One of the concerns some players have about doing
lip buzz is that they think it can make your lips stiff. I do lip buzz (many
people call it “free buzz”, which means buzzing without a mouthpiece)
every day and do not have a problem with stiffness. One big reason why I don’t
get stiff is because I don’t do a whole bunch of lip buzzing each day. I may do
ten to fifteen minutes total. As I’ve said many times before, lip buzzing for me
is more of an example to follow when I play. I don’t think of it as an
embouchure building kind of callisthenic the way some people do. But even with
that in mind, some people may be reluctant to do lip buzz because of these
rumors of stiffness. For those people, I recommend them to try following lip
buzz with lip bends.
Lip bends are done by holding a pitch then
lipping down to the pitch a half step lower. Then you return to the original
pitch. To do this with a good sound takes a lot of control and many people
practice lip bends for various reasons. Along with those reasons, I believe that
lip bends negate any “stiffness” problems a player might have as a
result of doing lip buzz.
I’ve always preferred exercises which produce
physical responses. These kinds of studies almost seem magical because you don’t
necessarily need to know why or how they work. All that matters is that they
work. You play them and the produce responses which then produce results. I
believe that lip bends are these kinds of exercises. When we do lip bends, our
bodies respond to that and one of those responses has to do with the firmness of
You can’t bend a note down a half step with
tight, stiff or tense lips. So, in order to produce a lip bend, the player must
develop control over that aspect of his or her chops. In fact, I believe that in
many cases, when someone does lip bends, they discover that their lips weren’t
all that “stiff” to begin with. If by stiffness you mean that the
muscles in the lips become leathery and inflexible, then a lot of times lip
bends show the player that it’s not that the lips were stiff but that the player
was holding them to rigidly together inside the mouthpiece. The lip bends help
us learn how to manipulate the distance between our lips, or more accurately, to
manipulate the width of the aperture.
Is this important for lip buzzers?
Maybe it is. Maybe this is the missing piece of
the puzzle. Maybe everyone who teaches lip buzz should also associate lip bends
with them in order to avoid this kind of stiffness. However, I was doing lip
buzz for almost ten years before I began doing lip bends and I never had a
problem with stiff lips.
The why am I associating lip bends with lip buzz?
I do lip buzz and lip bends both, every day. What
I’m trying to say is that I FEEL a relationship between the two of them. They
are like ying and yang. They compliment each other perfectly and I FEEL that, if
someone is having problems with stiff lips caused by lip buzzing, then this is
most likely the most appropriate cure for that problem.