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That's good to know thanks FishersSax. Is that just with the mouthpiece and not the neck?
Yes, just mouthpiece.

Maybe I missed it, has anyone asked about your tongue level? Do you play with your tongue against your top mollars as if you’re saying “eee”?
 

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Discussion Starter · #22 ·
Yes, just mouthpiece.

Maybe I missed it, has anyone asked about your tongue level? Do you play with your tongue against your top mollars as if you’re saying “eee”?
Yeah I've just started focussing more on that with just my mouthpiece. Combined with more pressure from my abs/diaphragm, that's really helped to get me from an Eflat to an F/F# concert! Hoping I can work up closer to A concert but maybe that's just not feasible on my mouthpiece.
 

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Discussion Starter · #23 ·
So I just jumped back on the horn after having spent a few days working on voicing and air support with my mouthpiece. Although I've been able to play 3 semitones higher on my mouthpiece using the "hee" syllable and with strong ab/diaphragm support, I'm still very very flat on the whole horn. All my low notes are very flat, even those notes around middle G which should be relatively easy to play in tune are very flat. Even though I still can't play a full scale on just the mouthpiece, I feel like voicing and air support perhaps aren't the main problem. I've thought about simply pushing my mouthpiece further on the neck, but I'm already quite far on so I'm keen to avoid that as a solution.

Given that the transition from biting and a tense lower lip to a relaxed embouchure has left me very flat all over the horn, it's clear that I need to develop an awareness of another part of my embouchure that I haven't used before in order to start playing in tune again. I've seen that a number of people have mentioned the importance of building up the muscles surrounding one's embouchure to avoid relying on biting and a tense lower lip so maybe this is my fix or at least part of my problem.

However, I'm still confused about how developing these other muscles may help to bring my pitch way up if my lower lip remains relaxed. Does anyone know how developing these muscles might help me to play in tune? Any thoughts would be so so much appreciated!

Cheers,

Angus
 

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As an experiment, using your whole horn, not just the mpc, put way too much mpc in your mouth (till your lips are at the ligature) and play really loud. If the tuner doesn’t say you’re sharp, you really need to push on further and probably need stronger reeds.

Another test: play low B, again very loud with a relaxed embouchure. If it’s any more than 10 cents flat.... you need to push the mouthpiece on further.
 

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Given that the transition from biting and a tense lower lip to a relaxed embouchure has left me very flat all over the horn...
Are you describing a change from a lip over to a lip out embouchure? Or are you still rolling your lip over but trying to stay relaxed?
 

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Discussion Starter · #27 ·
Are you describing a change from a lip over to a lip out embouchure? Or are you still rolling your lip over but trying to stay relaxed?
My lip is probably now a tiny bit more rolled in than before but still quite out. The main change is that my lower lip is very relaxed, no longer tense and no longer receiving excessive support (biting) from my lower teeth. Does that help to clarify?
 

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My lip is probably now a tiny bit more rolled in than before but still quite out. The main change is that my lower lip is very relaxed, no longer tense and no longer receiving excessive support (biting) from my lower teeth. Does that help to clarify?
Yes - it sounds like you're overcompensating then. The purpose of being "relaxed" is to play in tune and have a full tone - not impeeding the reed's vibration. If your adjustments make it so that you can't actually play your saxophone...you've gone too far! While being "relaxed" you should also be "supportive" and use pressure from the sides of your mouth coming in to keep your bottom lip firm but relaxed. You have to find that happy balance between "relaxed" and "firm" that allows 1) ability to play the full range of the instrument 2) good tone production 3) good intonation...

You have to tick all those boxes or you're "solving" one problem and creating another...that's counterproductive.
 

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Chiming in again. @Angus Graham, you have many years experience playing your alto. Prior to this embouchure change, did you have lower lip pain due to jamming your teeth into your lip? I know it was a suggestion from another player that led you down this path; did the other player hear you play and make this suggestion based on your tone?

Specifically about lips and jaws - your lips should be firm, but the pressure on the reed comes from lip/face muscles, not from pushing your jaw up. But it sounds to me like you are not supporting the reed enough.

I get that you are trying for the more relaxed approach, but you need to play in tune :). Maybe you’ve embraced relaxation a bit too much? Balance is everything.

As a final word, give it some time. Embouchure changes are hard and take a while. Go watch videos of players you admire and check their embouchure. Try to do what the masters do :)
 

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This thread has me very confused. I hit that A with the mouthpiece on my first or second try, so it obviously didn't require building any "embouchure muscles" as I couldn't have had any. How is a 10-year player having to work so hard at it? Just trying to understand what the variables could be here. It sounds like something is being way harder than it needs to be? Could you consult with a teacher?
 

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Discussion Starter · #31 ·
Yes - it sounds like you're overcompensating then. The purpose of being "relaxed" is to play in tune and have a full tone - not impeeding the reed's vibration. If your adjustments make it so that you can't actually play your saxophone...you've gone too far! While being "relaxed" you should also be "supportive" and use pressure from the sides of your mouth coming in to keep your bottom lip firm but relaxed. You have to find that happy balance between "relaxed" and "firm" that allows 1) ability to play the full range of the instrument 2) good tone production 3) good intonation...

You have to tick all those boxes or you're "solving" one problem and creating another...that's counterproductive.
Ok thanks Chip I'll play around with the firmness of my lower lip then and let you know how I get on!
 

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Discussion Starter · #32 ·
Chiming in again. @Angus Graham, you have many years experience playing your alto. Prior to this embouchure change, did you have lower lip pain due to jamming your teeth into your lip? I know it was a suggestion from another player that led you down this path; did the other player hear you play and make this suggestion based on your tone?

