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Clarient Embouchure

Discussion in 'General Discussion' started by kevgermany, Jan 4, 2012.

  1. kevgermany

    kevgermany

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    Hope I haven't posted this here before.

    Question: Is there a recognised lip-out embouchure for clarinet?

    Background: My son's been playing for about 6 or 7 years now. In the last couple of years he's had many problems with the skin of his lower lip where it presses on the reed. It's not on the part of his lip that seals to the top lip, but just below that. Net result is that playing can be painful and he needs to stop playing for extended periods.

    We've tried doctors, his teacher, various lip balms/salves and also the dermatologist, but got nowhere. Have also tried searching, but got nowhere. Tried cold sore plasters, they help quite a bit, but costs money and he doesn't like the feel of them.

    He says he doesn't bite, and gets no pain inside his lips. He also doesn't appear to be rubbing the lip with the mouthpiece. Reeds are (to varying degrees) sanded smooth with reed rush. And are pretty soft (2.5s on a Zinner 4 tip).

    So I was wondering if changing to a lower lip out embouchure, more like a sax, would be a recognised way forward. Or if anyone's got any other ideas on how to fix the problem.
     
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  2. Steve

    Steve Clarinet CE/Moderator Staff Member CE/Moderator

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    Sometimes I feel like a frog playing a saxophone
    I hate to say this but he probably IS biting.

    But if you want to use a different term then he is pushing UP way too much.

    There are generally two methods of embouchure for clarinet where one raises their jaw - this normally puts the lower lip at not the optimum location on a clarinet mouthpiece (unless one takes in more mouthpiece).

    And secondly when one pushes out their lower jaw putting the lip at a more optimum location on the mouthpiece. (and anything in between)

    To compensate for the additional pressure (notice I didn't say biting) I used to use paper over the lower teeth. Make sure this is "clean" paper such as what is used in cigarettes. You can get some of this paper from drug stores .. I get mine from Votaw tools. There are additional solutions to this too. But as I moved my embouchure from more mpc/raising the jaw to less mpc and pushing out the jaw this problem has virtually disappeared, except of sax.

    But this is all dependent upon how much mouthpiece one uses. Of course YMMV, and different teachers have different techniques. I normally do not work with young students and normally have to refine already good techniques.

    I have more on it here (hopefully it makes sense)
    http://clarinetperfection.com/Embouchure.htm

    and here on this forum too (looking for post but same as above).

    But in the end the student themselves have to recognize and figure out the problem. They have to evolve their thinking to improve all techniques of playing.

    Keep in mind, even with my experience I still find myself "biting" from time to time primarily on sax (I changed my clarinet embouchure and painful playing has virtually disappeared). This usually occurring when I am playing for a couple of hours nearly non-stop. Sometimes (having alot of fun playing) I realize that my mouth has "locked" and my lip is really hurting (guess I'm having too much fun). This is can be identified as a lack of endurance or maybe just an embouchure problem. Of course one should stop at this point (should, I usually keep playing).

    I always used to wonder watching some symphony soloist when they take in so little mouthpiece. The tip seems to be barely in their mouth. This was due to them pushing out their jaw/lip to meet the mouthpiece. This also allowed their airstream to be more straight out meeting the tip of the mpc and thus forcing the reed to vibrate.

    The clarinet and saxophone embouchures are different. This seems to have alot to do with how the airstream is used to get the reed vibrating. The sax embouchure being more directly parallel to the reed, and the clarinet being more perpendicular. A soft clarinet reed allows one to be more easily parallel. I've done alot of personal experimentation in this area of soft / hard reeds in relation to the particular airstream and mouthpiece angle on sax and clarinet. I've found the more tried and true methods as above to work more soundly for the more specific techniques - we're talking symphony clarinetist techniques. jazz clarinetists are different.
     
