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Tone Relaxed Embouchure

Doktat

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In light of a recent discussion between Jaime Anderson and Dr. Wally on youtube (
View: https://youtu.be/U4tdhqWHPco
) where the subject of relaxation of the mouth on the mouthpiece/reed is cited as a common problem with beginners, I question the approach of starting with the teeth sitting on the mouthpiece. In the above-mentioned discussion Anderson even recommends being able to move the mouthpiece around in the mouth to insure minimum pressure on the reed. I myself am thinking that some of the tricks Anderson is talking about are things that truly make a difference in my tone. Also in this discussion Anderson makes a great point about using long-tones in that he questions why anyone would want to perfect playing a note that’s bad to begin with. Dr. Wally took the point well. Comments? If it’s a standard problem that sax teachers encounter, then why start a person out with their teeth on the mouthpiece?
 

jbtsax

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There are several different points of view on the saxophone embouchure. The one espoused by Marcel Mule and brought to the U.S. by his students: Frederick Hemke, Jean-Marie Londeix, Eugene Rousseau, Daniel Deffayet (who succeeded Mule at the Paris Conservatoire in 1968) and Claude Delangle (who succeeded Deffayet in 1988) is the one most common among classical saxophonists. The best description of this embouchure is given in "The Art of Saxophone Playing" by Larry Teal and is often called "the Teal wheel". Teal describes the top teeth on top of the mouthpiece as an "anchor point" firm enough so there is no slipping of the teeth on the top of the mouthpiece, and that supports the weight of the head.

I have used and taught this embouchure throughout my playing and teaching career. It is my observation that the "pressure" on the reed comes from the lower lip and jaw muscles, not what is happening with the upper lip and top teeth which do not move without movement of the skull. To test this concept one can put the thumb in the mouth and form a saxophone embouchure around it. Then keeping everything the same, press down with the top teeth into the flesh of the thumb and take note of what happens with the lower lip and teeth. You will feel the bottom teeth pull away from the lower lip thereby relaxing the pressure on the reed. Switching to a "double lip" embouchure may accomplish much the same thing, but it is far more difficult---especially for a student to master.

There are adherents of the "Allard approach" which includes no pushing in of the corner muscles and using light or no contact of the top teeth with the mouthpiece. Their argument includes naming the handful of well known professional players who worked with Allard as proof this is the best approach. My response is that Allard did not work with beginning saxophone students, only players at the top of their profession.

I am familiar with the "standard problem" sax teachers encounter which is "biting" into the lower lip and playing too high on the mouthpiece input pitch. My understanding is that it is not the "Teal embouchure" that is the problem, but that the student's are doing it wrong. Rather than try to change the student's embouchure to more of an "Allard" approach, my solution is to open the teeth to feel the jaw pulling down while the lower lip moves up to contact the reed, push in more with the corners of the mouth, and to press down more with the top teeth on the top of the mouthpiece.
 

Pete Thomas

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Also in this discussion Anderson makes a great point about using long-tones in that he questions why anyone would want to perfect playing a note that’s bad to begin with.
because the tone is bad, you need to improve it. But maybe he doesn't understand the concept of how to practise long notes and why.

The point is to improve you r tone (and your sound)

If it’s a standard problem that sax teachers encounter, then why start a person out with their teeth on the mouthpiece?

There is no reason not to. In fact it's harder to play without your teeth on the top of the mouthpiece.

Of course many of the greats did use a double lip embouchure (e.g. Lee Allen) , but is not so fashionable now.

If the problem is needing to relax your embouchure, then the best thing to teach is relaxing a proper embouchure and not to mess around with teeth not on the reed. That would seem like it's a shortcut kind of bandaid rather than addressing the actual problem at the root cause.
 
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Jimmymack

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I see the point he was making but it was more like a joke reference than something useful and the follow up stuff wasn't really useful in this context. It's not a difficult concept, blow, listen, learn to relax and adjust, blow some more and keep listening, hear the colours in the tone, develop them and then learn to sustain them. I hope and expect his longer lesson packages go into more depth, his full strength course is very expensive and will need to.
 

lydian

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@Doktat , I didn't watch the video, but unless you have some sort of dental issue that can't be solved by a patch, please just put your teeth on the mouthpiece like everybody else. It's a very important anchor point and very necessary for good tone. Yes, a few of the greats managed with double-lip, but the standard embouchure is the way to go for most of us.
 

Targa

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I don't put my teeth on the mouthpiece, I don't know when or why I didn't or if I ever did, never thought about it until the first time I saw comments about it on here.
 