Specifically about lips and jaws - your lips should be firm, but the pressure on the reed comes from lip/face muscles, not from pushing your jaw up. But it sounds to me like you are not supporting the reed enough.

I get that you are trying for the more relaxed approach, but you need to play in tune :). Maybe you’ve embraced relaxation a bit too much? Balance is everything.

As a final word, give it some time. Embouchure changes are hard and take a while. Go watch videos of players you admire and check their embouchure. Try to do what the masters do :)
Thanks @skeller047, I really appreciate the advice. Yes, so prior to the change, after 2 hours or so of playing, my lower lip would start feel very sore and inevitably bleed. So, I finally decided to take some lessons from Danny Janklow and he encouraged me change my embouchure based on what I'd told him, not on how I sounded. Funnily enough, I was actually really happy with my tone before the change but my technique was holding me back from really advancing as a player so that's why I decided to change.

Yeah I think you're right in saying that I've probably embraced the relaxed lip approach too much. I'll play around with the firmness of my lower lip as @Chip L. suggested and I'll update the thread from there. I really appreciate your thoughts :)
 

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Discussion Starter · #33 ·
This thread has me very confused. I hit that A with the mouthpiece on my first or second try, so it obviously didn't require building any "embouchure muscles" as I couldn't have had any. How is a 10-year player having to work so hard at it? Just trying to understand what the variables could be here. It sounds like something is being way harder than it needs to be? Could you consult with a teacher?
Hey @Zasterz! Thanks for your thoughts. Yeah, it's had me confused for a while too. I've had a bunch of lessons with Danny Janklow and he's helped to relax my embouchure but that's left me super flat so I'm trying to work out how to compensate for this without biting. I think over the 10 years I've been playing, I've relied on my lower teeth to provide the necessary tension for the reed to vibrate and haven't thought much about those other facial muscles. But, as you say, I should be able to play in tune from the get go. Time to build these muscles up is necessary to play with an effective technique for longer.

So, I'm on the hunt to figure out what I'm missing after my embouchure transition and it sounds like I need to start focussing on the firmness of my lower lip to support the reed's vibration
 

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Discussion Starter · #34 ·
Just to clarify quickly, I've heard a lot of people mention that by bringing the sides of one's lips in to create a cushion for the reed to vibrate on the lower lip, you inhibit the reed's capacity to vibrate at it's full potential.

So, should I focus just on supporting the reed's vibration with my lower lip or a combination of my lower lip and sides?
 

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Just to clarify quickly, I've heard a lot of people mention that by bringing the sides of one's lips in to create a cushion for the reed to vibrate on the lower lip, you inhibit the reed's capacity to vibrate at it's full potential.

So, should I focus just on supporting the reed's vibration with my lower lip or a combination of my lower lip and sides?
You apply side pressure to avoid biting or having a spread lip...it also allows the bottom lip to be firm but relaxed which is ideal. Experiment with how much mouthpiece you're taking in also...remember the goal is to have the most musical results across the board (there's more than 1 approach to playing saxophone so find what works for you)
 

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Discussion Starter · #37 ·
You apply side pressure to avoid biting or having a spread lip...it also allows the bottom lip to be firm but relaxed which is ideal. Experiment with how much mouthpiece you're taking in also...remember the goal is to have the most musical results across the board (there's more than 1 approach to playing saxophone so find what works for you)
Thanks @Chip L.! I just spent a little while practicing with a firmer embouchure and that's helping to bring the pitch up slightly. Would I recommend practicing with my top teeth off the mouthpiece for a while to avoid biting and focussing on using my lower lip and sides?
 

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Discussion Starter · #39 ·
As an experiment, using your whole horn, not just the mpc, put way too much mpc in your mouth (till your lips are at the ligature) and play really loud. If the tuner doesn’t say you’re sharp, you really need to push on further and probably need stronger reeds.

Another test: play low B, again very loud with a relaxed embouchure. If it’s any more than 10 cents flat.... you need to push the mouthpiece on further.
Hey @FisherSax, I just spent some time trying those two exercises that you mentioned. Before playing, I pushed my mouthpiece further on anyway. There's about 2-3ml of neck cork still exposed.

So with the first exercise, I took in mouthpiece up until I was nearly touching the ligature. This seemed to bring some of the notes in the low end from very flat to slightly flat or in tune. A couple edged sharp here and there but not for long.

With the second exercise, while playing very loudly on low B, I averaged somewhere between 20 to 10 cents flat.

I attempted both of these exercises with a firmer lower lip than I have been using but without biting. Keen to hear your thoughts!
 

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Thanks @Chip L.! I just spent a little while practicing with a firmer embouchure and that's helping to bring the pitch up slightly. Would I recommend practicing with my top teeth off the mouthpiece for a while to avoid biting and focussing on using my lower lip and sides?
No, not at all. I would return to your previous embouchure that you said you were happy with the tone and then make small adjustments from there. I, personally would completely ignore mouthpiece exercises or trying to hit some pitch on the mouthpiece. I regard that as an unnecessary detour. I've never played the mouthpiece, don't know what pitch I'd get on it and don't care. You have to decide what your goal is here...if it's to make music on the saxophone than do whatever you need to start doing that immediately. Then fine tune from there...whoever suggested you make drastic changes to your embouchure might have been unintentionally doing you a disservice. Like I said before tick these three boxes 1) play across the entire range of sax 2) play in tune 3) play with good tone. Adjust your embouchure so that you can do all 3 as best as you can and go from there. Record yourself and listen back often. Continue to make small careful adjustments. You will improve.
 
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