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Discussion Starter #1
Playing on my student sax, I find that the tone I make is really nice...just that my lip hurts after a good hour or so of playing. It seems that my teeth are digging into my lower lip, and thats apparently not normal.
Or maybe it is?
It goes away after 2 or 3 days of rest. It doesnt particularly hurt, but its about the only thing thats keeping me away from playing the sax all I want. Don't want to completely chew up my lower lip :p.

So, any comments or suggestions?

Thanks,

-Bryan.
 

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Sod, you've happened onto a major topic on SOTW. There's lots of opinions because there are lots of differences. Take time looking at close up photos of the great players and you will see profoundly different approaches.

Also use the SEARCH function that SOTW provides users for free and hunt around for discussions on this topic. There are many.

From what you've said, I suspect you'd better zero in and change your embouchure before you have lip problems. You should not be biting into your lower lip. Here is a list of things you should try on your own and then draw your own conclusions:

1) Go to a lighter reed by a half step (some famous players use a #2)
2) Let your lower lip act as a bumper to keep the reed off your teeth, though not between the reed and your teeth, but adjacent to the teeth and raised enough in front of your teeth to lift the reed clear of the teeth and providing the reed with the proper tension to sound. Think of the teeth as the framework supporting what's in front of them: your lip. The teeth's support to the lip help the lower lip tension against the reed.
3) Alternately experiment with using the lower lip out in the pout position. Practice blowing and seeing how loose your lower lip can be while still getting good tone.
4) If you haven't yet, experiment with different mouthpieces at different openings. On SOTW there are nearly rabid veins of discussion about mouthpieces. Everybody has a different opinion. Do not accept that some person, teacher or otherwise, says just blow whatever piece you have. Get your own first-hand experience with different openings, then you won't need the opinions of others. Remember that a good teacher knows two things:
#1) There is no such thing as a teacher. Every human must teach himself. A teacher really functions as an expert guide.
#2) A good teacher looks at what the student needs to realize their dream and suggests ways for them to get there.

5) If you want suggestions on mouthpieces and ask a hundred people, you'll get a hundred different suggestions. Thus, get to what works for you more quickly by trying different pieces. Buy the well-made reliable quality pieces that are inexpensive until you start locking into your style. Brands there would include Vandoren. They make high quality pieces that rarely require third-party work. There are many others of course, but just get used to knowing you'll be spending a significant sum of money on mouthpieces. Figure it's part of your education, as it's been for anyone who has ever played.

Trust yourself.

Good luck.
 

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Buddy,
Try remembering to play more witht he air stream, the lips only act as a cushion/support. There should be little to no tension for the lips. One practice you can do is hiss out "Ssssssssssssssssss" you'll feel that the diaphragm will kind of stick out a little. ANyways, practice that little by little, and you'll be fine.
-Nc
 

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Discussion Starter #4
I currently play #3 Vandoren ZZ reeds...I've been playing 3s for around a year now, and I like the tone they produce.

Now that I think about it, it might be because of my neckstrap. However, I still manage to somehow bite my lip. Right now I play with a Selmer S80 C* mouthpiece - not sure about what the actual facing is though.

I do use my air-stream, and my tone comes out clear and relatively loud - I like how the sax can sing.

Anyway, I've tried playing with only me lip muscles as support, but that didnt really work - I ended up going back to the teeth anyway. Also, when I play Bassoon, I find I start biting both my upper and lower lips. This problem is just particularly annoying because I can only play for a set amount of time before it starts hurting too much...then take a break and come back after 10 or so minutes.
 

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I think this biting problem may be becuase of the way you learned your emboucher. I think you just learned to curl in your lips, and consequently your starting to curl in a bit too much and then it just became habit.

What I would do it whenever you practice to work on being aware of your lip positioning, and whenever you catch yourself biting just pop it back out from yoru teeth.

Now when you do this is may change your sound, so all I can say is once you break that habit. Try to develope your tone again.