Yansalis

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There are several different points of view on the saxophone embouchure. The one espoused by Marcel Mule and brought to the U.S. by his students: Frederick Hemke, Jean-Marie Londeix, Eugene Rousseau, Daniel Deffayet (who succeeded Mule at the Paris Conservatoire in 1968) and Claude Delangle (who succeeded Deffayet in 1988) is the one most common among classical saxophonists. The best description of this embouchure is given in "The Art of Saxophone Playing" by Larry Teal and is often called "the Teal wheel". Teal describes the top teeth on top of the mouthpiece as an "anchor point" firm enough so there is no slipping of the teeth on the top of the mouthpiece, and that supports the weight of the head.

[ . . . ]

There are adherents of the "Allard approach" which includes no pushing in of the corner muscles and using light or no contact of the top teeth with the mouthpiece. Their argument includes naming the handful of well known professional players who worked with Allard as proof this is the best approach. My response is that Allard did not work with beginning saxophone students, only players at the top of their profession.

I've long been curious as to what evidence there is to support the idea that Teal was a product of, or was representative of the French school. Since you bring it up perhaps you can put forward the evidence? At the least I would be very curious to know of any writings which show the French School to share details of the Teal approach. The "round embouchure" won't be an example as it is clearly a holdover from the clarinet.

Also, I am sorry to see that your propensity to continuously attack the Allard approach has led you to characterize his adherents as arguing that his was "the best approach". In fact the only reason any proponent of the value of his lessons has listed the 'handful' of well known professional classical players is because you challenged them to do so. It is hardly a feature of any supposed quest to prove Allard "best". Joe Allard was a very important thinker and teacher and he really deserves better than to be represented in such an adversarial and skewed way.

If it’s a standard problem that sax teachers encounter, then why start a person out with their teeth on the mouthpiece?

In fact not all teachers start students this way (John Harle uses a double embouchure for 'detox' in the beginning of his book). But given that it's the correct way for a reason, why not start students off on the right foot from the beginning, so that all the learning they then do includes the right relationship of the teeth to the mouthpiece?
 
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jbtsax

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I've long been curious as to what evidence there is to support the idea that Teal was a product of, or was representative of the French school. Since you bring it up perhaps you can put forward the evidence? At the least I would be very curious to know of any writings which show the French School to share details of the Teal approach. The "round embouchure" won't be an example as it is clearly a holdover from the clarinet.
The use of the terms "the French School" and the "American School" of saxophone playing mostly refer to the vibrato and concept of sound, not the embouchure. Essentially "the French School" which started with Marcel Mule uses a faster vibrato that is more or less continuous, while "the American School" uses the vibrato where appropriate with a tone that is a bit darker and rounder. [this gets a bit complicated because the adherents of Sigurd Rascher claim that he is the father of the "American School" of saxophone playing.] In the Steps to Excellence series that can be found on YouTube, in the video entitled Saxophone Fundamentals, Rousseau clearly describes the same embouchure that is found in The Art of Saxophone Playing by Larry Teal which is the one that has become the standard in saxophone pedagogy---especially in classical playing.
Also, I am sorry to see that your propensity to continuously attack the Allard approach has led you to characterize his adherents as arguing that his was "the best approach". In fact the only reason any proponent of the value of his lessons has listed the 'handful' of well known professional classical players is because you challenged them to do so. It is hardly a feature of any supposed quest to prove Allard "best". Joe Allard was a very important thinker and teacher and he really deserves better than to be represented in such an adversarial and skewed way.
Please don't take offense at my comments about Joe Allard. I have a great deal of respect for him as a gifted teacher who could work with each student's physiology to produce the best possible sound for that individual's style of playing.
My comment is based upon countless discussions on Sax on the Web in which some proponents of the "Allard approach" vigorously claim that the "Teal" embouchure is wrong. It is those people who cite the well know players who studied with Allard as proof of their position.
In fact not all teachers start students this way (John Harle uses a double embouchure for 'detox' in the beginning of his book). But given that it's the correct way for a reason, why not start students off on the right foot from the beginning, so that all the learning they then do includes the right relationship of the teeth to the mouthpiece?
I'm not sure I understand "that it's the correct way for a reason". Do you mean that the teeth off the mouthpiece is the correct way? John Harle is an excellent player and teacher, and whatever works for him is fine. He is just an exception to the standard pedagogy used in saxophone instruction.
 
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turf3

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Jimi Hendrix played a right-handed guitar flipped upside down and left-handed. Because he was enormously successful doesn't mean that it should be part of standard guitar pedagogy.
 

Jimmymack

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Somebody once told me he saw Hendrix pick up a right handed guitar and played it and sounded just like Hendrix with a left handed one.
 

lydian

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Newton’s third law is the reason for using teeth on the mouthpiece. That principle of physics pre-dates Allard, Teal, Sax and even Jesus. It’s existed since the dawn of the universe. If you prefer to control the weight of the entire horn with both hands to counter the force of your jaw, knock yourself out. But most of us are simply going to rest our top teeth on the mouthpiece. Takes a lot less energy and is a lot easier to control. And it has worked perfectly well for millions of woodwind players for centuries.

