Sax on the Web Forum banner

1 - 20 of 30 Posts

·
Registered
Joined
·
62 Posts
Discussion Starter #1
To clear things up, I'm not what you'd call a beginner; I've been playing for about seven years and headed into my senior year of high school. Over time, I've noticed that my embouchure isn't exactly ideal for saxophone, and learned to play saxophone in public schools. After playing for shorts amounts of time, I get bite marks on my bottom lip (especially when using my soprano), and as I've read and seen, that isn't supposed to be the case. Are there any pointers anyone could suggest for me to find a more ideal alto embouchure? I know it also depends on the sound I'm looking for, but I think finding something that's more comfortable is more important.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
457 Posts
Bite marks??

You're talking about marks from the edges of the reed, no?

Do you play every day? If you're not playing often or long enough to form little 'callouses' on your lip, that seems normal.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
62 Posts
Discussion Starter #3
Bite marks??

You're talking about marks from the edges of the reed, no?

Do you play every day? If you're not playing often or long enough to form little 'callouses' on your lip, that seems normal.
No, bite marks from my lower teeth to my lower lip and I play for about 7 hours everyday.
 

·
SOTW Columnist and Forum Contributor 2015-2016
Joined
·
3,832 Posts
Get a teacher. Find the best professional in your area and pay him good money to teach you.

Nothing online will equal a teacher properly examining your playing technique.

That being said, if you have teeth marks it means you're biting. Loosen up. You want to put as little pressure on the reed as possible. The more you bite, the more you restrict the reed from vibrating, which stifles your sound.

- Saxaholic
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
294 Posts
Either you are biting or possibly your front teeth have sharp edges. It happens so check it out with your dentist. Try the old Rousseau method: play with mp only leaving the end uncovered. Blow and you should play the Pitch "A" on alto, one ledger line. I've had students typically playing a "Bb" or even "B"! Play mp alone for a few minutes every day until you can produce a steady "A".
 

·
Distinguished SOTW Member, Forum Contributor 2007-
Joined
·
7,136 Posts
I had my dentist file down the sharp edges on my lower teeth and it made a big improvement. He only took off a miniscule amount and it is not noticible to anyone else.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
3,027 Posts
The key I have found is to develop the feeling of the jaw and chin pulling down as the lower lip moves up to contact the reed. Thinking of "opening the teeth" as you play helps. This is quite easy to do when your embouchure muscles are fresh and rested. As the muscles begin to tire, the automatic reaction to maintain control of the tone is to begin to put pressure on the reed using the lower teeth and jaw. It is important to stop and take a short break when you feel the embouchure muscles begin to break down---especially if you are practicing 7 hours a day!

I experience this from time to time when I am "out of shape" and have just a short time to get ready for a gig. In those situations since my lower teeth are a bit sharp and jagged I use EZO denture cushions to cover my lower teeth and protect the inside of my lower lip. You simply cut the patch to the correct size and shape, heat it a few moments in hot water, and then form it over your teeth. The wax in the patch conforms perfectly to the shape of your teeth and the cushion is reusable many times before having to be replaced.


View attachment 239214
 

·
Formerly mdavej
Joined
·
1,324 Posts
Some bite marks after playing for 7 hours is perfectly normal. Zero pressure on the reed will sound like crap. Too much pressure will be obvious from your sound. If you have a good sound and have stamina for 7 hours of playing, you're embouchure is fine. Following the suggestions posted so far for mitigating the effects of the sharp edges of your teeth will work fine. You won't have to do them once you get into a more reasonable playing schedule. I don't think even pros play 7 hours a day, every day.
 

·
SOTW Columnist, Distinguished SOTW Member
Joined
·
23,026 Posts
Some bite marks after playing for 7 hours is perfectly normal. Zero pressure on the reed will sound like crap. Too much pressure will be obvious from your sound. If you have a good sound and have stamina for 7 hours of playing, you're embouchure is fine. Following the suggestions posted so far for mitigating the effects of the sharp edges of your teeth will work fine. You won't have to do them once you get into a more reasonable playing schedule.
+1.

And it's hard to say whether or not you're biting TOO much when you say you have 'bite marks' on your bottom lip after playing for 7 hours. I don't see how you could totally avoid any bite marks after that period of time, but if you're experiencing significant pain or are bleeding, then you are definitely biting too much.

