There are three practice tools that have called my attention for awhile, created by Terry Warburton: the Buzzard, the P.E.T.E. and the A.P.E.
I’m not too gullible when it comes to these types of things, I always feel that the most fundamental aspect for trumpeters is precisely that, practicing the trumpet, and we ultimately succumb to concentrating too much on these types of accessories rather than our own studies.
However, I have received numerous comments from my American friends about the benefits of the Buzzard, P.E.T.E. and A.P.E., that it sparked my curiosity and what I have discovered has radically changed my concept about them. Even more, I think they will end up being used more and more around the world.
But, what are they exactly? How do we use them and what do they do, exactly?
The Buzzard (a name invented from the act of buzzing) is a buzzing enhancer with the mouthpiece, aimed at brass musicians who work specifically work with buzzing, which in my view, is of vital importance to obtain a richer and more centered sound on the trumpet.
But, what is the difference from practicing buzzing on the mouthpiece alone compared to using the Buzzard?
First, a special combination of shapes inside the Buzzard tube helps controls the air column, creating a balanced resistance. The internal narrowing of the device is intended to center the vibrations/buzz.
Also, by its design, the Buzzard transmits the natural sensation of the mouthpiece being in touch with the instrument, providing a similar resistance.
It is, in short, a great help in warming-up quickly and efficiently before a study session or concert. In fact, since it’s so small and light (it’s made of plastic), it can be carried in any compartment of your trumpet case. By the way, it’s not just plastic, it’s plastic Delrin. Indestructible!
Here’s a video of Chad Shoopman, the famed trumpeter and director of the Brass Band of Central Florida and Walt Disney Studios, in which he speaks about the Buzzard and gives a small demonstration of its use:
The P.E.T.E. (or the Personal Embouchure Training Exerciser) is an original tool created to perform isometric exercises that aid in strengthening and developing the embouchure. Additionally, it is the only one designed to specifically exercise the musculature used by the brass musicians that exists. Its daily use results in increased resistance and flexibility, and in some cases, even the register can be extended.
In addition, there is another variant of the P.E.T.E., the P.E.T.E. PRO — a more advanced model that is designed for more experienced trumpeters. In fact, Terry Warburton himself emphasizes the importance of whoever uses the P.E.T.E. PRO have a sufficiently developed embouchure and/or previous experience with the P.E.T.E., before using this model. Trumpeters that are accustomed to high register work, as well as those that have already dominated the P.E.T.E., find that the P.E.T.E. PRO provides them with an additional challenge that they seek.
To the naked eye, the difference between the two lies in a diameter of ¾” in the case of P.E.T.E. against a ⅝” diameter of P.E.T.E. PRO (it is smaller, offering more focus).
The effectiveness of this new tool, in the shape of a stick, has been investigated by numerous top trumpeters and the reports that have been received are very encouraging.
Without going further, the grand trumpeter Roger Ingram, one of today’s most prolific lead trumpeters, who began his career at age 16 alongside greats like Quincy Jones, Maynard Ferguson, Wynton Marsalis, Ray Charles, etc., tells us this about the PETE:
When Terry launched the original P.E.T.E. several years ago, I asked for one right away. It worked so well, that I started referring to it as gig on a stick. On days when I am very bad on the trumpet, using it correctly, the P.E.T.E. puts my chops in place as if I have been playing conscientiously for 4 hours. And, due to its smaller diameter, working with the new P.E.T.E. PRO is even more demanding and beneficial (I refer to this one as two gigs on a stick).
— Roger Ingram
Download P.E.T.E. instructions [PDF in English]
The A.P.E. (Anti-Pressure Exerciser), as its name implies, is a small device that helps to obtain a wider range — especially concentrated on the upper register — without having to press the mouthpiece too much.
We all know that this is so: to get to the upper range, we have the natural tendency to use too much pressure against the chops. And, on many occasions, we squeeze so much that we end up repenting it the next day… right? Trumpeters know that when we are tired, squeezing a little can help us keep on playing. The bad thing is, if we squeeze too much, we cut off the blood circulation to our chops and the game is over…
It was Dean Psarakis, a former trumpeter whose musical career was truncated by an ‘accident’ to his teeth, who originally conceived of the idea of the A.P.E., and came to him in a very peculiar way: He says that one day, while driving home after work, he was buzzing the mouthpiece in the car (warning, the police might fine you if they see you!). The fact is, he realized that even without the trumpet, he was already putting excessive pressure on his lips. This excess pressure resulted in loss of response and pitch, resistance, and of course, lip pain… These were too many clues to realize it had to be a bad thing! So, as soon as he arrived home, he began to sketch drawings of a device that would prevent the trumpeter from continuing to buzz the mouthpiece if there was too much pressure and that, in short, would teach the player to play with the correct amount of pressure. No more, no less.
The original sketch was fine, but it was too expensive to mass produce. So, Dean contacted Terry Warburton, who came into play by giving the device another twist to the design, improving it both from a practical and musical point of view, as well as technically and ergonomically.
Psarakis practiced with the A.P.E. for months, and the results exceeded their expectations. He says that, at first, he was surprised to see how fast the excess pressure kept him from climbing up to the high register (which annoys us all), but after a few practice sessions, he began to get a hang of it and increase the limits of his range — as well as the amount of air that he could blow through the mouthpiece, without tightening up as before. As he resumed his study with the trumpet, he was immediately became aware of all the excess pressure he once used, but that was to be expected. What he did not expect, was that his sound was more focused and more in-tune than ever, thanks to the correct vibration in the high register.
In summary, Dean improved several aspects of his technique in a few short months, which he details in the following points:
- He learned to play with the right amount of pressure.
- He developed a greater awareness that excess pressure is very damaging.
- He improved the clarity and center of his sound throughout the register.
- He perfected his flexibility and legato execution (thanks to the optimization of the vibration).
- He also improved the color and purity of his sound, as he calls it, in the upper register.
- He increased his endurance.
- He improved his attacks and articulations.
- Having benefited from the attacks, he began to feel more secure in various passages and other difficult entrances.
- Farewell to lip pain!
Here you have, with graphics, the explanation of the operation of the A.P.E.:
I have already said at the outset, that I am very skeptical as far as miraculous devices are concerned — the most important thing is always the thorough study of the instrument — but I have understood that these three tools of Warburton can be very, very beneficial for every trumpeter who wishes to perfect their technical study and enhance their results.
I insist that the Buzzard, the P.E.T.E., and the A.P.E. are not magic wands that will enable you to play incredibly well overnight. But, one cannot deny they can aid in our work on the mouthpiece. It’s as if a cyclist refuses to use a carbon bicycle because he prefers to continue using an iron bicycle.
These new tools are progress. They are tools that facilitate our work and empower it. But, remember: we must do the work on the instrument first and foremost.