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Beginner Opps lost the trumpet lips

oldblower

Member
Messages
99
maybe this is common but have been enjoying the sax so much! think i might have overdone it, bottom lip is a bit sore and rubbed from the reed and its stopped my lower note lip buzz on the trumpet, tone's off too. Am sure this is only overuse and will all come back with a rest and lips repaired.

But is this normal and will it get better with time?
It there anything i might be doing wrong?

Thanks in advance for the help.
 

Sweet Dreamer

Senior Member
Messages
505
I don't know how common it is, but it happens to me all the time. This is one reason it's nice to have several different instruments to fall back on. I've been really hurting myself big time over-playing the trumpet lately. I don't know if this is good or bad for the embouchure? I know it's bad for my drums because it take practice time away from them. I've hurt my "sax lip" by over-playing the sax before too, but that's always recovered given a bit of a rest. I haven't been playing the sax a whole lot lately. But then again, I go back and forth between binges on the sax and trumpet. Right now I'm on a trumpet binge.
 

kevgermany

ex Landrover Nut
Subscriber
Messages
21,947
I wish I knew what the answer to this is, my son gets it a lot with his clarinet. If you find something, please let me know.
 

Sweet Dreamer

Senior Member
Messages
505
I wish I knew what the answer to this is, my son gets it a lot with his clarinet. If you find something, please let me know.
As you well know I'm quite the neophyte when it comes to playing a sax, and I never did get a good handle on the clarinet. Just the same I have "my answer" to your question, as least with respect to the sax.

What I've discovered is that I was simply using too much pressure on the base of the reed with my lip. Way too much! I think there are basically two ways to play a reed.

1. Using brute force
2. Using delicate finesse

The Brute Force Embouchure

I think there's a tendency to use the brute force, because there tends to be more control that way (i.e. more confidence, more consistency) and in that sense it seems to be both, the "better" way to play, as well as the "safest" way to play (i.e. less chance of getting unwanted squeaks, squawks, and reed "drop out", etc)

The brute force method is where the lower lip is placed at the base of the reed. Where the reed meets the table of the mouthpiece. Then a lot of pressure is used to control the reed from there. It takes quite a bit of pressure to control the reed from here, but the control is quite stable.

However, I think in the long run this this stability isn't worth the effort. It may be true for raw beginners (i.e. they can actually play this way and have quite a bit of control in the early going), whereas they my have difficulty using the finesse method (addressed below) and still retain control. So they have a tendency to fall into the "brute force embouchure position" just out of pure habit. It works, and it's what they have learned works, so they stick with it, far too long.

The Finesse Embouchure

The "Finesse Embouchure" (my own terms by the way), is to release the pressure of the lower lip, and move the lower lip upward (toward the tip of the mouthpiece - or more "onto" the reed). Onto where the reed begins to leave the table. It requires less pressure from the lower lip to control the reed from here. But it also requires more "finesse". The pressure and position of the lower lip has a much greater effect on the reed because it is now pressing on the reed where the reed is more vulnerable to that pressure.

Thus it's more difficult to control the reed. This actually gives you more control over the reed in the long haul, but it's more difficult to control the reed (especially for a beginner) because slight variations in lip pressure will have a major impact on how the reed plays.

So that's what I've found for me personally. I don't know if this makes any sense to a professional saxophonist, but it seems to work for me.

It's just the precise control of the lower lip pressure and placement at the base of the reed.



We're talking about very small variations in the placement of the lower lip. Moving the lip further toward the base of the reed requires more lip pressure but results in what seems to be more stable control. Moving the lip ever-so-lightly outward toward the tip of the reed requires less lip pressure, but also seems to 'lose control' as well. But actually learning how to control the reed like this using less lip pressure is the key. It's probably the key to better playing overall. But at first it will feel like "losing control".

So I just consciously try to work my lip as far back (toward the tip) of the reed as I can get it and still retain control. The further back you move it the less pressure is required to control it. And controlling it with less pressure also means that slight variations in pressure with have a major affect on how the reed plays.

This is why the "brute force embouchure" is attractive to beginners. It seems to be more "consistent" because small variations in lip pressure doesn't have much affect.

So that's my neophyte ramble. Whether there is any truth to anything I've said here is beyond my ability to determine. :)))

Just consider it food for thought, or over-rambled lip-service.
 

kevgermany

ex Landrover Nut
Subscriber
Messages
21,947
Trouble with the clarinet is that the embouchure is so much tighter, and it needs lots of lower lip to dampen the reed movement.
 

Sweet Dreamer

Senior Member
Messages
505
Trouble with the clarinet is that the embouchure is so much tighter, and it needs lots of lower lip to dampen the reed movement.
Well, I can't say much for the clarinet. I bought one about 6 years ago. I could never make a decent sound with it. I always found it next to impossible to play. Not just the embouchure and reed, but I never got along with the fingerings on the clarinet either. So it was a total flop for me.

