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Buzz Buddy : Review

As a teacher, it is always a worrying day when a student walks into the room with new orthodontic braces on. We all know the huge confidence knock it can be for an enthusiastic teen trumpet student to suddenly encounter what in that moment can feel like an insurmountable obstacle.

With a patient approach, students can come through the challenge of having braces fitted, and in some cases, it can have a good long-term effect on their trumpeting as well as their smile!

One of the first articles that I published here back in 2016 was on Playing with Braces and continues to draw questions from students, teachers and parents.

There have been several products that have been developed to fit immediately over the top of the braces to form a barrier between the metalwork and the lips. This however can make a big change to the embouchure and greatly affect the way that the lips vibrate. After interviewing Lisa Holownia a few months ago (you can read the interview here) about her new product Buzz Buddy, I was really excited to receive some through the post to try out. The timing could also have not been better as I had two students who had very recently had new braces fitted.

As you can see from the images here, the Buzz Buddy does not create a massive profile on the rim of the mouthpiece when fitted. The food-grade silicone feels soft, durable and comfortable. After having a blow myself with one on my 3C-style mouthpiece, I was struck by the comfort on the lips and also how little difference it made to my buzz. My preconception was that perhaps the sound would be ‘duller’ or less vibrant in some way. This was not the case.

Let me introduce you to the 2 student guinea pigs!

Student A is 13, has been learning the trumpet for 2 years, playing with a comfortable range and good sound up to the top of the staff ad has been really growing in confidence in recent months. The braces hit her confidence hard as she could barely get a sound out. Our initial work was on creating a relaxed technical platform of good fundamentals with a total focus on air control and flow rather than embouchure. This is the approach that I take with all students when braces are fitted, trying to embrace the positive opportunity that it creates to be able to just focus on the air. This approach in lessons however was not helping her in the bands that she was playing in, to not feel demoralised at the perceived drop in her ability.

Enter Buzz Buddy, and the positive effect was immediate. She suddenly had a level of comfort on the lips that she had not felt for a while. While still experiencing a small drop in comfortable playing range, the soft silicone around the mouthpiece rim allowed her to create an easy embouchure seal without feeling the need to try to ‘press’ more and potentially hurt her lips.

Student B is 15, has been learning for 6 years, playing and performing to a high level for his age, and preparing to perform the Haydn concerto with a local orchestra. He also has ambitions to pursue a career in music. Our initial approach to his development on first having braces fitted was to concentrate on long tone and flexibility work, while easing off on many of his band and performance commitments for a while. His comfortable playing range dropped by an octave overnight when the braces went on, and experience extreme pain. Desperate to continue playing at a level close to where he was, he tried various wax strips over the braces but the effect of these was only to push the embouchure forward destroying sound and control.

Buzz Buddy here was also a huge positive. Although it did not bring him back to where he was, it created a degree of comfort that meant we could really focus on great fundamentals and air support, without worrying about an unstable embouchure. Three weeks on we had an additional fifth of working range and amazing positivity for future development. A few more weeks and we hope to be able to get back to some Haydn preparation and close to a full schedule of band/orchestra rehearsals and concerts again.

Buzz Buddy has proven to be a huge positive and will become an integral part of my teaching students with braces from now on!

You may also be interested to read this interview with Buzz Buddy’s creator, Lisa Holownia: Design Innovations : Buzz Buddy

For some general insights into the challenges of braces, you may also like to read Playing with Braces

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One thought on “Buzz Buddy : Review

  1. Hi John,
    Thank you for your article, which I read with great interest. I am a brass teacher in the Stockport and Manchester area, I teach at Altrincham Grammar School for boys. A number of my students over the years have had braces fitted. I have experienced that, in agreement with you, if the focus of their study is placed on the air flow, which it should anyway, it can lead to very beneficial results both immediately, whilst they have their braces fitted and certainly in the long term. I have often found their range and control of the instrument is much more secure and assured. It is, however reassuring to read your article.

    As I think you are in the Stockport area be great if you could get back in touch and we could have a chat.

    Best wishes,

    John Hulme

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