Breathing and Buzzing!

Wednesday, February 14, 2018 | Uncategorized

Breathing - the Yawn

Some say yawning is your body’s natural response to not having enough air.  However, recent studies show it's related to cooling the brain.

  • When you start to yawn, powerful stretching of the jaw increases blood flow in the neck, face, and head.

  • The deep intake of breath during a yawn forces downward flow of spinal fluid and blood from the brain.

  • Cool air breathed into the mouth cools these fluids.

  • Together these processes may act like a radiator, removing [too hot] blood from the brain while introducing cooler blood from the lungs and extremities, thereby cooling [brain] surfaces," Gallup says.

The yawning shape is especially important for brass players. The big picture is for us to notice that when we yawn we DO NOT raise our shoulders, we stay CALM and RELAXED, and we completely FILL UP with air.

An easy way to recreate the “yawn” breath is to say the word “whoa.”  Then, instead of pushing air out to say “whoa,” breathe in while saying mouthing the word.  


Buzzing is the key to successfully playing a brass instrument. Start by buzzing a long steady note on the mouthpiece.  Do not try to put too much physical effort into producing the buzz.  The air do the work for you if you let it!

Buzzing Down (lower pitch)

To make the pitch go lower you will need to relax your lips and jaw and blow the air slower.  Start with the note that you first buzzed and gradually relax your lips and slow the air down.  This will make cause the sound to go lower.

As the sound gets lower try to keep the sound steady by keeping the volume or quantity of air constant even as the speed of the air slows down.  When doing this exercise try to go as low as you possibly can.  

Going Up (higher pitch)

Next try to make the pitch go higher.  To do this you will need to blow faster air.  As the air gets faster, focus your lips in and forward like saying the sound “oooooo.”

Stay as relaxed as you can.  Again, keep the sound steady and even as you ascend in pitch by keeping the volume of air constant.  Just like the last exercise, try to go as high as you possibly can while staying relaxed and every time try to go higher than before.


Start low and make the pitch go higher and then come back to your original pitch.  Make sure that you do this in one breath.  Always keep the sound even and smooth without any hitches or bumps.

At first, don’t worry about play very high or very low, just get the shape smooth.  Then gradually push out in each direction.  Also try doing a reverse siren by starting higher and making the pitch go lower and back up.

Name that Tune

Once you master these basic shapes (steady, going down, going up, siren, and reverse siren) you will have learned the fundamentals of all the music you will ever encounter.  Music will always be able to be reduced to one of these simple shapes.

The next step is to try arranging these shapes into familiar tunes.  Pick a song that you know very well; so well that you could sing it, or at least “hear” it very clearly in your mind.  It is recommended that you start with simple melodies like “Mary Had a Little Lamb.”

Thanks to Chris O'Hara for information on this article!

Great Quotes

“If you can Sing it, you can Buzz it!  If you can Buzz it, you can Play it!” – Chris O’Hara

“There is no other reason for your success or failure other than your state of mind.” – Roger Rocco

It’s amazing what the chops can do when you get the head out of the way.” – Adolf Herseth