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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
I've been playing about 11 years and have just started on a Masters course at a top UK music college but some how I have completly wrecked my emboshure (can't spell) and Im having awfull tuning problems. I don't know what I've done or how I've done it. I think I had got into a bad habit of biting to get the high notes which Ive tried to stop now. But Its bloodey awfull! I never used to have problems. One thing that might have lead to it was that I've been swapping and changing mouthpieces the past few years and never settling in search of the perfect sound. But I now can't play in tune to save my life! I play vandoren v16 7 on alto and link HR 8* on tenor (but have been using a 7* florida no USAlink(with steep rollover)/master link opened to 7*/6 florida no USA link(with steep rollover). strength 3 vandorens on each.

My teacher hasn't REALLY SAID ANYTHING ACCEPT PLAY LONG TONES?

What Should I do???????????????
 

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Play long tones with a tuner.

Make sure with the mouthpiece only, you're getting around an A concert on alto, a G concert on tenor. It may not be where you end up, but it's a good place to start.:)
 

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Not to be smug, but, I think your teacher said it all.

Occasionally, I get that feeling and long tones bring my embouchure right back.
 

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I don't mean this to sound unsympathetic, but if you are working on a masters' degree and a top music school, wouldn't your professor be the one - perhaps under these circumstances, the only one - to be making suggestions?

Now, if what you're really looking for is sympathy well....

When I was a junior at university, I had so much trouble with my trumpet
e-m-b-o-u-c-h-u-r-e (;)) that I had to refrain from playing for three months and then build back up again. That sucked! OTOH, that led me to composing which I was much better at and which became my profession for many years. But I empathise.

Having said that, I still wonder why you're asking us something that your private instructor would have intimate knowledge of and to us it's just hypothetical. Good luck and I mean it! Been there.
 

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Relax!

Seriously. Sounds like part of the problem may be that you're psyching yourself out.

Relax and play long tones with a tuner.

Otherwise, what Gary said.
 

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Forum Contributor 2011, SOTW's pedantic pet rodent
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Liam: I sympathise. In the last few months i've been chopping and changing m/ps and reed setups a lot (thanks SOTW ;) ) and i feel like my tuning's unstable too. The advice given already is obviously good and you should have good access to advice at college.

On a personal note, thanks for posting on this because it does at least give me (and no doubt others) the feeling that i'm not a complete weirdo for having some tuning problems when i've been playing for a while and thought i had all that sorted out..
 

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The overtone series as suggested above is the quickest way to build your
embouchure back up.

For example...

Finger low C and blow low C. :line0:
Then without changing any fingering (no octave key).
1) Try to play the next C up. :space3:
Work on your embouchure until you can
play this note, with this fingering, in tune and stable.
2) Then do the same thing with G above that. :space5:
3) Ditto for the next C up
4) Then up to E
5) Then up to next G

You can keep going up into the harmonics.

Then repeat this but play an overtone series based on Bb, B, C#

There is a lot of info on overtones out there if you find this useful.

PS. This is not a five minute job.
 

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I do remember having similar problems playing shows that were demanding to the extent that my chops would shut down,long shows without a break,booking agents were good for getting all they could from a tour,when they have you out of the states lig out.i am certain that intense practicing will do the same.the cure i am sure is in the above comments,your teacher is key.the muscles have limits. the good thing is they recupe quick....good luck
 

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Tone quality and tuning issues can spontaneously appear for all sorts of mysterious reasons. Does it feel any different when you play? Are you tiring more easily? Are you hurting physically while playing? Unless you've had some obvious damage to your physical apparatus, then you have the same embouchure you always have. :D

Try the following:

1) Try your mpc and reed setup on some of your buddies' horns just to rule out the possibility of your horn being out of regulation.

2) I'd be willing to bet that it's a reed problem. Just about any time something doesn't seem quite right w/ my playing, I find the cure by playing a different reed. These reed problems can literally last for months sometimes, especially if you've only gone through only a few unlucky boxes. It can really mess w/ your head. Hunt for the most easy playing and friendly reed out of a few boxes.