I've only owned my alto sax for about a year now, and I'm light-years beyond where I was ever able to get on the clarinet already. In fact, I've done so well on the alto sax, that as you probably know, I just bought a tenor and I'm doing well with it too.

I still own the clarinet and I've tried going back to it from time to time. I was thinking that maybe after having played the sax maybe I could do better on the clarinet. But nope, it's still a totally miserable instrument from my perspective. I'm starting to believe that whoever invented the clarinet was a sadist.

In defense of the Clarinet, I will add that I bought a really cheap one. So who know? Maybe had I bought a better quality instrument things might have been different? But the one I have is absolute garbage. It doesn't even remotely compare to a sax, in any way shape or form.

In fact, people who start their kids out on a clarinet as "preparation" for a sax are just wasting the kid's time, IMHO. You'd be far better of just starting them out on a cheap sax. I bought one of the cheapest saxes available. I think it was only about $289 or something like that. Under $300 for sure. Yet it's a marvelous instrument in comparison with my clarinet. I'm actually happy with my "Cheap sax". In fact, I only paid $309 for this new tenor. And it's pretty darn nice too, for the price.

So do the kid a favor and swap the clarinet out for a sax. ;)
 

kevgermany

ex Landrover Nut
Subscriber
Messages
21,947
Well, I can't say much for the clarinet. I bought one about 6 years ago. I could never make a decent sound with it. I always found it next to impossible to play. Not just the embouchure and reed, but I never got along with the fingerings on the clarinet either. So it was a total flop for me.

I've only owned my alto sax for about a year now, and I'm light-years beyond where I was ever able to get on the clarinet already. In fact, I've done so well on the alto sax, that as you probably know, I just bought a tenor and I'm doing well with it too.

I still own the clarinet and I've tried going back to it from time to time. I was thinking that maybe after having played the sax maybe I could do better on the clarinet. But nope, it's still a totally miserable instrument from my perspective. I'm starting to believe that whoever invented the clarinet was a sadist.

In defense of the Clarinet, I will add that I bought a really cheap one. So who know? Maybe had I bought a better quality instrument things might have been different? But the one I have is absolute garbage. It doesn't even remotely compare to a sax, in any way shape or form.

In fact, people who start their kids out on a clarinet as "preparation" for a sax are just wasting the kid's time, IMHO. You'd be far better of just starting them out on a cheap sax. I bought one of the cheapest saxes available. I think it was only about $289 or something like that. Under $300 for sure. Yet it's a marvelous instrument in comparison with my clarinet. I'm actually happy with my "Cheap sax". In fact, I only paid $309 for this new tenor. And it's pretty darn nice too, for the price.

So do the kid a favor and swap the clarinet out for a sax. ;)
I can't play the clarinet - I was just bringing this back from the theory I've read, this was, I think on the USNW web site (Dr Joe Wolff).

But there's a big difference in playablilty between cheap clarinets and decent ones. We originally bought our son a cheap Stagg. Cost less than a year's rental on a decent one and a lot less thann we'd have lost if he gave up. It lasted a couple of years, but was horrible and by the end the pads were shot and it wasn't worth paying someone to do up. Loose, crude soft keywork, was the main issue. A switch to an overhauled Uebel made a huge difference, and recently a switch to a newer, higher spec'd Uebel has made a big change again.

but it may be your mouthpiece.... or embouchure.....
 

Dave McLaughlin

Sesquipedalian
Subscriber
Messages
305
The "Finesse Embouchure" (my own terms by the way), is to release the pressure of the lower lip, and move the lower lip upward (toward the tip of the mouthpiece - or more "onto" the reed). Onto where the reed begins to leave the table. It requires less pressure from the lower lip to control the reed from here.
What you describe seems to me to be subtone.

When I first taught myself to play alto 20 years ago, I lived in a flat. After a few years, I gave up playing until, earlier this year, I thought I'd give it another go and bought myself a tenor. A few weeks ago, wanting to emulate the Stan Getz sound, I thought I'd try to learn subtone. I was surprised to learn that, in an effort to avoid disturbing my neighbours all those years ago, I had been playing subtone!
 

Sweet Dreamer

Senior Member
Messages
505
Well, I don't know how much truth there is to this, but I heard that cheap clarinets are really lousy in the higher registers, and that's supposedly the major problem with them. The clarinet has a very wide range, something like three or four octaves? Cheap clarinets are supposed to be half-decent in the first register at least.

