Fundamentals: free buzzing

After taking some minutes to adjust the breath and allow it to be flowing and natural, then it’s time to check in on your buzzing. I like to begin with “free buzzing.” This is buzzing without any mouthpiece.

  1. Keep your lips in line with each other (don’t let your upper lip overlap your lower lip).
  2. Only use as much effort as you need to produce a sound–and no more than that. This is important for every individual muscle. Corners, flat chin, upper lip not too tight are earmarks of a good embouchure.
  3. Strive for a pretty, compact sound. Keep the volume moderately low.
  4. Try to start notes initially without any tongue articulation (breath attack–sometimes called a “poo” attack).
  5. Use a reference pitch (e.g., a tuner drone or piano).
  6. Starting on an easy note (like low C), repeat this note with a breath attack (half note, half note, whole note). Then explore going up the scale or down the scale with the same pattern.
  7. Keep the aperture as rounded and small as works for you. “Hug” the aperture.
  8. Try doing some glissandos (“sirens”). Encourage your lips to vibrate without gaps as you go up or down.
  9. Try doing some smooth, slurred scales. Avoid bumps, huffs, gaps or “notchy” playing.
  10. Stop when you get a little tired. Three to five minutes is plenty.

Here’s a video that goes over these ideas.

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