Trombone lesson: Commute by car and buzz – 10 tips

Trombone lesson: Commute by car and buzz – 10 tips

10 Tips For What To Buzz While Driving

Do you have a car? Do you drive? Do you play trombone? Do you have a spare mouthpiece?

If you can answer YES to these relevant and life-changing questions, please continue reading. If not, go practice or buy a car.

Since I am a proud trombone, spare mouthpiece, and car owner, I have, as many wise trombone players before me, placed a mouthpiece in my car. As you probably figured out already, mouthpieces in-car enables you to practice while driving. I give you my 10 best tips for what to practice while driving, but first a few words about road safety:

  • Do not drink and drive and buzz.
  • Do not break speed limits while buzzing.
  • Do not break speed limits because of buzzing.
  • Avoid hitting living objects while buzzing.
  • Keep mouthpiece inside the car at all speeds.
  • Place mouthpiece in glove department before a car crash.

With these safety issues in place, now scroll down to the list:

The 10 car buzz tips

  1. Long notes. This will make even the shortest ride feel long. Start at a low/mid-range note and work your way both up and down using the whole note scale or a chromatic scale.
  2. Radio jamming. Turn on the radio and jam to the music. Try to play the root of the chords, a counter melody, or spit some hip pentatonic licks.
  3. Lip buzzing vs. mouthpiece buzzing. I have actually written a whole article on this topic. Buzzing without a mouthpiece is a very car-friendly activity. You might consider investing in internal windscreen wipers.
  4. Flexibility on mouthpiece. Try playing your preferred flexibility exercises on mouthpiece only. Focus on pitch! When you master this on the mouthpiece, you will be way more confident on your horn.
  5. Legato vs. staccato. Try playing a phrase legato, and repeat it with short notes. It takes both precision, a stable embouchure, and good ears to hit the right pitch when playing short notes.
  6. Perfect attacks. Pick a note and try to play as many of them in a row as possible with perfect attack. Start over every time the attack is not 100% perfect. When you get to 10 or 30 (or 500) perfect attacks, pick a new note. Switch between single tongue, double tongue, and doodle. Go slow!
  7. Jazz buzz. Buzz the head of a few jazz standards, and make sure to keep them in time. Try to make them sound just as good as if you were on stage with a top-notch jazz group.
  8. Impro-buzzing. Pick a jazz tune you are familiar with, and start soloing. Keep it simple, and try to be aware of what notes you are playing. Being able to play important notes in a chord (typically 3rd and 7th) on just the mouthpiece is a great skill to master!
  9. Triad adventures. Practice various triads; major, minor, diminished, and augmented. Switch between starting each triad on the root, the third, and the fifth. Or play as many different triads as possible from a given note. If you for instance choose a C, you can play the following triads (up or down): C major, C minor, C diminished, C augmented, Ab major, F major, A minor, and F minor.
  10. Artistic buzzing. Try to buzz the scenery you drive by. How does a calm forest lake sound compared to that ice cream factory on the left or the traffic jam ahead? Can you buzz the highway billboards or the cars overtaking you?

Unnecessary bonus information

I know by fact that keeping a visible mouthpiece in your car is a safe way to store it. A few years ago, a fellow trombone player had a break-in in his car while we were at a gig. Smashed window, millions of glass fragments inside the car but the mouthpiece was still there… Consensus: with even more mouthpieces in the car, it probably had not been broken into in the first place! The drive home was cold. I guess this somehow compares to the story of what happened to the accordion player who forgot to lock his car overnight in a shady neighborhood with an accordion in it… ?

See you at the buzz stop!



  1. Frank guest 8 years ago

    Hi, I’ve been doing this for many years,on a plastic mouthpiece(pre Kelly!) and it has a further advantage, it reduces stress if you are having a bad day.

  2. Henning 8 years ago

    Jeg bruger det som opvarmning om morgenen, når jeg er på vej til sølv/guldbryllup.
    Hilsen Livsnyder Jensen

  3. Richard Anderson 8 years ago

    This is a great idea. I am in a community band and injoy it very much. I have wanted to set up my playing. This will be a great time to work on this since I spend about a hour drive to and from work every day. :).

  4. Pedro Sanchez 8 years ago

    About how long we should buzz the mouthpiece before playing a gig or Start a practice session ?

  5. Anders Larson 8 years ago

    Pedro, always stop buzzing before the gig starts 🙂

    Joke aside, it as an individual thing. It is more about getting your body geared up for brass plying. If this takes 3 minutes or 20 minutes is up to you. Somedays you might benefit from longer buzzing sessions, other days it might hardly be necessary.

    And remember to save some chops for the show!


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