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Discussion Starter #1
Hi^^ I have a problem,

Sometimes I get a headache when I'm practicing my long tones. When I just played a tone, I feel my heartbeat pounding in my temples for 3/4 seconds and I hurts quite a bit. It's the worst with my high notes(d-f#) Sometimes I get a headache from it that will last most of the day.

It feels a bit like the feeling you get in your head if you stand up to quickly. I feels like a rush of blood or something.

Am I doing something wrong? Can it be that I don't breath enough in between. I mostly play a note for 3/4 bars at 80 bpm with 1-2 bars of rest in between.

Thanks for your help!

btw I have a ref 54 horn with a 7* tone edge link Rico jazz select 3s reeds
 

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Forum Contributor 2011, SOTW's pedantic pet rodent
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Is it possible your reeds are too hard so you're struggling to control reed and air stream? If you go down to a softer reed are things better or the same, or worse?

BTW, I'm not a doctor and you should understand the above as a layman's guess and nothing more. :)
 

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Discussion Starter #3
Is it possible your reeds are too hard so you're struggling to control reed and air stream? If you go down to a softer reed are things better or the same, or worse?

BTW, I'm not a doctor and you should understand the above as a layman's guess and nothing more. :)
Well that could be it because I haven't really broken in my reed yet and I just got a new reed and it was worse when i was playing francois louis 3 which are harder. Thank you!
 

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Grafton alto | Martin Comm III tenor
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Can it be that I don't breath enough in between.
Have you considered that it might be the opposite? ie hyperventilation. Try breathing in less and playing shorter long notes, then gradually build up to taking in more breath and longer long notes.

These breathing exercises will be very useful. I don't recommend practising a lot of long notes without paying attention to the way you breathe.
 

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Hi dear piwikiwi, how old are you, fact is you might have hypertension and this may cause longstanding headaches after longtones. Please check your bloodpressure. Seriously; because I'm also a physician. If it isn't then the condition will be related to the other advices.
 

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Discussion Starter #7
I'm 23 and My blood pressure is checked quite regularly because of my adhd medication. Which is fine all the time. It doesn't feel like hyperventilating because i had that because of a wrong singing technique. It feels like i'm lightheaded and then a sort of rush of blood.
 

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Just a guy who plays saxophone.
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Rooty, Rennie and Pete all bring up good points here, and both situations would cause similar symptoms.

What Rooty says about checking your set-up is right on...A lot of players like SOME resistance, something to "push" against, but too much can be a very bad thing for your brain. Crazy? NO! If it is too much of a forceful effort to exhale, there is a back-pressure created in the oral cavity and down to the lungs. The enlarged airway along with increased muscle tension in the neck (doesn't mix well with sax playing anyway) puts pressure on the carotid artery whose job it is to supply blood to the brain. Basically you are temporarily restricting blood flow to the brain. The brain lives on two things alone: oxygen and glucose...both carried in by blood!

Brass players suffer from this problem a lot, especially when stretching the range on the high end of the horn (think screeching trumpets!). A few years ago I took a couple improv lessons with Chuck Winfield (former trumpet player for Blood, Sweat and Tears), he said he just doesn't play up there anymore...long story short, it hurts.

You can replicate these exact symptoms by inhaling deeply, then covering your mouth with you hand while trying to force air through the creases in your fingers...only about 10% gets out...Remove your hand and let the remaining air out, and you will feel that dizziness and a pulsing of blood rushing to the starved areas.

Rennie and Pete bring up a good point too, but simply emptying your lungs completely will not cause the pulsing feeling in your head. Well, maybe if you were to wait a few minutes to inhale:mrgreen: Excellent breathing exercises though...

Basically, people who play wind instruments or sing are asking our bodies to act abnormally when it comes to breathing. There is a normal tidal flow associated with breathing (so much in and out, with a small reserve), and under normal circumstances our lungs are rarely ever full. Also, when asked to fill the lungs, then exhale completely: the "norm" is that about 80% of capacity is out in 1 second! When playing, we are asking our lungs to fill repeatedly and sustain a consistent flow while exhaling for an extended period of time. This actually starves the brain and muscles of fresh, oxygen rich blood, as the rate of exchange of gases decreases from 16-18 times per minute to 1-2! That is why breathing exercises are important.

