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 Double Lip Embouchure Pain
Author: Claire Annette 
Date:   2010-12-22 14:33

About this time last year, after easing my way into using a double-lip embouchure, I started doing double lip exclusively.

This holiday season, I have been playing more "gigs" than usual. As a result, the frenulum, or line of skin that runs from my upper gums to the center inside of my upper lip, has really taken a beating. It seems that this line of skin sits tightly against and in between my two front teeth.

I need some suggestions on how to continue without causing pain each time I play for an extended rehearsal or performance. Without much success, I've tried covering my top front teeth with cigarette paper, floral tape, wax, and a clear plastic retainer-type device my dentist made for me. I'm not willing to give up the DL embouchure because I'm extremely satisfied with my tone.

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 Re: Double Lip Embouchure Pain
Author: salzo 
Date:   2010-12-22 14:50

It sounds to me like you are playing with too much jaw pressure. You said you recently switched.
I noticed in my own playing, that the angle the clarinet enters my mouth is different when comparing double lip and single. SIngle the clarinet was quite vertical-double more angle, and more mouthpiece in the mouth.
I mention this because when I switched, I would go through periods for quite a long time after switching, where I would "forget" about the correct angle, revert back to the single lip angle, it wouldnt sound good, and I would resort to all sorts of embochure contortions to try and get it right-and in the end, I never could.
It took me a long time to "forget" about how I played single lip, especially in times when I was fatigued because of lots of playing. When tired, you revert to what you have known the longest. I mention this because maybe you are doing something from your old ways that is causing you pain-because there should be no pain with double lip playing.

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 Re: Double Lip Embouchure Pain
Author: Bob Phillips 
Date:   2010-12-22 15:25

Put your upper teeth on the mouthpiece.

Bob Phillips

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 Re: Double Lip Embouchure Pain
Author: kdk 2017
Date:   2010-12-22 15:31

If I'm understanding correctly what the frenulum is, I'm having trouble imagining, at least the way my double-lip embouchure forms, being able to force it between my front teeth. Maybe yours extends farther down the lip than mine.

Have you tried taking less upper lip into your mouth? I took a lesson once long ago with Harold Wright, who talked about a thin membrane of upper lip over the teeth, not the thick of the lip. I use more than a thin membrane, but the point is that different double-lip players use different amounts of the upper lip successfully. Maybe taking in less lip would cause less stretching of the area and the frenulum wouldn't be forced in so hard.

Karl

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 Re: Double Lip Embouchure Pain
Author: Claire Annette 
Date:   2010-12-22 15:44

Karl, quite possibly that is my problem. Over the years, I've cut back on the amount of lower lip I use over my bottom teeth and maybe I need to do the same with the upper lip.

Salzo, my frenulum might be more extended than the norm. (It's that piece of skin that connects the gum and the lip. Without it, I imagine we might be able to pull the upper lip well up over the nose!

Bob, I just love the DL too much to go back. I put my upper teeth on my mouthpiece only when I am extremely fatigued.

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 Re: Double Lip Embouchure Pain
Author: Bob Phillips 
Date:   2010-12-23 05:04

I realize that my comment (to return to single lip playing) is quite flippant --particularly after all the pain and effort needed to adopt to double lip.

But, it still makes no sense to me to use a symmetric embouchure with a mouthpiece that has the reed only on one side. (even after my own experiments with double lip after a year or so of bassooning.)

The mouthpiece "shields" the reed from any sort of support that the mouthpiece "sees" from your teeth or upper lip, so any change in the sound or response must relate to changes in the "purse string" compression to the sides of your embouchure. Wouldn't pressing down on the mouthpiece with the upper lip (while holding the mouthpiece against your teeth) have the same effect? ... and be far less uncomfortable?

Bob Phillips

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 Re: Double Lip Embouchure Pain
Author: Bob Bernardo 
Date:   2010-12-23 07:22

A lot of people use double lip for practice and single lip for extended playing. This sort of takes the pressure off the upper lip, yet your sound should be pretty much the same. If I'm playing for 3 or 4 hours on a given day the upper lip takes a beating. The heavier reed you use can make playing a bit uncomfortable.

