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 Biting and lip pain
Author: rrgerhardt19 
Date:   2018-08-29 02:58

Hi! So I've been reading around, trying to find a solution to my problem, but haven't been able to. So here's what's up: I bite my lip to the point where I have indents of my teeth on my bottom lip and it is all becoming scar tissue. BUT, I don't seem to have any problems with tone quality, air support or difficulty with notes coming out, in fact, the biting causes everything to be much better. I've been complimented on my tone quality and ability to control notes when going into the higher register because they don't "pop." So what should I do? It's quite painful if I play rigorous pieces, and play for extended periods of time -- around an hour and a half or more. Please help!

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 Re: Biting and lip pain
Author: Ken Lagace 
Date:   2018-08-29 04:24

Your jaws are doing more work than they should and your lip muscles are doing less.

I get my students to SLUR, no break, down two octaves from A above the staff to low A, then the same down the scale, G, F, E etc, by using a circular embouchure (pressing in on the sides) and less jaw pressure. Reply if you can do this your way.

You may be doing many things well, but some day other things may pop up that you won't be able to do.

Google "teeth guard for clarinet players" for other options and also ask your dentist for options.

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 Re: Biting and lip pain
Author: Paul Aviles 
Date:   2018-08-29 07:30

I agree with Ken.

And it can be a bit intoxicating to pretty much get the sounds and results you want but doing that while using a really physical set up. It is ultimately self destructive and will eventually catch up with you. You should always make the goal to find the softest possible combination of reed and mouthpiece that gets the results that you find wonderful. Trust me, as much of my first 20 years were down the wrong path, you can find the inverse just as intoxicating..........and the upshot is that this correct approach will get you results beyond what you are getting now.....guaranteed!!!

That said, you may also have very uneven and perhaps even razor sharp lower teeth. You may (no matter your approach) need to use some form of damper between your lower lip and lower teeth. I have settled on a small patch of leather. I use the rectangular patches that come on blue jeans (just use a seam ripper or Xacto blade to get them off). You need to find the right thickness though......experimentation is a must. Too thick and it won't fold well over the teeth. Too thin, and it won't protect your lip in a meaningful way. The great news is that it comes free with your jeans (you must pick your jeans based on the right thickness of patch......small sacrifice to make) and each patch will last a very very long time. I get over a year out of one patch (but I do have three in rotation and leave in a baggy in the case to maintain moisture from day to day).

................Paul Aviles

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 Re: Biting and lip pain
Author: Bob Bernardo 
Date:   2018-08-29 09:37

A few very good players I know, one is Steve Barta formerly with the Baltimore Symphony had issues and used cigarette paper over his lower teeth. He is talented. Studied with Harold Wright and Robert Marcellus. He uses a more open mouthpiece, a Kaspar 1.11mm's with about a 3 to 3 1/2 reed. He makes his own reeds so I'm not sure of the exact strength.

You surely can try a double lip embouchure. Here's what I'm thinking. Often players bite to hit the high notes. Surely a bad habit in my opinion. With double lip playing you probably won't bite, because your upper lip will hurt too. So this will correct the biting problem. Steve Barta plays both ways, with a single lip and a double lip.

We have to look at your mouthpiece. So many people are playing on too open tip openings. Such as 1.12mm's or so and harder reeds. With double lip playing you will find that you don't have to use a wide open mouthpiece, maybe just 1.03mm's or so. Even the great Eddie Daniels went from a 1.10mm's down to a 1.03 and he of course can play all over the upper register of the horn. His comment is pretty much why suffer and kill yourself with a too open mouthpiece.

So I don't know what you are playing on but maybe try a softer reed and a less open mouthpiece and of course try long tones as warm ups for using a double lip embouchure. I'd say to warm up with a double lip embouchure for the rest of your life.

I think having a sore lower lip is common after 3 hours of practice for a lot of players. I also think with a double lip embouchure your sound will not suffer at all and probably get better, as you posted above.

