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Discussion Starter #1
Hi guys/gals,
I've been playing the clarinet for a year and a half now, and now I started to develop this thing: my embouchure starts to hurt after playing only 15 minutes. I can push the practice for half an hour, but that's it. And since I can't practice enough, it's getting worse...
I have a Vandoren B45 mouthpiece with Gonzalez 2 3/4 reeds. Before that I used Vandoren 2.5, but that was too easy, so my teacher advised me to go for a stronger reed. I bought Vandoren 3, it was too much, so I bought the Gonz 2 3/4, but they seem to be too strong. So I went back to Vand. 2.5, and now they also tire me out in no time! I can only do long tones and a couple of scales, and basically that's it. I'm going nuts! Sometimes I just want to throw the clarinet out of the window, and the only thought that holds me back is that I know I could do more damage to it by smashing it to pieces on the wall... Yet, I pick it up every day for this miserable half hour, which is so short I don't improve at all...
Does anyone have any idea what I'm doing wrong? Should I go and get weaker reeds? Or is there any secret "Arnold's Iron Embouchure" video I don't know about?
Big thanks for your help in advance.
 

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Play for a few minutes and rest for a few minutes. Give your chops a break. Try not to just go until you can no longer bear the pain. The resting is as important as the playing.
 

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What Carl said. Remember, you don't have to do all your practicing for one day in one sitting.
You can also do embouchure strengthening excercises without your horn where you drop your jaw as low as it'll go with your lips still touching each other. Then tighten your lips into the tightest embouchure you can make and hold it for 30 seconds (FEEL THE BURN!) then release and open your mouth as possible to stretch out the muscles. Repeat.
You can do this one pretty much anywhere(though you might look a little silly doing it in public places.)
 

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I'm sorry but your teacher sounds like a complete idiot. (And that's not something i say lightly. I've posted elsewhere defending teachers ) Allowing you to play such hard reeds because the one you have is "too easy" when you've been playing such a short time is totally irresponsible. You'll end up with a sore lip and no valid embouchure at all. If the Vandoren m/p is "recommended" to use hard reeds then get rid of it and get one that's appropriate. It's "getting worse" because you're hurting youself. Don't do that. Your teacher shouldn't let you do that. I'm really steaming about this one. Best of luck.
 

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Discussion Starter #5
Thanks guys, for your help! I really appreciate it.
Ok, practicing more than once a day sounds like a good idea, I'll try that - although I don't know what the two kids, my wife will say... :)
Thanks for the exercise, littlemanbighorn, I'll try that too.

Rootytootoot, you DO sound furious! :) But can you give me advice on the strength of the reed? How week should I go? How can I know/check which is the right strength? And what about the Vandoren B45? I thought that was a beginner's mouthpiece. If you have doubts about that, what do you recommend?
Thanks the comment on the teacher, too - it also helps, you know, maybe I should go and find another teacher. Thanks.
 

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Another teacher would help you with these issues.

If you have an inexpensive student instrument, get a swab and swab it out after playing it, but leave it assembled - reed removed unless you have a synthetic reed - and leave it handy so you can just grab it and blow for a bit when the mood grabs you. It makes it easier to get your time in if it isn't such an effort to assemble and disassemble it every time.
 

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Some observations. Gonzalez reed strengths are different than other brands. 2 3/4 may actually be softer.

Why a B45? It is VERY open and not recommended by me to any student of your experience. I would have you try a Fobes debut or other good quality mouthpiece a shade over 1 mm tip opening, with a reasonably strong reed, probably a blue box 3. Vandoren pieces are highly variable in quality. Has someone who knows how to tell passed on yours?

Playing too soft a reed will lead to pitch flatness, and your embouchure problems may be a result of pinching too much to bring the pitch up.

Never play when it hurts.
 

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Discussion Starter #8
Thanks for the advice.
Why B45? My teacher recommended it.
What about 5RV (NOT lyre)? I saw one on the net for the price of the Fobes debut.
On Gonzalez: I wrote them and they sent me a comparison chart - they claim that their reeds are numbered to match Vandoren.
 

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I've never played Gonzalaz reeds but my info on them is the same as yours. Their numbering matches the Vandoren Classique. What sort of range are you playing on the instrument? I'm still convinced you've been playing reeds that are way too hard. That's doubly true if your m/p is very open.
 

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As fun and popular as playing "lets kill the teacher" can be, I'd like to ask a few questions before we all get started with the hammer and nails.

You say that the B45 was fine just a short while ago with Vandoren 2.5 reeds. How long had you been using VD 2.5 ? Did you perchance get a box of 2.5's that were on the soft side? Did you happen to play the 2.5 reeds for so long that they were as tired and soft as 1.5? Is your instrument still in good shape, or could it be leaking? Have you recently changed your embouchure?

Without knowing the answers, I'll belay the hammer and nails. Once in a blue moon, difficulties are actually caused by the player in spite of the teacher's best instructions.
 

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Discussion Starter #11
Thanks for all the comments.

Rooty - range: low-middle register (up to C basically).

Dog: I used 2.5 for a year (I've been playing for like 18 months, with the B45, VD #2 reeds.) My teacher advised me to change to #3. I tried it, it was too hard. I decided to try then the middle, Gonzalez 2 3/4.
Since I got into #3, I can't find my sound. Basically for like 4 months now. And it's getting worse.
My clarinet is not leaking for sure, but some pads slowly have to be changed.
 