  3. AltoRuth

    AltoRuth

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    I know nothing about clarinet embouchure (trust me, I'm a sax player and I'm just now trying to learn clarinet). However, I do use a "cushion" on my lower teeth which I fashion from a product called EZO, which is a denture cushion easily found in the dental product section of a drugstore. It requires a little cutting and molding----very easily done and the cushions thus crafted can be used multiple times before you need to replace them.

    If you want more detail, contact me off list. Judy
     
  4. jbtsax

    jbtsax Distinguished Member Distinguished Member

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    To answer your main question, I have never run across anyone who plays classical or legit clarinet with a lip out embouchure. I have seen a few dixieland players who use this embouchure and they get a raunchy sound---especially above the break.

    To understand the problem more clearly, is the irritation your son experiences in the area marked in the photo below? If that is the case, I may have some suggestions that might help.

    [​IMG]
     
  5. kevgermany

    kevgermany

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    Yep, problem's exactly there. Suggestions welcome, thanks!
     
  6. kevgermany

    kevgermany

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    Steve, thanks, will be going through your article & reply with him.
     
  7. kevgermany

    kevgermany

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    Thanks Judy, I'm going to avoid lower teeth cushions for now. Assuming Steve's right and he's biting, making things more comfortable will encourage the biting...
     
  8. jbtsax

    jbtsax Distinguished Member Distinguished Member

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    That's what I thought. The same irritation happens to me sometimes. Your post gave me some clues.

    1. Your son has been playing 6 or 7 years.

    Most students don't begin till age 11 or 12. That would make him approximately 17 - 19 years of age.

    2. The problem just started the last 2 years.

    Assuming that he hasn't changed the way he plays, that would suggest something about him has changed. Most young men going through puberty begin to grow facial hair and start to shave about age 16.

    The source of the problem then is the reed (not the mouthpiece) rubbing against the skin just below the red portion of the lip that has hair folicles and small stubs of beard depending upon how often and closely he shaves.

    Watch from the side as he puts the mouthpiece into the mouth and begins to play several times in a row. Does he form his embouchure and then "slide" the mouthpiece into the mouth? Or does he keep lips somewhat open, insert the mouthpiece till it contacts with the top teeth, and then forms the embouchure around the reed?

    If the reed is rubbing against the inflamed portion of the lip each time he inserts the mouthpiece, this could be the source of the irritation.

    The other possibility is that too much of the lower lip is rolled over the teeth causing the skin below the red part of the lip to contact the reed while playing. Another related cause would be holding the clarinet too close to the body which would encourage reed contact with the same place on the skin.

    Akin to this is the habit of lifting the head once the clarinet is inserted. I have found that some students do this unconsciously to compensate for a weak embouchure by tilting the head back to push up against the reed with the jaw and lower teeth.

    Since I am just guessing here, please take these suggestions with a grain of salt.

    a. Let the area heal completely
    b. Shave closely and carefully
    c. Don't slide the clarinet mouthpiece in the mouth
    d. Keep the head straight, not tilted back
    e. Perhaps push the bell of the clarinet out a bit more keeping the head straight
    f. Once the angle of the clarinet is slightly greater, take a bit more mouthpiece into the mouth

    One last thought: A technique I used with my clarinet students was to have them play just the mouthpiece and barrel holding the barrel with the right hand while placing the index finger of the left hand in the curve just above the chin. You should be able to insert and remove the finger while holding a tone if the embouchure is properly formed and the mouthpiece is at the correct angle.
     
  9. kevgermany

    kevgermany

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    Thanks JBT, quite a few things to check out there, and some I recognise already, e.g. he plays with the instrument almost parallel to his body... He's 14 by the way and hitting puberty. But no beard yet.

    So the reed should only touch the red part of the lip..... I didn't realise that. But it's what I was looking to achieve with my question about lip out embouchure. Funny thing is his teacher hasn't objected. I'm going to watch him play as well, but I think I know the answer already.
     
