Welcome to Weekly Trumpet Tips:
(1) Free Buzzing Thoughts
(2) Trumpet Mouthpieces
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Tip #1 – Free-buzzing Thoughts
Quite often I’m asked my thoughts on free-buzzing and I pretty much have the same answer each time. Some guys really dig it and do it often, I am not one of them! There is a great amount of information about free-buzzing on the internet, and most of it to me is misleading and can set you up for big trouble when playing.
I think trumpet playing in general requires the same thing from all of us… air passing through the lips causing a vibration on soft tissue creating sound. The more we impede that tissue and / or air passing through the tougher time we have making “good” sound. With that said (and out of the way), here are my thoughts about free-buzzing and why I don’t incorporate it into my activities.
For my particular physical set up and the way I play trumpet, I push my lips more into the cup because I’ve found for me personally, the vibration tissue that creates the best / most consistent sound is the soft wet pink part of my upper lip. The more I can expose this to the air stream, the more consistent my sound. When I would free-buzz, I had a tendency to roll my lips in as if I were saying “Ummm” which is counter-intuitive to the way I actually play. When I was first introduced to it, I would try as hard as I could to buzz higher and higher notes… causing me to roll in tighter and tighter. This got me 2 things – tired chops and a massive head rush!
As I started to straighten out all my chops problems and really learn how to “play” in the upper register, I started to see where free-buzzing wasn’t beneficial at all for me. It causes me to do something with my lips that I don’t do at all (and have worked extremely hard to stop) when playing trumpet! Rolling in vs. pushing out.
As I say with every “opinion” that I share with you, this is what I’ve found for myself. We are ALL different and I whole-heartedly believe that what may not work for one, surely can work for another… if it didn’t have any merit at all, we probably wouldn’t be discussing this topic.
So this week’s first tip is this… give it a try, if you find that it’s drastically different from the way you actually play your horn, then it probably will only offer the benefit of some sort of workout for your chops. But will NOT necessarily help you to increase your range. I personally don’t do it… I’d rather use my Sandovalves with my mouthpiece as that is more like playing.
Tip #2 – Trumpet Mouthpieces
This is another topic that is absolutely run into the ground via chat forums, trade shows, etc. What mouthpiece works best for “X.” My smart-alloc answer usually is, “Any mouthpiece that you play during X!”
First let me start off by saying that I am of the “opinion” (there’s that word again) that most brass players are on a mouthpiece that is too large for them. This opinion was formed through conversations with the likes of Maynard Ferguson, Allen Vizzutti, Bobby Shew, Roger Ingram, Wayne Bergeron, Arturo Sandoval and every other trumpet great that I could corner and not get punched. More than one of the trumpet greats has said this very same thing… most are on a mouthpiece that is too large for them.
In years past, I’ve likened students being switched to 5C’s and 3C’s by private teachers and band directors to a track coach saying to middle school / high school runners, “If you wanna run on my squad you have to wear a size 13 shoe!” There’s not a lot of young kids that are going to fit into a size 13 and be able to run like the wind.
I was no different… in high school, I was told that because I was “growing,” I needed to switch to a larger diameter cup from a 7C. When I did – BIG trouble followed. I learned how to pinch my lips and that alone started some nasty playing problems.
When most players try a smaller diameter mouthpiece, they find that it feels stuffy or it shuts off. I’ve discovered that it’s because if you try to play the same way (pinching, rolling in, etc.) as you do on your larger cup, the smaller cup will shut things down. There’s less face in the cup, so any movement made is suddenly going to be bigger and excessive.
Here’s what I typically suggest for someone wanting to switch (or at least try) a smaller diameter rim… start with one single aspect of the mouthpiece that you’re going to change. For instance… if you’re playing a 3C Bach, STAY in the Bach family and try a 5C or a 7C. This keeps the throat, back bore, and cup depth the same. The only thing that changes is the rim diameter. When you start changing too many aspects, you won’t know what works and what doesn’t. Switching manufacturers / designers causes this a lot because many measure differently to some degree.
Bottom line… mouthpieces won’t fix bad habits and they won’t magically add octaves to your range. There is no single piece of equipment that can or will replace time and practice! But… the equipment CAN help make your job easier once you understand what you’re going after.
“Take pride in how far you’ve come. Have faith in how far you can go. But don’t forget to enjoy the journey.”
Speaker on the subject of ethics and former law professor
Have a GREAT week!