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The Horn is Just a Speaker

The Horn is Just a Speaker

If I was to ask a student the question, “If the music for a vocalist comes from their vocal cords, where does the music come from for a brass player?”, they would most likely answer, “Their trombone/tuba/trumpet/French horn.” However, the noise all happens from the smallest piece of the instrument – the mouthpiece. The mouthpiece is where the music happens; the rest of the horn serves as an amplifier/speaker.

I cannot stress enough to my students to warm-up with buzzing exercises on their mouthpiece, practice buzzing their etudes/repertoire on their mouthpiece, and just buzzing for the fun of it. There are benefits for this: increasing embouchure endurance (being able to play longer), ear training, and being more familiar with certain notes/intervals. If I have a student that is having trouble accurately placing notes and intervals in their brass lessons, I have them try this cycle:

  • Pick a measure or set of notes that is giving the most trouble.
  • Play each note one by one (out of rhythm) to hear what they should sound like. Or if possible, play them on a piano.
  • Remove the mouthpiece.
  • Buzz those pitches on the mouthpiece, making sure they are accurately being placed and heard.
  • Put the mouthpiece back into the horn.
  • Try playing part that was giving difficulty.
  • Repeat if necessary.

If this is properly done, usually the part that seemed difficult becomes much smoother to play. Click here for a video that explains the benefits of lip and mouthpiece buzzing!


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