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I'm a longtime player, and I still get this problem occasionally, so it's not a "newbie" problem.
...snip...
I agree - it happens to me too sometimes. I'm sure the mouthpiece doesn't change though and since I use synthetics, the reed doesn't either so the only variable is me. I was just taking in too much MPC whenever I got 'pinched'. The difficult part was realizing what was going on because it happened so infrequently - and never while practicing.
The solution of course was quite simple - don't do that. ("Doc - it hurts when I hold my arm like this...)

Since the curve on MPC facings can be quite different it leads me to believe that a different MPC could be an easy fix as well. In my case however - its just sloppy playing.
 

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Some reeds have a rougher top surface than others. In addition to fine grit wet-or-dry sandpaper to smooth the tops of reeds some players use a lightly abrasive natural plant called Dutch Rush to finish reeds---especially double reed players. You might also check the top of your mouthpiece for "teeth tracks". These are the tell tale sign that you are putting your top teeth in a different location when you play or moving the mouthpiece in and out. If there is such light contact with the top teeth to the mouthpiece that there are no marks, it is quite possible that without that "anchor" the mouthpiece is moving in and out. This "in and out" movement of the surface of the reed against the lower lip can abrade the skin---especially if there is rough grain on the top of the reed.

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Discussion Starter · #23 · (Edited)
OP here, just checking to see if the system is still inexplicably blocking my replies to this thread I started. If not, thanks for the comments, folks— you’ve given me a bunch of things to think about, I feel better already!
 

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Discussion Starter · #24 ·
Some reeds have a rougher top surface than others. In addition to fine grit wet-or-dry sandpaper to smooth the tops of reeds some players use a lightly abrasive natural plant called Dutch Rush to finish reeds---especially double reed players. You might also check the top of your mouthpiece for "teeth tracks". These are the tell tale sign that you are putting your top teeth in a different location when you play or moving the mouthpiece in and out. If there is such light contact with the top teeth to the mouthpiece that there are no marks, it is quite possible that without that "anchor" the mouthpiece is moving in and out. This "in and out" movement of the surface of the reed against the lower lip can abrade the skin---especially if there is rough grain on the top of the reed.

View attachment 112172
I just checked my most-used mouthpiece and I can see no marks really aside from what looks almost like a little “blurry” area in two spots on the top of the patch. (Or maybe checking for tracks isn’t possible when using a patch?)
 

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When I would go to all-state band festivals as a kid, we would often play more than 8 hours/day for a few days in a row. I would get a rash like this which I suspect was caused by tiny splinters from the reed in combination with the constant wetness and possibly even fungus or other microbes. That amount of playing would also cause my bottom teeth to become loose, especially when playing bari. This was before I knew about reed rush. It's never happened to me as an adult because I've never played that long since.


The pinching is a different issue. I've played certain synthetic reeds (Bari brand) on my very open mouthpiece that cut my lips quite badly, so much so that they would be bleeding within a few minutes. My solution to that was to switch back to cane reeds. I don't see how pinching could occur on a medium facing like yours though. So you may indeed be taking in too much mouthpiece.

As for no teeth on the top of the mouthpiece, I don't know much about the Allard approach, but he clearly used his top teeth in his normal embouchure in the videos I've seen. Your top teeth need to be on the mouthpiece not only to balance the force from your lower lip but also to steady the entire horn.
 

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Discussion Starter · #26 ·
When I would go to all-state band festivals as a kid, we would often play more than 8 hours/day for a few days in a row. I would get a rash like this which I suspect was caused by tiny splinters from the reed in combination with the constant wetness and possibly even fungus or other microbes. That amount of playing would also cause my bottom teeth to become loose, especially when playing bari. This was before I knew about reed rush. It's never happened to me as an adult because I've never played that long since.


The pinching is a different issue. I've played certain synthetic reeds (Bari brand) on my very open mouthpiece that cut my lips quite badly, so much so that they would be bleeding within a few minutes. My solution to that was to switch back to cane reeds. I don't see how pinching could occur on a medium facing like yours though. So you may indeed be taking in too much mouthpiece.

