Worst Embouchure in the World

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59
Hi Everyone.
I'm Jake.
I haven't been here since it was the breakfast room.
After not playing at all for about 7 months I have been practising again. Just wondering about embouchure. (I have been playing on and off now for about 4 years) Mine has always been dreadful. I mean, notes above high c or d normally start to warble. Especially after I've been playing for a while. At the start of my playing I can usually get a half decent tone out of high f or f sharp etc but I just lose it after 5 minutes or so.
I know that everyone always says 'practice long notes if you wanna sound good' and I do try to practice them at the beginning of my practice (and in the middle) but I find it incredibly difficult to do. Not because I am lazy (I would really like to play nicely) but because it doesnt seem to improve, it sounds awful and seems to make itself worse by even trying. I dont think there is anything wrong with my kit. I am playing a yanigasawa 901 with a vandoren java mouthpeice - the notes come out fine all the down to low Bb.
I use those sticky pads to protect the mouthpiece from my top teeth. I was wondering about this biting thing: Am I right thinking that biting is something that I do cos my embouchure is weak. It did occur to me to try to play without biting at all with the top teeth (therefore relying on the firmness of the bottom lip to hold the notes). They do say that the embouchure (if correct) should not really change as you go up the instrument. I feel that the notes at the bottom and in the middle sound fine to me - then I get to high d or e and it starts sounding pants and I remember that I cant actually play (nicely)! Is it that the lower notes are more forgiving in terms of embouchure?

Is it a case of working the bottom lip until it just gets a lot stronger? In that case should I practise those high notes and put up with the awful sound until it gets better? Or am I gonna make it worse?

I dont feel that The problem with the sound is my throat or ability to blow - just the wobbly lip.
My playing improves in all other aspects. albeit at a snail's pace but this is the one thing that I'm really stuck on.

(yeah I know i should resume taking lessons but any nudges in the right direction would be appreciated!)
thanks
jake
 

Taz

Busking Oracle
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3,627
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Rugby UK
Hi Jake and welcome to the Cafe. As a self taught player I can only tell you that it will improve with practice. No matter how bad it sounds to start with, it will improve. You are right about your embouchure, it does change as you go up and down the sax. Low notes tend to be more relaxed and therefore easier to blow. As you gain strength in your lips you will be able to hold those higher notes nice and steady. Just keep at it!
 

kevgermany

ex Landrover Nut
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Just north of Munich
Take a look at Larry Teal's the art of the sax, there are some exercises to build up the embouchure muscles. Do them as often as you think of them, but be sure no-one's looking :)))
 

thehunt

Member
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797
Location
Studham Bedfordshire
Hi Jake, if it helps i have been playing now just over 18 mths and have now seriously started to question my playing ability.
With the help of my teacher i am now really starting to knuckle down and do what people call the boring bits, scales arpeggios, long notes etc etc. I can honestly say that things have improved with my intonation over the last month, you must keep it up, i am sure that more advanced players will tell you that with practice things do improve and not only that you embouchure adjusts automatically along with your diaphragm so that you produce a steady stream of air to maintain those long notes.
I think that the process of becoming a good competent player does take time so just persevere and don't be too hard on yourself. I know i was, we are supposed to enjoy this sax playing... Keep us posted on how you get on, rgds Phil :welldone
 

Rogerb

Member
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766
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Costa Blanca, Spain
If it is any consolation at all, I have now been playing for about 4years, too, and still consider myself at the 'nearly incompetent beginner' level...... and there is no doubt in my mind that it is ONLY because I do not practise enough or as effectively as I should/could have.

Others who started about the same time have progressed in leaps & bounds ...... I think crazydaisydoo on YouTube started sax about the same time as I :eek: :eek: :eek:
(But he did have the advantage of being a 'musician' previously)

There just ain't no substitoot for regular, 'quality' practice ;) ......... but I do haveta say a good teacher has helped me to keep going, when I might otherwise have given-up in frustration (as I did, after one year with clarinet, when I was 18, and again, with alto and a bad teacher, in my 40s).

Have you thought of on-line lessons?
 
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taiwanpaul

Member
Messages
146
A few weeks ago, I decided to buy myself a saxophone mute silencer from jazzlab. I have been playing for about 12 years. I bought it primarily to practice in the car with, as due to family, work and not enough time, I can't always play the sax each day.
I was a little skeptical at first, but having received it and having used it considerably, I must admit that it has really helped my tone, embouchure, altissimo ("no longer biting"), and overtones.I am now able to practice long notes, interval jumps and play along to the car stereo with just the mpc and silencer!
This also helps you to get the feeling of mouth, tongue and throat position for the high and low notes. I bought one for the tenor, but have also noticed an improvement on my soprano, esp. the high notes.
I would recommend to buy one if you wish to improve all of the above mentioned.
It may seem pricey (40 quid) and some may say just use the mpc, (your poor ears!), but it has really improved my sound (and stopped my mpc GAS) and I'll keep using it to keep my embouchure fit!!
 

ukwoody

Member
Messages
81
Location
Milford Haven, Pembrokshire, Wales
Hi Jake welcome.