Also, I was jsut playing and I noticed I like to bite on my lip when I feel a lot of backpressure in my throat and I'm trying to force air into hte sax. Maybe you shoudl try working on a softer reed and slowly progress back up to your 3's
 

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I learned an exercise for correcting this. It worked for me maybe it will help you too. Play a G with the register key. Then lower your jaw until it bends down to an airy sounding G an octave down. Hold that note as long as you can. Don't bend back up. Then play F# and do the same thing. Then F. Go chromatically down to D doing this daily until the problem no longer exists. Another way to check to see if you are using proper pressure on the mouthpiece is to play it like you would while playing it on the sax. Play just the mouthpiece, the pitch you hit should be an A on alto. G or F# on tenor. I assume you are playing alto or tenor. You will find that this will make your tone resonate much better and the higher notes will become in tune. Especially the palm key notes (D and up). I hope I managed to help. Good Luck :)
 

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sod9728 said:
Playing on my student sax, I find that the tone I make is really nice...just that my lip hurts after a good hour or so of playing. It seems that my teeth are digging into my lower lip, and thats apparently not normal.
Maybe you're biting too much. There is an easy way to check:

Play an A alternatively without and with octave key, without changing you embouchure. If the pressure is right, you'll change the octave relatively easily.

If the upper octave A doesn't speak, you're using not enough pressure.

If you have problems returning to the lower octave A, you're biting too much.
 

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Another exercize you may find useful is to try playing with a double embouchure ie lip to cover teeth on top and bottom. If you have developed a habit of biting down on the m/p you will feel this immediately. If you can't properly support the vandoren 3 with a double embouchure and play it without pain, you should be using a softer reed. The m/p you're using should be fine.
 

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I think a lot of players play with the lip in (see pictures of Stan Getz), but if you have so much pain that you can"t play for three days, you are blowing to hard with not enough airsupport....
 

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Bryan. Here are a few ideas that I have used with my students who have had a problem similar to yours.

Check to see that you are not biting too hard with the jaw and lower teeth when you play.
-make sure that the mouthpiece goes straight into the mouth
-adjust the neckstrap so the tip of the mouthpiece touches the curve above the chin then lower the head slightly to put the mouthpiece into the mouth
-emphasize the "OO" in your embouchure with the corners pushing in more toward the sides of the reed
-play with the embouchure tension that makes Ab Concert on the mouthpiece and neck alone
-develop the feeling of the jaw and chin pulling down and away from the reed, not pushing up. Do this by:
1) opening the teeth slightly when you play
2) pressing down a bit more with the top teeth on the mouthpiece while pushing forward with the right thumb in the thumb hook.

After you have tried all of the above, if your lower teeth are sharp or jagged and are still causing pain, buy some EZO denture cushions at your local pharmacy. Cut an oval shape big enough to cover the bottom teeth and soak it in hot water for about 30 seconds. Then form the cushion over your bottom teeth. The wax imbedded cloth will mold to the shape of your teeth and make a comfortable cushion for the lower lip. THIS IS NOT A SUBSTITUTE TO LEARNING TO PLAY WITHOUT BITING WITH THE LOWER TEETH, BUT A WAY TO MAKE PLAYING MORE COMFORTABLE WHILE DEVELOPING A STRONGER "NON-BITING" EMBOUCHURE.

P.S.

This is from a teacher that "there is no such thing as".:cool:
 

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Some amount of pressure from the teeth is a natural part of saxophone playing. You need some amount of pressure to seal the reed. If you don't believe me try taking the mouthpiece ridiculously far into the mouth so that the lower lip is well past the vamp of the reed and see if you can make a decent sound, no matter how much air support you provide. As soon as you slide back and start supporting with the lower lip and jaw, a much nicer controlled tone results.

A lot of players say they "don't bite" when in reality they have been playing long enough that their lip is built up enough to not really feel it anymore. Is is a combination of building up the facial musculature and the lip callous to support the reed. It takes years. Of course take breaks when you are in pain, that is a part of the beginning. Keep going though, don't take days off and eventually your face will learn how to handle a vibrating reed.
 

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Razzy said:
Some amount of pressure from the teeth is a natural part of saxophone playing. You need some amount of pressure to seal the reed. If you don't believe me try taking the mouthpiece ridiculously far into the mouth so that the lower lip is well past the vamp of the reed and see if you can make a decent sound, no matter how much air support you provide. As soon as you slide back and start supporting with the lower lip and jaw, a much nicer controlled tone results.
Huh??

That only demonstrates that pressure on the reed is necessary to play. But I think the pressure should come from the lips, not the teeth.

While playing a note, you should be able to drop the lower jaw a quarter to half inch, without losing the sound (it may change a little, because you changed the size and shape of the air cavity inside your mouth, but the change should be subtle). That demonstrates that it's not necessary to "bite" the reed through your lip.

