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Hey Saxontheweb,
I'm a relative beginner, but not totally. I played alto for 3 years, tenor for 1, and then bari for 1, and then didn't play for a year. I am now trying to pick up the alto again, but I haven't played it for 3 years. I just went and bought a new set of reeds and got my alto out again. I feel I'm remembering fairly well, except I am having problems with puffy cheeks. As I play, my cheeks will puff out slightly, and it will start to hurt to try to keep them tucked in. If I force on, they puff out more and more until I am very airy in my playing and I can hardly sustain a note. What tips do you have? I have extensive music theory and saxophone knowledge, as I have been playing piano for ~8 years and I have worked closely with a band conductor in that time. Help?
-Spartacus
 

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Can someone please help?
You have to develop the muscles in your face.

You don't mention what kind of setup you are playing, but it sounds like you need to treat embouchure development as if you're starting from scratch - i.e., soft reeds and a relatively closed-tip MP.

When I used to play rock and roll tenor playing a big MP at maximum volume for hours at a time, my cheek/surrounding muscles would give out before anything else and I would start losing the air seal. You're probably having the same thing happen except just a lot sooner since you don't have the chops development yet.
 

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turf nailed it - it sounds like you're leaking air from the corners of your embouchure. It takes time to build your chops back up.

Play until you start to get tired, then take a break for five minutes, then play some more, and so on until your chops are blown for the day. After a few weeks of doing this, you'll be able to play for a lot longer than you can now.
 

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You need to feel "knots" of muscles in the corners of your mouth when you form your embouchure. "EE" muscles pull out while "OO" muscles push in making a tug-o-war. The "OO" muscles win forming a round embouchure, but the "EE" muscles don't give up. A way to develop these muscles quickly is to hold two pencils in the corners of your mouth for as long as you can or until the "walrus jokes" become unbearable. :) The "Allard" folks will have a fit if they read this post because that "non traditional" approach is totally different than the "Teal Wheel". My suggestion is to work with the traditional embouchure until you become an accomplished player and then try whatever approach you wish.
 

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I'm not convinced that what you're describing is really any different than the "Teal Wheel" (by the way, I love that phrase and I am planning to steal it if you'll let me).

I think an important thing to keep in mind is that a lot of the terminology used to describe what happens physiologically in playing the saxophone need to be taken as analogies rather than exact anatomical descriptions. For myself, descriptions of syllables have not been particularly useful to me in developing voicing and embouchure, though they may be very useful for other people. On the other hand, the concept of the "Teal Wheel" (see, I have already stolen it!) is something I can use to relate to the way I feel my embouchure muscles working.

What it comes down to, is that if the particular analogy works for you, to get you doing what needs to be done, then it's the right analogy, whether or not it is strictly 100% correct as to anatomical detail.
 

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soft reeds and a relatively closed-tip MP.
I agree with turf3, use quite soft reeds (e.g. Rico 1.5). After practicing a while you can increase the reed strength. When your muscles are trained again.
Actually I have no clue, which muscles are involved. But I know, that practicing helps ;)
 

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I think EarSpasm on you tube....a bass clarinet guy...has this nice model where he says, "cutie/...cuuutieee" (as in Q...T)

The "uuu" is retained as the "eee" is formed by the corners of the mouth. Do I do any of this stuff?....no, though it would make me a better player I'm sure. Why not? who the HELL knows?!

I mean if T Woods can change his technique in mid career and not screw things up, why can't we?
 

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You can also read the David Liebman book "Developing A Personal Saxophone Sound". In this he explains a lot about embrouchure, muscles and excercises.
Another tip is to take some lessons to avoid getting into some bad habbits.
 

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You have to develop the muscles in your face.

You don't mention what kind of setup you are playing, but it sounds like you need to treat embouchure development as if you're starting from scratch - i.e., soft reeds and a relatively closed-tip MP.

When I used to play rock and roll tenor playing a big MP at maximum volume for hours at a time, my cheek/surrounding muscles would give out before anything else and I would start losing the air seal. You're probably having the same thing happen except just a lot sooner since you don't have the chops development yet.
Holly crap, you just gave me an "aaaahhhh haaaa" moment. I've recently been working on altissimo hard, starting on high E, F, F# clean and sharp. I would do it in some form or exercise for an hour or so because I just started getting it consistently. But the next day, I couldn't do it as well and it was driving me nuts so i took a day off. Voila! It was back. I think my muscles were tired from the work the day before! This makes so much sense. Thanks!!
 
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