One good exercise (and I stress it's an exercise, not the normal way of playing) is to raise your upper teeth off the mpc and play. That way you simply can't bite because there is no leverage to bite. Then at some point, lightly place your teeth back on top of the mpc and try to maintain the relaxed embouchure. You'll still need to firm it up a bit to maintain control; it's a fine line.

Hopefully you're taking several 10 to 15 minute breaks during those 7 hour sessions!
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
166 Posts
Lonely Wolf,
could you tell what is your setup - reed hardness and mouthpiece opening tip?

In many cases biting the mouthpiece is simply caused by a too hard reed.
Some students try to press their lower teeth to compensate for the pressure on the hard reeds. Over time, the lips (muscles) strengthen, followed by loosening of the teeth. Therefore, the reeds in this phase of practice should not be too hard or the mouthpieces shouldn't be too opened.
But in this case it looks like you (@Lonely Wolf) have more than enough experience, so maybe if it is not the reed or mouthpiece problem, I think two-day break will heal the wounds and maybe you just should shorten the daily practice time?

Unfortunately, but the time to exercise on wind instruments requires hygiene (working time regime) so that you do not harm yourself and do not cause you to lose your health.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
62 Posts
Discussion Starter #11
Lonely Wolf,
could you tell what is your setup - reed hardness and mouthpiece opening tip?

In many cases biting the mouthpiece is simply caused by a too hard reed.
Some students try to press their lower teeth to compensate for the pressure on the hard reeds. Over time, the lips (muscles) strengthen, followed by loosening of the teeth. Therefore, the reeds in this phase of practice should not be too hard or the mouthpieces shouldn't be too opened.
But in this case it looks like you (@Lonely Wolf) have more than enough experience, so maybe if it is not the reed or mouthpiece problem, I think two-day break will heal the wounds and maybe you just should shorten the daily practice time?

Unfortunately, but the time to exercise on wind instruments requires hygiene (working time regime) so that you do not harm yourself and do not cause you to lose your health.
For concert band I play a Vandoren Optimum AL5, and for jazz/big band I play a Vandoren V16 A6S+ with a Fibracell 3.5. That’s equal to a Vandoren blue box 3. Although lately, I have been thinking of moving back down to 2.5, and using a Legere Signature and/or Classic Cut though.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
175 Posts
Grab a lesson from this amazing concert, no bite marks on the bottom lip of Mr Shepp. Practicing the double embouchure is just another great way to help with any problems when it comes to biting to much. At first you will think how is it possible, be patient and stay at it. And I'm not saying that you need to take up this double approach as a permanent way of laying, however incorporating it into your practice routine will be extremely helpful.

How good is this concert?

 

·
Registered
Joined
·
175 Posts
One good exercise (and I stress it's an exercise, not the normal way of playing) is to raise your upper teeth off the mpc and play. That way you simply can't bite because there is no leverage to bite. Then at some point, lightly place your teeth back on top of the mpc and try to maintain the relaxed embouchure.
As you can see in the above YouTube clip Mr Shepp has this "raise your upper teeth off the top of the bite plate" as his go to way of blowing. I take my hat off to him, incredibly difficult way to blow.
 

·
Distinguished SOTW Member
Joined
·
4,580 Posts
Dear Lonely Wolf-

I hope you will read this post and really consider what I have to say about this subject. Reason being, I "grew up" and learned to play sax in my local public school system, where every single band director I had was a percussionist, and I was never really taught a "correct" way to play saxophone beyond how to finger notes and read music. Zero training or guidance on technique. This was way before the internet, and I was never advised to get a private teacher (and my mom probably couldn't have afforded it anyway).

I always (ALWAYS) had the painful lower lip/teeth indentations after playing, because I was playing on reeds that were too hard and in order to make them play I had to apply way too much pressure from my jaw AKA "biting". I didn't know this was wrong, and dealt with it.