Ever noticed that while playing a long passage that you don't have memorized (ie: brain has to work), that the last bit of it is more difficult and at times you might even stumble over simple rhythms/ notes? That is lack of O2 to the brain!

I am not a doctor. I do work in rehab (physical, not addiction), and I am educated in dealing with people in compromised health conditions. The information here is level one physiology stuff, and is also easily available on the web...
 

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Discussion Starter #9
Rooty, Rennie and Pete all bring up good points here, and both situations would cause similar symptoms.

What Rooty says about checking your set-up is right on...A lot of players like SOME resistance, something to "push" against, but too much can be a very bad thing for your brain. Crazy? NO! If it is too much of a forceful effort to exhale, there is a back-pressure created in the oral cavity and down to the lungs. The enlarged airway along with increased muscle tension in the neck (doesn't mix well with sax playing anyway) puts pressure on the carotid artery whose job it is to supply blood to the brain. Basically you are temporarily restricting blood flow to the brain. The brain lives on two things alone: oxygen and glucose...both carried in by blood!

Brass players suffer from this problem a lot, especially when stretching the range on the high end of the horn (think screeching trumpets!). A few years ago I took a couple improv lessons with Chuck Winfield (former trumpet player for Blood, Sweat and Tears), he said he just doesn't play up there anymore...long story short, it hurts.

You can replicate these exact symptoms by inhaling deeply, then covering your mouth with you hand while trying to force air through the creases in your fingers...only about 10% gets out...Remove your hand and let the remaining air out, and you will feel that dizziness and a pulsing of blood rushing to the starved areas.

Rennie and Pete bring up a good point too, but simply emptying your lungs completely will not cause the pulsing feeling in your head. Well, maybe if you were to wait a few minutes to inhale:mrgreen: Excellent breathing exercises though...

Basically, people who play wind instruments or sing are asking our bodies to act abnormally when it comes to breathing. There is a normal tidal flow associated with breathing (so much in and out, with a small reserve), and under normal circumstances our lungs are rarely ever full. Also, when asked to fill the lungs, then exhale completely: the "norm" is that about 80% of capacity is out in 1 second! When playing, we are asking our lungs to fill repeatedly and sustain a consistent flow while exhaling for an extended period of time. This actually starves the brain and muscles of fresh, oxygen rich blood, as the rate of exchange of gases decreases from 16-18 times per minute to 1-2! That is why breathing exercises are important.

Ever noticed that while playing a long passage that you don't have memorized (ie: brain has to work), that the last bit of it is more difficult and at times you might even stumble over simple rhythms/ notes? That is lack of O2 to the brain!

I am not a doctor. I do work in rehab (physical, not addiction), and I am educated in dealing with people in compromised health conditions. The information here is level one physiology stuff, and is also easily available on the web...
That's exactly the feeling that i'm talking about. I've been thinking for a while about switching to a smaller tip opening and/or softer reed. I have quite a resistant set up so it explains it. Thank you!
 

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Just a guy who plays saxophone.
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That's exactly the feeling that i'm talking about. I've been thinking for a while about switching to a smaller tip opening and/or softer reed. I have quite a resistant set up so it explains it. Thank you!
You are welcome. I am fortunate to have a cool job in an interesting and rewarding field that also allows me time to do what I love!

Though more than appropriate here, this topic could also have been listed in the saxophone related health problems section. I don't think there can be cross-posts though...
 

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Well that could be it because I haven't really broken in my reed yet and I just got a new reed and it was worse when i was playing francois louis 3 which are harder. Thank you!
Don't practice long tones with unadjusted reeds. In fact, don't practice anything with unadjusted or unplayable reeds, it makes for bad habits.

