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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
I’m a somewhat new player but I’ve been keeping my teeth pretty far away from the mouthpiece. In fact I often play without even resting my upper teeth on the mouthpiece or if so, very gingerly. But I get a kind of lower lip pain that cuts my practice time, it’s like the reed is maybe scuffing/abrading my lip or cutting into it at the sides of the reed? I’ve searched posts and every mention of lip pain is advised to work on not biting which I’m certain is not my problem. Anyone else have this situation? Should I smooth the reed somehow so it’s less scratchy? I want to play more than I can!
 

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well, you have to build muscles and even after that you may till have a problem if you play a lot.
Even if you are not biting , your lips may not be as apt to take the work as you may wish them to be.

Some folks (and I am amazed you didn’t find any reference to this on the forum, use some teeth protection , some home made ( paper or other materials) some factory made, to protect the teeth from cutting in the underlip.


Smoothing the reed wouldn’t be necessarily a solution, because it is the inside- under-lip giving you problems (isn’t it?) so the “ damage” is done by your teeth not by the reed being rough and it that would be a problem then try synthetics like legere









Mouth Guards.


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it’s like the reed is maybe scuffing/abrading my lip or cutting into it at the sides of the reed?
This is the sax player's equivalent of sore fingers when you first start to play the guitar.

As long as you don't play so much that you start to remove skin and then not let it heal, you'll find your lip will start to get used to the reed. You don't get calluses but the skin will become more resistant to abrasion. However, your lip will quickly start to lose this protection if you don't play for a few weeks or so.

In the meantime you can polish the reed surface with paper. Normally, assuming you do the polishing thing, you only polish the flat under-surface but you can also polish the curved upper-surface to give your lip a little respite.
 

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So to start with... keeping your upper teeth off the mouthpiece would be hard and likely cause more fatigue. While there is such a thing as a double embouchure (like playing and oboe or bassoon), I most definitely wouldn’t recommend it until you understand the more basic embouchure. Even then... probably not... as for the reed, it will vibrate and if you are pressing really hard on the bottom (and the reed) is old maybe it would cause discomfort to the sides but this is normally not noticeable.

When people talk about biting, they are really talking about pinching the tip opening closed. This is more from the bottom lip than the top. It is generally caused by nothaving the embouchure muscles (currently) built up to handle and control the size of tip opening/reed strength resistance. There are some things that help with the resistance but it still requires an adjustment period to play larger tips and stronger reeds. Both larger and stronger are in reference to you, though, not an arbitrary number. I would strongly suggest you look up Harvey Pittel’s videos about Joe Allard on YouTube concerning making an embouchure. Also, look into a recent thread on Joe Allard that has been resurrected. It has some good links that have excellent descriptions of how to form your embouchure. The goal isn’t so much to “not bite” as to be both firm (with strength) and relaxed at the same time. On my phone at the moment. I’ll find the other post and link it later as to the Joe Allard bit.
 

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OP, the text of your post implies that it's the OUTSIDE of your lower lip that's getting hurt. Is this correct?

If it's the outside, then there can be multiple causes - reeds slightly overhang the mouthpiece table, edges of reeds need to be ever so slightly rounded, splinters on the reeds that could be sanded down, or warpage of the reed back, making it convex and thus gap away from the mouthpiece table.

If it's the inside, then the usual culprits are biting (often in combination with too stiff a reed/too open a mouthpiece), or uneven/sharp lower teeth. As an example, since I turned 40 I've noticed a number of small chips in my UPPER teeth, which rapidly scar any mouthpiece I play. As a result I've started using the thin mouthpiece patches to protect mouthpieces from my sharp abrasive upper teeth. Now I don't have that problem with my lower teeth, but you might - and that would chew the heck out of your INSIDE lower lip.
 

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Pinching at the sides can happen....try taking in a bit less of the MPC. If that doesn't work, try taking in a bit more. If that fails to fix it, try a reed from a different maker or another MPC. Good luck!
 

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The top of the mouthpiece is an important anchor point that requires the top teeth to work. So put your teeth on the bite plate where they belong. Get a patch if necessary. Also get a teacher. Since you embouchure is wrong, many other things could be as well.

As for irritation, tiny splinters or pinching from the edges is entirely possible. Follow Fader’s advice for the pinching. Smooth the reed to avoid the splinters. But be prepared to build up the lip’s toughness over time as others have said. If the situation doesn’t improve in a few weeks, consider a synthetic reed.
 

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Discussion Starter · #8 · (Edited)
So to start with... keeping your upper teeth off the mouthpiece would be hard and likely cause more fatigue. While there is such a thing as a double embouchure (like playing and oboe or bassoon), I most definitely wouldn’t recommend it until you understand the more basic embouchure. Even then... probably not... as for the reed, it will vibrate and if you are pressing really hard on the bottom (and the reed) is old maybe it would cause discomfort to the sides but this is normally not noticeable.