As for no teeth on the top of the mouthpiece, I don't know much about the Allard approach, but he clearly used his top teeth in his normal embouchure in the videos I've seen. Your top teeth need to be on the mouthpiece not only to balance the force from your lower lip but also to steady the entire horn.
I’ve tried a couple times to clarify what I meant by no teeth on top, let me try once more:
I am not as a matter of course playing without touching my teeth to the top of the mouthpiece. However I can do it and I sometimes lift them off to test the looseness of my embouchure which is something Allard demonstrated in the interview. He also demonstrated that one could lift the sides of his lips with a finger while playing and they were just loose and floppy. Again that doesn’t mean he had someone doing this all day long to him while he played, just demonstrating what the looseness in that part of the facial musculature is like! :)
 

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I’ve tried a couple times to clarify what I meant by no teeth on top, let me try once more:
I am not as a matter of course playing without touching my teeth to the top of the mouthpiece. However I can do it and I sometimes lift them off to test the looseness of my embouchure which is something Allard demonstrated in the interview. He also demonstrated that one could lift the sides of his lips with a finger while playing and they were just loose and floppy. Again that doesn’t mean he had someone doing this all day long to him while he played, just demonstrating what the looseness in that part of the facial musculature is like! :)
Ok. Glad to hear that this is only an exercise and not your normal playing.

How about the rash pic? Is that what's happening to you, or is it something different?
 

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Discussion Starter · #28 ·
Ok. Glad to hear that this is only an exercise and not your normal playing.

How about the rash pic? Is that what's happening to you, or is it something different?
Nothing as gnarly as your photo in terms of what I can see visually, it’s more a tenderness overall aside from a couple specific sores— one down by a crooked lower tooth, and one where the left side of the reed has either pinched or cut me. Feels almost like extremely chapped lips maybe, and nothing hurts when I stop playing, but of course I’d like to be able to practice longer.
 

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I’ve tried a couple times to clarify what I meant by no teeth on top, let me try once more:
I am not as a matter of course playing without touching my teeth to the top of the mouthpiece. However I can do it and I sometimes lift them off to test the looseness of my embouchure which is something Allard demonstrated in the interview.
Yes, this is an excellent exercise to help reduce biting. Sounds like you are doing it properly, as an exercise.

I don't really know the answer to your lower lip issue. Sounds like the lip is being abraded by the edges of the reed. As others have pointed out, this can happen with a narrow mpc, where the reed overhangs the edges of the mpc. If that's not the case, it may just be a matter of time for your lip to adjust. If you wait a few days for the lip to heal, maybe it won't recur. Let us know how it goes. I don't think this is a very common issue and it shouldn't be happening...
 

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Discussion Starter · #30 ·
Yes, this is an excellent exercise to help reduce biting. Sounds like you are doing it properly, as an exercise.

I don't really know the answer to your lower lip issue. Sounds like the lip is being abraded by the edges of the reed. As others have pointed out, this can happen with a narrow mpc, where the reed overhangs the edges of the mpc. If that's not the case, it may just be a matter of time for your lip to adjust. If you wait a few days for the lip to heal, maybe it won't recur. Let us know how it goes. I don't think this is a very common issue and it shouldn't be happening...
I realized at the outset that the simple answer was likely going to be “you can’t just play all day without adverse effects” but coming from a bunch of other instruments where I can play all day it’s difficult to accept a couple hours (or less! o_O) limitation. I’ve noticed that I can switch to tenor and eke out more practice time that way as it doesn’t seem to tax my mouth as much for some reason.
 

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There are a few things you can do.

* 600 grit wet-or-dry sandpaper, LIGHTLY over the entire surface of the reed vamp. Start at the back, and sand toward the tip and off the edge of the tip. By LIGHTLY I mean a feather touch.