For example, let's say you continue with what you have been doing - you play long tones on a new, too hard reed, it makes you feel bad, so you don't practice long tones very much. Bad habit! :) QED

(I don't break in reeds, I just adjust them properly right away and play them, but that's another story...)
 

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Hello piwikiwi, my suggestion is to break everything down so you can find exactly what the issue is. A number of things could be the reason for your headaches:

  1. Reeds
  2. Playing Properly
  3. Mouthpiece
  4. Breathing

As people mentioned, if new reeds are too hard they can lead to frustration which can sometimes manifest into headaches (I've experienced this once). Although have you done long tones with new reeds before with no issues?

To transition from reeds, could it be you changed something about your playing that is causing you more harm than good? Look in a mirror while playing and see if you notice anything strange or out of the ordinary. Mirrors are quite effective in the practice room for this very reason and can help with posture, technique, embouchure, etc...

Are you playing "correctly" in a sense that you are not bitting down or being too tense to get the notes in tune? Try playing with a drone (I recommend the Cello Drones CD [available on iTunes]) and see if you still get the headaches when you play with that.

As you mentioned, you have a resistant setup. Have you tried a change in mouthpieces yet? I know I used to play on a Jody Jazz HR* 8 but had little control over it and I had a hard time playing it. But now I am on an Aaron Drake "Son of Slant" 7 and it feels completely different. I now have complete control and flexibility simply because I switched to something easier for me to play. You should never sacrifice control for a larger tone because "so and so" plays on a large tip opening.

In regards to breathing, check out The Breathing Blog. This was developed by one of my professors, he was diagnosed with Dystonia, a neurological movement disorder characterized by involuntary muscle contractions thought to be caused by overuse and misuse in practicing. He had to relearn how he played the trombone and developed one of the nation's best Body Mapping pedagogies. You would be surprised at how thinking about breathing properly can improve your playing.
 

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Discussion Starter #13
Hello piwikiwi, my suggestion is to break everything down so you can find exactly what the issue is. A number of things could be the reason for your headaches:

  1. Reeds
  2. Playing Properly
  3. Mouthpiece
  4. Breathing

As people mentioned, if new reeds are too hard they can lead to frustration which can sometimes manifest into headaches (I've experienced this once). Although have you done long tones with new reeds before with no issues?

To transition from reeds, could it be you changed something about your playing that is causing you more harm than good? Look in a mirror while playing and see if you notice anything strange or out of the ordinary. Mirrors are quite effective in the practice room for this very reason and can help with posture, technique, embouchure, etc...

Are you playing "correctly" in a sense that you are not bitting down or being too tense to get the notes in tune? Try playing with a drone (I recommend the Cello Drones CD [available on iTunes]) and see if you still get the headaches when you play with that.

As you mentioned, you have a resistant setup. Have you tried a change in mouthpieces yet? I know I used to play on a Jody Jazz HR* 8 but had little control over it and I had a hard time playing it. But now I am on an Aaron Drake "Son of Slant" 7 and it feels completely different. I now have complete control and flexibility simply because I switched to something easier for me to play. You should never sacrifice control for a larger tone because "so and so" plays on a large tip opening.

In regards to breathing, check out The Breathing Blog. This was developed by one of my professors, he was diagnosed with Dystonia, a neurological movement disorder characterized by involuntary muscle contractions thought to be caused by overuse and misuse in practicing. He had to relearn how he played the trombone and developed one of the nation's best Body Mapping pedagogies. You would be surprised at how thinking about breathing properly can improve your playing.
I'm not real tense most of the time it's just that i need to work really hard to get a good tone. My breathing is pretty much okay i think especially since i took singing lessons. I tried everything and i really think it's my set up. Thanks for your advice and for the link i will check it out.
 

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Discussion Starter #14
If found the cause of it btw. I was searching on the internet and i was looking for the same problem with oboe players (oboe has way more back pressure) and it's because of my resistant set up in combination with having a very bad cold.
 
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