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(Not) Biting Embouchure and Endurance

LoveJazz

New Member
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4
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Halifax Canada
I’m a first time poster and a repeat beginner in that I’ve started several times with some instruction and I’d really like to get back into practicing and playing (tenor).

When I started playing I was taught the embouchure with bottom lip tucked in over the teeth. I did, however, develop the poor habit of biting and often ended up with a sore lip and deep teeth marks in the bottom lip.

After some reading etc. I wanted to change my embouchure to one where the bottom lip is not curled in over the bottom teeth, essentially lie this

View: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=P0IijB7gxPg&t=24s
(Hirsch)
or this
View: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ROPRATRrGjA
I (Liebman).

As you know this has been discussed at length.

As practice I’ve been doing Exercise One of Phil Barone’s recommendations a lot see (see here: Saxophone Tone Development | Phil Barone Saxophones). I even bought a mouthpiece with a very large tip opening 10* and used a soft reed (Legere 1.5). I’ve gone back to a less open mouthpiece, RPC 105, with a No.2 cane reed.

In my practice I usually follow with a series of long tones where I deliberately try to avoid using excessive pressure, and I often finish with dropping the lower jaw, as described here in order to resist the temptation to clamp down (
View: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6PAq8Um-aOw&t=2s
).

My problem and question is how to build up endurance. I can’t seem to play longer than 30 minutes and then the whole embouchure goes to pot. I’ve been trying to play consistently every day for the last 3 months or so, and I don’t seem to get any further.

I’d like to be able to play a bit more than just long tones and such exercises.

Any other recommendations or bits of advice?

Thank you

Tom.
 

kevgermany

ex Landrover Nut
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Which part of your embouchure collapses? Lip muscles? The reason that people are advised to start with lip over teeth is to get the support from them. Best way I know to develop the strength and stamina for this is the embouchure exercises in Teal's Art of Saxophone.

But part of the key is relaxing as you play.

Watch the tip size as well. Some people can start and do well with a 105 tip, but conventional wisdom says start a lot smaller. This will help a lot as you don't need to bend the reed so far, so you're not putting as much strain on your lip. Doesn't need to be expensive, something like a Yamaha 4-6C will do. Then come back to the wider tips once you're ready for them.
 

MrBlueNote

Member
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38
Locality
Portland, Oregon, US
One method that's worked for me is to practice long tones while keeping my embouchure set and breathing through my nose, like this:

Long tones

By the time I finish this exercise, I'm leaking air, so I do it at the end of my practice routine. Hope it helps.
 

Veggie Dave

Sax Worker
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Citizen of Nowhere
My problem and question is how to build up endurance. I can’t seem to play longer than 30 minutes and then the whole embouchure goes to pot. I’ve been trying to play consistently every day for the last 3 months or so, and I don’t seem to get any further.

My experience is that emboucher endurance is no different to any other physical endurance. Yes, you need to push yourself and practise regularly, but you need breaks to allow your body to recover from the exercise, too.
 

jbtsax

Well-Known Member
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For me the solution to not bite too hard is not to keep the lower lip in front of the teeth. It is to push in more at the corners (OO), and to open the teeth more. The goal is to develop the feeling of the chin and jaw pulling down while at the same time the lower lip is pushing up to meet the reed.

An exercise that helps is to play a note, "lip it down" a half step and then keeping the jaw in that position bring the note back up to pitch using just the embouchure muscles.
 

Colin the Bear

Well-Known Member
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Burnley bb9 9dn
The biggest advice for not biting is to play a mouthpiece that suits the embouchure you have right now. A little hill walking before you attempt Everest ;)
 

saxyjt

Saxus Circus Maximus
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I agree that for most people starting with a wide opening is a mistake. The fact that you use a rather soft reed tends to show it's too early. IMHO. :rolleyes:
 

LoveJazz

New Member
Messages
4
Locality
Halifax Canada
Thanks to all of you for replying. I think I'm just getting too impatient. It seems that I can't get much beyond the 30 min mark after which I just can't form a decent embouchure any longer and start to squeeze and squeak and not produce any decent sound any longer. I'll will give a mouthpiece with a smaller tip opening a try.
Tom
 

Guenne

Well-Known Member
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1,301
Locality
Austria
Hey!

I think that endurance is more often a question of managing air support which in turn has to do how you manage your jaw.
A thing that works for me is that upper and lower lip are working against each other, lower lip slightly pushing up, lower lip pushing down. Kind of an isometric exercise. On the top side, you can't do anything, but pushing down helps you get a feeling what you do on the reed-side.
All is held by a very light bite. John Harle compares the embouchure to whisling on a blade of grass.

Cheers, Guenne
 

Jez Watson

Member
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309
Locality
UK
Playing on a smaller tip will give you an idea if you were too tense, I recently started playing in a big band and I found that playing on a smaller tip made me relax more and i got a bigger sound
 

MikeMorrell

Netherlands
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All the advice you need has already been given (especially starting with a smaller tip opening).

I'd like to add a perspective from my (long distant!) years as a runner and it's this: if you continually keep trying to reach the same performance level with the same training intensity, you'll always keep hitting the same wall and you won't improve.