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Discussion Starter #12
Wow, have you realized Dog is God backwards? :) Just checked it, just in case, and it DOES leak! Although, it's the G#/D# key, and I really have to blow into the lower piece to make it leak, so I'm not sure that that is the only problem. Thanks, though, on the tip, on Monday I'll take it to the shop.
 

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iso007 said:
Thanks for all the comments.

Rooty - range: low-middle register (up to C basically).

Dog: I used 2.5 for a year (I've been playing for like 18 months, with the B45, VD #2 reeds.) My teacher advised me to change to #3. I tried it, it was too hard. I decided to try then the middle, Gonzalez 2 3/4.
Since I got into #3, I can't find my sound. Basically for like 4 months now. And it's getting worse.
My clarinet is not leaking for sure, but some pads slowly have to be changed.
So you're just crossing the break? Even if you mean the C above that you still should be using much softer reeds, in my opinion. As for the clarinet possibly leaking, your teacher should be able to check that - give him/her the thing to play for 2 minutes. I'm not saying the teacher has to fix it. But he has to check it and see if it's playable. [Read your final post after my initial thoughts - sorry. Now "the shop" - here openeth another can of worms.]
 

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Well, I definitely won't say that I'm an expert at the clarinet. Actually, I'm beginning to feel a bit like a retard clarinetist now that I'm thinking my saxophone sound is starting to get as good as my clarinet sound, even though I don't practice my saxophone nearly as much as my clarinet... I don't know if it's a good thing or not that a few of my friends even told me I should switch to the saxophone as my main instument, either... Well, now that it's summer, I guess I'll have enough time to seriously work on both instruments.

Yeah, get the leak fixed, but if it's a minor leak, it shouldn't hamper you too much. The keys on my old plastic clarinet must be completely messed up from all the times that I dropped it or forced the parts together without cork grease, but I can manage to play on it for school. It's not my best sound, and my fingering is a bit clumsier on it, but it works.

For reeds, once you find the right strength, I wouldn't waste too much time adjusting them, unless you really have the time. If I can get a decent sound and volume on a reed, I consider it usable. I mean, I use and take better care of the best reeds that I find for symphony and church, but for school, if I can make a sound on a reed, it's good.

Anyway, when you're sure that there's nothing wrong with your clarinet or reeds, make sure that you have a proper embouchure. I won't say that this is profesional advice, but I'll share what works for me. Keep your jaw firm, but don't bite. Stretch out your chin like in the exercise to do that. And if you've heard people saying that you should "smile", I'm not so sure they're right. From my experience, that lets air leak out the sides, makes my lips tired faster, and pretty much makes me bite. Try to keep your corners firm, but don't pull them back. Make sure your jaw and tongue aren't too far forward or back from their natural position, too. If your teeth are a little uneven like mine, get a moutpiece patch. Hope this helps, and don't overwhelm yourself.
 

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Discussion Starter #15
Rooty, again, what do you mean by "much softer"? It's not that definite...
C - I meant the C above this: :space3:
And about "the shop" - they're probably the best in Hungary, right next to the National Opera House in Budapest, Hungary, so I trust them... :)

Danarsenault's opinion was trying out a mp with close tip. Any close tip mouthpiece is fine? I saw a Selmer HS* on the net, relatively cheap. Or should it be 5RV? (this I probably could borrow from someone to try out). Or rigidly the Fobes debut? Anyone has an opinion on that?
 

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I think it would be rather arrogant of me to try and offer much further advice without seeing/hearing you play. This is the best I can say: Go to the shop. It sounds v good. Hope the woodwind repair tech is there and if he is, speak to him. If he's not, come back later. Demonstrate your playing, get him to fix the instrument and when you go back he can suggest a reed to go with the m/p you are using which is in keeping with your command of the instrument and all other relevant factors. Whatever reed he suggests, get that + a couple slightly softer and a couple slightly harder. Then start practising but take lots of breaks and try not to bite a hole in your bottom lip. If your lip starts hurting again, tell your teacher and ask him/her to explain how you should be holding the m/p in your mouth. Also tell him that you are experiencing discomfort. If your teacher says something like: "Keep at it, you need to toughen up!" get a new teacher ASAP. All the best and hope this was some help.
 

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danarsenault said:
Why a B45? It is VERY open and not recommended by me to any student of your experience. I would have you try a Fobes debut or other good quality mouthpiece a shade over 1 mm tip opening, with a reasonably strong reed, probably a blue box 3.
The B45 has been a popular mouthpiece for young clarinetists in my part of the country for quite some time. Can you elaborate a bit on why you like a more closed tip mouthpiece for less experienced players to start on?
 

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jbtsax said:
The B45 has been a popular mouthpiece for young clarinetists in my part of the country for quite some time. Can you elaborate a bit on why you like a more closed tip mouthpiece for less experienced players to start on?
smaller tip opening=easier pitch control with someone without really good muscle support.

It's the same thing with sax. Say you're a new player and wanted a high quality mouthpiece. As a teacher, you'd suggest something like a Selmer S80 C*..not a Berg Larsen 95/1.
 

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First of all, let me say that there is not universal agreement on the "correct" clarinet embouchure. Some say smile . . . others don't want a smile. The most helpful concept that I was taught is that the sides of the embouchure should be as firm or more firm than the lip/teeth pressure. (This was for a no-smile teacher.) My teacher would hold the barrel of my clarinet and try to shake it from side to side as I was playing. Sounds strange, I know . . . but this was an excellent teaching tool. It was obvious when I did it wrong . . . or right. Not many teaching techniques give this kind of immediate and certain feedback. This embouchure develops the muscles and doesn't kill the lip.
 
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