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How to Buzz Faster

Posted: Tue Dec 18, 2018 9:06 pm
by cthewolf
Yes, I know learning more, doing more practice, and reading questions will help with anticipating the buzz etc. etc.<br/>

I'm talking about pure speed. These are instances where you and another player buzz on the same word or same clue but in most cases not your typical difficulty cliff buzzer race. Please do not suggest just studying more or expanding my knowledge. It's a clear answer as well as something that I have been doing fairly consistently.

This problem has been plaguing me since I started playing quizbowl again around this time last year. I had no such issues at the two tournaments before my hiatus. I think I was fine back then because I still played Certamen (Latin quizbowl), where speed is way more important on shorter questions. With Certamen, I started out incredibly slow as well, and after each summer I went back to being slow. However, I was able to recover and get very fast again fairly quickly each year. Initially I followed a friend's advice to want to buzz faster (sounds ridiculous but it worked either for real or subconsciously), and practice obviously helped.

It may be that quizbowl, history bowl, and science bowl (only to some degree) are much more about knowledge. The slow buzzing really affected me mentally during Nationals, when it started to really show. Though I'm not as affected anymore, the problem has not gotten better (I would say at least 1.5 times per round (20 questions) at Harvard).

I am willing to give anything and everything a try. I've even tried using a rubber band to "work out" my thumb. I've used my index finger and my pinkie. I've tried both hands.

I wrote this post maybe two weeks before today, but I decided to reach out to some old Certamen friends for help instead of posting it. I got advice along the lines of getting more confident with the material (I agree, but I've definitely gotten more comfortable with material compared to when I was initially fast), moving on even if I do get outbuzzed (pretty good advice), and focusing on each clue individually. I think the last tip specifically doesn't work for quizbowl because you're supposed to narrow down your answer based on each clue. Although I disagree with this practice, super specific exclusive clues are also used to justify very broad clues later on. I don't think much has changed with regards to my speed since I wrote it.

Re: How to Buzz Faster

Posted: Tue Dec 18, 2018 9:26 pm
by Banned Tiny Toon Adventures Episode
just learn more things that other people so you are buzzing beforehand or ready to buzz beforehand instead of whatever cheap priming tricks someone is going to suggest

Re: How to Buzz Faster

Posted: Tue Dec 18, 2018 9:30 pm
by ryanrosenberg
Banned Tiny Toon Adventures Episode wrote:
Tue Dec 18, 2018 9:26 pm
just learn more things that other people so you are buzzing beforehand or ready to buzz beforehand instead of whatever cheap priming tricks someone is going to suggest
This is the correct advice, but if you want a break from learning things, video games are great for fine-tuning your quick-twitch hand-eye coordination.

Re: How to Buzz Faster

Posted: Tue Dec 18, 2018 9:50 pm
by gimmedatguudsuccrose
Take all of the following advice with a grain of salt, as all of these tips will almost certainly lead to more negs. However, all of these will certainly make you faster on the buzzer.

1. Stimulation: Caffeine helps to cut down response time and increases the speed of reflexes.
2. Protobowl: As much as this is denigrated, protobowling (or using quizbug 2) is a great way to increase your buzzing speed especially if you make the question speed very very fast.
3. Buzzer Priming: At the beginning of a tossup, depress the buzzer enough so that you haven't buzzed but have less of a distance to go when buzzing. Warning - if you accidentally buzz while priming, your teammates will want to kill you.

Also, I would second the suggestion about playing videogames or any games that require hand-eye coordination - this will help your reflexes. I don't think training your hands to be stronger will help much at all, as it's not as if it's physically difficult to depress the buzzer.

Re: How to Buzz Faster

Posted: Tue Dec 18, 2018 10:17 pm
by joshxu
I definitely agree with the overall message of the quiz bowl community that it is much better to simply learn more stuff and therefore be the first person to know the answer than to try to find a way to buzz faster.

