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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
I haven't found much on the web to help people with an overbite with their embouchure issues, so I thought I'd post this:

I had been playing on and off for twenty years but never had a decent sound. Most recently, over about four years, I learned and practiced all of the Phil Barone tone exercises religiously, the F-trick in Sinta's book, the flick-open octave Sonny Rollins test for embouchure pressure, and Joe Allard's overtone matching exercises . After all of that, I have managed to develop a loose enough embouchure, but no matter what, I was still unable to play high C down to middle G or play all of the tritones up and and down without gurgling or without significant embouchure adjustments on the fly. I chased mouthpieces. I chased reeds. I just couldn't get the control and sound right.

Now I also have a really significant overbite, like in this picture where you can't even see my lower teeth when I bite down. I had always suspected this to be causing the problems I was having. So imagine my dismay when I found this quote from Larry Teal's book: "if the overbite is extreme, ..., it will become a definite handicap....it is questionable whether the individual should attempt serious saxophone study."


After talking with my tech, we finally solved the problem for good:
1. Moving to a thick-beak mouthpiece (Drake Gonz EB), and then...
2. Sticking together three rubber bite pads, one on top of the other.


This way, when I play, my mouth open enough so the overbite becomes a non-issue. There was some air leakage out of the sides of my mouth at first, but my upper lip kind of learned to slide down into place naturally, so that issue went away.

I can't tell you how happy I am now, and if this saves you overbiters some trouble, then I'm glad!
 

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I have a pretty serious overbite also but have never really found it a problem.
I take in a good bit of mouthpiece though.
Probably a little over an inch.
My teacher when I was in high school used to give me a hard time, always telling me to stick my bottom jaw out.
I don't think he realized it wasn't possible for me to stick it out like he or others did.
Glad you found a work around for it though.
 

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Discussion Starter · #4 ·
Okay, I didn't post all of the anatomical details because I didn't think they would be interesting, but since you asked... :bluewink2:

Opening wider makes it easier, almost effortless, to bring the jaw forward where it needs to be, which is perpendicular to the top teeth. As B Flat said above, this is really hard to do for overbiters when the overbiter's mouth is relatively closed. For the lower jaw to be able to jut forward, it has to first drop down to clear mandibular fossa (the dip in your head where the jaw bone sits). When the mouth is open wide by using the pads to thicken the beak though, this keeps the jaw clear from that dip in your head at all times, so moving the lower jaw forward is much easier. Now, when I play I'm jutting my jaw forward, but it's so easy to do that I'm not even thinking about it. Here is a picture that might make this dip thing clearer.

Incidentally, when overbiters have the jaw back in the head where it naturally wants to sit, this creates an undesired torque effect where the top teeth are pushing down while the bottom teeth are pushing up, but not perpendicular to each other. In this way, it's almost like having an off kilter seesaw where the fulcrum (bottom teeth) are positioned far to the left of the seesaw, while the torque is happening with pressure from the top teeth on the long side, which is why the slightest pressure up or down gets magnified. The more open mouth makes compensating for this imbalance much easier, getting rid of the unwanted torque by sliding the fulcrum directly under the weight. This seesaw would look like one kid sitting right in the middle in perfect balance. That's something non-overbiters take for granted, I think.
 

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Discussion Starter · #6 ·
Just make sure the park is empty. A lone man on a seesaw might look a little weird.:mrgreen:
 

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Scragglejaw, did you have a dentist measure how far off your bite is now, from a bite that would in theory relax the jaw joints?

Another solution you could try is to take the strap on a sports mouth guard, and cut off an inch, and mold it to balance on your front teeth in place of the rubber patches. This has for me the benefit of balancing the jaw joints in a wider range of motion and opens up the tone. This allows me to bring my lower teeth farther forward from the edge of my top teeth, and for me that is the sweet spot that allows the jaw joints to balance properly.
 

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Discussion Starter · #8 ·
Saxland, thanks for the tip. How do you mean cut of an inch though? Do you wear this while you play?
 

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This is the brand I use.

https://www.sportchek.ca/categories...d-senior-mouth-guard-with-case-184290009.html

What I do is cut an inch of strap off, put it in just boiled water for whatever time is recommended on package, Remove from water. Lay on a small wooden spoon, on the convex side. Gently push against top two teeth until an imprint is made. Put in cold water. Then cut to comfortable size.

You will need to experiment a bit. In the end it is like extending your top two front teeth forward, so the jaw can jut forward and have equal pressure through the mouthpiece between top and bottom teeth, allowing the jaw joints to balance properly.
 

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I have an overbite too. Not much, but still. Yes a high beak helps. But one thing helps more to me. A different neck angel. I can feel noticeable difference when switching between my Selmer series II tenor neck and a series III neck. The series II neck feels more natural since the mouthpiece is pointing more downwards into the mouth. My embouchure feels much more relaxed. So if you are playing tenor, you could try out different necks and see if it helps... Just a thought ;-)
 

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JJ is correct in my experience. The best ergonomic tenor for me, is a Selmer Serie II with a Saxholder , but on a metal mouthpiece with a lower beak. I jump from a 5*-6* with Jazz Select 4M reeds, on Link hard rubber or STM on a Buffet Dynaction to an a 8* STM with Jazz Select 3S reeds on the Serie II. I have a 9* link STM but the facing curve is too long. My jaw and face muscles do not like that much mouthpiece. I think that is because, my teeth are all too far into my face, that crowds the tongue and puts more pressure on the jaw. Same result as having a good bite, but with a tongue too long.

A Barone tenor neck works well on Selmers.. Jupiter student horns I tried a about 8 years ago had high neck arches as well.
 