Some of the DL players I've met use a long close facing. This includes me. I'm playing around a 1.02mm MP.

I would suggest switching to single lip once you begin to feel soreness. Why suffer? Also, perhaps look for a long faced MP.


NEWLY DESIGNED - Vintage 1940 Cicero Mouthpieces


Yamaha Artist




Post Edited (2011-01-14 04:23)

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 Re: Double Lip Embouchure Pain
Author: ned 
Date:   2010-12-23 11:02

Just a bit of background as to my situation. I use a double lip embouchure when I play with various jazz bands. They generally play fairly robustly and I need to make myself heard so I use a Vandoren 5JB mouthpiece plus a Rico Royal #3. So for me, this equipment = volume and the DL embouchure = tone.

To answer your question though............

The use of the DL has been a problem of late for me, as I usually have ended up with some partial numbness of the top lip and sometimes have even resorted to playing partly out of the left corner of my mouth. Not a good solution, but a standby when needed on the bandstand.

I now tend to play with a 'pucker' - that's the only way I can describe it really. Try tensioning your lips before inserting the MP - you'll actually be making a small 'O'. When this is done, keep the same or similar tension on your lips as you insert the MP. You will find that the MP now is probably touching a little further back away from your top lip - and away from the troublesome area.

I find can control the MP with mainly lip pressure and very minimal bite with the teeth. I also find however, that if I lose concentration my mouthpiece will end up in the traditional position, with the top teeth firmly biting just into the inner part of the top lip - as you have described.

It's difficult to describe in words of course, so I hope you can somehow visualise my explanation. It takes a lot of getting used to, not to mention muscle power, but it may work for you.



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 Re: Double Lip Embouchure Pain
Author: BobD 
Date:   2010-12-23 11:38

Yes, it sounds like you are taking too much upper lip.....

Bob Draznik

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 Re: Double Lip Embouchure Pain
Author: Liquorice 
Date:   2010-12-23 22:12

Just play single lip- like most of the world's best players.

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 Re: Double Lip Embouchure Pain
Author: ned 
Date:   2010-12-23 23:54

''I'm not willing to give up the DL embouchure because I'm extremely satisfied with my tone.''
********************************************
''Just play single lip- like most of the world's best players.''

This clearly is not the answer. Can you also define 'best' please?

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 Re: Double Lip Embouchure Pain
Author: kdk 2017
Date:   2010-12-24 01:04

But not all.

Karl

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 Re: Double Lip Embouchure Pain
Author: Brenda 2017
Date:   2010-12-24 19:21

Perhaps your tone is as pleasant as it is because the DL forces your cheek muscles to work in a different way than they otherwise would? Because of this DL is used as a remedial method of improving tone. Once your cheek muscles are trained, if you revert back to SL then you can remember how those muscles felt while DL. Perhaps you could revert to SL for a few days until your upper lip heals, and your tone will be splendid nonetheless.

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 Re: Double Lip Embouchure Pain
Author: Liquorice 
Date:   2010-12-24 21:54

ned- my definition of best would run something like this:

"Alessandro Carbonare, Ricardo Morales, Karl Leister, Sabine Meyer, Martin Fröst, Pasquale Moragues, Michel Arrignon, Mark Nuccio, Antony Pay, William Hudgins, Kari Kriiku, etc. etc. etc"

-All top players who have wonderful, but different, tone qualities.
-None of whom play double lip.

Like Brenda said, double lip can be a good remedial technique. But why should an amateur/student feel compelled to play double lip if it's clearly not necessary to create the most beautiful tone?

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 Re: Double Lip Embouchure Pain
Author: Steve Hartman 
Date:   2010-12-25 00:12

As a convert to the double-lip embouchure after having played single-lip for the first ten years, I have to say that to expect to be able to play a LOT after only one year of double-lip just might be unrealistic. It really does take a while to develop the endurance. My advice to you would be not to change anything but try to get as much rest as possible (to your embouchure) between rehearsals and performances, even if it means not being able to practice. Sometimes an ice cube wrapped in a napkin will help with a swollen lip.

