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 Returning after a long break
Author: SunnyDaze 
Date:   2021-09-24 17:05

Hi,

I wondered if I could ask whether anyone has ever found that their embouchure muscles hurt *a lot* coming back after a very long break from playing?

I've had long covid twice now and have lost 20lbs of muscle mass. I can't work out if it is that that is making my embouchure muscles hurt, or if it is just the very long break from playing that did it.

I went from 146lbs to 126lbs total weight, so it's quite a big change. I used to be curvy and now I am definitely wiry. I'm also short of thyroid hormone and vitamin B12, but I'm working on sorting that out. I don't think that would make my muscles hurt.

Thanks!

Jennifer

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 Re: Returning after a long break
Author: RKing 
Date:   2021-09-24 17:36

Ouch! And here I thought I had it bad with cancer. I had no fever and could breathe, so I am thinking you had it much worse than me and I hope you are doing better now.

When I started playing again, I had to go all the way back to the beginning. I used a B45 mouthpiece, a 1.5 reed, and my beginning Rubank book. I then had to remember my 5th grade music teacher's pointers on embouchure: "The sax uses a "frown", the clarinetist "smiles". It takes a tight lower lip and you have to remember that it takes more muscles to smile than it does to frown.

Then you take it slow and easy. My mouth never "hurt", but I did get tired easily and could only spend 10 - 15 minutes a day to start. But after a few weeks, I was using a #2 reed and could go up and down the scale book okay. I switched back to my regular mouthpiece with a lighter 2.5 reed and have been doing a little better each day. Getting well and going back to music is a very slow process.

BTW - Cancer took 55 pounds off me and it stripped all the nice muscles I had in my arms and upper body. Ugh!

I hope you recover and can stay healthy!

Ron

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 Re: Returning after a long break
Author: Slowoldman 
Date:   2021-09-24 19:12

Thyroid disease (hypo- or hyper-) can cause muscle fatigue, weakness and aching. (Not specifically embouchure muscles, but...)

My wife still regales people with the 25-year-old story of how I foolishly went skiing despite being ragingly hyperthyroid. It was not a pretty day on the mountain!

(Full disclosure: In addition to previously being a "victim" of thyroid disease, I am also a retired doc.)

Hope you are back to good health soon!



Post Edited (2021-09-24 19:15)

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 Re: Returning after a long break
Author: SunnyDaze 
Date:   2021-09-24 19:43

Hi Ron,

Thanks so much for explaining. I hadn't really thought through the idea of going back to a light reed and working my way up. That does make a lot of sense. I will try it, and try to be patient.

It's strange, but it helps me to realise that you are climbing back up a similar ladder to the one that I am on. Maybe I can follow you up. :-)

It's interesting to know that you lost a lot of weight too. That must just be a thing with illness maybe. I didn't know that. I wonder how we get it back?

I'm wondering if I am just going to become like one of those wiry old men that I used to see at the gardening club shows. They were always super-humanly strong, with the best tans on their skin, and the gigantic vegetables on their exhibit stalls. I think that's probably fine, as life-destinations go. :-)

Good luck with your progress there. I would love to hear how you get on, and thanks for explaining what I need to do.

Jen

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 Re: Returning after a long break
Author: SunnyDaze 
Date:   2021-09-24 20:51

Hi Slowoldman (nice name btw),

Thanks, I didn't know that. I'm working on improving dietary iodine as well was clarinet playing, so hopefully that should be a fixable problem. Yay!

Your mountain escapade sounds very dramatic. I'm glad you made it back safe and well.

Thanks!

Jen

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 Re: Returning after a long break
Author: SecondTry 
Date:   2021-09-24 21:04

Jen:

I hope the next fortune cookie I open reads

"Long clarinet breaks are best addressed with long tones."

https://www.youtube.com/results?search_query=long+tones+clarinet

I was not initially a long tone player. To me they were the "stretching at the gym that all the old fogies did that I couldn't be bothered with when in my 20s."

(Now I'm that old fogie, keen on stretching to prevent injury.)

For all the benefits these exercises provide in making for a consistent embouchure that holds up to the duration of playing a long music work, I think their benefit is compounded exponentially in your rehabilitative case.

First--they'll exercise the muscles of your mouth and lungs in ways you need. Secondly, you can keep track of the length for which you can do these tasks over time as a metric for how much capacity you have regained. :)



Post Edited (2021-09-24 21:04)

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 Re: Returning after a long break
Author: SunnyDaze 
Date:   2021-09-24 21:08

Hi SecondTry,

That's a good idea, thanks. It would be very encouraging to keep notes on stamina, as well as working up the reed strengths again. I'll try that.

