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 Soft Palate Leak (Stress VPI)
Author: London 
Date:   2020-03-26 10:26

I was wondering if anyone here has overcome stress VPI from playing, and would be willing to give some advice for how you did it? My director doesn’t know what’s going on, and I don’t have a private teacher to work with.

I’ve been struggling with this for almost 2.5 years now, but only took it seriously about a year and a half ago. It started when I played on a new clarinet (The new one was an E-11; now I’m back on my student Yamaha clarinet).

I’m almost certain that one of my problems revolves around my technique, since I learned to tongue on the roof of my mouth (and not my reed, which I’m currently working on now), and my (possibly) lacking air support. Also, would anyone have advice for this as well? It’s been pretty hard trying to teach myself, and I don’t want to do any more damage. :)

Anything would be appreciated! Thanks :)



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 Re: Soft Palate Leak (Stress VPI)
Author: Clarineat 
Date:   2020-03-26 10:43

For me switching to a wider tip opening mouthpiece and softer reeds fixed it after YEARS of struggling.

I think it has to do with the pressure or something, but I used an M15 with 4 to 4.5 reeds during the times it was an issue. Now more open, a bit softer and it's gone.

The Clarineat Podcast
www.clarineat.com
hello@clarineat.com

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 Re: Soft Palate Leak (Stress VPI)
Author: kdk 2017
Date:   2020-03-26 12:50

London wrote:

> I was wondering if anyone here has overcome stress VPI from
> playing,

I've had to deal with it since my tonsils were taken out 52 years ago. It seems for me to be a fatigue issue. So the most important thing **for me** is to stay in reasonable shape with regular practice.

Another trigger is having to blow against a lot of resistance. Too hard a reed triggers the air leakage much sooner. If you're using a very open mouthpiece with too hard a reed, it can bring on fatigue much sooner.

> I’ve been struggling with this for almost 2.5 years now, but
> only took it seriously about a year and a half ago. It started
> when I played on a new clarinet (The new one was an E-11; now
> I’m back on my student Yamaha clarinet).
>

How long can you play before the pharyngeal leaking begins to happen?

Unless the E-11 was leaking or for some other reason was unusually resistant, I don't know why this would cause the problem. Were you using the same mouthpiece on both instruments?

> I’m almost certain that one of my problems revolves around my
> technique, since I learned to tongue on the roof of my mouth
> (and not my reed, which I’m currently working on now),

Could be causing you to contort your tongue a little, which could certainly add tension and cause fatigue. Or, it could be causing you to take in too little reed, which could set up a battle on a couple of fronts, maybe forcing you to blow harder against a closed-up aperture at the mouthpiece opening.

> and my
> (possibly) lacking air support.

This depends on what you mean by air "support." If what you think of as "support" involves stress/strain or it's an issue of having to just blow hard to overcome reed/mouthpiece resistance, then it could be a contributing factor. By itself tension in the muscles that control your tongue and the soft palate area can cause earlier fatigue.

Playing in band, where you can't always hear yourself well, can give you more opportunity to overblow, which will tire everything out more quickly. Be careful you aren't trying to be louder than everyone else around you.

It wouldn't hurt, BTW, to consult with an ENT doc if the air leak comes on quickly enough to present a real disability during normal playing.There could be a physical cause that might be addressable with therapy.

Karl

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 Re: Soft Palate Leak (Stress VPI)
Author: kdk 2017
Date:   2020-03-26 13:00

Clarineat wrote:

> For me switching to a wider tip opening mouthpiece and softer
> reeds fixed it after YEARS of struggling.
>
> I think it has to do with the pressure or something, but I used
> an M15 with 4 to 4.5 reeds during the times it was an issue.
> Now more open, a bit softer and it's gone.

It might have been that 4 to 4.5 reeds on an M15 created too much resistance. If your setup with the more open mouthpiece is easier to blow, that could explain why it helps. But (for the OP) even with an M15 or similar closer tipped mouthpiece, switching to lighter reeds or learning to adjust them to improve their response can be a huge help.

Karl

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 Re: Soft Palate Leak (Stress VPI)
Author: Paul Aviles 
Date:   2020-03-26 17:41

I would like to understand this problem a little better. As I sit here trying to simulate what the leak is, I arrive at a the idea that it involves pharynx and the leak is akin to a "snore."



Is that what is happening?





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



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 Re: Soft Palate Leak (Stress VPI)
Author: kdk 2017
Date:   2020-03-26 18:18

Paul Aviles wrote:

> I would like to understand this problem a little better. As I
> sit here trying to simulate what the leak is, I arrive at a the
> idea that it involves pharynx and the leak is akin to a
> "snore."

Well, in my case, basically yes. As I tire, some air starts to leak through my nose while most of it continues to go through my mouth, but with reduced pressure, so playing becomes harder. Eventually, if I get stubborn and try to keep playing, not enough air makes it to the mouthpiece to vibrate the reed. An hour or so of rest will allow me to play again.