I’ve noticed a pattern among beginners who use double lip to overcome some playing difficultly. They would rather waste time searching for validation of bad technique than spending that time practicing.
 

Targa

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To bite or not to bite.........
It's the one out of an infinite number monkeys playing the saxophone that will be doing it right, the rest will claim to be.
 

lydian

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To bite or not to bite.........
You can do both with the top teeth on the mouthpiece. You can only do one without the top teeth. No bite at all usually results in poor, uncontrolled tone and difficultly in certain registers. It takes some pressure to produce a good tone. No pressure at all sounds like a duck, and an out of tune one at that.
 

turf3

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Yes, the internet has a lot of that. Beginners or near-beginners, who don't want to follow standard practice for whatever reason, and reference the tiny number of people who use this non-standard technique as a reason not to just do the standard thing.

The point I make in these discussions (which falls on deaf ears, as they're not looking for advice, they're looking for agreement) is that for most of these instruments the standard pedagogy is the standard pedagogy because it works the fastest, most effectively, with the minimum of bad habits generated, for the largest number of students. If you're more or less normal in size and capabilities, your best chance to get started playing a musical instrument quickly and accurately will almost always be the standard pedagogy.
 

turf3

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If I understand the "Allard concept" as described above, "no pushing in of corners" (we'll just decide for the moment to ignore the fact muscles are incapable of pushing...) - I have trouble understanding how you're supposed to seal the air in when playing above pianissimo. That's where my chops still fatigue first, after 44 years of playing.

I think a lot of these instructional approaches are really intended to be an intentional over-reaction, to break a student of a bad habit, but not intended to tell you how to play a lifetime long. You can't tell me that those Allard students genuinely did not exert the muscles around their mouth to make a solid seal of the air. I'm no expert on this particular set of teachings but I'm willing to bet it comes from trying to loosen up advanced students' pinched tight embouchures and scrawny little sounds (and biting through their lower lips, too). If you intentionally take off the top teeth from the MP it makes it much harder to bite through your lower lip, which leads to strengthening the muscles that should have been strengthened from the beginning.
 

Targa

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Newton’s third law is the reason for using teeth on the mouthpiece. That principle of physics pre-dates Allard, Teal, Sax and even Jesus. It’s existed since the dawn of the universe. If you prefer to control the weight of the entire horn with both hands to counter the force of your jaw, knock yourself out. But most of us are simply going to rest our top teeth on the mouthpiece. Takes a lot less energy and is a lot easier to control. And it has worked perfectly well for millions of woodwind players for centuries.

I’ve noticed a pattern among beginners who use double lip to overcome some playing difficultly. They would rather waste time searching for validation of bad technique than spending that time practicing.
Instead of trying to control the whole weight of the entire horn with both hands to counter the force of your jaw try adjusting your strap then you won't be having to use your jaw.
 

DavidUK

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...and not to mess around with teeth not on the reed. That would seem like it's a shortcut kind of bandaid rather than addressing the actual problem at the root cause.
teeth... root cause... like it!

:thumb:
 

Yansalis

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In the Steps to Excellence series that can be found on YouTube, in the video entitled Saxophone Fundamentals, Rousseau clearly describes the same embouchure that is found in The Art of Saxophone Playing by Larry Teal which is the one that has become the standard in saxophone pedagogy---especially in classical playing.

Rousseau describes a round embouchure. A round embouchure can't serve as a marker for transmission from a single school because it pre-dated any tradition of saxophone playing. Since Rousseau's description is far less detailed than Teal's, I do not think it is reasonable to use that alone to link Teal to the French school.

Please don't take offense at my comments about Joe Allard. I have a great deal of respect for him as a gifted teacher who could work with each student's physiology to produce the best possible sound for that individual's style of playing.
My comment is based upon countless discussions on Sax on the Web in which some proponents of the "Allard approach" vigorously claim that the "Teal" embouchure is wrong. It is those people who cite the well know players who studied with Allard as proof of their position.

Thanks. Generalizing from a handful of overzealous fans on SOTW (are we really to take that quagmire as representative of the real world?) to "Allard enthusiasts" is exactly the same error as the one you accuse them of: generalizing from a handful of successful well known professionals.

I'm not sure I understand "that it's the correct way for a reason". Do you mean that the teeth off the mouthpiece is the correct way? John Harle is an excellent player and teacher, and whatever works for him is fine. He is just an exception to the standard pedagogy used in saxophone instruction.

I was answering the post I quoted from the OP, who asked why we would even teach upper teeth contact with the mouthpiece.

Although I do think upper teeth on mouthpiece is best, the "standard pedagogy" which you often define and defend is neither monolithic nor the last word. It contains enough misinformation that since Mark Watkins' book came out it has been quite clear that in many ways people learn to play despite, rather than because of it.
 

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