  10. SOTSDO

    SOTSDO Old King Log Staff Member CE/Moderator

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    I occasionally have the same problem...

    ...mostly with saxophone playing. In my opinion, it is caused by a combination of the drying of the skin from the constant exposure to the moisture on the reed and the irritation of the hair follicles.

    Your son is of an age where the male beard starts to "come in", but where the growth is not so fast as to make shaving a necessity on a daily basis, that is assuming that he has been shaving. As mentioned above, the short hair length combined with the abrasion from the reed is the most likely cause of the problem.

    I would try not using the reed rush so much; most reeds (or at least the Vandorens that I play) are smooth as they are shipped, and rubbing them up with the abrasive tubes of the reed rush will only disturb the surface and give it more irregularity to rough up his skin.

    Another solution that may be open to him, depending upon the dress and grooming code at the school he attends, is to allow the beard to grow to the point that the hairs stay clear of the skin. And, too much and too rigorous shaving can also exacerbate the problem.
     
  11. jbtsax

    jbtsax Distinguished Member Distinguished Member

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    They must start on wind instruments earlier in Germany than they do in the U.S. Glad I could help.
     
  12. kevgermany

    kevgermany

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    No beard yet. Not even a hint.

    But lots to work on, thanks. I printed the thread off and the article Steve linked to. Lets see what he says.
     
  13. SOTSDO

    SOTSDO Old King Log Staff Member CE/Moderator

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    By any chance...

    ...is he learning on an Oehler system horn?
     
  14. Steve

    Steve Clarinet CE/Moderator Staff Member CE/Moderator

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    Sometimes I feel like a frog playing a saxophone
    I used to have an issue similar to that but it was related to the reed. When the reed increased moisture it expanded and the smoothness went away and it became prickly to my lip and to touch.

    I cannot recall the brand, strength, etc. other than it came in a tin But it certainly was annoying.
     
  15. Tammi

    Tammi Private woodwind instructor

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    Another thing to check is if he is bunching up his chin when forming the embouchure. The chin 'should' be pulled down nearly flat.

    You may be able to help him out by having him sit up straight with his head up, knees together, and the bell of the clarinet resting on them.
    This will put the clarinet in a position that will keep the reed off from the skin below the actual lip.
    It's still within 'acceptable' horn angle, and helps free up the sound and articulation.
    The bell really should be in the area of mid thigh and knees, not the private bits.
     
  16. kevgermany

    kevgermany

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    Yes, does it make a difference?
     
  17. tictactux

    tictactux Distinguished Member Distinguished Member

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    Only fingering-wise. :smile:
     
  18. SOTSDO

    SOTSDO Old King Log Staff Member CE/Moderator

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    That...

    ...and that the angle that the horn is held at can differ (for example, I find that I can't play my Oehler at the same angle as my Boehms, this due to the "posture" of the little fingers in reference to the little finger keys at certain angles, particularly those pesky LH keys that seem to be on the side of the instrument), and that the embouchure is a bit different with the generally narrower mouthpieces used with Oehler system instruments (for example, my Oehler embouchure is (in general), more "clarinet face"-like than is my Boehm embouchure).

    Not major issues, but all part of the overall problem.
     
  19. kevgermany

    kevgermany

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    Thanks, the mouthpiece and reeds are slightly narrower than a Boehm one. Will bear this in mind.
     
  20. kevgermany

    kevgermany

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    First thanks for all the help/suggestions.

    I printed this thread and the links out for J (my son) and got J to read it. I also took a different approach this time and asked his teacher (who's also my sax teacher) if the reed should be touching the lip below the red part as it loooked to me as if it was rubbing/causing the problems. He said it shouldn't really be touching and he'd look out for it. No lessons since due to .... yes, sore lip.

    After reading the prints, J said he thinks he's biting too much/applying the pressure through his lower teeth, not muscle tension. So looks as if I have both of them in agreement with you guys. Now the work starts.
     
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