Archive for April, 2006

Buzzing, part 2

Thursday, April 20th, 2006

First things first… get a pencil and paper and make a list of at least 20 songs that you know. Start with simple melodies like Pop Goes the Weasel, When the Saints, Take Me Out to the Ballgame, etc. before venturing into other idioms — just be sure the tune is melodic in nature. (Excerpts come later) Larger “classical” music is fine if you buzz, for example, the horn solo from Tchaikovsky’s Fifth or Bruckner’s Seventh. Hymns are also a great source of material.

At Christmas, as busy as it is for everyone, it can also be one of the times that your playing improves the most! All that time traveling (safely, of course) can be used to buzz carols. Let’s look at the process using Silent Night. Starting on the fourth line F, buzz the tune once. On the second time through, buzz the melody down an octave while still maintaining the sense of phrase as the first time. On the third pass, try it up an octave (3 spaces above the staff), once again maintaining the phrase — Jake would always stress singing through the mouthpiece. Next, try buzzing the tune down 2 octaves from the original octave. If that’s not possible, try playing it in tenor clef and down 2 octaves. Using this exercise, you’ll realize that in order to create a beautiful sound in all registers, phrasing the music is essential.

After playing a lyrical melody like Silent Night, try something contrasting and more articulate – Jingle Bells. Before buzzing, take a moment to clarify your articulation syllable by speaking clearly the following: Tah Tah Tah (or whatever syllable you wish to use). Then buzz the tune a few times. Players have different strengths and weaknesses. Some can maintain a wonderfully connected legato, while others can play in a Marcato style with great clarity and articulation. Jacobs always stressed a balanced approach to playing — legato, marcato, classical, jazz etc. In other words, don’t buzz the same Rochut, the same way, every day.

Now it’s up to you. Start this week by buzzing 15 – 20 minutes a day. After a week, add a second session of 15 – 20 minutes. I bet you will be surprised at the results after just a few weeks.

In my previous post, I mentioned that Jake said to NEVER buzz without a mouthpiece or rim. He maintained that without the physical properties of the rim to conform the aperture, then one could do harm to the resonating aspect and tonal applications that are necessary for a good tone. Good enough for me!

Next time: An approach using singing and buzzing to learn ANY excerpt.


Tuesday, April 11th, 2006

One of the best ways to get in shape, stay in shape, or improve is by buzzing your mouthpiece. Arnold Jacobs was an advocate of buzzing and had specific ideas about it, stemming from his own experience in his youth. He was hospitalized at a young age for a period of time. After he began to feel better, he decided he needed to do something to alleviate the boredom of sitting in a hospital room all day. Being a cornettist, he knew that praciticing the cornet was out of the question, but he wondered about just playing the mouthpiece. So he had his mother bring it from home one day. He played anything that he could think of — melodies, bugle calls, fanfares — just to pass the time! When he got out of the hospital, he found that every aspect of his playing had improved — tone, endurance, range, sound — everything. He realized that he had made an important discovery.

Jacobs always stressed the importance of buzzing music. He would not hesitate to tell a student STOP if that student was mindlessly buzzing ditties, glisses, etc. He was always after the art form of telling a story (or as he said, Wind and Song!). His students would perform Pop Goes the Weazel, When the Saints Go Marching In, and nursery rhymes. He wanted his students to think of the product and not dwell on the process. He would then refine his comments by saying (to a trumpet player, for example): “Imagine how Bud Herseth would play that. Now buzz THAT on your mouthpiece.” Most players would not get through the entire excerpt without stopping to marvel at their own improvement.

Over the next few days, I’ll share some of my ideas about practical buzzing. I’ll also discuss why Jake said to NEVER buzz without a mouthpiece or a rim/visualizer.

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