument and learn a new habit that eventually replaces the old habit. Once we begin to have success on the mouthpiece, that success can be transferred back to the instrument.

OK, this is one of those situations where I can see that buzzing could be very beneficial. The other benefits mentioned for mouthpiece practice haven't really convinced me, although I am certainly open-minded about it. When I said "not a fan", I didn't mean "I'll never change my mind." Just that I haven't seen a need in my personal experience, plus I have the negative examples of the trombones with wrecked embouchures.
As far as numbers of tubists/trombonists who do or don't advocate mouthpiece buzzing, I think we'd need a survey to settle that. (Maybe one has already been done?)
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Re: Mouthpiece Buzzing

Postby happyroman » Wed Apr 26, 2017 2:21 pm

I recently saw a YouTube video by a trumpet player (can't remember who, unfortunately) who calls mouthpiece practice the brass players solfege. Instead of producing the printed notes on the page with the voice, we are training the lips to produce the pitch. This seemed to be a very succinct way to put describe the benefit.

You can try an experiment on your own to help see the value of this. Play a note on a piano, then sing it, and then buzz it on the mouthpiece. Even though I buzz every day, I often find that I am just a little bit off the pitch the first time I try to buzz a particular note in this manner. But if I repeat it several times in a row, each succeeding attempt is better, until it is right on. If you did this on the instrument, it would lock you into the pitch due to the nature of the overtone series, and you would not realize you had buzzed the pitch off center. This ability to hear very small differences in the pitch when playing on the mouthpiece alone works to fine tune the trial and error method of developing the conditioned responses we need to play.

It goes back to Mr. Jacobs philosophy that the instrument simply amplifies and adds characteristic color to what we buzz in the mouthpiece. He believed that as a brass musician, we must put the pitch into the mouthpiece very accurately. Otherwise, we are relying on the instrument to help us, which is one reason we miss notes.
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Re: Mouthpiece Buzzing

Postby tbonesullivan » Wed Apr 26, 2017 3:46 pm

Pitch matching with a mouthpiece is definitely beneficial. Technically the horn is only really sounding it's best and resonating when the buzz matches the frequency the instrument "wants" to vibrate at. I don't know what they call it with tubas, but the tendency for a trombone note to self-correct is called "slotting." You can push it up and down a little but with most horns the note really wants to be in that slot.

One thing I have thought about, is how much the resonant chamber on the other side of our lips, the "soft machine", has to do with the pitch being resonated through the horn. I heard one of my fellow brass players talking about how they found that some players "sing" while playing, and this may actually positively influence sound and ease of starting a note, especially at low volumes. In other words, they have their vocal cords set up to sing that note (or an octave above or below), and don't actually sing it.

With that, I leave you with this video, which is done by a singer who has actually developed the control of her oral cavity to act as a filter or resonant chamber, which enables her to generate overtones. Her control of her voice and knowledge of harmonics is absolutely mind blowing.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vC9Qh709gas
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Re: Mouthpiece Buzzing

Postby happyroman » Wed Apr 26, 2017 5:04 pm

All I know is that Jake talked about wind, as is used in playing a brass instrument, is a phenomena that occurs outside the body. A common phrase he used was to "blow from the lips." He wanted his students to blow the air as if they were blowing out a match. He said that air inside the body is usually associated with pressure, and is not wind. As I said earlier in the thread, he never mentioned anything about the technique you describe with the vocal chords. However, he repeatedly said that we are not designed to be aware of what is going on inside the body, so I think he would be skeptical that a brass player could control their vocal chords in the manner you describe. In other words, what they are actually doing physically is not what they think they are doing.

If what your associates are doing makes it easier to start a note, I suspect that what they are doing is helping prevent them from triggering the Valsalva Maneuver, which cuts the air off in the throat and creates the pelvic pressures we use during defecation and child birth.
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Re: Mouthpiece Buzzing

Postby Leland » Wed Apr 26, 2017 9:57 pm

I don't think a mouthpiece buzz will help fix a poor "on-the-instrument" sound.

But I think buzzing the mouthpiece helps expose some slop of an already decent-enough on-the-instrument sound.

Lindbergh's video was snarky, missed the point, and -- IMNSHO -- pretty much garbage. He's a great player, but that particular video was him doing the wrong thing just to prove a point.

I used buzzing as part of practicing, specifically for accuracy and stability. I tried to buzz with the same type of embouchure as when I played the horn. What it exposed was when I aimed for incorrect pitches or when my wind wasn't smooth and even.

Similarly, I used air-and-valves (doing everything on the horn except buzzing for pitch) specifically for tempo, articulation quality, and dynamic phrasing. It emphasizes how important a good windstream is for phrasing and for getting the notes to speak on time. When you can hear each note in a fast lick as a puff of fat air, or a crescendo has an evenly increasing "ffffffFFFFFFF" sound, it'll be that much better when you add the buzz back in.

I used both of these in section rehearsals, too. If you want eight players to sound like a solid unit, all the pieces -- the buzz, wind, fingers, tongue, vowel colors -- need to be in place, too. Even in my college quintet, the first time I suggested that we run through a passage with air-and-valves, the results we got after just a couple reps surprised the other players.

Buzzing is a tool. But you gotta know what it's good for and how to use it right. You won't use a shovel to change a car tire, will you?
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Re: Mouthpiece Buzzing

Postby Leland » Wed Apr 26, 2017 10:19 pm

To focus on a couple common things:
tbonesullivan wrote:The feedback isn't there from the resonance in the instrument.

That's exactly why I used buzzing to expose accuracy problems.

The instrument is pretty good at steering a player's buzz to the right pitch if the buzz is close enough, but if the buzz isn't right to begin with, the pitch will either scoop or dive into place, or it'll just plain frack.

It takes being able to hear the note first, then setting up to play it, to successfully get the right note with good clarity and timing out of the horn. And if it's not right, it's wrong, and that first split-second of the note is all that's needed for it to sound bad.

At first buzzing with a mouthpiece is extremely tiring, and uses a ton of air, until you learn how to control your airstream, buzzing, etc properly.

I think this is because players want to hear as much sound, in terms of raw decibels, from the mouthpiece as they hear from the horn. It's not gonna happen, of course. I eventually moved to playing the mouthpiece with the same length of phrasing that I had established on the horn.

ONE BIG CAVEAT I SHOULD ADD:

I almost never "free buzz" -- that is, on an open mouthpiece with zero resistance. I cover part of the end with a finger, or a BERP, or a rag (especially if I'm playing warmups in the car), or a hunk of vinyl tubing.

I think that if I work too much on free buzzing, I start to add resistance by buzzing with too tight of an embouchure. I understand the difference between resistance and resonance (no tuba I've ever played had meaningful resistance unless there's a dead rat inside), yet it's still always been easier to do mouthpiece buzzing with a good embouchure if I'm also adding some resistance.

This leads to:

One thing I do wonder though, is how mouthpiece buzzing differs from using the instrument in terms of the internal resonance that many players utilize from their mouth and throat cavity.

It's easy, and tempting, for me to start using an "ee" type of buzz if I'm free buzzing. As long as I have some sort of resistance, though, it's easier to stay in the "oh" and "aw" type of sound.
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