Training schedules for runners who train for longer distances/faster times (=embouchure strength) always have a' zig-zag' pattern. Runners gradually build up to a 'peak' and then taper off before building up to a new peak (which is slightly higher than the previous one). Even the 'peaks' (and degree of tapers) have a long-term zig-zag pattern. This is another way of saying 'give your face/lip muscles time to rest and recuperate' before building up to the next embouchure peak.

A couple of years ago, I went through a similar process as you're going through w.r.t. lip position. Thanks to other cafe members, I've discovered wonderful resources (text and video) that have helped me experiment with and improve the way I play tenor sax. Though I'm still - at best - an intermediate player :). Dave Liebman was one of the best. discoveries.

Another was Joe Allard who (if I understand it correctly) took a different approach to 'embouchure' than Larry Teal (which I started out with).
Joe Allard's approach was more about relaxing facial and throat muscles to avoid tension negatively impacting tone and freedom of expression.

A great exponent of Joe Allard's teaching methods is Harvey Pittel (who is a great sax player/authority in his own right). This is Pittel's video on 'embouchure' in which he refers to Joe Allard's teaching method.
 

LoveJazz

New Member
Messages
4
Locality
Halifax Canada
A couple of years ago, I went through a similar process as you're going through w.r.t. lip position. Thanks to other cafe members, I've discovered wonderful resources (text and video) that have helped me experiment with and improve the way I play tenor sax. Though I'm still - at best - an intermediate player :). Dave Liebman was one of the best. discoveries.

Another was Joe Allard who (if I understand it correctly) took a different approach to 'embouchure' than Larry Teal (which I started out with).
Joe Allard's approach was more about relaxing facial and throat muscles to avoid tension negatively impacting tone and freedom of expression.

Thank you for your reply. It seems that we've come across similar texts, opinions and videos on the internet (not so surprising really).
I think the analogy to a runner is very relevant.

I just want to mention Phil Barone's blog. As you may know he is a very well known maker of mouthpieces AND he doesn't hold back in his opinion: Saxophone Tone Development | Phil Barone Saxophones.

In this particular section on tone development he actually recommends using a large tip mouthpiece as part of the exercise "Another great exercise is to purchase a very large tip opening mouthpiece to warm up on and dothese exercises and to teach you to use your diaphragm completely. However, you can do moreharm than good if you use a hard reed on a very open mouthpiece and it may cause you to become tight. ...."

And I know he received some flak over this statement "Remember that you can't take too much mouthpiece in within reason. You shouldn't choke buttry to pass the point that the facing starts on the rails of the mouthpiece, an inch for tenor, and3/4 for alto. That's the teeth should be past that, not the lips. ....."

Anyhow, I feel I got some helpful and supportive advice here on this Forum.

Tom
 

MrBlueNote

Member
Messages
38
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Portland, Oregon, US
And I know he received some flak over this statement "Remember that you can't take too much mouthpiece in within reason. You shouldn't choke buttry to pass the point that the facing starts on the rails of the mouthpiece, an inch for tenor, and3/4 for alto. That's the teeth should be past that, not the lips. ....."

Phil Barone is a respected voice in the saxophone community, but as with everything there are differing opinions on this issue. Taking in a lot of piece will give you a louder sound, which can be an advantage in certain playing situations, however there tends to be a tradeoff between volume and control, as this can make it more difficult to articulate notes cleanly with the tongue and can also make it harder to control your volume and shape your tone.

I'd recommend experimenting with this variable to find your own personal sweet spot where you get the best balance of volume and control.
 

Jez Watson

Member
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309
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UK
I take exactly an inch on tenor, probably as I spent a lot of time playing a HR Link and to get a bright full sound on these you have to take a lot of mpc in my opinion
 

Targa

Among the pigeons
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I take exactly an inch on tenor, probably as I spent a lot of time playing a HR Link and to get a bright full sound on these you have to take a lot of mpc in my opinion
If you want a bright sound why play a Link? I bought them specifically because what I'd read suggested they give a 'darker' sound.
 

Jez Watson

Member
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309
Locality
UK
If you want a bright sound why play a Link? I bought them specifically because what I'd read suggested they give a 'darker' sound.

I meant that to play on the bright side of these pieces which can be dark sounding that is what i do to get a clearer, brighter and bigger sound, yes they aren't a bright piece but they have the fatness that i like, the players that get the clarity and fullness of tone in my opinion on these pieces tend to play with a lot of piece in their mouth, it also helps to play on the loose side with the lip rolled out a little?
 

Targa

Among the pigeons
Messages
10,070
Locality
KIC 8462852
I meant that to play on the bright side of these pieces which can be dark sounding that is what i do to get a clearer, brighter and bigger sound, yes they aren't a bright piece but they have the fatness that i like, the players that get the clarity and fullness of tone in my opinion on these pieces tend to play with a lot of piece in their mouth, it also helps to play on the loose side with the lip rolled out a little?
I play loose on tenor still working towards it on alto at the top end.
 
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