A Question for Brass Experts

I had a thought today when I was teaching my beginning trumpet students.  They have been stuggling with buzzing and producing a good tone.  I believe that they have a handle on how to buzz, since I have them do that for me without the mouthpiece.  Here’s where my question comes in…I know some brass players have to angle their mouthpieces down in order to get the most effective buzz.  How do I know when to direct a student to try that technique?

On a somewhat unrelated note….Here’s something that I’ve been thinking about for some time.  When do you decide to try to switch a student to a different instrument so that they may be more successful?  Do you have students that you find are struggling on one instrument, and then switch them to something else? When do you determine that you’re going to do that?  In other words, how much time do you give the student to be successful on their instrument before moving them somewhere is that you think they may have more luck with?

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One thought on “A Question for Brass Experts

  1. Hi Doug. A couple thoughts on the issue of switching students to different instruments:

    1. I try and find out how the student is doing academically before investing too much energy into finding the right instrument. If a student is struggling with basic math and reading concepts, they might just not be ready for this type of instrumental music. Yes, I know music can help them academically, but it’s an arduous struggle.

    2. Does the student have a grasp of rhythm and other musical concepts? If a student can’t clap with a steady beat, it doesn’t matter what instrument he/she plays.

    3. If you do decide to switch the instrument, go for a different instrument family. If the student couldn’t buzz correctly on trumpet, he probably will have the same issue on trombone. Go for a woodwind or a stringed instrument.

    Regarding the brass embouchure, I’m not sure about the angle, but I have had some recent success with having my low brass players play into the top third of the mouthpiece. (Less top lip, more bottom lip.)

    In general, I usually tell my beginning wind players, “Here’s what the book says about forming your embouchure. You need to learn it, but then experiment with what works for you.” Then after they’ve been playing for a few weeks with a decent beginning sound, take a closer look at their embouchure and make the fine adjustments.

    Hope that helps! You’re not alone in your questions!

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