Jen

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 Re: Returning after a long break
Author: Tom H 
Date:   2021-09-24 22:19

For about 10 months in 1986-87 I did not really touch the clarinet. Then I had a busy summer playing quite a few gigs with 2 hour+ rehearsals & concerts.
It really hurt.... But for me, just pain to play through. I think it is different for us than for brass players. I used my trumpet a lot while teaching band lessons and got pretty good chops on that. Then after retiring from teaching, I picked up the trumpet a few months later-- no way. I would guess though that everyone is different.

The Most Advanced Clarinet Book--Austin Macauley Publishers
tomheimer.ampbk.com/ Amazon, Sheet Music Plus
austinmacauley.com/author/heimer-tom
Boreal Ballad for unaccompanied clarinet--Sheet Music Plus
(902)-225-3276

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 Re: Returning after a long break
Author: SunnyDaze 
Date:   2021-09-24 23:39

Hi Tom,

Thanks, I'm so relieved that it is not just some post-covid weirdness. I'll get practising.

I remember my french horn-playing friend said that if she couldn't practise then she would take her mp with her and just work her embouchure muscles to keep them in shape. That must really be a thing. I had no idea.

Jen

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 Re: Returning after a long break
Author: SunnyDaze 
Date:   2021-09-25 00:04

I just bought Fibracell and Bravo synthetic reeds in the lowest hardness available to see if I can switch to synthetic. (Fibracell in 1 & 1.5 and Bravo in 1.5. I already have Bravo in 2.5)

Every time we get some new exciting virus here I keep having to ditch all my reeds when I come back to playing. It generally means ditching a lot of reeds as I usually keep about 5 on the go at once. It would be big help to have a washable one.

I looked at Legere, but they don't come soft enough for me.

I will report back how I get on with these other brands.

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 Re: Returning after a long break
Author: Tom H 
Date:   2021-09-25 01:18

Ron, Yes, I know brass players take their mouthpieces if they can practice. Don't know if that works for woodwinds, but I suppose, why not? For brass, they do everything with their lips, so I think it's way worse for them to go a while without playing.

The Most Advanced Clarinet Book--Austin Macauley Publishers
tomheimer.ampbk.com/ Amazon, Sheet Music Plus
austinmacauley.com/author/heimer-tom
Boreal Ballad for unaccompanied clarinet--Sheet Music Plus
(902)-225-3276

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 Re: Returning after a long break
Author: SunnyDaze 
Date:   2021-09-25 09:26

HI Tom,

I was learning a bit about this, because my son plays French horn. It seems as though horn players do a lot of their practise without the horn, or even without the mp.

You can see it on this video:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=L_fUaUk6Yjk

at about 1.32 the man is just buzzing his lips to do the sound track for a formula one car race.

then at 5.00 he is playing an actual tune entirely on the mp, with no horn.

The thing is - wouldn't the formula one racing excercise work just as well for us? I mean we don't need to learn to buzz our lips, but that exercise is working exactly the same muscles as we need to work to keep our embouchure strong.

It's relatively inobtrusive to do if there are others in the house, and doesn't require hands to be involved, which is a huge bonus in something that has to be done a lot.



Post Edited (2021-09-25 09:57)

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 Re: Returning after a long break
Author: SunnyDaze 
Date:   2021-09-25 17:05

You're right, I just tried playing on a 1.5 reed and it is fine. Phew!

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 Re: Returning after a long break
Author: RKing 
Date:   2021-09-25 17:24

That's wonderful news! Keep it up!

After I went back and worked through the first dozen or so Rubank lessons, I pulled out my scale book and started doing them every day.

As SecondTry mentioned, Long, Slow Notes are the best way to build up your embouchure, tone, and breathing all at the same time. And doing scales sounds boring, but it worked for me on the piano and every other instrument I played, including clarinet.

Please stay safe and healthy!

Ron

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 Re: Returning after a long break
Author: SunnyDaze 
Date:   2021-09-25 19:26

Hi Ron,

Thanks, yes it's such a relief to find something that works again.

I played all my scales and a chromatic scale from top to bottom today and that was nice. I also played something from a whole grade above my level, just for sheer hedonism and from relief that I can play again. What a year it's been!

I'll keep bashing on. I hope you stay safe and healthy there too, and keep enjoying your music.

Jen x

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