Lip Buzzing And Playing Problems

I’ve seen a number of good players that could not buzz or at least not well. I’ve also seen lip buzzers that were lacking in other skills and were not good players. Some of this has to do with the players perception of what they are doing.

Total playing comes about when every trumpet or cornet related act is done in the same manner. This includes lip buzz, mouthpiece buzz, low c , high c , 2 octaves over high c, long tones, staccato notes everything played with the same embouchure.

One problem here is that few people look at themselves playing so it is very easy to end up taking minor short cuts. At the Stevens Embouchure Clinic every student was taped so that they could see the changes that they were making.

Some people will buzz easier in a smile embouchure and some in a lip overlapping embouchure so they try to adopt it. This false buzzing does not help. It really needs to be the same embouchure that you actually play. Most players who have limited themselves because of embouchure end up with 4 and sometimes 5 different types of embouchures that they use.

They have a

1) lip buzzing embouchure,

2) a pedal tone embouchure ( meaning they can NOT play pedals with the normal setting ),

3) the real embouchure ( low c – g on top of the staff ).

4) a shifted setting when several high notes are played in a row ( they will take a breath here and reset the chops ) and finally some even have an

5) I’m tired setting that they play.

It is easy to start this type of thing and is also very deceiving as these changes are used to help in times of stress. You are not watching yourself and you are working your rump off to play NOT constantly checking to see if you are playing only one setting.

There are several scenarios that can be seen here.

1 For some they remember the need to take a breath to accomplish a register change. It is a chance to complete the embouchure shift. Thousands of people do this without knowing that it is a shift. This limits your overall playing. Why can they play some lead charts well and others don’t come out right? Some songs don’t have breaks in the places needed for the embouchure shift to take place. They change registers too often or too fast. This works both ways a low setting not hitting the top notes and a high setting not allowing the lower notes to sound.

2 For some there is a consistent but limited range. They play great from low g to around high c ( I’ve seen some stall out at g on top of the staff). For some reason no matter who they take lessons from or how much they practice the range never really changes. This is really the same as player 1 only he has not picked up the squeal setting yet.

3 This player is fine except the playing time is always limited. However if high playing is involved then the time is shorter.

4 This player has a real problem with endurance. Some days with the right warm up he can play fine. But other days if the warm up was wrong the time limit is 20 – 30 minutes. If he pushes for it the next day is bad. If he misses a couple of days he is lost.

Players 3 & 4 will sometimes talk about pumping up the chops. And if they are pumped they play differently than normal. They can feel yesterdays playing still affecting the lips 12, 24, sometimes 48 hours later. This is not pumping up it is swelling caused by bruising the lips.

Player 4 is different in that he has to keep a certain amount of swelling in the top lip to play at all. That’s why a weekend off leads to a bad day or two. They sometimes make a lump, knot, or flap swell up to get the lips to buzz.

These are alike in that they are all using anopen aperture embouchure setting. They are not making the lips touch always. Some like player 1 cheat by means of an embouchure shift. Player 2 accepts it and lives with it. Both 3 & 4 use mouthpiece pressure to control the lip aperture.

The lip aperture is a result of the air. You start off with the lips close and touching a rush of air forces them apart and forms an aperture. The muscle tension tries to restore the normal touching and a vibration is set up. If the lips are apart before the air is delivered then pressure is used to make the lips close. The rim of the mouthpiece presses the soft lip muscles into the teeth and continues to press until they are flattened out and finally touch. This can be checked by using a mouthpiece visualizer. If it is really used like you are playing. However the above 4 playing types all describe the problem already.

How did this start?
Well some players part the lips when they take a breath. Others part them as they place the mouthpiece. They stick the tongue through the lips to moisten the lips and mouthpiece rim. The problem is they don’t make a mental effort to close the lips before the mouthpiece pins them in place.

What is the cure for all of these problems?
Not with the mouthpiece but just the lips. It is 4 times harder. The mouthpiece is a crutch for trumpets and cornet; it cuts the vibrating surface of the lip in half and adds feedback. The portion under the rim and outside of the mouthpiece can’t buzz. Think about a guitar string when only half can vibrate the sound is an octave higher. Also the mouthpiece adds some back pressure from the back bore and throat bore. This helps to increase resistance so you can play higher. When you buzz your lips the entire surface gets a workout. That is why it strengthens your chops faster than playing. ( This is an exercise to use for about 4 weeks to learn a closed lip setting. This is NOT a life long practice.) Also no mouthpiece means no mouthpiece pressure. That means no swelling, pain, damage…

Lastly some players can not buzz their lips because they use too open an embouchure. They depend on mouthpiece pressure to flatten out the lips and push them together in order to play. These players need to make the lips touch.

When using a visualizer you try to buzz as you normally play and check several things. You can see your aperture as it is created by blowing the lips apart. You can see if your aperture is centered or if it is way off. You can see if you have a cushion or not , pinched lips, lips collapsing into the mouthpiece and other things . And when you stop buzzing you can see if your embouchure is touching or if you use pressure to close the gap.


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