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Klarinet Archive - Posting 000788.txt from 2001/05

From: Neil Leupold <>
Subj: [kl] Biting? (was: New mouthpiece-steel jaws)
Date: Mon, 28 May 2001 18:45:48 -0400

--- Christopher Hill <> wrote:

> Closer facings only work if one uses a harder reed and doesn't bite.
> When I've tried an open facing mouthpiece with a soft reed, I've had
> problems with endurance, because I had to bite more with that type of
> setup than with a close facing and a harder reed. I'm not saying that
> one way is superior; I'm just pointing out that one doesn't need to
> bite in order to get a sound out of a close facing mouthpiece. Also,
> please keep in mind that the chamber, facing, and reed strength are
> all interrelated.

I can't help finding some of this talk a little disturbing, as if biting
were a valid point of arrival in the development of one's technique. I
realize that in the beginning and intermediate stages of playing, the em-
bouchure muscles still require strengthening before they can begin to ef-
fectively work in tandem with the air stream to produce the instrument's
tone. During this developmental period, there's basically little choice
but to engage pressure from the jaw in order to modulate upward pressure
by the lip upon the reed. The goal, however, is to get away from this
method. Strengthening the musculature around the lips is for the purpose
of enabling the lips to assume the role of modulating pressure upon the
reed and mouthpiece. Ultimately, the jaw bone and its powerful muscles
should assume a passive role, kept at a distance from the reed, where the
reed and mouthpiece rest only on the cusion of the lower lip, manipulated
by very fine adjustments in pressure from the lower lip (and sides & upper
lip) alone -- no longer, or at least extremely seldomly again, via upward
pressure from the jawbone/teeth. Once the trio of mechanisms has been ac-
tivated successfully (i.e., toned embouchure muscles in a drawstring "ooh"
configuration, the tongue basically saying "ee" to focus the air stream,
and the diaphragm modulating support), the sensation of the jaw getting
involved should signal that something isn't quite right, perhaps muscle
fatigue from too much playing. It troubles me a little to see discussions
where the idea of biting is referred to in a normative context, even when
we're referring to the upper acoustical range of the instrument. I find
myself biting a little when playing double altissimo B's and C's and above,
and even then I suspect that if I tinkered in that range more consistently,
I would arrive at the same "biteless" ease in tone production there as I
already experience everywhere below.

~ Neil

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