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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Hi Folks, I hate to retread such a well-trodden topic, but I've done my best to comb the boards and am still confused about my problem.

My history is that I played a lot (alto and tenor) when in high school and college -- practiced between an hour and two a day. Then, I put the horn down for about 5 years when I lived in New York and couldn't find a way (or time) to practice. I'm now 29, in grad school and am playing again. I spent last year playing tenor in a small group and started playing Alto I in the university Jazz Ensemble in September this year. This means I'm playing a fair amount in the higher register.

My problem is that for the last 5 weeks, my lower lip is shredded, which has never been a problem for me before. The lip is extremely chapped and split in several places, and the area below my lip on the left side is also red, split and irritated, making it look as it if I have a cold sore (though I do not). The inside of the lip feels perfectly normal. But the outside is a constant source of pain, making it difficult to practice.

If I don't play for a few days, it gets better, but then it gets worse as soon as I start playing again.

I've ruled out reed allergies, since I never had a problem when in high school or college, and I was fine last year when playing only Tenor. Do you think that biting is my problem --- can biting cause outer lip irritation while leaving the inner lip unscathed? I do catch myself clamping down when playing those high Es. Or is it just a bad case of chapped lips? Or is it something else?

Thanks all.

Alto: SA80 II, Meyer 6M (from the 90s), Java 3
Tenor: Mark VI, Otto Link 8*NY, Java 2.5

Distinguished SOTW Coffee Guru
43,595 Posts
I don't think that " biting" will be showing on the outside of your mouth if you wouldn't have any problems inside of your mouth too. So,do go to visit a GP or a Doctor or a Physician, however you call them, before your problem turns anymore serious.

You can't rule out allergies because allergies can appear later in life for no apparent reason and because you can't know for sure that the reeds that you very using were the same as this ones you use now (some reeds might have a pesticide residue...?).

Also how is your reed Hygiene? Do you disinfect them ? Soak them in a solution of water and bleach or some other disinfectant every now and again?. But then again you might be allergic to bleach.

19 Posts
I know this sounds gross but what colour does the outside of your lip get when it is chapped and sore? If there is yellowness it could be a bacterial infection. I've dealt with this on and off for years and while I don't have a solution yet a good start is disinfecting your reeds. I use Milton (baby bottle disinfectant). Soak em and dry them out completely before next use.

Anyhow this thread may be a bit old so hope your fixed but feel free to contact me for more info, I have SOOOOO many tricks for dealing with sore lips!

Distinguished SOTW Member, Forum Contributor 2014
5,568 Posts
I had similiar problems about 10 years ago but have gone to a large profile Hard Rubber Mouthpiece and lightened my reed strength. I also play with a teeth guard (E-zo Patches) My lips have be fine since. Occasionally I try a thin metal mouthpiece and my lips start reacting again - chapped and pealing.

120 Posts
if you're allergic to reeds, you can try Legere synthetic reeds. They're made from synthetic material (not cane), and i've heard a lot of people that use them and claim that they sound just as good as cane

Non Resident SOTW Eccentric & 2012 Forum Contribut
3,242 Posts
It could be there is some bacterial thing happening possibly in the reed. If you suspect so then I suggest getting some nanosilver (a small one from Colloids for Life) and soak your reeds in nanosilver for 20 minutes for a new reed and let it dry completely then break in as normal and then use nanosilver for the daily soak (it's mostly H20 with pure silver nanoparticles) it will prevent any bacterial growth.

I drink it every day and have done for a few years and I have had no ill effects. Silver is a potent antibacterial agent and is also used in water filtration.
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