Nevertheless, I have some basic strategies that you may or may not find helpful—these worked for me, but they won't for everyone:

***** In no particular order*****
1: Buzz with your index finger. One of my teammates who was on the 2017 National Ocean Sciences Bowl championship team told me to try this. Unlike [pyramidal] quiz bowl, success in [non-pyramidal] ocean sciences bowl is heavily dependent on buzzer speed (which, in addition to many other factors, is why I don't like it). My teammate said that buzzing with the index finger really helped him and his team win more buzzer races (which occur on most questions) en route to the national championship. This strategy actually worked for me, but there isn't any empirical evidence that suggests it is always the case, and you said you already tried doing this, so it may not be the most helpful.

2: Keep your hands warm. In any activity involving your hands, you don't want them to be stiff for obvious reasons.

3: Practice with a fast moderator. I've found that having bad moderators in practice really hurts my buzzer speed. With extremely slow moderators, you may become accustomed to such slow speeds, and that may slow your reaction time down when you're at a tournament with a fast moderator.

4: Protobowl. To build off of the previous point, Protobowl can go faster than any real moderator can.

5: Most obviously, learn more stuff! This is always the most helpful way to improve, and is what quiz bowl is about!

Re: How to Buzz Faster

Posted: Wed Dec 19, 2018 8:01 am
by bkmcavoybickford
joshxu wrote:
Tue Dec 18, 2018 10:17 pm

***** In no particular order*****
1: Buzz with your index finger. One of my teammates who was on the 2017 National Ocean Sciences Bowl championship team told me to try this. Unlike [pyramidal] quiz bowl, success in [non-pyramidal] ocean sciences bowl is heavily dependent on buzzer speed (which, in addition to many other factors, is why I don't like it). My teammate said that buzzing with the index finger really helped him and his team win more buzzer races (which occur on most questions) en route to the national championship. This strategy actually worked for me, but there isn't any empirical evidence that suggests it is always the case, and you said you already tried doing this, so it may not be the most helpful.
Are you talking about buzzers that lay flat on the table, as opposed to handheld ones? With handheld buzzers, I find it by far the easiest to use my thumb to buzz in, but I agree with you about box buzzers that sit on tables.

Also, it's best not to set your buzzer down, and instead always hold it in your hand with your finger just above the buzzer, but that is common practice, I feel.

Re: How to Buzz Faster

Posted: Wed Dec 19, 2018 5:10 pm
by UlyssesInvictus
As someone who wins a decent amount of buzzer races, but also notoriously negs a lot, let me just say that you should be careful what you wish for.

Re: How to Buzz Faster

Posted: Wed Dec 19, 2018 5:36 pm
by Cheynem
This may sound obvious, but I think "preparing to buzz" plays a big role in helping you to buzz faster.

For example, when you are first starting to play, the game seems to be moving fast. You hear a bunch of clues you don't know, then a clue you do know out of nowhere, BAM BOOM ZOWIE, and you're buzzing but everyone else is too. Oof.

The key is to somehow "play the clues you don't know," so that you are mentally being prepped to buzz. This can happen as you learn things but even if you learn things you still need to go through this process. What I mean is that if even if you had above average knowledge, you might lose a lot of buzzer races if you just waited for a clue you knew and didn't process anything else.

My strategy is typically, "as the tossup begins, think of an answer that this could plausibly be." "This play..." Well, this could be Long Day's Journey Into Night--the characters seem to be an American family. Now, process the clues even if you don't know them to see if they confirm or deny your theory--oh no, they're mentioning a daughter, I don't think so. Hmm, they suggest one of the family members is sick, could be! If your theory is being shot down, think of something else that matches. I realize this may be the most obvious thing in the world to a good player, but I found I was winning a lot more buzzer races by thinking of an answer and then having my answer confirmed, rather than thinking of a lot of things and trying to match clue to answer.

The challenge of course is that if you're totally, totally wrong you might get suckered into negging, or if you're way wrong, a person who wasn't on that wrong path can win a buzzer race by just responding to a clue.

