Saxophone Forum


by Sousasax
(3 posts)
1 year ago

Help! I can't stop biting!

I've been playing the alto sax now for 4 years am doing my jazz grade 8 next year. I was happy with my tone and everything was fine but at Christmas I picked up the sousaphone and I'm doing my grade 6 on that this year so I'm practising a lot. However, ever since I started playing it, my saxophone embouchure has gotten very bad and I am biting with my bottom teeth against the inside of the bottom lip very badly which is hurting and making it hard to play. I really don't want to stop playing the sousaphone and I have heard of a few people that have overcome this biting problem. Any advice as to how to improve my embouchure would be greatfully recieved. Thank you! 

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  1. by GFC
    (359 posts)

    1 year ago

    Re: Help! I can't stop biting!

    For starters, what were you originally taught was the correct lower lip position, over the teeth or in front of the teeth?  The correct position is in front of the teeth.  Some teachers instruct beginning students to place the lip over the teeth (like with a clarinet) because it's the quickest, easiest way to gain control of the reed before the embouchure is developed, but it leads to big problems down the road.  

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    1. by Sousasax
      (3 posts)

      1 year ago

      Re: Help! I can't stop biting!

      Ah well that makes sense becasue I had briefly learnt the clarinet before picking up the sax as the school insisted so. But when you say in front of your teeth, you don't mean completely in front with your teeth almost touching the reed do you?

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      1. by GFC
        (359 posts)

        1 year ago

        Re: Help! I can't stop biting!

        The lip still forms a cushion between the teeth and the reed, but it's more relaxed and  the corners of the mouth are low.  That allows the reed to vibrate more freely, allowing better tone and response.  Look at some close-up pictures of big name players in action and you will see what I mean.  The next step is to learn to control intonation using your oral cavity and tongue position rather than by lip pressure.  This is all a pretty major rebuild of your current technique that will require some effort starting with long tone practice, but it will be worth it.  Not too long ago I had to rebuild my technique to get out of the habit of relying too much on lip pressure for control, which was also leading to biting and lip fatigue.  It's nice to have more endurance and not be gnawing on mouthpieces any more.  So develop good habits and the possibilities will open up for you.

        I also switched from clarinet, but I went from clarinet to tenor.  I quickly learned that the over-the-teeth embouchure destroyed  the tone and response below about G1.  Maybe that would have been less apparent had I switched to alto.

        An instructor who insists on the clarinet as a foundation for saxophone is suspect in my book.  There are some voicing and intonation skills required for saxophone playing that go beyond those required for a clarinet.  It's a myth saxophones are easier; they require some different skills to play well that might not be apparent to someone who hasn't really taken the trouble to understand them.  It really sounds to me like you had some quick fix, path of least resistance instruction that is now working to your detriment.  

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        1. by Sousasax
          (3 posts)

          1 year ago

          Re: Help! I can't stop biting!

          Thanks for the advice, I will give it a try and eat back to you if I have any other questions. I wish to go into a career with the sax so you've been a massive help!

          Reply To Post AIM