Sax on the Web Forum banner

1 - 19 of 19 Posts

·
Registered
Joined
·
721 Posts
Discussion Starter #1
There are sometimes days and times of the day when my embouchure just seems to go completely feeble. Reeds that when things are OK play loud and fat suddenly turn too hard and I can't get any edge and colour into my tone. Sometimes it's just because I'm tired, but something seems to happen to my embouchure that takes all the tension out of it at other times too. I play very loose, never pressuring the reed, have a sound many people tell me is fine, and I like the way I sound, and have been playing reasonably successfully for a long time. I just wonder whether there is some kind of exercise that I could do when this happens to restore my embouchure tension. Ideas appreciated.
 

·
Banned
Joined
·
6,369 Posts
If your mouthpiece table is not flat, a reed swollen with moisture from playing on it a while will tend to respond differently. Could it be it?
 

·
Distinguished SOTW Member/Mouthpiece Maker
Joined
·
1,816 Posts
If your mouthpiece table is not flat, a reed swollen with moisture from playing on it a while will tend to respond differently. Could it be it?
This is what it sounds like -- reed pushing off the table. Try a brand new reed, see if that works.

If it is your chops, longer practice sessions for a while is probably the answer.
 

·
Distinguished SOTW Coffee Guru
Joined
·
38,840 Posts
I have had something similar when playing reeds kept in a heavily airconditioned environment (very dry) the reed would play for only few minutes and then it would die. I played synthetic reeds with no problem and that gave me the idea that the reeds might have been too dry. After long soaking the reeds were in playing conditions again.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
659 Posts
If you take a few days off from practicing, you might be weakening your embouchure a bit. As Milandro stated,synthetic reeds work good in any enviroment.
Practice and keep your reeds wet.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
721 Posts
Discussion Starter #7
Thanks, guys, but it's not a gear thing: I know when the reed is not flat on the table, too dry, etc., and my problem happens on different saxes, reeds, and mouthpieces at the same time. It's down to something physical in me, which probably means I just have to find more time to practice. But the odd thing is that it happens even when I am practising a lot: that was why I wondered if there is a way of getting the embouchure to respond properly at such times. I'll try the embouchure exercises either Larry Teal or Joe Allard suggest (can't remember which) more often, if I think it's going to happen. The point is that on the same day I can get perfect response and then at another time this problem.
 

·
Distinguished SOTW Member
Joined
·
2,853 Posts
I could have written the same o.p. I've been playing for 40 some odd years and it happens every so often without reason. Days when I can play for hours and hours and reeds are right where they are supposed to be and days with the same reed/mouthpiece when my embouchure collapses after 20 minutes and the reed feels like a 2x4 strapped to the mouthpiece. I seem to blame it on how I am using my embouchure muscles. I've been told that some mouthpieces shapes take a toll on some embouchures. I still can't really figure it out.
 

·
Distinguished SOTW Technician
Joined
·
3,408 Posts
I could have written the same o.p. I've been playing for 40 some odd years and it happens every so often without reason. Days when I can play for hours and hours and reeds are right where they are supposed to be and days with the same reed/mouthpiece when my embouchure collapses after 20 minutes and the reed feels like a 2x4 strapped to the mouthpiece. I seem to blame it on how I am using my embouchure muscles. I've been told that some mouthpieces shapes take a toll on some embouchures. I still can't really figure it out.
Think it can happen to anyone on occasions. Trumpet players are very prone to 'losing the lip'--big names at that.
In my case it's caused by using too big a tip opening, combined with doubling different horns. Sam e with flute, its really important to have a 'tootle ' everyday just to keep the muscle memory active.
 

