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Stop the Spit!

Discussion in 'General Discussion' started by kris, Jan 12, 2012.

  1. Hey, everyone... it's been a few weeks since I've stopped by, busy with the usual holiday stuff. Quick question... in my community band, we are currently playing "Procession of Nobles - from Mlada by Nicholas Rimsky-Korsakov. Here's a link to the Airforce band playing it on Youtube: http://youtu.be/UEISXVnWb4U

    How do I control the spit!? This was a perfect month for me to be "promoted" to 2nd part LOL. When I play this, I have so much more saliva than usual, to the point of seeping out the thumb-hole. Normally I wouldn't worry about this too much at the end of a long playing session, but this song does me in! Am I doing something wrong with my embouchure?

    It's a fun song, and it's going to be pretty impressive for a February concert!
  2. jbtsax

    jbtsax Distinguished Member Distinguished Member

    I am unclear on the connection between "Procession of the Nobles" and increased saliva production, but it might make for an interesting doctoral study someday. :)

    When anything foreign is placed into the mouth the body's natural response is to engage the salivary glands to begin the digestive process. Some folks like myself do this more than others. (My springer spaniel Toby salivates when he sees me open an ice cream sandwich before a bite even gets to his mouth.)

    Here is what I do:

    - Swallow the saliva in the mouth prior to playing.
    - Inhale sharply through the mouthpiece at every opportunity in the music, rests etc.
    - Polish the backs of the reeds by rubbing on stiff paper over a flat surface till shiny.
  3. Carl H.

    Carl H. Distinguished Member Distinguished Member

    This might be nonsense, but I seem to notice a relationship between how hydrated I am and how much moisture accumulates in the clarinet on any given performance.

    It seems counter intuitive, but when my mouth feels dry, I seem to be having the worst of the moisture issues with the instrument. If I have a water bottle handy, the build up seems lessened if I take a drink now and then, but when I don't have the bottle handy it seems all my moisture ends up in the horn. When I make a conscious effort to hydrate myself during the day I seldom have issues with condensation - presuming the venue isn't overly cool or humid.

    I've found that having a properly broken in reed seems to lessen the spitty reed effect to a degree - polishing on paper does seem to make a difference. I also make an effort to keep the clarinet in a playing orientation when not actually playing. I do not lay it horizontally across my lap, but keep it at the same angle and orientation as when I am playing it, just held lower IE near my knees. I usually have my right middle finger under the thumb hook and hold it one handed, making notations with my left hand. It keeps moisture on the same course as when playing so it doesn't hit toneholes and require as much blowing clear.
  4. Steve

    Steve Clarinet CE/Moderator Staff Member CE/Moderator

    best solution is to use one of these portable devices

    but seriously, I've noticed the same thing Carl has in the past. Say hydrated is the best solution it seems, and swallow when you can.
  5. jbtsax

    jbtsax Distinguished Member Distinguished Member

    OMG My private teacher on clarinet in college humorously suggested I use one of those. I suppose he just got tired of hearing a slurping, gurgling sound in the Adagio movement of the Mozart Concerto.

    SOTSDO Old King Log Staff Member CE/Moderator

    The amount of tonguing in Procession Of The Nobles...

    ...is likely the cause of the increased salivary problem. Popping that hunk of muscle around like you have to during all of the trumpet-like passages will flip the spit up from the bottom of the mouth and up into the air stream, whereupon it gets carried into the instrument.
  7. Too funny! I could have used one!
  8. Okay, thanks! After reading everyone's responses, it makes a whole lot more since now.... and... I forgot to mention I'm still adjusting to a new mouthpiece :oops:. So when I factor that in with all the tonguing, my reed is only about a week old, and I hadn't had anything to drink since dinner a couple hours earlier, I think I have a better understanding.

    I'll be looking for a cute little black cloth to lay on my lap during the upcoming concert in case I'm still having this issue. It was just odd at first that I didn't have this problem during the rest of the rehearsal and no one else seemed to be having such a problem during this piece. :???: I did notice it wasn't as bad the next day while I was practicing, but I was at a slower pace to work on technique and a few of those high notes.

  9. Gandalfe

    Gandalfe Administrator Staff Member Administrator

    I do this too. I even have a piece of glass for the reeds to smooth them when I prepare them to be in rotation.
  10. Steve

    Steve Clarinet CE/Moderator Staff Member CE/Moderator

    In a few instances water girgling is an instrument issue based on condensation buildup.

    On early 1970's Buffet R13s the side Bb trill key is a few millimeters lower on the body. Not much but these vintage R13s have a problem of water buildup in that side trill Bb. Very annoying (other than the wavy tenons). One has to use methods to make the water flow away from the tone hole which is achieved by a variety of means such as a thin layer of liquid shellac in front of the tone hole for about an inch.

