Jen Cluff ~ Help for buzzing lips

Canadian Flutist and Teacher

Buzzing lips in high register piccolo or flute playing

> My lips tend to buzz when I attempt g3 and above on the
piccolo. Usually the notes come out, but increasingly often these days, I simply get the buzz. Can anyone help?

Answer: Often the problem is that if a player uses a tightening of the embouchure to reach high register notes, that at a certain point the lips have become too tight and start to buzz.

So, instead of *just* tightening to reach the higher notes, you may add to your embouchure the following list of techniques additionally, in order to stay safe from over-tightening.


1. Use fast air, loose lips, and diaphragm support only to do longtones and octaves up to the piccolo high register. Open the lip aperture up,and, [protect your ears with earplugs!] and just use AIR SPEED ONLY to get the high notes. This is purposefully using the gut muscles only as the air-pressure increasers and is usefuly as an experiment,
Essentially, you are leaving the lips the same as for the middle register. Stay loose. Don't change your lips at all if possible. It's all about utilizing the lungs and freeing the ribcage and throat from tension.

Don't change your face or jaw at all. Keep the piccolo/flute at the same angle for middle then high octave. Don't anticipate when the second octave will sound.

Think instead of your torso being powerful and the air rushing up throught an open throat. Create super legago crescendos. Think of a singing-style for octave leaps using : "Ah AHHHH!!!! and experiment with tremendous, loose embouchured crescendos as you leap up into the higher octave. This is to experiment with how it might be possible to reach high notes with ONLY an airspeed increase using lower muscles in the abdomen to spin the air up into the mouth.

Don't overdo it. Just experiment for several minutes.
Later, after gauging the increase in airspeed, you will find that you are more free to make relaxed-embouchure changes, as the air stream will better hold up the high register.

2. Use increased airspeed PLUS a slight lip change to octave leap. Some teachers would suggest that you angle the lower lip slightly upward and outward (diagonally) and the upper lip (diagonally) comes down and inward.
The movement will be less than a milimeter, but the action will assist the upper register tone without pressing the center of the lips vertically together.

Others would press the lower lip vertically upward against the upper lip, on either side of the lip aperture, but not in the lip centers. You want to have the lip centers poised to say "oooooh", and creating a circular opening that is not tense.

The upper lip is NOT pulled down. Only the lower lip is pressed upward.

Experiment with these lip pressure changes, and also return to "air speed only" to find the minimal lip motions that work.

Also experiment with syllables like "Puuuuuuu" and "whoooooo" to find more flexible lip maneuvers..

3. Experiment with creating a slight (2 milimeter or less) arch in the center of your upper lip's aperture. Raise the center of the upper lip using the muscles between the tip of your nose and the top center of the upper lip.

You should feel the upper lip move straight vertically upwards very slightly (like a rabbit.)

This slight change in shape can help release the lip center, and prevent buzzing as well as give you some options of tone-colouring in the picc. high register.

4. Experiment with dropping your jaw so that your lower lip is not pressing upward quite as much against your upper lip.

You may need to release alot of fascial and jaw tension downward, if you used to strain for high notes.

Instead, forget aiming or angling so high on the piccolo.

Drop the jaw down and see if you can change the octaves by just moving the lip corners forward a tiny amount.

Having a relaxed, open jaw also lends deeper resonances and open mouth cavity, relaxes the jaw hinges (preventing jaw strain) and lets you practice longer without fatigue.

5. Practice Marcel Moyse's advice from "De La Sonorite" for high register playing, and experiment with holding a high note with a good focused tone, and then while still sounding that note, suddenly relaxing the embouchure as much as possible, continuing to play.

Get a copy of "De La Sonorite" and read the actual instructions to "sudden relaxation while still sounding a high note". Really really helps.

6. Experiment with rolling the instrument away from you a tiny amount (less than 1/2 a milimeter or so) so that you learn to play with a loose embouchure, and let the lips angle themselves differently in this new position to get a great open tone.
Covering less of the embouchure hole with your bottom lip will aid octave leaps up to the high register thus proving that playing "too rolled in" forces the lips to over-tighten in compenation.

7. Do longtones, do longtones, do longtones. Don't expect to relax your entire embouchure in one day; let a few weeks of gradually ascending one semi-tone at a time get you there more naturally.

Hope these ideas of what to experiment with help you to stop pressing the center of your lips together so profoundly.

From: Jennifer Cluff

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