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I also found the neck angle to be important. I didn't want to change my neck so I make sure to have good head posture (keep head from jutting forward and tilting up). Pushing the sax away with the right thumb also brings the neck down. I had a neck strap ring placed above the original which changes the balance and makes it easier to push the sax away. I use the saxholder, too.
 

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Discussion Starter · #15 ·
One more suggestion. I just picked up a 10* Wow! The super open tip helps with the overbite. I might see if I can get it opened up further. So much easier to play.
 

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A mouthpiece patch may help keep movement down a bit. When I started in 1959, I had braces on my teeth and ended up covering the top teeth with my upper lip, double embouchure. I still play that way and it gives great control mostly down low. No endorsing it but it has worked for me for the pas 50+ years. Also made oboe and bassoon a breeze.
 

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Discussion Starter · #17 ·
Update: Just received a 12* new vintage Link. Playing a filed 1.5 reed. Even easier. I can't stress this enough: If you are an overbiter with issues, a wide tip opening might indeed be your friend.
 

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I too have quite severe overbite which I believe is causing some of the problems I have, namely tense jaw, biting and poor sound on the tenor.

I'm not exactly sure why overbite causes tense jaw. For the reference, here's a sketch of normal player's mouth / embouchure.
Head Eyebrow Jaw Gesture Art


If a person with overbite tries to do the same, we simply can not (without causing severe stress to to jaw, which is not really sustainable for playing). One would think that simply taking more mouthpiece in would suffice as that would move the lower lip in about the same position, but I believe it's not the case.
Head Eyebrow Mouth Jaw Neck

The problem is, we can't really test it and we can't know what another person feels. But for me, taking so much mouthpiece in produces unpleasant sound. If I try to play like this, I need to bite with my lower jaw quite a lot to get proper intonation, which leads to fatigue and poor tone. I didn't really realise this was not "normal" until a very puzzling conversation with my teacher who told me his jaw is quite relaxed. if I relax in this position, the tone is flat, sound is poor. My teeth also come very close to the reed. And as I bite it's getting harder to blow and my embouchure starts leaking. I simply can't play like this, so something needs to change.

Padding

As I read this thread I'm now experimenting with additional pads on the mouthpiece. Interestingly, beforehand I've discovered that double lip embouchure kinda works for me. Again, I don't know why. Perhaps it makes mouth open more which opens up the oral cavity? First impression is that additional pads do work similarly as double lip, but there's a problem with leaks as stacked pads create a shape which is not easy to seal. But the pads alone are not a solution, there's still (some) biting.

Momentum
I read that some of you prefer a straight neck and / or pushing the saxophone away from your body by your right hand. I believe the reason this works is because our upper teeth in essence works as a pivot point, and by raising the sax, we create a force pushing down on our lower lip which leads to reduced jaw tension. In essence, biting is replaced by momentum.
Slope Gesture Font Map Rectangle

I've experimented with this today and to some degree it works - at least I could relax my jaw, I believe for the first time ever (I also had additional pads on my mouthpiece, I don't know how this works without them). The problem is of course, pushing sax with the right hand will kill your thumb. So I played on a chair, and used the chair to hold the sax a bit away from my body.

The main problem I have with this is that the mouthpiece (as seen on the picture) comes very low in my mouth and it gets hard to blow. It's also hard to play the low notes this way.

Increase the mouthpiece angle

Head Eyebrow Mouth Jaw Neck


Now this picture looks very different, and the embouchure seems closer to that of a normal player, doesn't it? To achieve that, I need to put the sax on a side and bring it quite close to me. I need to experiment more in this position, but first impressions are that the jaw gets relaxed. There is a bit more work with the intonation, as there is no momentum working for me as in the previous case. What I don't like about this is that playing like that is uncomfortable for the body, but perhaps that can be solved with some kind of sax support. An alternative would be to push the chin higher up, or a combination of both. Before finding a teacher, I played with my chin up - that was the only way I could make it sound! And now I think I understand why.

Interestingly, there was a clarinet/sax player, Jimmy Giuffre, who played like that. He went further and had made a custom neck which made the mouthpiece angle closer to that of a clarinet! Where could I get something like that!?
Musical instrument Musician Saxophonist Brass instrument Reed instrument

But I believe he didn't have overbite - he was clarinet player first and was simply used to it.

But there were other players who do seem to have had overbite and played somewhat like that:
Musical instrument Jaw Organism Music Musician

Coat Musical instrument Music Font Suit


So, definitely worth exploring!

Playing on the side

I mean not putting the mouthpiece in the centre of the mouth, but more to aside. The reason is, I don't have overbite on the side. David Sanborn plays like that:


Conclusion
I think overbite requires personal approach. The usual school of what is "right" (e.g., right posture, right embouchure) will fail. So like David, who plays like that due to polio, we need to find what works for us. And perhaps we can't get the tone of our idols, but only our personal one.
 

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I'm reviving an old thread because I discovered this weekend that holding my tenor with the mouthpiece at more of a clarinet angle (well above 30 degrees) allows me to hit the lowest notes much more reliably. I have a bit of an overbite and wondered if the improvement with a more extreme angle on the mouthpiece might be associated with that overbite. A search for the word on SOTW led me this thread.

I've only been playing tenor for a few weeks after playing alto at a rudimentary level for the last 4 years, so have to develop a better embouchure and breath support, but the change in angle seemed to make a big and immediate difference. The top of the mouthpiece is pressed hard against my top teeth and my lower jaw is fairly relaxed, with lip muscles doing the work. My initial impression is that it's a more comfortable position, overall, with much less force on my thumbs to hold the sax more vertically. But I might need to lower the force against my top teeth ... the gap between my front teeth feels wider than usual this morning.
 

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you may consider having the angle of the neck altered, Jimmy Giuffre played tenor ( all the ones he had) with the neck bent up, he had different reasons for it , nonetheless...



 
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