The trick to double lip playing is use a lot of mouthpiece to the point when you squeak, then back off just a shade. In most cases that is the correct position and you are letting the reed vibrate to its max. If you back off too far even playing with a single lip you often have to bite and push up on the reed against the curve of the mouthpiece to hit the high notes. So the more you bite down the more pain you will have. The more open the mouthpiece requires more of the reed to be physically bent by your lower lip. So again, take in as much as mouthpiece as you can allowing the reed and the curve of the mouthpiece to do as much of the work as possible.

I've seen some really horrible biting with the upper teeth as well. Patches with holes in them. Well this is just wrong and players will never gain good sounds.

So if your upper lips hurt when doing this you should take time to learn to play with less pressure. Build a strong upper embouchure and in a few months or maybe longer this adjustment will save you in the long run. You should be able to articulate easier as well because your embouchure is firm, but relaxed and your tongue will also be more relaxed. You won't be hitting the reed with great force with your tongue allowing for faster articulation. Good luck! It's worth a serious commitment.

Designer of - Vintage 1940 Cicero Mouthpieces and the La Vecchia mouthpieces

Yamaha Artist 2015

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 Re: Biting and lip pain
Author: FwLineberry 
Date:   2018-08-30 05:58

EZO denture cushions work really well for a tooth guard.

Backun Beta, Lyrique Libertas, Lyrique 570C
Ridenour RAmt36, Vandoren 15RV Lyre mouthpieces
Rovner Dark and Rovner Versa ligatures
Legere reeds

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 Re: Biting and lip pain
Author: kdk 2017
Date:   2018-08-30 07:03

FwLineberry wrote:

> EZO denture cushions work really well for a tooth guard.

You cut off a piece of the pad long enough when folded over to cover your front bottom teeth. Maybe 1/2" - 3/4". You can re-use the piece many times before having to cut off a new piece to replace it. At that rate a package will last you two lifetimes.


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 Re: Biting and lip pain
Author: DougR 
Date:   2018-08-30 18:15

these are all really good suggestions!

In recent years (after decades of playing) I've been surprised and gratified to discover that my instruments are capable of producing a beautiful sound (within my own limitations of course) WITHOUT my having to 'muscle' them to do so. (Biting hard is definitely one of the 'muscling' techniques I've used.)

Letting go of ingrained mental constructs is somewhat difficult. I've been lucky to study with a guy who studied with Joe Allard, and Allard (from what I've learned) NEVER advised biting; in fact he advocated 'no more tooth pressure on the lower lip than you'd exert on a soft pat of butter'.

Here's a Youtube clip of him playing the Rhapsody in Blue opening with the NBC Symphony Orchestra; you can hear an elegant and beautifully shaped clarinet sound that is not produced through 'biting.'

So how would you make a beautiful sound, then? Airstream is key (breathing from what Yehuda Gilad calls the 'small of the back). High tongue position is also key. (your tongue JUST near the roof of your mouth, in the position it would be if you were hanging upside down.)

Letting go of what one thinks is the ONLY acceptable 'sound' is also difficult; sometimes it takes a knowledgeable outsider to listen to (e.g. MY) 'best tone' and say, "to me it sounds thin, one-dimensional, and forced"--believe me, you can find a cohort of people who LOVE that kind of sound, but I'd prefer a more nuanced, complex sound that doesn't hurt me to produce it!

Double-lip is revealing and useful even if you (like me) are a single-lip player, because playing double-lip does something to the mouth cavity interior and alters the airstream in a way that enhances the tone without resorting to biting. I use my double-lip tone (on sax and clarinet) as a 'gold standard' to see if my single-lip playing is correct/adequately efficient (air stream, oral cavity, tongue position, etc.)

(I'll add that I paid a lot of money for custom-fitted guards for my lower teeth over the years; substituting a gentle 'chew' for a hard jaw clamp made them unnecessary.)

anyway, good luck! happy experimenting! There are some good ideas here in the thread that I'll be trying out myself, too.

