Revisiting the “buzz pipe”

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I’ve had phases where I made much use of a B.E.R.P. device for buzzing on the mouthpiece to work on improvement of accuracy. But there is another type of device; during his recent horn day visit at ASU Richard Seraphinoff mentioned that he has all his students use a buzz pipe, cut from about a foot of brass tube with a hole drilled in the side.

This caught my interest, as I tried to use a buzz pipe that I had cut from a broken leadpipe and found it was unusable, there was an obvious harmonic that I had to fight against right in the middle of my upper range. What I wanted was something that did not have that harmonic to fight, something that offered a bit stronger playing experience than buzzing on a mouthpiece alone.

Also, I knew in the back of my mind there was an article by Bruce Hembd on his inexpensive creation, the French Horn Articulation Resistance Tube (F.H.A.R.T.). His device was a 3-inch piece of vinyl tubing. In this article he notes the same problem, and a solution,

One drawback of this homemade version on the B.E.R.P is that at some point in the high range (depending on length), the buzzing lips crash into what I presume are the fundamental overtones of the tube itself.

Something goes really wonky and the F.H.A.R.T. hits a fan. Or something.

For my 3-inch design, this happens around top line G in the treble clef staff. At this point I must remove the tube and buzz without it. With the B.E.R.P. this is not an issue – its advanced design overcomes this problem.

One solution for this upper range constipation is to heat a large nail and burn a clean, small hole in the vinyl tubing.

I decided to carry the science a bit further with making four variations of design. Cutting to the chase, the best design is a longer tube (around 1 foot) with a hole cut in it about 3 inches from the mouthpiece end (I used metal cutting shears to cut the tube quickly and easily). The hole seems to eliminate the harmonic that you otherwise on every other version have to fight against into the upper range.

In the photo also seen is a trombone mouthpiece (I’m using Kelley plastic mouthpieces in my buzz pipes) which I tried using as a “bell,” but it was not a good idea, it further reinforced the harmonic “slot” in the upper range.

Overall the experience is different than using a B.E.R.P. If I had to pick a word, I’d say it has more depth than the B.E.R.P. or a mouthpiece alone.

I should mention also, there are makers who sell these devices! (Do a google search). But if you have never tried a buzzing device give it a try, they are a great practice aid and I think more practical than the Hosaphone travel horn I made a few years ago (more here)… the tubing I used is actually cut off the corpus of that horn….

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