Now that I've been playing double-lip for a long time, I can practice for a while and play two performances of "The Nutcracker" in a day and not feel any embouchure soreness whatsoever. Mental fatigue is another matter, of course.

Steve Hartman
Principal Clarinet, New York City Ballet Orchestra

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 Re: Double Lip Embouchure Pain
Author: davetrow 
Date:   2010-12-25 00:34

It might also help to take frequent short breaks during practice. Your embouchure muscles need recovery time just like any other muscle, and overtraining will end up weakening them, which might contribute to the pain.

Dave Trowbridge
Boulder Creek, CA

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 Re: Double Lip Embouchure Pain
Author: EEJ 
Date:   2010-12-28 18:15

Well, you seem to have stepped into a delightful controversy! Having played double lip for most of my 40 year career I am only too familiar with it. I would make the following suggestion: since it has improved your tone dramatically, you are likely a good candidate for double lip. Not all are. My teachers and role models, most of whom played double lip (Gaston Hamelin, Ralph McLane, Harold Wright, Kalmen Oppermann, Gino Cioffi, Ignatius Gennusa, Andrew Crisanti and Keith Stein) for the most part suggest as natural an amount of upper lip as possible. (Gennusa being an exception) That obviously varies with the individual. Make sure you do not have an "air pocket" in there though, the lip should be snug against the teeth. That said; endurance and range have never been a problem.... UNLESS under prolonged and/or aggressive playing conditions, and frankly that can impact any embouchure. My technique for either style of embouchure is to catch it as early as possible, or prepare in advance and use Ibuprofen with liberal doses of a good antiseptic mouthwash. When the lips get sore I believe it is a form of low grade infection. Whatever it is, I KNOW it causes swelling, thus only making the problem worse. With double lip, it is (obviously) twice as bad. Absolute Misery. But you can prevent/control it. Ibuprofen is an anti-inflammatory and antiseptic mouthwash helps the infection, but try to catch it early next time. Sounds like you have the right reason to play this way and your commitment is justified... don't give up!!

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 Re: Double Lip Embouchure Pain
Author: salzo 
Date:   2010-12-29 12:53

Licorice wrote:
" ned- my definition of best would run something like this:

"Alessandro Carbonare, Ricardo Morales, Karl Leister, Sabine Meyer, Martin Fröst, Pasquale Moragues, Michel Arrignon, Mark Nuccio, Antony Pay, William Hudgins, Kari Kriiku, etc. etc. etc"

-All top players who have wonderful, but different, tone qualities.
-None of whom play double lip."


You mention all players who are active today. DL embouchure has become an archaic way of playing the instrument, but not because there is something deficient with it, but because very few teachers today play double lip.
Yesterday, there many more double lip players- Cahuzac, McLane, D. Weber, Harold Wright, Perier, Veraney, Hamelin, Brymer, Gennusa, Cioffi, and on and on and on.
Why no more double lip players? Because of Daniel Bonade, at least that is why double lipping became archaic in the states. Bonade did not teach double lip embouchure. Bonade was the most influential clarinetist in the USA. During his days, he taught everyone. And his single lip students went out and taught, and their students went out and taught. And today, because of Bonades nfluence, there aren't many double lippers.
If I was forced to pick my favorite players, most of them would be from those I mentioned above. There are some single lippers that I think were fine clarinetists, with great tones, ie SIlfies, Gigliotti, Marcellus- And there were certainly clarinetist who played double lip with horrid tones, ie Kell.
A lot of what someone thinks is "wondefrul,but different tone qualities" is subjective I suppose. What some might say is wonderful and different, others might say it is generic, straight, and uninteresting.
Bottom line, the indvidual clarinetist has to have an idea and concept of what THEY want to sound like, and do what is required to get that sound. For me, in order to get the sound and control that I want, I need to play double lip.

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 Re: Double Lip Embouchure Pain
Author: Steve Hartman 
Date:   2010-12-29 13:04

Karl Herman, Principal Clarinet of the New Jersey Symphony and Richard Stoltzman, arguably the most prominent international clarinet soloist of the last 40 years, are both double-lip players.

