I love the idea of having a gate-way instrument to the brass family. To clarify I am not an Orff purist and believe in making and teaching music in a variety of ways. I love the Orff process and stick to that as much as possible in my classroom teaching, but I understand that changing things up a bit is also great for the children.
I know many of you will shy away from teaching this instrument because you see its plastic body and colorful slide and assume that it is too much like a “toy”. Well, children learn best through play and exploration and we give babies toys to learn valuable fine motor skills. Once you get over the colors and the child-like nature of the instrument’s design you can see it for what it can be; a way to get kids pumped up about being a brass player. The PBuzz is most like a low brass instruments with a high brass mouthpiece. The body is labeled exactly where to place your hands and I think that’s wonderful, I sometimes wish the recorder was labeled that way too. It has three methods of teaching pitch recognition and that is with absolute pitch names, by the number or by color (ChromaNotes® color). In my classroom, I will use absolute pitch names because I plan on using the PBuzz with upper elementary students and we begin note recognition in late third grade. The colors are the same colors as the Boomwhackers, Music Magnetix and ChromaNotes® resonator bells so if you’ve got some children on each of these instruments you could color code your music and the children could become independently learners very quickly. Let’s talk briefly about the numbers on the PBuzz. Some brass players have mentioned that the numbers do not directly align with trombone slide positions. For example, on trombone second position is a G# but on PBuzz, #2 is a G. You should remember that elementary aged children do not know this and when they move to middle school it will be a very easy change. Again, it’s like recorder transferring to woodwind instruments and not all woodwind instruments having the same fingerings and the whole concert pitch nightmare. It is just a gateway to brass, not a brass instrument per se.
In the effort to try new things and be adventurous, I have decided to try the PBuzz in my performing ensemble, Resonance. I want to see how the top musicians of my school embrace this instrument so that I can perfect my pedagogy before trying it in the general classroom. I want to make it our goals to play together, in tune, and make a characteristic PBuzz sound. I must be open to the instrument not sounding like another brass instrument because it is not a trombone, trumpet, or French horn, it’s a PBuzz. It will in effect have the plastic tubing sound. I can’t shy away from that or keep that from stopping me from letting kids make music on something so neat.
I’ve decided that I can’t very well teach the children an instrument I don’t have some basic mastery on so I will take you along for the journey on how I will become a PBuzz master. Now, I’m a flute principal, recorder master, singer, and can strum a little ukulele if so inspired, but I am NOT a brass player. Not even close, so this should be interesting! Stay tuned for my PBuzz adventures!