·
Distinguished SOTW Member
Joined
·
3,202 Posts
This is interesting to me because I have played for a long time and a similar thing happens to me. There were a lot of years in between when I played full time and now where I did not practice that much. However in the past 4 or 5 years I have been playing everyday again. I thought it was just because I didn't practice for so many years that I have had so much embouchure trouble. I know it's correct and I'm doing the right thing because I still do some embouchure excercises to stay loose. Sometimes it's fine and I can play for hours. It has improved the more I play and is almost as good as when I was younger and playing full time but there are some days when it's just kind of weak. It takes me longer to warm up too. Do you think it is age-related? I mean I'm 57, not saying it is - I just don't know.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
721 Posts
Discussion Starter #11
I'm 59, so maybe it is: it seems to get better on a bad day if I go for a run and then practise again! Perhaps I'm trying to ignore my age, which is as it should be. At least I play better now than when I was young, and it is only on certain gigs, like in the afternoon, that it happens. Generally it's worse when I'm practising. I'm glad there are others out there: maybe we start a self-help group ;-)
 

·
Distinguished SOTW Member
Joined
·
2,853 Posts
It could be age. It's ironic that now that I'm in my 50's I can play better than when I was in my 20's but I can't do it for as long. I always thought lung power would slow me down when it came to my horns and being older. Who knew it would be embouchure power that would trip me up.

Wait a minute............... I'm not giving in that easily. I'm not old. There are monster players out there that are older than me.
 

·
Distinguished SOTW Member
Joined
·
6,862 Posts
I'll try the embouchure exercises either Larry Teal or Joe Allard suggest (can't remember which) more often, if I think it's going to happen.


Re: Allard and Teal. I think it's pretty clear that Allard's approach is less demanding in terms of mouth muscles than the "Teal Wheel" approach. With Allard, the mouth muscles stay relaxed and the work is done by the jaw. You could look into working on a more relaxed, less demanding, embouchure a la Allard?
 

·
SOTW Columnist, Distinguished SOTW Member
Joined
·
23,010 Posts
Well I just turned 60 and for sure my embouchure is stronger and I can play longer than at any time in my life so far. I don't think age is much of a factor, at least not so far for me. The key to this issue I think is to try to play at least a while every day and also to gig a lot where you're forced to play 3 to 4 hours in an evening for 'real.' Maybe take a day or two off if you've played several gigs in a row and are starting to feel it. Also to use a reasonably loose embouchure. But I think the main thing is steady playing and practice regimen.
 

·
Distinguished SOTW Member
Joined
·
3,202 Posts
Well I just turned 60 and for sure my embouchure is stronger and I can play longer than at any time in my life so far. I don't think age is much of a factor, at least not so far for me. The key to this issue I think is to try to play at least a while every day and also to gig a lot where you're forced to play 3 to 4 hours in an evening for 'real.' Maybe take a day or two off if you've played several gigs in a row and are starting to feel it. Also to use a reasonably loose embouchure. But I think the main thing is steady playing and practice regimen.
A yeah, well, I'd love to gig 3-4 hours in an evening a lot. I'm just kind of wondering where all those gigs are.:)
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
928 Posts
andrewbowie,

Seems to me that you're describing fatigue. It happens to teenagers also and may not be an age related thing. Conditioning exercises are recommended and can be done without even touching your horn.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
721 Posts
Discussion Starter #18
I think you are right: I can play for as long as in my 20's: I just make more demands on myself and am often tired. I am going to do more exercises.
 

·
SOTW Columnist, Distinguished SOTW Member
Joined
·
23,010 Posts
A yeah, well, I'd love to gig 3-4 hours in an evening a lot. I'm just kind of wondering where all those gigs are.:)
LOL, of course getting gigs is another discussion, so I won't derail the thread by going there. But I've been lucky enough to have a fairly steady working band for the past several years. Just had a better-than-average month with a dozen gigs mostly clustered in groups of three over the weekends. It's a 4-piece band (sax, guitar, bass, drums) so I do get a good workout over a 4-hour gig. After the weekend I can feel it and will generally take Monday off from practicing, but then start up again on Tues, putting in at least a couple of hours a day until the next gig. If I wasn't doing all those gigs, I'd have to put in a lot of intense practice to keep my embouchure (and other playing skills) in the same shape. My embouchure always seems to be in better shape if I'm gigging regularly, although I might have to give it a rest for a day or so.

I'm just trying to answer the OP's question, so I guess the short answer is to play the horn a lot, on a regular basis.
 
1 - 19 of 19 Posts
Top