During a normal 2.5 hour rehearsal there's enough non-playing time (while the conductor talks or he's rehearsing the strings plus the required break) that the leaking doesn't become an issue. It happens to me, as long as I'm in decent playing shape, after an hour and a quarter or an hour and a half of non-stop practicing. If I spend too much time with new reeds that are too stiff my time is reduced, as it is if I've just come back to playing after a week's vacation.

Karl

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 Re: Soft Palate Leak (Stress VPI)
Author: Clarineat 
Date:   2020-03-26 20:17

Basically it's an uncontrollable, inverse "snort."

Try to snort like a pig, it's the opposite of this as air escapes.

To the other commenter, yes the hard reeds were part of the issue! But I'm finding that the more open mouthpiece really helped too.

The Clarineat Podcast
www.clarineat.com
hello@clarineat.com

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 Re: Soft Palate Leak (Stress VPI)
Author: Paul Aviles 
Date:   2020-03-26 20:26

So for you folks with the leaking issue, if you take a full deep breath and hold it, does air leak then as well? Or if you do that after you have played for an hour and a half?




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

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 Re: Soft Palate Leak (Stress VPI)
Author: Bob Bernardo 
Date:   2020-03-26 20:43

What is "stress VPI from playing?"

I can't say a thing until I know what that is. I guess you've seen a doctor and this is some sort of medical terminology?


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


Yamaha Artist 2015




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 Re: Soft Palate Leak (Stress VPI)
Author: Clarineat 
Date:   2020-03-26 20:56

I am not sure either, I just assumed he was referring to a palatial air leak.

The Clarineat Podcast
www.clarineat.com
hello@clarineat.com

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 Re: Soft Palate Leak (Stress VPI)
Author: kdk 2017
Date:   2020-03-26 21:08

I've never tried that after an hour and a half. But, no, I doubt if air would leak if I were just holding the breath. The problem comes from applying exhalation pressure. I'm quite sure that if I tried to close off my nose and mouth (almost like a "valsalva maneuver")began pushing on the air, air would leak. But I'm not enough of a masochist ever to have tried it.

Karl

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 Re: Soft Palate Leak (Stress VPI)
Author: kdk 2017
Date:   2020-03-26 21:10

Velopharyngial insufficiency. Here's a quick Wiki article: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Velopharyngeal_insufficiency.

Karl



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 Re: Soft Palate Leak (Stress VPI)
Author: kdk 2017
Date:   2020-03-26 21:16

Basically, the velum (the muscular flap that closes your nose off when you speak or breathe through your mouth) doesn't close reliably, letting exhaled air go through your nose and reducing the available air pressure at your vocal chords or (in our case) the reed. I think as a medical condition it gets more attention as a speech problem, which must be a much more severe problem than what I've described, since there's very little air pressure required for speech relative to what's needed to push air through the aperture and inside of a clarinet mouthpiece.

I'm sure VPI is what you're calling a palatial leak. As I understand it (I'm not medically trained) VPI happens slightly behind the soft palate, where the nasal passages open into the throat.

Karl

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 Re: Soft Palate Leak (Stress VPI)
Author: kdk 2017
Date:   2020-03-26 21:17

Question for London - am I describing the same thing you're experiencing?

Karl

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 Re: Soft Palate Leak (Stress VPI)
Author: Bob Bernardo 
Date:   2020-03-26 21:27

Thank you Karl, as always you help everyone. You are a gifted man. :)


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


Yamaha Artist 2015




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 Re: Soft Palate Leak (Stress VPI)
Author: Bob Bernardo 
Date:   2020-03-26 21:33

I can't give any advice sorry to say. I now know what this medical condition is thanks to Karl, but as a player I don't know what to do to help. Maybe there is a really good player that has this condition who can advise or follow Karl? He is surely a gifted top player.


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


Yamaha Artist 2015




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 Re: Soft Palate Leak (Stress VPI)
Author: musica 
Date:   2020-03-26 21:35

Also struggled with this but at the time I was playing a Vandoren 360 mouthpiece
and usually a 4 1/2 reed.... I now play on Behn EPIC mouthpiece and #3 reed
and play double lip embouchure. There is no more back pressure that I was feeling and I think that was the root of the problem.

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 Re: Soft Palate Leak (Stress VPI)
Author: Paul Aviles 
Date:   2020-03-26 22:09

The reason I ask is that when I take a deep (REALLY deep) breath, and HOLD (in my mouth), this is the same feeling I have at any time that I am playing. I just assume that if someone where to be able to hold their breath (not with hands on face, just.....hold), then they should be able to create the same pressure differential used for playing clarinet.


There are SOOOOOOO many OTHER things we worry about when playing: tongue position, tongue movement, mouthpiece placement within lips, lip position, lip movement......etc. that we might be subconsciously creating (or exacerbating) a problem that normally would not manifest itself under normal (non-clarinet) circumstances.


Then there is the issue of age. It is not just the outside skin that starts to sag with age. The structures at the back of the mouth also get flabby and this is the cause for many of us to develop sleep apnea (for those not familiar, it is not just a snort every few minutes but actual cessation of oxygen getting to the lungs in micro units such as 40 time per minute). Snoring is a sign of sleep apnea but also the lack of dreams (or severe infrequency) when you sleep. For me I also aspirate fluid (unintentional "breathing in" liquid) with some frequency.