* Parchment paper, used to line baking sheets, cut a small square and fold it to 4 thicknesses, wet it and mold to your bottom teeth. This will help tenderness from sharp teeth.

* O’Keefes Lip Repair lip balm. This really speeds healing, and is very soothing.

* Play for 1 hour or less at a time, and rest (or play a different instrument) for an hour. This will build up muscle strength more quickly. Right now you can do two of these sessions. Build up to 2.5, then 3…. But don’t do so much you injure yourself.
 

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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 had the same problem...I think due to my bottom teeth are not very straight. so I tried this:

Colorfulness Photograph Computer Light Product
 

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I had the same problem...I think due to my bottom teeth are not very straight. so I tried this:
This seems like a reasonable solution, but for a different problem. Note that the OP is referring to abrasion of the outer part of the lip (where the lip contacts the reed and mouthpiece), rather than of the inner part (where the lip contacts the lower teeth).
 

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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!
My teeth guard is cigarette paper. I use a particular kind: Modiano Club. Unfortunately, they don’t make my kind anymore. They use the same artwork and brand for a new paper that’s not as good. I managed to buy dozens of packages before they stopped, but it’s virtually impossible to find them now. Assuming you find another brand that does not fall apart when wet, you simply take two sheets of it and fold it into a small square that will drape over the lower teeth and pad them. I have one tooth that sticks up kind of far, and with sharp edges, so the teeth-guard is absolutely necessary for me or I’ll have bleeding lips by the end of the first piece on the program. That happened to me once. I finished the movement, excused myself from the stage, and put another one on backstage before continuing. It was too late. Worst concert experience of my life.

Consider having a dentist make one for you. I asked, but what he had in mind was going to run a couple thousand dollars for two, so I kept using cigarette paper. One advantage of cigarette paper is that I can keep packages of it all over the place in case I forget the one I’ve been using. I keep some in my sax case, with my reed stuff, in my music bag, in my car, and other places. Just be careful that you don’t raise suspicions that you’re using it for illegal substances! And that is the chief disadvantage, but I can ignore it.

By the way; people who don’t have this problem have trouble understanding why we do these things to pad our teeth. There’s always someone who thinks it’s a sign of weakness or something. Don’t take the bait. Just smile and ignore them.

One more thing: to solve the biting problem, play a one-octave scale on your mouthpiece alone, using nothing but voicing to change the pitch — a.k.a. “Lipping down.” Once you can do that and use it to find a comfortable position as your “home” position for voicing, you free your embouchure to do what it’s supposed to do: seal the air in the mouthpiece. Voicing does most of the work, so you no longer feel compelled to bite any more than absolutely necessary to support the reed. It should never feel like you’re “biting.” But sharp teeth can make it a miserable experience, so by all means pad your lower teeth if they cut your lip!
 

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My teeth guard is cigarette paper.

I have one tooth that sticks up kind of far, and with sharp edges, so the teeth-guard is absolutely necessary for me...

One advantage of cigarette paper is that I can keep packages of it all over the place in case I forget the one I’ve been using. I keep some in my sax case, with my reed stuff, in my music bag, in my car, and other places. Just be careful that you don’t raise suspicions that you’re using it for illegal substances! And that is the chief disadvantage, but I can ignore it.
Shooshie, read mmichel's post, just above yours. Sore inner lip due to teeth biting into it is NOT the issue the OP is having. He's getting abrasion on the outside of his lip from the edge of the reed. An entirely different situation than what you describe. Your situation is far more common, which is probably why there is a certain amount of confusion on the topic here.

By the way, the "illegal substances" you mention are not illegal everywhere. Certainly not here in Calif! Cheers!
 