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 Re: Double Lip Embouchure Pain
Author: Ken Shaw 2017
Date:   2010-12-29 13:24

salzo -

Bonade had a receding chin. To compensate, he played with the clarinet almost vertical. So did Marcellus and Gigliotti. Double lip is problematic with the instrument in this position.

Gigliotti said he preferred his tone when he played double lip, but couldn't endure the pain. Instead, he brought his upper lip down and tucked it tight against his upper teeth, pressing so hard that his teeth rested only lightly against the mouthpiece (and he used famously stiff reeds).

I play double lip. When I'm not in top; shape or play a lot, I put a small piece of chamois cut from an old swab over my upper teeth. Keith Stein had a silver cover for his upper teeth. It was quite thin and bridged the gap between his two front teeth.

We'll have to agree to disagree abut Reginald Kell. I think he was a great musician who happened to play clarinet, and I love his tone.

Claire -

Go to a dentist or plastic surgeon who specializes in wind players. It's a very minor process to reduce the size of the frenulum.

Ken Shaw

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 Re: Double Lip Embouchure Pain
Author: salzo 
Date:   2010-12-29 14:25

Ken-
I studied with Gigliotti, and I played for many years with his embouchure approach-which worked great for me. But for whatever reason, years later, my upper lip became irrelevant in my embouchure formation-my altissimo became very flat, and I really had no control of my intonation- Everything was great if everything stayed at 440- but it never does, and I couldnt do anything to get my pitch a little higher for this note, or that note.
Double lip "forces" me to keep the upper lip in the equation, and allows me much more flexibility with intonation and tone. And in my personal experience, you want the entire circumfrence of the lip formation to be constantly involved- double lip makes this happen for me- single lip I "forget" to tighten this part of the lip, or that part of the lip.
Someone described their embouchure formation as a "pucker"-the best way I can describe it is that it is like how your mouth is formed when spitting out a big fat lugey(wad of spit).
And incidentally, I think Ken Steins description of embouchure (single and double) in his clarinet book is the best I have seen on paper. Reading his book, Ill bet he was an amazing teacher.

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 Re: Double Lip Embouchure Pain
Author: Steve Hartman 
Date:   2010-12-29 14:29

Salzo:

You're referring to Keith Stein, I'm pretty sure. He is reputed to have been a very fine teacher. I did not know that he played double-lip.

-Steve

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 Re: Double Lip Embouchure Pain
Author: salzo 
Date:   2010-12-29 16:03

Steve-
Yes that is correct.
If I remember correctly, he wrote in his book that he DOES NOT play double lip, but I could be wrong.
He does explain the double lip embouchure, as well as the single lip, and I find it very descriptive. Anyone having embouchure (or other) issues, should check it out.

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 Re: Double Lip Embouchure Pain
Author: Ken Shaw 2017
Date:   2010-12-29 18:07

I studied with Keith Stein in 1958, during his final year at Interlochen, and I learned more than I had during the previous years combined. When I got home, my parents said my playing had improved so much it was unrecognizable.

Ken Shaw

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 Re: Double Lip Embouchure Pain
Author: salzo 
Date:   2010-12-29 18:55

Ken- Did he play double lip?

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 Re: Double Lip Embouchure Pain
Author: Ken Shaw 2017
Date:   2010-12-30 21:55

salzo -

Keith Stein absolutely played and taught double lip. See his book. His embouchure was so strong he could turn his clarinet 90 degrees in his mouth, so that the reed was vertical to either corner of his mouth, and sound exactly the same.

Ken Shaw

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 Re: Double Lip Embouchure Pain
Author: junebug 
Date:   2011-01-12 16:11

I am new to the clarinet but have been playing saxophone for many years. Being new is this a good time to try the double lip method? I am self taught in an area with no clarinet teachers so the second question would be: where on the net or books can I learn about double lip?
Thank you.

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 Re: Double Lip Embouchure Pain
Author: Steve Hartman 
Date:   2011-01-12 16:23

You don't need a book. Just play some slow scales and try to get a sound that's pleasing to your ear and don't play for too long without resting. You may have to experiment with reeds and mouthpieces. Your mouthpiece facing should not be too open.