But despite all these symptoms of age, I have not yet experienced the "leaking" of air while playing no matter how much time I put in (which can be four or five hours) in a day. However if I try to take a nap on my back WITHOUT my CPAP machine (continuous air pressure), I will very quickly get a gagging snort even still wide awake.






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



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 Re: Soft Palate Leak (Stress VPI)
Author: London 
Date:   2020-03-26 22:33

To Bob Bernardo, by "stress VPI from playing," I really just meant soft palate leak. When I was trying to do research to find out what was happening, the two seemed to be used interchangeably, so that's why I said that. The two might be different, and if they are, I apologize :)



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 Re: Soft Palate Leak (Stress VPI)
Author: London 
Date:   2020-03-26 22:34

To Clarineat, thank you for the information about a more open mouthpiece! The one I'm using now is more closed off, so I'lll definitely look into it!



Post Edited (2020-03-26 22:45)

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 Re: Soft Palate Leak (Stress VPI)
Author: London 
Date:   2020-03-26 22:39

To Karl, thank you for all of the feedback!

It seems to depend on the day for how fast it can happen; sometimes (right after a concert or more intense rehearsals) it's within 10 minutes, other times (after I've rested for a few days) it's more like an hour and a half. I think it really does have to do with fatigue.

As for my E-11, I actually did just use the same mouthpiece, which probably wasn't a good idea. And it turns out that the keys were misaligned (which caused a little bit of leakage), so that probably increased the resistance as well.

And I really do feel like my contorting tongue was a factor. As I've been trying to learn where, exactly, to put my tongue, I've been contorting it in a lot of different ways. How I was originally playing, I tongued with the "too" sound instead of the "tee" sound, so I'm pretty sure my tongue was in the wrong place to begin with.



Post Edited (2020-03-26 22:47)

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 Re: Soft Palate Leak (Stress VPI)
Author: London 
Date:   2020-03-26 22:43

To Karl as well: for your question as for what I am experiencing, I believe so. I know that I don't have a speech impediment, and I am almost positive that I do not have VPI as it's described medically. The problems only come up when I play (the reason why, I think, I've seen it called "stress VPI," since it's stress-induced).

Once again, thank you for all of the help! :)

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 Re: Soft Palate Leak (Stress VPI)
Author: kdk 2017
Date:   2020-03-26 23:13

Paul Aviles wrote:

> But despite all these symptoms of age, I have not yet
> experienced the "leaking" of air while playing no matter how
> much time I put in (which can be four or five hours) in a day.

Most players I know don't experience this. And the only recommendation I've ever had from a doctor is to set up an appointment with a speech therapist, since in some people it causes speech problems. I'm sure it's a statistically rare problem, but it has come up here on the BB before (you may find it with the search utility). As I've said, in my case it first began to happen after my recovery from a tonsillectomy done when I was 20. I don't know that the two are related, but there may have been some minor structural damage done to my pharyngeal area in the course of the surgery. (or not?)

Whatever, the solution for me is not to play for long periods of time on very stiff reeds and to try not to get out of shape. It seems as if exercising (practice) strengthens the musculature that controls the velum - I guess you have to use it or you lose it.

Karl

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 Re: Soft Palate Leak (Stress VPI)
Author: genekeyes 2017
Date:   2020-03-27 08:46

"Velopharyngeal insufficiency (VPI) occurs when the soft palate fails to close the oro-nasal cavity, resulting in air escaping from the nose when attempting to blow out through the mouth. In wind musicians, this has been termed ‘Stress VPI’ due to physical stresses imposed upon the soft palate by high intraoral pressures associated with playing a wind instrument."

I developed this problem after throat surgery in 2012. It can be congenital, the result of an accident or, as in my case, a side effect of surgery or other medical treatment. I was advised (by my surgeon) to continue playing and practicing with the hopes of strengthening the muscles involved and eventually resolving the issue.

I found it necessary to make some equipment and other changes to aid in resolving the problem. These centered around:
a mouthpiece with less resistance than the one I had been using.
a softer reed.
Concentrating on using less air and more support.
Playing for shorter periods of time and gradually increasing the time as healing and exercise lessened the problem. The level of success is directly (in my particular situation) related to the degree of healing and the gradual strengthening of the involved muscles resulting from practice and playing sessions. Different causes could obviously result in different outcomes.
Thankfully, my problem lessened and eventually ceased to be a major issue but has not completely disappeared. Periods of inactivity as well as long periods of intense activity can cause fatigue and a temporary return of my problem.

Hope this has helped. Please contact me off line if I can be of any further help.

Gene



Post Edited (2020-03-28 08:51)

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 Re: Soft Palate Leak (Stress VPI)
Author: nbclarinet 
Date:   2020-03-29 02:32

I have struggled with this issue as well, but with some changes to the way I play and practice, was able to over come it.

Please feel free to send me an email and I’d be happy to discuss!

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