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Mouthpieces An(other) Alto mouthpiece question.


Senior Member
Medway/East London
Hi all,
Here's a thing. I've been playing for a month or so, using a Yamaha 4c mouthpiece on my Jericho J-6 Alto. I have dental bridgework on my top front 2 teeth, which makes things a little uncomfortable. I use a cushion on the mpc, but I find the Yam4c has a "steep gradient" if that makes sense. I tend to bite into it and get headaches etc after playing. The question is, are there any beginners mouthpieces which have a more slender gradient? I feel as though I want to play something that sit in the mouth more comfortably.

Any thoughts?
I'll get shot down for this, but... Consider using a double lip embouchure, where the teeth don't touch the mouthpiece. Needs some work to build up the muscles (see Teal's art of the sax for exercises), but it may help.
You know, I've been trying that (in secret). My teacher doesn't approve. I've heard that Charlie Parker used double embouchure. Not sure if that's fact or myth. It does feel more comfortable, although in these early stages the top lip wobbles with the effort after a while.
Cheers Kev.
Don't bite. Your top teeth should rest lightly on the mouthpiece without biting. A softer reed might help.

Don't bite. Your top teeth should rest lightly on the mouthpiece without biting. A softer reed might help.


I'd agree about not 'biting', but it doesn't necessarily imply that your top teeth rest lightly on the mouthpiece. Mine don't.
Don't bite. Your top teeth should rest lightly on the mouthpiece without biting. A softer reed might help.

Therein lies the problem. If I don't bite, I get a nasty buzzing sensation through the dental bridge. I'm pretty much unconsciously biting down to stop that. Having no feeling in the front 2 teeth means that I bite harder than I think! I must say that the double embouchure approach does help. I've just done about an hour with it. Much more comfortable and easier blowing, albeit with some unintentional vibrato.......
On the tutor, I just changed, cos my old one retired. New one found out I wasn't using my teeth, didn't believe me, checked my mouthpiece, objected. Told him I'd been doing it like that all along, couldn't stand the vibration through my teeth and I wasn't changing. While I was playing my next piece I saw him fishing around in his gig bag. Out came a second extra thick mouthpiece patch and he applied it to his mouthpiece cos he couldn't stand the vibration either....

Double is harder initially, cos you don't get the hard teeth stabilising the mouthpiece, but once your embouchure develops it's better, imho. Trouble is, so many people have been taught that single lip, teeth on mouthpiece is the only way, their minds are closed.
You do have a problem. Before patches were available people with teeth problems could get their dentist to make them a tooth guard to slip over their teeth. To see if something like that would work for you moisten some Rizla cigarette papers and mould them over your teeth.

I think that Johnny Hodges was the one who played double lip and you can check him out on You-Tube. Prepare to be impressed. I play the clarinet double lip and it is just right for me, but I prefer the exact opposite on sax. If you suck your thumb while looking in a mirror you will get an idea of the embouchure I prefer for sax.

There are mouthpieces out there with different beak profiles that might be more comfortable for you. We need our mouthpiece experts to advise on those. I hope you can resolve your problem soon.

Wasn't it early last century that a double lip embouchure was the only one recommended. I seem to have a recollection of Ben Davis' playing guide insisting on it.

I make my own patches because of dental work boring into them. It's only a problem on some mouthpieces.

I was advised a gumshield, as used in martial arts, could be used but haven't tried it.

If you're happy double lipping and are having sucess with it I can't see a problem.

There are some other beginner mouthpieces you may like to try or have a look at which produce a quality sound, have a slightly different profile and are inexpensive. The Bari esprit II and the Rico metalite come to mind.
I ordered a Bari Esprit II yesterday from Ackermans. It arrived this afternoon. I've given it a whirl and it does feel slightly easier than the Yamaha. Now I've been blowing double lip for a couple of hours (on and off) it does feel more natural to me. Tiring for the chops of course, but hopefully I'll build up stamina as time goes on.
I'm not sure how I'd get on with a gum shield.
I've been looking and listening to some Johnny Hodges on YouTube. Wow. You're right, Jim. Impressive! Double lip embouchure and side of the mouth! And such a beautiful tone.
I wouldn't do the lip fold at all because it messes up your sound.

Instead I suggest that you do this:

1. Get a good patch for the mouthpiece. In order to stop the vibration or at least damper it more I recommend the black patch which is a bit thicker. Now, if your not used to that it will most likely leave you with an uncommon feeling in your mouth as you play it. But you'll get used to it.

2. Practice in front of a mirror using only mouthpiece and neck.

This way you can focus on your mouth, both visually trough the mirror and physically as you adjust the position of the mouthpiece.

Note for practice:
a. Keep jaw loose and use good air support.
b. when/if tingling feeling appear focus on keeping the pressure of you top teeth to a minimum.
(This is why it's a good thing to eliminate the actual sax from this exercise because you need to get this right/adjusted first).

c. This will probably take a few tries and once you've got it down add the sax.

If it reappears when playing the entire horn you need to change the angle of the entire sax a bit using your neck strap.

Good luck!

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