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M/Pieces - Ligs Mouthpiece Only - A at 880Hz - sore lip!

Richard10002

New Member
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22
Hi,

Read an article on SOTW last night suggesting that beginners practice blowing high A on the mouthpiece only...... So I got an iPhone App to check what note I'm blowing, and gave it a go.

The idea is that, if you blow high A on the mouthpiece only, your embouchre is pretty close.

Not sure how long I did it for, but was mostly able to get a note, and keep it quite close to high A. However, the inside of my lower lip is quite sore today.

I remember having a sore lip for a while when starting to play clarinet years ago, and sore fingertips when playing guitar.... Is it normal to get a bit of a sore inside lip for a while when starting to play sax? Or am I doing it wrong?

Many thanks,

richard
 

kevgermany

ex Landrover Nut
Subscriber
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21,947
Tenor or alto?

Natural note for each mouthpiece is different (can't remember the values) and the 'authorities' differ on what they should be.

Yes if you overdo things your lips will get sore. Is it muscle, abrasion or cutting?
 

Richard10002

New Member
Messages
22
Alto Sax. Definitely abrasion, it might be slightly cut. Tried again last night, and it hurt just a bit too much so I gave up. This morning it's a bit better, but not quite right. I'll probably give it a rest over the weekend, or might take the sax for a service, (bought it a month ago second hand - Yamaha YAS 25, so it will be a few years old.

I think I probably overdid things a bit - but it seems to be a good practice technique to strengthen the muscles, and get them to remember where they should be for the embouchre.

The iPhone app is called Trace Tuner and it shows A5 and 880Hz when blowing the mouthpiece only.

(it actually blows something between A5 flat, and B5 flat when I'm blowing it, but I thing the goal is to blow a steady A5 :) ).
 

kevgermany

ex Landrover Nut
Subscriber
Messages
21,947
Your lip will toughen up with time. But make sure it's not tucked in too far. You really only want the sealing part of the lip in contact with the reed, not the front, where the skin is less tough.

Keeping the note steady takes some practice, but is key to accurate intonation when you play. And when you learn to keep it steady, then you learn to change it when you want as you bend notes, but by then it's deliberate and controlled....
 

jbtsax

Well-Known Member
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8,000
Some people have rather sharp and jagged lower front teeth so that the inside of the lower lip becomes sore even if they are not "biting" too much with their embouchure. "EZO" denture cushions found in most pharmacies work well to prevent this abrasion. You simply cut out an oval shape the correct size to cover the lower teeth, heat it in warm tap water for a few seconds and form it over the lower teeth. The wax in the cushion will form a perfect mold over the tops of the teeth and make it more comfortable to play for long periods of time.



The EZO cushions should not be used to facilitate an embouchure that includes upward "biting" pressure from the lower jaw. Below are a few tips to prevent biting:

- Use the correct neck strap length. Adjust it so that when the head is perfectly level, the tip of the mouthpiece touches in the curve just above the chin. Then tilt the head down slightly to insert the mouthpiece into the mouth.

- Work to develop the feeling that although the lower lip pushes up against the reed, the jaw and chin are pulling downward at the same time. Practice long tones looking in a mirror using your free hand to hold the chin slightly downward.

- Press down with the top teeth on the mouthpiece while pushing up slightly with the RH thumb in the thumbhook.

- Concentrate on keeping the teeth apart when you play.

Another embouchure tightness test that is more accessible for beginners is to play the mouthpiece and neck apart from the saxophone. The pitch on the alto should be an Ab concert. The pitch on the tenor should be an E concert.
 

fourjays

New Member
Messages
7
- Use the correct neck strap length. Adjust it so that when the head is perfectly level, the tip of the mouthpiece touches in the curve just above the chin. Then tilt the head down slightly to insert the mouthpiece into the mouth.
Thanks JBT, that's the first description I've read of the correct strap length which tells me precisely what to do. I've had my alto for about 3 weeks now and have some EZO pads on order to cope with my jagged lower teeth. I'm now concentrating on keeping the lower jaw relaxed as I was pressing the bottom lip upwards with the jaw, rather than relying on the bottom lip muscles. I'm in the process of securing a tutor to get me over the first few hurdles. My current problems are (1) sore bottom lip; (2) aching arms (the instrument is much heavier than I'd appreciated!).
 

fourjays

New Member
Messages
7
Thanks Jeanette, I've considered getting one, but as I don't get back problems (just sore arms) I'm hoping to gradually develop some muscles! :D
 

Pete Thomas

Chief of Stuff
Commercial Supporter
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13,954
Read an article on SOTW last night suggesting that beginners practice blowing high A on the mouthpiece only......
Not always a good thing. In many cases it can be, but if you take that as the way it should be done then you may end up with problems.

From TamingTheSaxophone:

It’s a common theory that when played by itself (with no saxophone attached) you should get a certain pitch from a mouthpiece. I don’t believe you need to take this as the absolute truth, as the ideal pitch could vary with certain mouthpieces, and there are some styles of music that can work very well with a less conventional embouchure,

in other words, it may be good for you or it may not...
 

jbtsax

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@Pete Thomas We have discussed this topic in the past. I have since progressed to have a broader, contextual, view of mouthpiece pitch. Some of my current thinking comes from reading Paul Cohen's articles. It seems that at the time Santy Runyon came up with this concept, there were many clarinetists jumping on the bandwagon of the saxophone's newfound popularity and started playing and teaching the saxophone. Unfortunately many of them were using their clarinet embouchure and playing too high on the mouthpiece pitch creating a "pinched" tone quality and intonation problems in the upper register. Even though Santy's "Theramin story" is sheer nonsense, his prescribing those mouthpiece pitches did go a long way to helping his clarinet playing colleagues.

Viewed in this context, it seems to me that the A=880 pitch for the alto sax mouthpiece alone would best be thought of as the "upper limit" to the tightness of the embouchure. It is well established today that many jazz players play lower on the mouthpiece pitch, anywhere from a whole step to a tri tone below the A=880. Today I view the mouthpiece pitch test as just one of several teaching "tools" to help a student find the "centered pitch" on the mouthpiece that will give the best tone quality and intonation.

Benade wrote that in order for the saxophone to play its best, (I'm paraphrasing) the body of the saxophone must "see" a completed cone to its apex atop the truncated body. One way that is accomplished is when the neck and mouthpiece representing the missing cone produce the same frequency as the calculated natural resonant frequency of a cone the same length. By calculating the length of the missing cone from the neck's taper and adding that to the length of the neck, I have found that natural resonant frequency to be close to Ab concert for the alto sax which coincides with my playing and teaching experience. If a jazz player plays lower on the mouthpiece pitch, the mouthpiece is pushed in farther to tune resulting in the same pitch on the mouthpiece and neck alone.
 

Pete Thomas

Chief of Stuff
Commercial Supporter
Messages
13,954
It seems that at the time Santy Runyon came up with this concept, there were many clarinetists jumping on the bandwagon of the saxophone's newfound popularity and started playing and teaching the saxophone. Unfortunately many of them were using their clarinet embouchure and playing too high on the mouthpiece pitch creating a "pinched" tone quality and intonation problems in the upper register. Even though Santy's "Theramin story" is sheer nonsense, his prescribing those mouthpiece pitches did go a long way to helping his clarinet playing colleagues.
probably did at the time when most mouthpieces were of similar dimensions, or at least the ones that clarinetists graduated towards - hence the formula might work.

But as you know I believe there is no one pitch that should be prescribed across all mouthpieces and all genres. Notwithstanding, I do mention the mouthpiece pitch on theTaming The Saxophone site and in the book.
 
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