When people talk about biting, they are really talking about pinching the tip opening closed. This is more from the bottom lip than the top. It is generally caused by nothaving the embouchure muscles (currently) built up to handle and control the size of tip opening/reed strength resistance. There are some things that help with the resistance but it still requires an adjustment period to play larger tips and stronger reeds. Both larger and stronger are in reference to you, though, not an arbitrary number. I would strongly suggest you look up Harvey Pittel’s videos about Joe Allard on YouTube concerning making an embouchure. Also, look into a recent thread on Joe Allard that has been resurrected. It has some good links that have excellent descriptions of how to form your embouchure. The goal isn’t so much to “not bite” as to be both firm (with strength) and relaxed at the same time. On my phone at the moment. I’ll find the other post and link it later as to the Joe Allard bit.
Yes I’ve already watched the joe allard video where he shows not putting his upper teeth on the mouthpiece (as a test) and being incredibly loose. This is what I’ve been doing. I do also put my teeth there much of the time, didn’t mean to suggest I don’t, but it’s like I can get the same tone either way. I’m pretty sure my embouchure is coming along nicely. I observe myself meticulously in the mirror.

My lip is getting abraded, not bitten into. (I do get a few slight lower teeth marks after a while, but they’re not the main culprit holding me back at this time.) What happens is more like I can feel the buzzing of the reed against my lip starting to get irritating and the edges of the reed are making little sores, maybe I’m getting pinched in there a bit? Mouthpiece/reed set up is pretty conservative 5/6 with 2/2.5, java reds mostly.
 

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Discussion Starter · #9 ·
well, you have to build muscles and even after that you may till have a problem if you play a lot.
Even if you are not biting , your lips may not be as apt to take the work as you may wish them to be.

Some folks (and I am amazed you didn’t find any reference to this on the forum, use some teeth protection , some home made ( paper or other materials) some factory made, to protect the teeth from cutting in the underlip.


Smoothing the reed wouldn’t be necessarily a solution, because it is the inside- under-lip giving you problems (isn’t it?) so the “ damage” is done by your teeth not by the reed being rough and it that would be a problem then try synthetics like legere









Mouth Guards.


View attachment 112083




Indeed I’ve seen a lot about the tooth-covering topic here and I ordered some parrafin wax teeth cushions a week ago, still waiting for them to arrive. I don’t think my lower teeth are the main issue, but there IS some wear there so probably worth a shot covering them and seeing if it helps!
 

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Discussion Starter · #10 ·
This is the sax player's equivalent of sore fingers when you first start to play the guitar.

As long as you don't play so much that you start to remove skin and then not let it heal, you'll find your lip will start to get used to the reed. You don't get calluses but the skin will become more resistant to abrasion. However, your lip will quickly start to lose this protection if you don't play for a few weeks or so.

In the meantime you can polish the reed surface with paper. Normally, assuming you do the polishing thing, you only polish the flat under-surface but you can also polish the curved upper-surface to give your lip a little respite.
Thanks! By polish with paper do you mean regular paper or sandpaper of some sort?
 

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Discussion Starter · #11 ·
OP, the text of your post implies that it's the OUTSIDE of your lower lip that's getting hurt. Is this correct?

If it's the outside, then there can be multiple causes - reeds slightly overhang the mouthpiece table, edges of reeds need to be ever so slightly rounded, splinters on the reeds that could be sanded down, or warpage of the reed back, making it convex and thus gap away from the mouthpiece table.

If it's the inside, then the usual culprits are biting (often in combination with too stiff a reed/too open a mouthpiece), or uneven/sharp lower teeth. As an example, since I turned 40 I've noticed a number of small chips in my UPPER teeth, which rapidly scar any mouthpiece I play. As a result I've started using the thin mouthpiece patches to protect mouthpieces from my sharp abrasive upper teeth. Now I don't have that problem with my lower teeth, but you might - and that would chew the heck out of your INSIDE lower lip.
There are a few different areas, but the thing I started to notice is that it’s not so much near my teeth. I’m not sure where the outside of the lip actually starts, but I think it’s the part of my lip that actually contacts the reed that is getting sore?
 

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If I understand the problem it's on your lip and not the inside of your mouth where the teeth rest that you're getting irritated. Polishing the reed by rubbing it on a blank piece of typing paper should knock down any reed fibers that may be rubbing you. If that doesn't work try gently polishing the reed surface with some 600 grit wet/dry sandpaper. You don't want to remove a lot a wood, just any loose fibers that may be sticking up.

Are you using natural cane reeds or synthetics? I've noticed that the synthetic reeds I own tend to be a bit rougher than cane and I get some of the irritation you describe. I tried using the 600 grit sandpaper on them but it didn't help much. I was afraid to sand it too much as I didn't want to ruin a $20 reed. Good luck, I hope you find a solution. From what you've said I think polishing the reed as I described above will solve your problem.
 

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Discussion Starter · #13 ·
If I understand the problem it's on your lip and not the inside of your mouth where the teeth rest that you're getting irritated. Polishing the reed by rubbing it on a blank piece of typing paper will knock down any reed fibers that may be rubbing you. If that doesn't work try gently polishing the reed surface with some 600 grit wet/dry sandpaper. YOu don't want to remove a lot a wood, just any loose fibers that may be sticking up.