Fast forward to 2008 when I took up playing again. I found this forum and started reading/asking questions. Lo and behold, turns out I was supposed to be doing the exact opposite- as little pressure as possible from the jaw, and from the embouchure as possible. I started from scratch, dropped to a size 2 reed, and focused on:

1. Pushing with big, SUPPORTED air, focused by my diaphragm.
2. Having ZERO tension anywhere in my body while playing. I would tend to tense up when blowing and this would reinforce the biting.
3. Keeping my embouchure as loose as I possibly could. I only wanted enough mouth pressure to form a seal around the mouthpiece, so air wouldn't escape. Any pressure beyond that was too much.

I then, having these 3 things, practiced long-tones for an hour a day. After around 2 weeks I started noticing a huge difference. 10+ years later, generally speaking, I really like my tone. The important thing to realize is that this is not something you just fix and it goes away right away. You have formed a habit, and habits take deliberate, focused, work to undo. The question you need to ask yourself is, are you dedicated to improving and is playing the saxophone a long-term goal of yours? If you do the above, you will see results, I am proof of that.

Feel free to PM me anytime.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
5,498 Posts
Yeah, I think the "graduating to harder and harder reeds" thing might have gotten started with hardened experienced professionals trying to project over big bands, the same saxophonists often containing a sizable helping of macho and one-upmanship.

"You play a number 3 reed? Man, you playing with the big boys now. You need to get rid of those schoolboy reeds and get you a MAN'S mouthpiece and reeds."
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
686 Posts
Okay, I'm going to blaspheme here, and I'm sure I'll get totally roasted for this comment, but Mr. Shepp sounds like he's playing an oboe in that concert vid.....
 

·
Formerly mdavej
Joined
·
1,324 Posts
Okay, I'm going to blaspheme here, and I'm sure I'll get totally roasted for this comment, but Mr. Shepp sounds like he's playing an oboe in that concert vid.....
You'll get no roasting from me. Of all the sounds to emulate, Archie Shepp is at the very, very bottom of my list. Hell, he isn't even on my list. He IS an excellent example of what NOT to do. Double lip simply doesn't work, as you can clearly hear.

Don't get me wrong, he's a brilliant artist with great ideas. And I'm sure he sounds exactly the way he wants to sound. But his tone and embouchure are very unorthodox and frankly not pleasant to my ears.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
3,027 Posts
About the title to this thread, there is no such thing as one correct sax embouchure. Differences in equipment, physiology, musical styles, and tonal concepts make the embouchure that works for each individual unique to that person. That said I also believe that when starting out as a beginner what works the best for most students is the "traditional" "Teal Wheel" single lip embouchure. Once the fundamentals of tone production and control are established as players advance they are free to choose what variation(s) work the best for them.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
175 Posts
And as re the thread, the double lip practice really helps for playing with no biting when you go back to the "top teeth on bite plate, relaxed cushioning bottom lip. warm air, softer reed" method. Start with a 1.5 or 2 reed, no harder.



Okay, I'm going to blaspheme here, and I'm sure I'll get totally roasted for this comment, but Mr. Shepp sounds like he's playing an oboe in that concert vid.....
What, you don't like jazz oboe? lol

Listening to Mr Archie Shepp is just maybe like drinking your first beer, you didn't dig it, but now you love your beer.

So keep sipping on the Shepp. Start with the this recording.

 

·
SOTW Columnist, Distinguished SOTW Member
Joined
·
23,026 Posts
About the title to this thread, there is no such thing as one correct sax embouchure. Differences in equipment, physiology, musical styles, and tonal concepts make the embouchure that works for each individual unique to that person. That said I also believe that when starting out as a beginner what works the best for most students is the "traditional" "Teal Wheel" single lip embouchure. Once the fundamentals of tone production and control are established as players advance they are free to choose what variation(s) work the best for them.
+1. There's the real answer to the question.

As to Shepp, I'm not a big fan of his sound either, although I did see him live at the Greek Theater in Berkeley way back in '69. The same concert with Sonny Rollins playing solo for an hour +, which is the most memorable part of that jazz fest for me. However, I was highly impressed with Archie Shepp's performance and his sound was somewhat different (much better) from the clip posted here.

Still, I consider lifting the upper teeth off the mpc a useful exercise. I wouldn't play that way because I find it difficult to control the sound. But, again, whatever works for you once you've established the fundamentals of tone & control, as saxoclese states.
 
1 - 20 of 30 Posts
Top