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 Re: Double Lip Embouchure Pain
Author: EEJ 
Date:   2011-01-12 21:10

I would agree with Steve, but add the following: try not to play too many notes that use relatively few few left-hand fingers (low D, first line E and F.... corresponding A, B, C in the upper register) as this tends to increase pressure on the upper lip. Don't overdo it when practicing; when the lips get sore they swell up making the problem worse. I repeat my previous advice: use a good antiseptic mouthwash to combat/prevent soreness and take some Ibuprofen if necessary, it is an anti-inflammatory that helps as well. Double lip is actually easier on the lips once mastered, but the first few weeks can be a bit of a trial. Good Luck!!

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 Re: Double Lip Embouchure Pain
Author: Steve Hartman 
Date:   2011-01-12 21:36

With all due respect, EEJ, it should never be necessary to use mouthwash or ibuprofen to prevent/treat lip pain. Patience is the only necessary medicine.

If you're hurting your upper lip while playing in the left hand then you're pushing up much too hard with your left thumb. That could be caused by an excessively heavy spring. But for someone new to the clarinet there should be no old habit from playing single-lip to unlearn.

Just play very short phrases - such as a one-octave scale at a relatively slow tempo - and rest between each phrase until you begin to develop some endurance. If your lips hurt, stop playing for a while.

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 Re: Double Lip Embouchure Pain
Author: junebug 
Date:   2011-01-13 00:20

Thank you for your advice. I'll keep with the double lip and see how it goes.
A bit different than playing sax but I think I've found my favourite instrument.

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 Re: Double Lip Embouchure Pain
Author: Ken Lagace 
Date:   2018-02-06 04:59

Double lip requires stronger lip muscles. Kal used to say, "Put the clarinet in your mouth, point the bell toward the floor and let go! You should be able to swing the clarinet back and forth with just your embouchure holding the clarinet!".
Of course he was jesting but you can get the concept. When the lip muscles are strong, and then you use those muscles with single lip, listeners cannot hear the difference. I have tested it many times.
Another trick is to play single lip and lift the top teeth off of the top of the mouthpiece. A strong jaw and weak side pressure is the bane of clarinet playing technique.

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 Re: Double Lip Embouchure Pain
Author: rmk54 
Date:   2018-02-06 17:19

Hi Ken,

I see you've gone down the rabbit hole of this message board!

Best,

Your former student

(BTW, I'm retiring from your former position at the end of this season in case you want it back ;>0 )

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 Re: Double Lip Embouchure Pain
Author: Philip Caron 
Date:   2018-02-06 22:04

rmk54 . . . . we may have met. If you want, email me: vladimir@vermontel.net.

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 Re: Double Lip Embouchure Pain
Author: ClarinettyBetty 
Date:   2018-02-07 23:56

When I switched to double lip for several years, here's what I did:

1. Play with short breaks.
2. Buy a box of Ezo and cut them into pieces that fit over my top two teeth.
3. Bite less.
4. Go down in reed size because I'm biting less.
5. Hit the sweet spot where I no longer bite, have developed a good callus, and don't play on size 4.5 reeds anymore.

I've since switched back to single-lip, but I do my best to keep the same embouchure and make sure not to bite. It's done wonders for my sound.

-----------------------
Eb: 1972 Buffet BC20
Bb: c. 1965 Buffet R13;
A: 1963 Buffet R13

https://gentrymusic.wordpress.com




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 Re: Double Lip Embouchure Pain
Author: zhangray4 
Date:   2018-02-08 01:43

when I started playing the clarinet, my teacher meant to teach me single lip, but somehow I ended up double lip. neither my teacher or I noticed this until 2 years ago, when I saw my stand partner in an honor band had horrible teeth marks on the mouthpiece cushion, and I brought it up to my teacher. And when I told my teacher at the time, he told me to try switching to single lip, as he believed it would not be as fatiguing.

so I played single lip for half a year. I actually felt it was more tiring because I had to work hard to not bite down. But I must've still got into the habit of biting as I found myself moving from strength 3 V12s to strength 3.5+.

