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First of all, a little bit of context.

I have been playing the trumpet for one year and a half already. I am undergoing my second change of embochure, so I really want to do things right not to start again one more time.

I have read that buzzing the lips is very important because it helps to develop the muscles that we should use while playing the trumpet. The good thing about buzzing the lips is that you cannot "cheat" and produce the vibration via pressing your lips against the mouthpiece.

I have seen a lot of YouTube videos in which people explain how to buzz. It seems that they just close their mouths and producing the buzz is authomatic. Nevertheless I am really struggling to get it.

I am able to play long tones (from the first G flat under the staff to high E) with a decent sound. Nevertheless, I am completely unable to buzz my lips.

My questions are: is this normal? Does this mean that I am using a wrong technique to play (i.e. "cheating" like explain above)? Is it just a matter of training? What should I do in order to learn how to buzz?

Any help would be appreciated.

Edit: Actually, I am able to make some kind of buzz. In order to do it I have to hide almost all the red part of my lips and to separate the upper lip from the teeth (I look like a duck when I do this). I am not sure if this way of buzzing helps to improve my trumpet playing because I do not have to flatten the chin to get higher notes as suggested in the tutorials that I have watched.

4 Answers 4

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Explaining how to buzz is pretty difficult in words; it's a bit like explaining to a non-native speaker of a language how to create a particular dipthong (like the English "th").

But I would say there are three main factors in creating a buzz:

  1. First, you need enough airflow. My embouchure can be perfect, but if there isn't enough air blowing past the lips, no buzz is created. So if you feel that you're doing everything correctly, try to increase your volume of air. (This will require taking deeper, fuller, and more efficient breaths. Welcome to brass playing!)

  2. Second is the shape of the embouchure itself, which includes the size of the aperture (the hole) itself. If the aperture is too large, you won't be able to create the amount of air necessary to create vibrations. As such, make sure your aperture is sufficiently small to begin creating a buzz. This may mean making too small of an aperture to start buzzing, and then gradually widening that aperture as you improve your playing.

  3. Lastly, you can't have too much tension in the embouchure. If your lips are pulled too taut, it will be difficult to create a buzz.

My best tip would be to form an embouchure like you're about to kiss someone; your aperture should basically be closed. Then, start blowing air out of your mouth. Initially you won't create a buzz, so simply blow larger volumes of air until your lips start to buzz.

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  • Ok, thank you very much for the answer! I have edited the question. Commented Sep 25, 2020 at 19:30
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First thing you want to do is practice the shaping of your mouth without using the mouthpiece. Using a mirror isn't a bad idea. First, make a "straight face" with your lips and then slowly pucker up. Practice doing this a few times. Then, practice blowing air out of the center of your lips without buzzing a few times puckered up. Next, you want to practice saying "mm" and "puh". The "mm" is getting the air ready to flow out of your mouth and the "puh" is the actual buzzing part. Just say "mm puh" a few times in front of the mirror without buzzing and without a mouthpiece and barely open your mouth when you say "puh". Next step, pucker up and practice the "mm-puh" and when you say "puh" you should feel your lips vibrating and should hear a sound similar to a raspberry. If this is what you are hearing and feeling, then proceed and practice this a few times in front of the mirror without the mouthpiece. Then once you feel comfortable enough without the mouthpiece, pick up your mouthpiece and practice the buzzing technique in the mouthpiece only. Don't take out your trumpet yet. When buzzing into the mouthpiece only, you should hear a sound similar to Donald Duck. Practice buzzing into the mouthpiece a few times, and once you feel comfortable on the mouthpiece, proceed to doing it on the entire instrument.

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Not being able to buzz your lips in free air suggests that you're relying too much on the mouthpiece to form an embouchure.

Can you buzz into the mouthpiece? Do this, and gradually reduce mouthpiece pressure until it's only JUST touching the lips. Can you maintain the buzz, or without mouthpiece pressure does the embouchure collapse?

Don't stretch the lips sideways. It's more a feeing of how MUCH lip you can get into the mouthpiece.

I'm a bit worried about all these changes of embouchure. What problem were they addressing? (I take it you can play to HIGH E, three lines above the stave? If you mean the E in the top space, yes, you've got problems. Maybe you're a tuba player?)

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Whilst it's clever to be able to buzz tunes on your detached mouthpiece, the mouthpiece actually behaves entirely differently when it's inserted in the instrument. So don't worry if you can't buzz on the mouthpiece alone. It doesn't actually matter at all whether you can produce a buzz on the mouthpiece when it's detached from the instrument.

Try this experiment - with the mouthpiece out of the trumpet, form your embouchure, which will have a small slot that the air passes through. Take a deep breath and then push the air through that slot between your lips, making sure there's no buzz. The important thing here is that you're producing a stream of air.

Now, whilst still producing the jet of air, and before you run out of breath, insert the mouthpiece into your instrument. It will start to produce a note. In other words the standing wave in the air column within your instrument makes your lips vibrate.

The key thing is to produce that jet of air. If you think that you need to have your lips clamped together so that they buzz, this will choke the amount of air that you can produce, and the sound quality and range will both suffer.

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