I'm actually really glad you posted this as I've just come off my 20 mins aday practice and had struggled today hitting some basic notes which I decided must be to do with my embouchure. It is interesting reading the replies which have enlightend me (thanks guys). Can I ask a question then, tagging onto your bit?

When playing, I bite the top of the mouth piece. Am I not meant to???

Cheers every one

woody
 

Rogerb

Member
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766
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Costa Blanca, Spain
I think the general consensus is that your top teeth should rest on the top of the mpc, but the concept of 'biting' seems wrong to me.

As a matter of interest, what mouthpiece, tip-opening and reeds are you using?
 

Justin Chune

Well-Known Member
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2,983
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The Athens of The North
My top teeth rest lightly on the beak, I don't bite and I don't blow. I bought a couple of saxes from friends who were retiring and the original mouthpieces are about 40 and 30 years old, there are no teeth marks on them.

Jim.
 

ukwoody

Member
Messages
81
Location
Milford Haven, Pembrokshire, Wales
I think the general consensus is that your top teeth should rest on the top of the mpc, but the concept of 'biting' seems wrong to me.

As a matter of interest, what mouthpiece, tip-opening and reeds are you using?

Yamaha 4C Mouthpiece and Rico 1.5 reeds. Sorry I'm not sure of the tip opening size. When I originally bought my sax a few years back, the shop strongly recommended it. (Just to explain that bit I haven't touched it for 5 years)

woody
 

Luluna

Señora
Subscriber
Messages
698
Location
Vermont, USA
Hi Jake and welcome to the CS!

Hmmmm embouchures are tricky. After a 20+ year break I started playing again a year ago. I kept thinking my sax needed repairs, the reeds were wrong, the ligature must not fit properly, and my lip was like rubber. After a few months of playing every day, the chops started to come back. And I found out my sax didn't need repair - I just needed to practice some more and get my chops back.

I am curious about the experiment with the mute from Jazzlab though I must admit.

Best of luck to you and keep playing :)
 
Messages
56
Location
Isle of Skye
Embouchure

I am the same as you as far as embouchure goes. After a very short time my lips go slack and ache. I must be doing something wrong. I need a teacher but there aren't any in Skye that I know of. Good luck!:)
 

kevgermany

ex Landrover Nut
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Just north of Munich
I am the same as you as far as embouchure goes. After a very short time my lips go slack and ache. I must be doing something wrong. I need a teacher but there aren't any in Skye that I know of. Good luck!:)
You're probably squeezing too hard. However there are some good exercises in Larry Teal's The Art of the Saxophone. Well worth ordering from Amazon.
 

Jellybabybex

New Member
Messages
28
Location
York
I am the same as you as far as embouchure goes. After a very short time my lips go slack and ache. I must be doing something wrong. I need a teacher but there aren't any in Skye that I know of. Good luck!:)
This element is probably just a stamina thing, rather than something you are doing wrong. Everyone finds the embouchure weird when they first start on any woodwind instrument, and everyone has their time limit beyond which you have to take a rest to let your muscles recover (for me it's about 40-45 minutes now, but I had to build up to that).

I do recommend you get a teacher though, just to check you're not doing anything significantly wrong!
 

Tim

Member
Messages
32
Location
Prescott AZ USA
Jake: Great thread! I think everyone goes through this? That said, I have trouble with high notes, d to f and low notes b flat to d? I got a Blues Blaster from Steve Goodson and the high notes are good about 95% of the time. I still use allot of air prior to getting my low notes clean. Been playing for a year and a half, 63 lessons in that time. My teacher says I'm doing OK for my time. We all want to be pros ASAP? I'm old, 68. So who knows whats to come? I try to practice 1 to 3 hours a day. Tim
 

gladsaxisme

Try Hard Die Hard
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manchester
Welcome Tim

You threw me a bit resurrecting this old thread you must have spent a long time sifting through the threads, like I always say don't rush the sax just take your time and enjoy what you do...john
 
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Little Oaf

Member
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44
Location
Eccleshall, United Kingdom
You're probably squeezing too hard. However there are some good exercises in Larry Teal's The Art of the Saxophone. Well worth ordering from Amazon.
Having found I seem to have a lot in common regarding embouchre problems, so this thread has been very enlightening! Seeing your recommendation for Larry Teals's book has confirmed that my purchase from amazon just minute ago was a good one!
 

Tim

Member
Messages
32
Location
Prescott AZ USA
Hey folks: Go to saxsolos.com Curtis Swift has beginner exercises. The one on tone control is great for working on your embouchure problems. All of the exercises are real good. I think you get allot out of them. Reeds? I use Fibracell Premire, 2.0, 2.5 The work great. Very even and no hassle. Teals book is good, but it was written in the 50'S. Much has been learned since then. Pete has much to say about that and I agree with him. My 2 cents. Tim
 
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