    Of course on can get water buildup in the mouthpiece between the reed and Rails which girgles too. Which one has to blow into the sides of the Mpc to get it out of there.
  11. jbtsax

    jbtsax Distinguished Member Distinguished Member

    I explain this to my students by comparing the back of the reed to a car that has just been polished. The water forms into small droplets and "rolls" off the surface. This keeps the back of the reed dry and prevents the bacon in a frying pan "sizzle" that one often hears in the tone of a "salivator".
  12. I hope it's OK to resurrect this older thread. I actually found the forum while searching for a solution to a similar problem of excess saliva on the reed and in my alto saxopone mouthpiece.

    As someone who has been playing for less than a year, it's starting to get in the way of my enjoyment of playing. I can sometimes hear the "gurgling" noises within 3 minutes of playing and almost always within 10. I use Meyer 5M piece and Vandoren Java 2 or Rico Select jazz 2M reeds most of the time.

    I have tried: polishing the reed (on white paper); putting a thin layer of cork grease inside the mouthpiece, to try and reduce the build up of water there; soaking the reed in a glass of water for 2 minutes before playing and rubbing saliva into the reed. None of these remedies is proving to be a definite solution, so far.

    I wondered if fiber-reeds or plastic-coated reeds may help, and if so, does anyone have a preference? They are quite expensive, and may have "downsides" in terms of the tone etc, but I'm so bothered by this that I'll try anything at all moment!
  13. Helen

    Helen Content Expert Saxophones Staff Member Administrator

    I'm a bit confused Stephen. Are you wondering if using any type of synthetic reed will reduce the amount of saliva you produce?

    The fact is, saliva on the reed inside the mouthpiece chamber is a normal part of saxophone playing. It is very natural for a player to have to suck the spit back into their mouth regularly while playing. It's not something we like to talk about, and may be one of those "private" things that is not discussed in "public" , but I've now thrown it out there for the world to see. ;-)

    Now the question is perhaps: How much saliva production is normal, and would changing to a synthetic reed reduce it?

    Since I don't know first-hand how much saliva you're actually producing when you play, I can't tell you if you're producing more than the average player. Depending on what and how hard I'm playing, my saliva production does vary from very little to a fair amount. Thus the number of times I need to suck back the saliva from the mouthpiece over the course of a 45 minute set varies as well.

    I have played on synthetic reeds--a variety of them, currently I use Legere Signature Series on most horns, and Fibracells on the others--for more than a decade. Before that I played on Rico Plastic Coated baritone reeds as well. I can honestly say that my saliva production hasn't changed from the days I used cane reeds. YMMV however, but for what it's worth, that would be my input into your question.

    How often do you have to suck back on your spit? Or are you doing it at all?
  14. Gandalfe

    Gandalfe Administrator Staff Member Administrator

    Helen speaks the truth, thus the "It's not spit, it's condensation." rationalization. :)
  15. "Happiness is a wet reed." Supposedly said by a famous jazz sax player, but I can't recall who.
  16. Not really, Helen. I was more wondering if a synthetic reed might not "hold" the saliva as well as a cane reed, basically allowing it to roll off more easily into the horn. Sorry if I didn't make that clear.

    My problem, apart from producing a lot of spit is that it quickly conglomerates (I think I might have made that word up) on the reed and in the mouthpiece.

    I have tried suck back but it doesn't seem to have much effect. An example would be today, when I was practicing. I stopped to clear the reed and wipe down the mothpiece at least every 10 minutes because the sound got so distorted. When I started playing again (at least on one occasion), I could hear the gurgling noise within peharps 2 minutes, if not sooner.

    I'm actually going to sit down with a screw driver and see if any loose screws need tightening on the sax, just in case, but I really think it's saliva.

    Thanks very much for the response. My first one in the forum. I have another post in the "hello" section - a few looks but no replies yet. :)
  17. Carl H.

    Carl H. Distinguished Member Distinguished Member


    Don't go at it with a screwdriver, some screws are for adjustments, and you will end up with an expensive trip that could have been avoided!
  18. It's fine, I've done this several times (I even have Stephen Howards book on Saxophone Maintenance) and a big box of tools and kit. I was only meaning the screws that hold the bell band, the key guards and the lower stack guard etc.

    I definitely won't touch the adjusting screws. :)
  19. Gandalfe

    Gandalfe Administrator Staff Member Administrator

    Can you sit with a friend who plays sax? Maybe they could observe and advise.
  20. jbtsax

    jbtsax Distinguished Member Distinguished Member

    I have been dealing this this "over achieving salivary gland" problem for over 50 years. Please re-read my first post on this topic and do all 3 suggestions, polishing the back of your reed till it is almost shiny enough to see your reflection. I guarantee it will control your problem. I am an expert on this topic and well qualified to give this advice since one of my clarinet instructors in college suggested I get one of those suction hoses dentists use and hang it in the corner of my mouth when I play.
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