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Discussion Starter · #36 · (Edited)
Ok so in the past day or so I’ve been able to isolate and articulate what’s happening a bit better. It felt like abrasion before, but now I guess what it feels like is more like bruising, kind of like I’ve been punched in the mouth. The sore from the edge of the reed cutting me is healing and there’s not much in the way of tooth marks. My lip skin is actually fine now, it’s more like an “internal lip soreness” if that makes any sense? I realize I’m just playing many hours and that’s too much to expect not to have pain from it, so my question is: how long can a person typically practice once you’re used to the horn, have been playing for some time? Could most of you play all day if you wanted to? Thinking back to my early days of playing guitar there was a limit before my hands would hurt too much to go on but now I can play the entire day and it makes no difference. Will it eventually be possible to do the same on sax or is there a sort of built-in limit due to the delicacy of the mouth?
 

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I don’t think it is possible for anyone to play “ most of the day” without incurring into som physical problem and actually I am surprised that there aren’t other problems too.
The human body is not made to have repeated strains without consequences.


please read this study, although not conclusive because of the limited amount of participants it warns you against excessive strain


this other one too

 

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Discussion Starter · #38 · (Edited)
I don’t think it is possible for anyone to play “ most of the day” without incurring into som physical problem and actually I am surprised that there aren’t other problems too.
The human body is not made to have repeated strains without consequences.


please read this study, although not conclusive because of the limited amount of participants it warns you against excessive strain


this other one too

I guess that’s good to know, if a bit disappointing. I can play guitar, piano, and drums most of the day and it’s no strain on my human body but it looks like that may not be the case with sax!

Also wow looking at that second document— depression is the most reported ailment for saxophonists! I don’t understand, it’s such a fun instrument to play!
 

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I guess that’s good to know, if a bit disappointing. I can play guitar, piano, and drums most of the day and it’s no strain on my human body but it looks like that may not be the case with sax!
There are equal studies for many instruments, there are many doctors and therapists specializing in healing what professional players do to themselves by exerting way beyond the physical limits of the human body.

The Human body was not made to be used doing one activity alone , the success of the human race is due (among other neurological reasons) to the fact that the body could perform a number of different unspecialized activity. Take any human and make them do anything most of the day and it will develop problems , which is what originated and entire medical branch dedicated to work and sport injuries .




 

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so my question is: how long can a person typically practice once you’re used to the horn, have been playing for some time?
Good question. I'd love to know how long other players practise for, too.

For me, I find an hour a day is enough to get songs or techniques under my fingers fairly efficiently without any soreness if I've not been playing for a while. Over here in the UK during lockdown, there were a couple of times where I didn't play for weeks. After these periods, I had to initially stick to an hour a day to get back into playing. Even then, I occasionally had a little soreness. Unfortunately, your lips will lose some of their robustness pretty quickly when you don't play.

At the moment I'm back up to playing for two hours most days - but not everyday - as I've got three two-hours sets to perfect. For me, this is around my maximum hourly practise time when practising regularly if I don't want any soreness or fatigue.

It may just be me, but something else to consider is that when I first start to learn something I find my emboucher is slightly more tense while I get the song under my fingers. It's not something I notice while playing (I'm not jumping octaves or having intonation issues, for example); it's only after an hour or so that I realise I'm more tired/sore than I would normally be. The next day, the song/technique feels more natural and I'm back to full strength.

Could most of you play all day if you wanted to?
One of the very first things I had to accept when I first started playing the sax was that it's not a guitar. You can't just sit there binge watching your favourite TV show for hours on end while you noodle on your sax like you can with a guitar. Even now, it's something I find frustrating. ;)

As for how long can someone play for. That's actually a more complex question than you'd think. A four hour rehearsal, a four hour recording session at a studio, a four hour home recording session and a four hour practise session are all very different. At your average rehearsal there's a lot of talking and downtime between songs. In a studio there's quite a lot of downtime and discussion, too. Recording at home, on the other hand, is probably a lot more intense as you're more likely to jump straight into the next take without any pause inbetween. And then there's practising where you may not have any real pause at all.

As a guide on how well you're doing, I would think if you're generally playing for an hour or two everyday (not including rehearsals, gigs etc.) then you're doing fine.
 
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