Christian Lindberg On Mouthpiece Buzzing

This excerpt from a Christian Lindberg video master class where he discusses why he doesn’t practice mouthpiece buzzing. It’s caused quit a “buzz” online, since he goes against what is traditionally taught.

The gist of Lindberg’s argument is that getting a resonant buzz on the mouthpiece and a resonant tone on the trombone really require different things and when you practice a good mouthpiece buzz you’re actually practicing a poor trombone sound. Now I’m skeptical of Lindberg’s demonstration, since how we think we are playing doesn’t always reflect what we’re actually doing. That said, I think the point he makes is valid.

But this doesn’t necessarily mean that mouthpiece buzzing, done a certain way and with appropriate moderation, doesn’t help. I generally don’t practice mouthpiece buzzing a whole lot anymore myself, but find myself going to it while teaching lessons frequently. I will usually have my student play a passage on the instrument, then take out the mouthpiece and buzz the same passage. When buzzing, I instruct the student to only tongue the initial attacks after a breath and let the air and embouchure change all other pitches. Repeated notes, say four quarter notes of the same pitch, will be buzzed as one long note, one whole note in my example. Following the mouthpiece buzzing I ask the student to immediately put the mouthpiece back into the instrument and play again.

The results are usually instantaneous. It seems to help players move more air and also focus the embouchure more precisely on pitch. It also doesn’t usually last for very long, so I tend to use this more as a quick “pick up” technique to get the student focused on more positive results. There are, in my opinion, other things which are more beneficial in the long term to practice, but are harder to describe because they depend on each individual student’s embouchure and stage of development.

What do you think? Does Lindberg have a point or is he off base? Please leave your thoughts in the comments below.

Elgin Green

I agree 100%. Buzzing and playing embouchures are different. As I try to minimize tension in my playing, I find that I use much less tension than either free or mouthpiece buzzing. However, an experienced player should be aware of the differing tension levels and stay out of trouble. It’s the young or inexperienced player that may not be aware of the bad tension habit that he could be developing.

However, I’ve been doing a type of free buzzing lately that has been helpful. With a slight curling in of the lips, I try to sustain a soft free buzz while using the ABSOLUTE MINIMUM tension and lip-to-lip contract pressure possible. The point of the exercise is to train and strengthen my lips to attain and maintain the correct playing alignment with the least possible effort. In other words, I want the best sound with the least effort. I believe that optimal lip alignment is one of the keys, and this exercise seems to help.

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