The masseter muscle (the "biting" or "chewing" muscle) is much stronger than the muscles in your lips, so the natural tendency of beginners is to bite when the lip muscles get tired. I think neither God nor evolution designed us to play the saxophone, so it takes a very long time and a lot of practice to build up the lip muscles until they're strong enough to play for an hour or two.
 

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Razzy said:
Some amount of pressure from the teeth is a natural part of saxophone playing.

A lot of players say they "don't bite" when in reality they have been playing long enough that their lip is built up enough to not really feel it anymore. Is is a combination of building up the facial musculature and the lip callous to support the reed. It takes years. Of course take breaks when you are in pain, that is a part of the beginning. Keep going though, don't take days off and eventually your face will learn how to handle a vibrating reed.
I do agree with your first sentence but the question is how much pressure? If the lip is drawn back across the bottom teeth there will be contact between inside of lip and teeth but this is not the same thing as "biting". "Biting" is when the lip is collapsing down onto the teeth because the muscles around the mouth and chin have not yet developed enough to support the pressure of forming the embouchure. I think talking about a "lip callous", a term I have never heard before, but which reminds me of the process of hardening the tips of the left hand fingers to play steel stringed guitar, gives a totally wrong impression of how the embouchure shoud be developed.
 

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RootyTootoot said:
I do agree with your first sentence but the question is how much pressure? If the lip is drawn back across the bottom teeth there will be contact between inside of lip and teeth but this is not the same thing as "biting". "Biting" is when the lip is collapsing down onto the teeth because the muscles around the mouth and chin have not yet developed enough to support the pressure of forming the embouchure. I think talking about a "lip callous", a term I have never heard before, but which reminds me of the process of hardening the tips of the left hand fingers to play steel stringed guitar, gives a totally wrong impression of how the embouchure should be developed.
Sod: good stuff for you!

jbtsax said:
This is from a teacher that "there is no such thing as".
Sod: more good, ahem . . . guidance. jbtsax is an exceptional guide referring to himself as a teacher. You're so 90's jbt.
 

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Well, about the whole biting thing, I think my lip muscles are coming along now. I can go for almost an hour without having to resort to biting, which is when I take a break. But when I have lessons with my teacher, he always says "Lip in!" when he looks at me (he also says different reeds won't affect the difference between jazz and classical). So yeah, whatever, when he looks away, I just bring my lip out, and he still says I sound fine. When I have my lip in, it's so hard to control my pitch, and it just plain hurts. Should I ignore his advice when I practice elsewhere?

Oh yeah, he's also a clarinet teacher, and he says he hates modern music...
 

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AnotherClarinetist said:
...with my teacher...
What's that? We call them guides around here. :)

"They're actually more what you would call guidelines anyway"
-Captain Barbossa
 

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Discussion Starter #18
Wow..thanks for all the feedback.

The thing about my embroucher is that its still a really nice, controlled tone. My lip muscles never feel sore, just that I start biting after playing for awhile. My muscles in my mouth have definently developed enough that my lip is not collapsing down on my teeth. And when i play, I don't apply so much pressure that my tone comes out sharp. Or flat, for that matter.

Maybe I don't practice enough...currently, I'm in the school band, but the music we receive is so simplistic that we dont need to practice at all. I'm thinking that if I did more consistent practicing, it might help "callous" my lips to harden them against biting.
 

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Before we go and do anything drastic... ask yourself something... Do you really want calloused lips? If sax players had to callous their lips, they wouldn't double as great at lipwork outside of music. To see if your pressure it too much or too little, you have to check more than one note. The notes that will be affected the most if you are using too much pressure are the palm key notes. D and up. Maybe you have too much lip in? If you roll it in too far, the part that comes in contact with the reed and teeth is much weaker than closer to the red fleshy part of it. I wish I knew science terms. You are right that a lot of practice will help a lot, but if you are using so much pressure that your teeth are cutting into your lip. Practicing like that will not improve it. This is an example of "perfect practice makes perfect". If you practice the wrong things, then you will need to take a lot more time to go back and correct your bad habits. GL
 

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Discussion Starter #20
It's probably because of the pressure I apply at notes in the upper register. Right now I play a student model (out for repair right now though) and while the intonation is pretty good, would that be the problem?
It's a Keilwerth ST90.
 
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