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Discussion Starter #1
I'm talking about my embouchure. I'm a first-year college student and although music is not my major, I'm a pretty serious player. I did a couple searches and found some embouchure tips, but none of which seemed to help out much.

I used to be able to play gigs, where I was the only horn player, for a solid hour or two before my embouchure tires out. But now I can hardly play for 30 solid minutes. When I say tired, I mean my lips get tired, and it is really difficult to maintain my embouchure. I'm pretty certain I'm not pinching too tightly either, because lately I have been pretty conscious of it -- of keeping my lips relaxed. I don't think my embouchure has changed over time.

It's really frustrating. If it helps, I think this problem began after having spent a week in Orlando with no saxophone. At first I thought this is probably normal, but after over 3 months of consistent playing, I'm starting to think something is wrong, maybe with my embouchure. It's frustrating cause I love playing, and have a long Body and Soul feature with the jazz ensemble, but my lips will get tired halfway through.

ANY ideas?

(I play for an hour three days a week with the university jazz band, where my lips would get tired halfway through every time. On all the other days, I practice for as long as I can before they tire out, which is about 30 minutes. And I do play long tones, although some practice sessions I'd get lazy...)

Thanks!
 

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Distinguished SOTW Member, Forum Contributor 2015-
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Ask 'round the music department and find someone to give you a few lessons. Diagnosing an embouchure on the internet is worth exactly what you pay for it.
 

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Distinguished SOTW Member, Forum Contributor 2007-
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Your lips should be getting stronger with the practice schedule you described. But I've found that it takes about double the daily practice for the amount of time in a performance. That means two hours every day to be strong enough for a one hour set. But that's just me.

It sounds like you may have developed an embouchure problem as Dr. G has inferred. These things can crop up out of nowhere. And as he said, someone in the music department should be able to tell you if you are doing anything wrong.
 

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Non Resident SOTW Eccentric & 2012 Forum Contribut
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I find that Terry Warburton's PETE works wonders.

A little piece of metal or plastic that can be carried in the pocket and pulled out and used to exercise the embouchure muscles for a few minutes at a time. Huge help to me in about 2 weeks. About $40.00 bucks I think

If money is tight and one has access to the tools a pretty decent trainer can be made from grinding down an old car cylinder head valve to size.
 

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Distinguished SOTW Member, Forum Contributor 2015-
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An exercise that I sometimes employ is alternating from a wide, tooth extreme "smile" to a similarly extreme pout. You can do it while driving, watching a movie... Try it. You'll find it quite wearing after only several iterations. It is exercising many of the correct muscles. For the real application tho', the best "exercise" is practice. No need to practice beyond the point where you get tired and lose control - that just leads you to reinforce bad habits.
 

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An exercise that I sometimes employ is alternating from a wide, tooth extreme "smile" to a similarly extreme pout. You can do it while driving, watching a movie... Try it. You'll find it quite wearing after only several iterations. It is exercising many of the correct muscles. For the real application tho', the best "exercise" is practice. No need to practice beyond the point where you get tired and lose control - that just leads you to reinforce bad habits.
Ahhh, the famous "oooooooooooooooooo" - "eeeeeeeeeeeeeeee" exercise. I used to be able to do about 20 of these; now I'm ready for something else after 5 or 6.
 

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Forum Contributor 2011, SOTW's pedantic pet rodent
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Any takers for the "pencil exercise"? Much beloved of trumpeters. Cost implications rather less than $40. Surely exercises the same muscles around the mouth that get tired during saxophoning (??) I agree of course that correct practice will be by far the best medicine.

Also: Are you using the same set-up you used in the old days when you "used to be able to play gigs"?
 

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Non Resident SOTW Eccentric & 2012 Forum Contribut
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Pencil exercise is very different muscle action than a PETE

It may exercise the same muscles but not in the same way.

