A Message For Comeback Brass Players

A comeback player is presented with the perfect opportunity to do it right. Harness your renewed enthusiasm to the increase in perspective that comes with added maturity and there is no reason you cannot quickly regain and actually surpass your previous abilities.
Now is the perfect time to do it right!

Remember the two old axioms, “Blow harder”, and “Blow more air”? Well, these two rules were always wrong. If you are now ready to do things correctly, remember this: NEVER forcefully BLOW air into your horn! All that does is break down the new embouchure you are working to build up. If you feel like you are blowing forcefully then stop and start again.

Good sound, along with range, power, and endurance, comes from a small amount of air firmly compressed in the mouth BEFORE it hits your lips. Here is the only proper way to project air into a brass instrument:

You must “spit-buzz” the air into your mouthpiece. Set both lips together with the bottom lip slightly inside and under your top lip. Curl the front of your tongue over moderately and place the tip of your tongue against the top of your raised bottom lip. Next, moderately increase the pressure of your tongue against the bottom lip until the top of your tongue curves up and contacts the lower inside of your top lip. From this position, spit a firm puff of air into the mouthpiece. The action is much like trying to spit a hair or small seed off the top of your tongue. Make this spit buzz firm enough so that your imaginary hair goes a long way! Practice this exercise away from your horn too. Ten minutes of spit buzzing per day will improve your performance far more than hours a day of “blowing more air” into your horn. As a comeback player, it’s about getting better. Use your time wisely.

After every spit buzz carefully check to make certain you NEVER remove the tip of your tongue from your bottom lip. The tip must always stay forward in full contact with your lower lip. In order to make room for your forward tongue, keep your teeth well separated in all registers.

Follow the above rules religiously and you will lay the proper foundation for a powerful embouchure, one that will allow you to play any repertoire of your choosing – orchestra, church, big band, community band, etc.

Here is another valuable tip: use only a small diameter mouthpiece. You want one with a brilliant, centred sound so you can carefully control the pitch. Once your spit buzz is working effectively then pitch guides the next steps of your development.

For nearly 50 years, I’ve taught brass students from ages 12 to 90 the secrets to mastering this wonderful instrument. As a comeback player, now is the time to do it right!

Jerome Callet – January 2009