Re: How to Buzz Faster

Posted: Wed Dec 19, 2018 7:13 pm
by joshxu
Are you talking about buzzers that lay flat on the table, as opposed to handheld ones? With handheld buzzers, I find it by far the easiest to use my thumb to buzz in, but I agree with you about box buzzers that sit on tables.
I'm talking about handheld buzzers in addition to box ones. Although it feels the most comfortable for me now, it did take me a while to adjust to buzzing with my index finger, though, and it makes much less of a difference than any of the other strategies mentioned in this thread.

Re: How to Buzz Faster

Posted: Wed Dec 19, 2018 8:32 pm
by Pascal Plays Poker
The wise man OACAN once said, the buzzer is the sixth finger. Don't know what it means, but take it as you will.

In all seriousness, buzzing with your thumb while keeping your buzzer on the table seems to be the best strategy, especially when flicking your thumb away from the buzzer instead of pressing down.

Re: How to Buzz Faster

Posted: Wed Dec 19, 2018 8:50 pm
by whatamidoinghere
While in my past I used to hold the box buzzer with two hands and use my thumb to buzz, I realized this year that I could be much more relaxed and win more buzzer races by using my index finger. I would recommend placing the box buzzer on a table and using your index finger to buzz. I have also noticed that either finger works fine.

Re: How to Buzz Faster

Posted: Wed Dec 19, 2018 11:33 pm
by Subotai the Valiant, Final Dog of War
On the other hand, I win a substantial amount of buzzer races with box buzzers with both thumbs on it and feel less in control whenever I try to use my index finger. But honestly, the best thing is to try predicting the content of clues (I know this probably doesn't work as well for non-pyramidal questions). Get good at predicting clues on really, really hard sets, and you'll be even better on normal sets.

Re: How to Buzz Faster

Posted: Thu Dec 20, 2018 10:02 am
by Skepticism and Animal Feed
Cheynem wrote:
Wed Dec 19, 2018 5:36 pm
This may sound obvious, but I think "preparing to buzz" plays a big role in helping you to buzz faster.

For example, when you are first starting to play, the game seems to be moving fast. You hear a bunch of clues you don't know, then a clue you do know out of nowhere, BAM BOOM ZOWIE, and you're buzzing but everyone else is too. Oof.

The key is to somehow "play the clues you don't know," so that you are mentally being prepped to buzz. This can happen as you learn things but even if you learn things you still need to go through this process. What I mean is that if even if you had above average knowledge, you might lose a lot of buzzer races if you just waited for a clue you knew and didn't process anything else.

My strategy is typically, "as the tossup begins, think of an answer that this could plausibly be." "This play..." Well, this could be Long Day's Journey Into Night--the characters seem to be an American family. Now, process the clues even if you don't know them to see if they confirm or deny your theory--oh no, they're mentioning a daughter, I don't think so. Hmm, they suggest one of the family members is sick, could be! If your theory is being shot down, think of something else that matches. I realize this may be the most obvious thing in the world to a good player, but I found I was winning a lot more buzzer races by thinking of an answer and then having my answer confirmed, rather than thinking of a lot of things and trying to match clue to answer.

The challenge of course is that if you're totally, totally wrong you might get suckered into negging, or if you're way wrong, a person who wasn't on that wrong path can win a buzzer race by just responding to a clue.
This is similar to my experience as well. If I listened to a tossup and the first few clues narrowed it down to 2-3 likely answers, then not only was I primed to buzz but I also would start anticipating clues in my head. For example, if the tossup was clearly about a crusade, I would think "aha - soon they will mention either the Pope who called for the crusade, or the itinerant preacher who wandered France encouraging people to sign up for it, and I have those memorized so that's where I'll buzz" and then instead of buzzing on "Fulk of Neuilly" or "Innocent III" I would buzz on "Fu..." or "Inn..."

The downside of this is that if my initial hunches about the question were wrong, this would destroy my buzzer speed and I would be poorly suited to win a buzzer race if the clues took a turn.