If one is cheap do what I did ... use a small auto valve - about 7/8 "diameter. i actually prefer my valve to a PETE as the stem is really heavy and I can exercise with it in my mouth while hands are busy....such as now LOL
 

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Discussion Starter #12
An exercise that I sometimes employ is alternating from a wide, tooth extreme "smile" to a similarly extreme pout. You can do it while driving, watching a movie... Try it. You'll find it quite wearing after only several iterations. It is exercising many of the correct muscles. For the real application tho', the best "exercise" is practice. No need to practice beyond the point where you get tired and lose control - that just leads you to reinforce bad habits.
Wow I did some of these and I'm feeling it in my muscles. Good idea... very convenient. But imagine sitting at an intersection and the guy in the car next to you looks over at you... He might be slightly freaked out :D

Thanks for all the suggestions!
 

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But imagine sitting at an intersection and the guy in the car next to you looks over at you... He might be slightly freaked out :D

Thanks for all the suggestions!
Thats nothing, I practice on my mpc and pretend I am Pavarotti in my car, I get some weird looks!!:|
 

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Forum Contributor 2011, SOTW's pedantic pet rodent
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i actually prefer my valve to a PETE as the stem is really heavy and I can exercise with it in my mouth while hands are busy....such as now
Where the hell is marty when you need him?
 

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Prodigal Son and Forum Contributor 2008
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Where the hell is marty when you need him?
Reading between the lines.
I would mention the movie "The Opening of Misty Beethoven" for inspiration along similar lines, but this isn't the lounge.
I have spoken about the problems I encountered about 20 years ago when I blew my mouth out. I had been playing my Florida Link 8* in all sorts of situations from R&B to Fusion and one day my cheeks were gone. I blew my mouth totally out.

With a strict regimen of scotch and a Lakey jazz mouthpiece I was able to do what I needed during recuperation during a busy gigging schedule. The Lakey mouthpiece was Emilio's idea, I added the scotch. YMMV.
 

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I actually struggled with a similar issue not a few months ago. My classical embouchure seemed fine to me but I would only be able to play for about 10 minutes without having to take a break. I asked my professor and he said "you may be practicing too hard." I tried dividing my practice session into 30 minute slots where after each one I take a 5-10 minute break. And I practice 3-4 hrs 6 days a week now. I used to do everyday but if I have a down-time somewhere in the week, it helps. Eventually I will be able to play everyday I just need to build back the stamina. This really helped short-term, but I need to fix the issue. Turns out that when I switched to a slightly different embouchure at the beginning of the school year, I was putting way too much pressure on the reed and that "activated" some muscles I've never used before.


So here are some questions you should ask yourself:
Did I change anything with my embouchure since this started happening?
What is my embouchure like right now?
Change one thing and see if it improves?
How long am I practicing?
Am I practicing effectively? This is HUGE, because a person who simply practices but not in an effective manner for 6 hours vs one who practices effectively and efficiently for 3 hrs, the latter will definitely have a better practice session and not put more stress on certain embouchure muscles.
 

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L O N G T O N E S!!!

If you're getting tired, you need to build up some muscle strength and you do that buy playing long tones, and doing all the classic overtone exercises, As soon as you feel yourself tightening up to get notes, STOP. I find that starting off on the note you need and slamming the keys down to the overtone really helps to get the feeling in your mouth that you need to sustain the proper pitch. Matching tone is also ESSENTIAL!!! The Joe Allard school of thought is essentially a very low pressure embouchure that allows the reed to vibrate to it's fullest potential (think of a guitar string in open position - the ultimate resonance).

Unfortunately it's very hard to "debug" this problem via written text on a forum where everything seems subjective. Steve Neff recently posted the old Allard interview video which is worth checking out (although Joe seems senile).
 

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Distinguished SOTW Member, Forum Contributor 2017
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Three hours is a long time. I gig 3-4 nights weekly during summer and after day one each week, I'm really feeling the second two sets. I'd guess it's fairly normal as long as you can play through the "tired".
 
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