Classical Trumpet Performance, Teaching

​John Freeman


     Buzzing on just the mouthpiece is an excellent way to isolate what is creating our sound on the trumpet.  It allows us to take a look “under the hood” into what is going into the trumpet at the most basic level, and to fix it.   Although I don't personally buzz daily, doing a little buzzing at the beginning of warm up can be good for many players, and I use it as a diagnostic tool when something might not be working.

     When buzzing, above all else, you should be listening for a steady pitch.   Because of the nature of the trumpet, if we buzz a note into the trumpet that is slightly too high or too low, the trumpet will correct us, and pull us either up or down into the correct slot.   When we are only playing the mouthpiece, we don’t get this aid- it’s like taking the training wheels off the bicycle.   Once we have practiced so that we are always buzzing the exact correct pitch, you put that back into the trumpet, and presto, the notes respond quickly and effortlessly.

     One should also be trying to get a good tone on the mouthpiece.  Because of what it is, we shouldn’t be necessarily be looking for all the same qualities as we’re looking for in a trumpet sound.   The mouthpiece buzz needs to be more focused, and thicker in the center.   Try to think of getting a “tight, buzzy” sound.  There will always be a little air rushing sound in there, but try to have more tone than air.  Don’t let it get spread, and in general, I don’t recommend buzzing above a Forte level.   

Exercises.  Work on these 3 things with your buzzing:

1. Pitch Control. Being able to hold a pitch perfectly steady with no bumps and jerking in the sound.   Practice long tones of 8-10 counts, and think about keeping the tone as smooth as glass.   Listen for the middle of the buzz sound, that’s where the pitch is.

2.Attacks.  Be able to come right in on the exact pitch each note, not scooping up from below, or start too high. Use a piano to practice.   Play the note on the piano, and practice tonguing the note and being right on the pitch.  Singing pitches can also aid in accuracy on the mouthpiece.   Really listen to what is going on right at the beginning of each buzz.   

3.Smooth Connections in Between notes.  In addition to buzzing scales, or intervals, try doing glissandos (where you smear in between notes)   Start with low C to middle G, then low C to middle C, then expand it in both directions.   You want the quality of buzz to stay the same as you move up and down, with no bumps or breaks in the sound.  See how slowly you can move up and down smoothly.   This will translate into a smoother and more in tune trumpet sound.