3) Play some slow scales and focus on relaxation. Play against a loud and clear droned pitch. For example, my tuner sounds an A-440. I start w/ the A-440, then play a minor 2nd above, then back down to the "A". I Keep expanding the interval till I've reached the full range of the horn in both directions. IMO, this type of exercise is way better than using just a tuner.. Try to hone in on the "sweet spot" for each and every note by just listening. Every interval has a characteristic sonic signature. The exercise is so great because it builds tone quality and intonation/ear training all at once. Tuners alone don't capture or teach flexible intonation. A correctly tuned concert A will be much higher in a D major triad than in an F major triad. I'm sure you already know this being a grad student and all, but maybe some folks reading this don't.

3) Go back to your teacher and share your frustration. Ask him/her if they noticed any sudden change in your playing. They'll be able to better diagnose what's going on.

Post a followup once you've gotten through your slump, and you will :)

-Dan
 

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Discussion Starter · #12 ·
Thanks for all the advice. Im only in my 3rd week of my course and it's a jazz performance thing so my sax lessons are mostly taken up with harmonic, improvisationary type stuff. So after he'd spent an hour on modes and chord tone type stuff I only quickly asked him about intonation and he said 'long tones'. I feel abit stupid being where I am and having these problems. I should be concentration on building up mega jazz chops but I can't even play in tune???
 

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LiAm84 said:
I feel abit stupid being where I am and having these problems. I should be concentration on building up mega jazz chops but I can't even play in tune???
Maybe your hearing is getting fine tuned and also you are demanding (and are having demanded) more from yourself. That's not a bad thing. :)

And so you're more critical - and frustrated. Just take it as it comes.
 

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LiAm84 said:
... I think I had got into a bad habit of biting to get the high notes which Ive tried to stop now. But Its bloodey awfull! I never used to have problems. ...
No one else has responded to this particular point. It sounds to me like you did not have a properly developed embouchure in the first place if you were biting to get the high notes. If you were doing it there, you were probably doing elsewhere but it just wasn't as strong or as painful.

You may have to go back at square one in terms of learning to support the embouchure with muscles rather than teeth. The problem is, this is a really painful thing to try to do when you are in a setting where you are expected to be playing well on a regular basis. While you are making this change, you likely won't be playing well for quite a while.

I hope I'm wrong, but if I'm not, don't feel bad, you are in good company. You've heard Gary's story above. I've heard that Doc Severinson had to got through the same process at some point in his trumpet career - drop out and basically start over learning to play with the proper technique. And from the looks of Louis Armstrong's chops, Louis should have done the same thing.

 

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It's Embouchure my friend. I've corrected the spelling in your thread title. Sorry, but it's a bit of a pet peeve.

Best of luck.
 

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LiAm84 said:
Thanks for all the advice. Im only in my 3rd week of my course and it's a jazz performance thing so my sax lessons are mostly taken up with harmonic, improvisationary type stuff. So after he'd spent an hour on modes and chord tone type stuff I only quickly asked him about intonation and he said 'long tones'. I feel abit stupid being where I am and having these problems. I should be concentration on building up mega jazz chops but I can't even play in tune???
Here it sounds like the one with an issue about your tuning is more you rather than your teacher. Is that right? I mean, tuning is basic but it's also not "easy", IMHO. If it's that you're actually listening more carefully to yourself and you're checking more then this could be a really good thing for your playing longer term to get this sorted now and keep it sorted. As far as the biting is concerned, is that "self diagnosis" too or is that coming from the college teacher?
 

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LIAm84, has your teacher brought the tuning issue to your attention? Keeping in mind that tuning and intonation issues are not always one in the same, tinkering with your acoustical set up as often as you have indicated could very well be the problem.
 

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LiAm84 said:
Thanks for all the advice. Im only in my 3rd week of my course and it's a jazz performance thing so my sax lessons are mostly taken up with harmonic, improvisationary type stuff. So after he'd spent an hour on modes and chord tone type stuff I only quickly asked him about intonation and he said 'long tones'. I feel abit stupid being where I am and having these problems. I should be concentration on building up mega jazz chops but I can't even play in tune???
A final thought:

Even though your teacher may have specific ideas about how he wants to spend your lesson time, don't be afraid to insist on addressing issues that YOU feel are important. The teacher is your employee.

-Dan
 

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dstack79 said:
The teacher is your employee.
Not at that level. At the level of one of the major European (and I assume American) conservatories your professor is hardly the hired help.
 
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