william lang

thoughts on trombone playing and such

On Buzzing (5/19/17)

I believe buzzing can be a helpful tool for a specific playing style, and also as a diagnostic tool for learning to control the instrument and one's own airflow.

Buzzing vs. Style.

To speak to the first issue, that of style. I believe that buzzing encourages a very set and down the middle of the horn embouchure and air flow, and that style of playing a note (right down the middle, very well slotted and true to the partial) is of the greatest use in orchestral playing and audition taking. As most orchestra parts and playing is "steak and potatoes" playing, that is to say your job is to sound like a great trombone and then get out of the way, playing every note with the same timbre and consistency is a needed skill set. Buzzing each excerpt or part of the orchestral work you're playing can increase consistency and encourage a very set and safe approach to the job.

To my own ears, while buzzing does help excerpts and orchestral parts solidify, it can lead to a boring and risk-averse style of playing. To play interesting solos or long phrased lines I believe that one should have more flexibility in the embouchure and airstream. As I dive further into a solo and chamber career I strive to open up my sense of timbre and flexibility of overtones. I find myself using more "untraditional" airstreams and vibratos, and when I come back to buzzing I realize that I personally lose a bit of the excitement of live music making.

Buzzing as a diagnostic tool.

I believe that for developing trombonists learning to create a clear and centered buzz on the mouthpiece alone can be a valuable lesson. The ability to create a clear and immediate tone is one of the weaknesses I see around the country at many schools I visit. Learning to immediately center a buzz on pitch can be a great tool to overcome this. I also find that there are issues with holding notes absolutely steady in a lot of players. Learning to stabilize a buzz on the mouthpiece can increase a player's ability to hold a clear and beautiful tone with efficiency. 

I am also a big believer in creating a large steady and consistent tone in the orchestral tradition before moving on to expressive ideas. To me buzzing is a tool to create this ur-sound, and once achieved, I think that buzzing can be left behind in the search of more expressive and creative approaches to sound, while still leaving behind a rock solid technique for the many jobs that require that (and that is 95% of all trombone jobs!)