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Hi all,

So I have been starting to practice my altissimo in the last couple of months and things are starting to come out, but whenever I do, I find myself using my teeth Waaay too much to get the sound. I know this is bad technique but for some stupid reason I stuck with it. After practicing for an absurdly long amount of time recently and utterly destroying my bottom gums I decided that I would make the embouchure change to the bottom lip rolled out...

I have been practicing heaps of long tones just with this embouchure as well as work with just the mouthpiece and neck. Since I started I found myself having 2 issues:

1. I can no longer play my altissimo notes (as expected). They all seem to go up to an altissimo F.
2. I am having these tiny little pockets of air that fill my cheeks. They are certainly not 'puffy' cheeks, but are pockets of air nonetheless.

I am a bit worried about making this change, as my summative final year performances are now less than a year away and I am learning pieces such as Blue Caprice and Gerald Albright's 'Georgia on my Mind' solo for it, both of which are heavy on altissimo. I have been playing for 6 years and would consider myself an advanced-intermediate player overall.

Should I be making this change? Or should I try to wait until all of these assessments are out of the way (about 1 year)? If I should keep trying to make the switch are there any tips that anyone could give about the two troubles I have been having? There are more but I am aware that they are problems that relate to being unfamiliar with the embouchure.
P.S this is my first proper post, so I'm sorry if I did anything wrong/posted this when someone else asked the same question.

Thanks!
 

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Hi all,

So I have been starting to practice my altissimo in the last couple of months and things are starting to come out, but whenever I do, I find myself using my teeth Waaay too much to get the sound. I know this is bad technique but for some stupid reason I stuck with it. After practicing for an absurdly long amount of time recently and utterly destroying my bottom gums I decided that I would make the embouchure change to the bottom lip rolled out...

I have been practicing heaps of long tones just with this embouchure as well as work with just the mouthpiece and neck. Since I started I found myself having 2 issues:

1. I can no longer play my altissimo notes (as expected). They all seem to go up to an altissimo F.
2. I am having these tiny little pockets of air that fill my cheeks. They are certainly not 'puffy' cheeks, but are pockets of air nonetheless.

I am a bit worried about making this change, as my summative final year performances are now less than a year away and I am learning pieces such as Blue Caprice and Gerald Albright's 'Georgia on my Mind' solo for it, both of which are heavy on altissimo. I have been playing for 6 years and would consider myself an advanced-intermediate player overall.

Should I be making this change? Or should I try to wait until all of these assessments are out of the way (about 1 year)? If I should keep trying to make the switch are there any tips that anyone could give about the two troubles I have been having? There are more but I am aware that they are problems that relate to being unfamiliar with the embouchure.
P.S this is my first proper post, so I'm sorry if I did anything wrong/posted this when someone else asked the same question.

Thanks!
Welcome to SOTW. You will all kinds of advice, some of it conflicting so beware. Why conflicting? because we are all different, what works for one may not work for the other.

OK, it sounds like you have been biting too hard, but when you (quite rightly) stop doing that, altissimo is harder.

I find have to do very little change to get altissimo, depending on the actual noise and fingering.

  • First thing is to check you have the best fingering that suits your horn, don't just use the first fingering chart that comes along, try to find several. Alter fingerings slightly by adding side keys here and there.
  • It's very helpful to imagine the pitch, this can kind of subconsciously prepare you. If necessary do the "too much bite" just to get the note out, and then with that note in mind try without too much bite.
  • I find that on some notes I may have to bite just a teeny bit more, if so that is fine provided it doesn't get too much.
  • Another short cut to altissimo is to use harder reeds, I prefer not to as this is a bit of a compromise as the low notes and dynamics can suffer. The next point is crucial:
  • Instead, once you get used to not biting too much, it could be that your air support is not as good as it needs to be for altissimo. This is a really important area, along with the note visualising.
  • Don't be tempted to alter your embouchure too much, though a little change can help, especially on the difficult notes. I find taking in slightly less mouthpiece is useful.

However, all of this is really what works for me. As you have assessments coming up I presume you must have a teacher. In which case what they say is probably the most important. In fact if you start doing something just because some bloke on the internet says to do it, then this could actually harm the relationship with your teacher. If they have a method and are working towards something, then for you to do something else may not be the best thing. That teacher knows you and can see/hear you. We can't.
 

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'After practicing for an absurdly long amount of time recently and utterly destroying my bottom gums'

I don't get this.
 

