Stephen Shoop

Breathing/Buzzing Tools

The Use of Breathing and Buzzing Tools to Improve Wind Instrument Playing




Breathing aids help maximize breathing for wind instrument playing.   Some address inhalation, others mainly address exhalation.  Still others can be used to address both inhalation and exhalation.


Buzz aids are utilized for embouchure development.  Their purpose is to isolate, develop, and strengthen embouchure muscles used in playing certain pitches.  Another value is the brain (mind) must conceive the pitch before it is played—without the aid of the instrument.


To follow is a list of my personal favorites.  I have found them to be the most beneficial:


Breath Builder


The Breath Builder is a relatively inexpensive breathing aid developed by the late Las Vegas, Nevada, bassoonist Harold Hansen. It’s use mainly focuses on the inhalation part of the breathing process.  There is a visual component in that the objective is to keep the ping-pong ball at the top of the tube (without falling to the bottom).


Description and instructions may be found at


Video clip demonstration by the late tubist Arnold Jacobs may be found at




The Vodyne can be used to maximize inhalation and/or exhalation.  Video clip demonstration by the late tubist Arnold Jacobs may be found at


Buzz Pipe


Of all the available buzzing aids, I have personally found the Buzz Pipe to be the most beneficial. Playing on the buzz pipe simulates the amount of resistance as on the tuba.  As with other buzzing aids, playing on the Buzz Pipe requires that the player buzz precise pitches, without the aid of the instrument.  Those interesting in making a purchase may find them at  There are four types of buzz pipes available.  As of this writing, prices range from $60-$120.  Other products are available on the site—including three books.




As teachers work with students utilizing these tools, it is essential that students learn to use them correctly.  Students must also be able to make the connection between working with a tool and improved playing.  Otherwise, they will simply be going through the paces, with little or no consciousness about what they are doing.  If this is the case, benefits will only be at a minimum.

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