I would have been happy to be able to play it just in the lowest register or maybe just the first two octaves. Well, I actually was able to play it some in those ranges. It wasn't a total bust. But it was just never really fun to play. I did buy a new mouthpiece in the hopes that that might make a difference, but unfortunately it didn't. I really need to sell it. But in a way I'm almost afraid to sell to it anyone because they'd be getting ripped off. I was thinking of putting it on eBay for a starting bid of $10 and if they bid it up from there that's their problem.

I don't know. Maybe it's just me? Maybe I'm just not cut out to play a clarinet. But the sax is working out ok. So that's cool. I really wanted a sax in the first place anyway but didn't want to spend the money at that time. I couldn't afford to buy a sax back then. Now I have two of them - yippee! So I no longer need the clarinet.
 

oldblower

Member
Messages
99
I was hoping that someone would suggest growing one of those hairy things!! below the bottom lip (not sure what its called), as a baldy the odd bit of facial hair is fun, not sure how the family would see.

Never played any instrument until i was 51 so its all new to me.

51 guitar struggled with arthritis in the hands and got very grumpy.

52 sent a trumpet in the post with a note saying you were always full of air, stop moaning about your body falling apart and blow on this.

53 friends kept telling me i sounded more laid-back that a sax player on the trumpet so got a sax and yep can play it laying down too, with a couple of pillows.

Did play a clarinet a couple of weeks back and seemed ok with it got most of the range, not the top 3/4 notes, it was a mid range yamaha tho which might have helped.

Thanks for the replys so far.
 

oldblower

Member
Messages
99
lips ok again and changed to less turned in lower lip position, also on speaking to friends from trumpet this happened to me last year, sore lips cold outside ride a bike most of the time and the old lips just get flakey, so maybe not caused by the sax just aggravated by it.
Did grow the hairy bottom lip thing but could not take the verbal abuse from the family so it had to go!!
 

TomMapfumo

Well-Known Member
Messages
5,219
maybe this is common but have been enjoying the sax so much! think i might have overdone it, bottom lip is a bit sore and rubbed from the reed and its stopped my lower note lip buzz on the trumpet, tone's off too. Am sure this is only overuse and will all come back with a rest and lips repaired.

But is this normal and will it get better with time?
It there anything i might be doing wrong?

Thanks in advance for the help.
The problem with a trumpet embouchure is that playing a sax mouthpiece, apart from a soprano sax or metal alto, will stretch the lips, which are then hard to get back into shape to play a trumpet. The key is to practice trumpet before practising sax, and never the other way around. Trumpet to Sax is really good, as it will strengthen your embouchure for both. Sax to Trumpet is more trouble than it is worth quite honestly.

A slution would be to play trumpet for 20 mins or so before playing the sax, and then leaving a 2-3 hour gap before playing trumpet. "Chop Saver" is an excellent lip balm specially developed for musicians, and does heal. At the same time you sound like you need to have more breaks in your practice routine, and maybe are practsing for too long at this stage of your playing. I practice for no more than 20 mins at a time, taking a 5-10 min break before resuming. That way you will have some recovery time and protect your poor lips!

Kind regards
Tom
 

oldblower

Member
Messages
99
The problem with a trumpet embouchure is that playing a sax mouthpiece, apart from a soprano sax or metal alto, will stretch the lips, which are then hard to get back into shape to play a trumpet. The key is to practice trumpet before practising sax, and never the other way around. Trumpet to Sax is really good, as it will strengthen your embouchure for both. Sax to Trumpet is more trouble than it is worth quite honestly.

A slution would be to play trumpet for 20 mins or so before playing the sax, and then leaving a 2-3 hour gap before playing trumpet. "Chop Saver" is an excellent lip balm specially developed for musicians, and does heal. At the same time you sound like you need to have more breaks in your practice routine, and maybe are practsing for too long at this stage of your playing. I practice for no more than 20 mins at a time, taking a 5-10 min break before resuming. That way you will have some recovery time and protect your poor lips!

Kind regards
Tom
Thanks tom, will plan that way round, its also been better on the alto while the tenor is in the shed, lips are getting better now. stolen my daughters lip stuff she has far to much its made by lush and is a bit fragrant!! will try to get some chop saver asap.
 

TomMapfumo

Well-Known Member
Messages
5,219
It is also helpful if you can play a larger trumpet mouthpiece (as large as is comfortable). I play a 17.5mm Inner Diameter mouthpiece and it is rather easier than a smaller one if playing sax as well.

I've just finished my trumpet practice and will spend the afternoon on the sax.
 

oldblower

Member
Messages
99
I play a 1.5B bach megatone never measured it but think its one of the bigger sizes, will check. played a bit this morning but will play again later with the sax after. have a lot of coaching today so tomorrow will be better.
thank again.:)
 

TomMapfumo

Well-Known Member
Messages
5,219
It is 17.00mm - good size mouthpiece. I had a Bach 1 1/2 C back in the old days - too small now!
 
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