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After practicing for an absurdly long amount of time recently and utterly destroying my bottom gums I decided that I would make the embouchure change to the bottom lip rolled out...
I also don't understand the 'bottom gums' reference. I don't see how your gums would be effected, no matter what you do. That aside, it sounds to me like you've made a major change by rolling your bottom lip out, assuming you are rolling it way out. You'll read on here, and probably elsewhere, things like 'roll the bottom lip out', or 'take in a lot of the mpc', etc. That's all fine, but if you take it too literally you risk overdoing it. Usually there is a fine line between 'too much' or 'too little' and you have to find where that line is and what works for you, in spite of what you read online. I doesn't sound like the rolled out lip is working for you, so why not roll it back in a bit until you discover what does work. I find I have to keep some cushioning with the lip over my lower teeth in order to maintain control, especially in the upper register and altissimo range. So maybe you are just going too far with it.
 

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Discussion Starter #5
I also don't understand the 'bottom gums' reference. I don't see how your gums would be effected, no matter what you do. That aside, it sounds to me like you've made a major change by rolling your bottom lip out, assuming you are rolling it way out. You'll read on here, and probably elsewhere, things like 'roll the bottom lip out', or 'take in a lot of the mpc', etc. That's all fine, but if you take it too literally you risk overdoing it. Usually there is a fine line between 'too much' or 'too little' and you have to find where that line is and what works for you, in spite of what you read online. I doesn't sound like the rolled out lip is working for you, so why not roll it back in a bit until you discover what does work. I find I have to keep some cushioning with the lip over my lower teeth in order to maintain control, especially in the upper register and altissimo range. So maybe you are just going too far with it.
Yeah maybe, what I mean by what I said is my lip (I didn't realise I said gums!), but its because I'm using my teeth to provide pressure on the reed too much, which sandwiches my bottom lip between my teeth and the reed; not ideal. Anyway I'll keep all that in mind, thanks guys!
 

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FWIW- I've been there- and a tenor player Christopher Huber helped me out; maybe it will work for you.
Practice dropping your jaw,no teeth no tongue- practice long tone notes from the bottom of your lungs and bend the note-as it sounds, just lowering and raising your jaw- study what happens- and where it sounds right.
Remember where you were at when it sounded just right- make that your norm.
 

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Some classical saxophonists (who subscribe to the lip over bottom teeth) use flower tape as a cover for their bottom teeth like a sheath. Others (I have heard) use different materials (cannot remember for the life of me).

All the suggestions here are good as well. Over time, you will adjust to your embouchure as it also adjusts to you, especially with trying something new. Remember, if it hurts, it ain't right.
 

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I know there's a lot of discussion about the supposedly "rolled out" version of the embouchure, but there is a middle way which I think is the most realistic given the mechanics of the facial muscles.

If you imagine a side cross section of the lower lip and chin, the lower lip can be quite meaty, or rather thin. I believe the intention of "over the lower teeth" is NOT to pull the lip in over the teeth so the muscles are bent over the teeth, using the teeth (and the big jaw muscles) to support the lower lip by essentially biting through the lip (what we all recognize as the phenomenon of painful biting).

Rather, if you imagine positioning your lower lip so the muscles are standing straight up and down, you can easily see that the muscles will be ideally formed to apply a radial constricting force inward. If you do this, because those muscles are anchored to the chin, and if you have a heavy meaty lower lip, some of the lip's tissue will unavoidably roll gently over the lower teeth. But the muscles, outboard of the teeth, forming essentially a flat disk with a hole in it, are what's applying the force to the reed and MP.

Now if you take literally the advice to "roll your lower lip outward" you will have caused those muscles to bend outward away from the lower teeth, and there's very little support for the reed. Thus the commonly related need to work to build muscle strength to provide upward/radially inward force with the muscles in this position, which is non-optimum for applying force. Imagine holding your arm up over your head and pushing up on something; you can do so much more strongly than if your arm is our horizontal from your body and you push up on something.

I often see references to photographs of accomplished players which supposedly demonstrate that they have the lower lip rolled out. I suspect that these players are people with full, generous lower lips, so even if they adhere to what I'm describing as the "straight up and down" method, there's just a lot of meat there, and much of it ends up on the outside so it looks similar to if a person with thin lips really did roll the lip outward.

I also suspect that the "rolling the lip outward" configuration actually gets modified to more up a "straight up and down" with practice. So while "roll the lower lip outward" can be helpful to break one of the habit of rolling the lower lip muscles over the teeth and then trying to bite them in two with the powerful jaw muscles, I am not convinced that it's a real and viable long term embouchure for most, due to its ergonomic inefficiency.
 
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