Are you using natural cane reeds or synthetics. I've noticed that the synthetic reeds I own tend to be a bit rougher than cane and I get some of the irritation you describe. I tried using the 600 grit sandpaper on them but it didn't help much. I was afraid to sand it too much as I didn't want to ruin a $20 reed. Good luck, I hope you find a solution.
Thanks I will try this! (The reeds are mostly vandoren red box.)
 

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Thanks! By polish with paper do you mean regular paper or sandpaper of some sort?
AddictedTosax beat me to it. A piece of plain printer paper and a flat surface. Place the flat side of the reed on the paper and gently rub the reed across it. This is supposed to help seal the reed fibres making it easier to play/more responsive. Normally you would only polish the flat side, but in this case turn the reed over and gently polish the curved surface. Don't get carried away as you don't want to damage it. You can really smooth the surface so that it's no where near as abrasive on your lip. Eventually you won't need to to do this but it may help until your lip gets a little more robust.
 

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Discussion Starter · #15 · (Edited)
AddictedTosax beat me to it. A piece of plain printer paper and a flat surface. Place the flat side of the reed on the paper and gently rub the reed across it. This is supposed to help seal the reed fibres making it easier to play/more responsive. Normally you would only polish the flat side, but in this case turn the reed over and gently polish the curved surface. Don't get carried away as you don't want to damage it. You can really smooth the surface so that it's no where near as abrasive on your lip. Eventually you won't need to to do this but it may help until your lip gets a little more robust.
Thanks very much! One more question- would you do this to reeds already in rotation? I have about 6 I’m working with, would hate to have to start over. But ive been playing some of these for several weeks, not sure they would respond the same to smoothing?

EDIT: ok sorry another question! Is this smoothing w paper done wet or dry?
 

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Or just use wet-or-dry paper; I'd probably try 600 and 400 grit. This stuff will remove material so slowly that you can easily control it.
 

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I’m a somewhat new player but I’ve been keeping my teeth pretty far away from the mouthpiece. In fact I often play without even resting my upper teeth on the mouthpiece or if so, very gingerly. But I get a kind of lower lip pain that cuts my practice time, it’s like the reed is maybe scuffing/abrading my lip or cutting into it at the sides of the reed? I’ve searched posts and every mention of lip pain is advised to work on not biting which I’m certain is not my problem. Anyone else have this situation? Should I smooth the reed somehow so it’s less scratchy? I want to play more than I can!
I'm a longtime player, and I still get this problem occasionally, so it's not a "newbie" problem.

Sometimes, as others have suggested, sanding down the edges of the reed can help. However, I've found that this problem seems to have to do mostly with mouthpiece/reed fit. I only get this problem on some mouthpieces and only with certain reeds. Moreover, it's only when I'm using a "lip out" sort of embouchure (which is what I use most of the time).

In any case, whatever the larger issue, I think the immediate cause of the irritation is that a portion of your lip skin is intruding subtly into the gap between the reed and the mouthpiece facing. If this is the case for you, then rolling your lip a bit more over your lower teeth will help. That's what I do when I encounter this issue. It's not a permanent solution, as it will affect your tone/sound, but it will allow you to keep practicing. In the long run, the best thing to do would be to find a mouthpiece/reed combination that does not cause this irritation.
 

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Discussion Starter · #19 · (Edited)
I'm a longtime player, and I still get this problem occasionally, so it's not a "newbie" problem.

Sometimes, as others have suggested, sanding down the edges of the reed can help. However, I've found that this problem seems to have to do mostly with mouthpiece/reed fit. I only get this problem on some mouthpieces and only with certain reeds. Moreover, it's only when I'm using a "lip out" sort of embouchure (which is what I use most of the time).

In any case, whatever the larger issue, I think the immediate cause of the irritation is that a portion of your lip skin is intruding subtly into the gap between the reed and the mouthpiece facing. If this is the case for you, then rolling your lip a bit more over your lower teeth will help. That's what I do when I encounter this issue. It's not a permanent solution, as it will affect your tone/sound, but it will allow you to keep practicing. In the long run, the best thing to do would be to find a mouthpiece/reed combination that does not cause this irritation.
Yes! My lip is somewhat like a “lip-out” or a “semi-lip-out”. I actually just leave it where it is, but definitely don’t roll over my teeth at all. That’s why I couldn’t accurately answer the person who asked if the irritation was inside or outside my lip- I guess it’s hitting on just the sort of border where it turns from the “skin you’d put lipstick on” to the shiny wet part. I think my mouthpiece/reed situation is also likely ok, I’m just probably practicing longer hours than a person can expect to. Right now the only solution I’ve found has been to switch to tenor cause for whatever reason it’s easier on my mouth.

I did also notice that if I adopted the lip over teeth posture it was easier on my lip. But I’m almost paranoid about adopting any biting-type habits so that worry preoccupies me when I play like that.
 
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