Now I am back to double lip, and it is much better. I can play longer on double lip actually; my jaw muscles don't hurt that much. The only thing that hurts is the pressure of the front teeth on the inner lip due to me practicing much more than I used to. if you wake up and find that your upper lip hurts, try curling it slowly, curling a bit more lip each time. find the amount of lip curled that gives you the least amount of pain (or no pain at all), and play on this "sweet spot." but sometimes the pain is excruciating, maybe due to a lot of playing. I solve this problem by putting paper on either the upper and lower teeth if the lips really hurt that bad. For me, this is last resort, and I use the paper only when during rehearsals for band in school. but just FYI, I played for over 7 hours yesterday when I usually play maybe half that amount, and I still didn't have to use paper.

So some will find double lip easy and some will find it harder. Since I played double lip on a very open Vandoren B45 as a beginner, double lip is actually much much easier for me.

-- Ray Zhang

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 Re: Double Lip Embouchure Pain
Author: Philip Caron 
Date:   2018-02-08 02:36

Some of what people might unconsciously be correcting with jaw pressure is really due to fingering. Hitting keys or pressing keys hard can wobble the instrument. When I switched to double lip it eventually included a gradual (long) process of fingering more lightly and smoothly. That has fixed some of the perceived need for stability via jaw pressure.

Even on the "problem" notes, like C6 (upper clarion C) there's no need for extra jaw pressure to stabilize things; the associated soreness need only reflect that the left thump is pressing up, and that might be able to be lightened too.

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 Re: Double Lip Embouchure Pain
Author: Bob Bernardo 
Date:   2018-02-08 03:23

I think it is ok to practice with a double lip just to have that understanding of what your embouchure is doing. Bob Marcellus played both ways and then finally went to a single lip after a few years with the Cleveland Orchestra. But when he was with the National Symphony and playing next to Iggie Gennusa well he loved Iggies sound and frankly who wouldn't. It was simply amazing. This is why I studied with Iggie for 7 years and designed his first set of mouthpieces for him.

So if we all practice long tone and slow pieces and some pieces such as Beethoven's 6th, and work on the upper registers we will surely develop great embouchures and beautiful sounds. DON'T BITE!

I had braces and the vibration of the mouthpiece on my top teeth hurt so at a very young age I became a double lip player. I'm also very happy with my sound and never bite. So if players can get to the level of not biting I think they can play with a single or double lip or both, there are NO rules.

However, I strongly feel the clarinet sound has gotten darker, not warmer, and I'm NOT blaming the players. In fact I feel the players today are often better than past greats, Gennusa, Marcellus, Wright, and some of the other double lip players, although Marcellus did switch to single lip. I blame a lot of it on the instruments and the mouthpieces. For example we don't need to play on mouthpieces with tip opening over 1.10 but some mouthpieces are at 1.20! Even Eddie Daniels a jazz player is at 1.03. Harold Wright was at 1.01, Gennusa was around 1.03 and Marcellus was said to be around 1.11, but everything I measured and he liked was 1.09. They all got that ring, that ping, and for the most part that's gone in a lot of the mouthpieces today.

We can have a lot of enjoyment playing the clarinet with normal tip openings, without getting wicked sore lips, and playing wide open mouthpieces, or mouthpieces that are under 1.01 and then you can't be heard playing.

I don't like the American Zinner's in general because the baffles are dug out way too deep. Up close you should pretty! 15 feet away in general your sound is dead. The German Zinner mouthpieces have shallow baffles and that warm sound that carries. That Ring and that Ping which so many players want. You don't need 1,13 - 1.20 tip openings to get that ping, you need the correct mouthpiece and sometimes the correct instrument.

There are mouthpieces out there that might give you that Marcellus sound. But nothing commercial, unless you have it worked on, the 2 I like are the Yamaha Custom, but the tip openings are over 1.20 and the Selmer Concept which needs rail work. The VAndoren BD5 needs baffle work behind the tip, it's too shallow and refacing because it is at 1.13. Out of the 4 I'd go with the Selmer. With some daily double lip practicing you can all sound great and still play single lip. The key is to learn how to use the upper muscles, including the sinus area muscles, which so few players even know about.

Hope this helps.


NEWLY DESIGNED - Vintage 1940 Cicero Mouthpieces


Yamaha Artist




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