Post Edited (2018-08-30 18:35)

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 Re: Biting and lip pain
Author: Tony Pay 2017
Date:   2018-08-31 01:06

Going back to the original poster: if you're getting good results, then it may be that you need to do no more than round off the sharp edges of your lower teeth, either directly with your dentist, or by covering them with something – I use a piece of folded-over PARAFILM.

Just to clarify some of the other stuff:

'Biting' is: playing the instrument using only the muscles that CLOSE the jaw -- that's like using a pair of pliers.

'NOT biting' is: playing the instrument by fixing the aperture of the embouchure, balancing the muscles that CLOSE the jaw against the muscles that OPEN the jaw -- that's like setting a wrench.

Notice that you can RESET a wrench. And notice that a wrench, despite the fact that its aperture doesn't change, exerts varying forces on the something it is holding in reaction to the changing relationship between that something and the wrench as the wrench is used.

So, biting tends to limit the flexibility of the lower lip, which becomes at worst like a piece of dead meat covering the lower teeth.

Whereas, not biting allows real-time unconscious variation of flexion of the lower lip, and real-time unconscious variation of the area of contact between the lower lip and the reed. You can also consciously (or unconsciously) reset the aperture between top and bottom teeth to take account of the requirements of different musical circumstances.

It's another example of SUPPORT, which in clarinet playing means the simultaneous use of opposing sets of muscles.

And here's another thing worth thinking about:

Your lower lip rests on your lower teeth. In order to do its work controlling the reed, it must have space to flex; it can't be crammed up against the reed 'like a dead piece of meat', as we've said.

When you set the 'wrench' (the distance between your upper and lower jaw), you have to avoid this restrictive cramming. If the wrench is set too small, your lower lip doesn't have space to flex.

On the other hand, if the wrench is set TOO LARGE, then your lower lip has to flex TOO MUCH in order to do its work. That quickly tires it.

Imagine you're standing on a platform in order in order to push against a sprung trapdoor in your ceiling. (Perhaps someone is walking about in your loft, and you have to make sure that when they step on the trapdoor you can resist it descending:-)

If the platform is too high, you have no flexibility: you're squashed up against the trapdoor.

If the platform is too low, though, you have to stretch to reach the trapdoor, and have no flexibility for the opposite reason.

You're best off with a platform that enables you to be halfway between these extremes, with legs and arms a bit bent so that you can push upwards comfortably to varying degrees -- just the sort of thing that your embouchure needs to do against the reed.

So, set the wrench sensibly. It's just as bad for it to be too open as it is for it to be too closed.


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 Re: Biting and lip pain
Author: Bob Bernardo 
Date:   2018-08-31 07:12

Wow, not mentioned by Doug, but surely supported by what I was saying, or refering to is the amount of mouthpiece Joe Allard is taking into his mouth. When he hit the high F he did so with a lot of flexibility and was able to bend the high F. With a biting issue this could not happen.

Great example Doug.

Designer of - Vintage 1940 Cicero Mouthpieces and the La Vecchia mouthpieces

Yamaha Artist 2015

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 Re: Biting and lip pain
Author: DougR 
Date:   2018-08-31 16:20

Thanks, Bob, and thanks for all your posts! You've been a great teacher here on the board, to me at least.

(that goes for Tony as well, cheers!)

Yeah, the "Joe" thing I learned about that is, where the reed and the mouthpiece meet, is how much mouthpiece you take in--right up to that point. It's a small thing perhaps but it's changed my playing for the better.

Joe supposedly had his students play scales on the mouthpiece, just by altering one's mouth cavity inside; hence the flexibility.

He also (and this might be applicable to the OP here) used upper partials as an indicator of airflow--like, finger the first-space one-thumb F, only play the C a twelfth above, then let the airstream "find" the F. At that point, that's the correct air for your instrument/mouthpiece/reed setup; this for sure discourages overblowing (which some people, i.e. me, used to get a 'good' sound, rather than let the instrument/mouthpiece/reed/oral cavity, plus a 'supported' airstream, do it).

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