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All About Embouchure

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    ONLINE LESSONS > Getting Started > Embouchure

This Online Lesson is (c) , Ryan Fraser. All right reserved. NO COMMERCIAL DISTRIBUTION.

   When we talk about embouchure, what we are really referring to is the way that you form your mouth around the mouthpiece of the saxophone. If you have any background in the French language, you probably know that the word "bouche" means "mouth", so its easy to see where the term "embouchure" comes from.

   Luckily, forming a good saxophone embouchure is relatively easy. Be warned, though, there are several different ways to form an embouchure for saxophone. You will find that jazz and classical players tend touse very different styles of embouchure! The type of embouchure that I am going to show you today is designed for concert and marching band playing, as well as for classical playing. This is, in my humble opinion, the best place to start. As you develop more skill, you can experiment with a variety of different embouchure types (including a jazz embouchure). This embouchure is designed to give you maximum sound production with minimum effort. It will also help you play without pain, provided that you don't overpractice! I have four very easy steps that I suggest that you try:

1. Roll your bottom lip over your bottom teeth

   You just need to roll your bottom lip back over your bottom teeth far enough to cover your teeth. You want your lip to get in between the saxophone reed, and your teeth.

2. Bunch up the muscle on your bottom lip, to form a "soft cushion" over your teeth.

   After you have rolled your lip back to cover your teeth, you need to provide as much muscle as possible between your bottom teeth and the reed. Why? Well, for starters, your front teeth are designed to tear food apart. Unfortunately, this means that if you don't have much muscle between your teeth and your reed, the vibrations from the reed will cause your teeth to start to "chew" into your lip. This *hurts*. You can protect yourself, by putting a big buffer of muscle in between the teeth and reed, which will help to absorb the vibrations. This also helps to mellow out your tone.

3. Place your mouthpiece in your mouth, with the reed gently resting on your bottom lip, and your teeth resting on the top of the mouthpiece.

    If you were to insert a business card between the tip of the mouthpiece and the reed, and slide it down in between as far as you can without using any force, you can get a good idea as to how far into your mouth you need to place the mouthpiece. Essentially, you need to take as much mouthpiece in as to the point where the reed and the mouthpiece join up. On most models of mouthpiece, on Alto or Tenor saxophone, this distance is roughly 2-3cm (1 inch).

4. Finally, seal the top lip and corners of your mouth up against the mouthpiece.

   Make sure that you have equal pressure all the way around the mouthpiece. Now blow! If you can't get a sound out, the most likely possibility is that you are biting too hard. Don't try to bite the mouthpiece at all. Just let it sit comfortably between your bottom and top teeth when you blow. Likewise, you need some (but not very much) pressure from your bottom teeth up against the reed to help support your embouchure.

   Now, blow! The more cushion you have, the better protected your teeth (and the more mellow your sound.) It helps to imagine that you have a flat chin when you form your embouchure - this keeps you from biting. Remember, the support should come from the embouchure, rather than the teeth and jaw.

    ONLINE LESSONS > Getting Started > Embouchure

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