Mouthpiece buzzing: why focus on pitch?

When I talk to high school trumpeters about mouthpiece buzzing, they might enthusiastically say something like, “Yes! We do mouthpiece buzzing at marching band practice!” Then I ask them what do they do on the mouthpiece. They say, “We do sirens!”

By “sirens” they mean that they glissando up and down mostly without definite pitch. This is fine warmup practice—up to a certain extent. But it has its limitations in value to the trumpet student.

One of the goals of any musician is to have a great tone. I think trumpeters should aspire to that as well. Tone is influenced by many factors on the trumpet, but perhaps the most important is resonance. In other words, are the vibrations of the buzzing lips corresponding to the pitch that the trumpet wants to be played at? If too sharp, the tone is pinched. If too flat, the tone is tubby.

Yesterday’s post was about buzzing to match a reference pitch. When a trumpeter is very good at matching that reference pitch with her mouthpiece buzzing, then she is strengthening her potential to resonate the trumpet. There is a magical zing to the sound, and this is why mouthpiece buzzing sirens aren’t as helpful as pitch matching on the mouthpiece.

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