Keeping a Stiff Lower Lip

Or rather, keeping the lower lip at all. The other day, I was having the usual morning coffee and pumpkin bread, when after taking a bite I also chomped a good amount of lower lip, about a quarter-inch or so below the lip line. Now I wondered at the time how in doing something so routine, that suddenly my lip moved into position to be chomped. Not a natural eating motion, but oddly, a vaguely familiar one.

I didn’t practice the sax that day, but the next day I began practice with the usual A-880 test on the alto mouthpiece. ForĀ  non-sax players, that’s playing the mouthpiece by itself, with reed of course, but not connected to the neck of the instrument, and using a tuner. If you can get a consistent pitch at A (880 Hz), an octave above concert A (440 Hz), and retain that embouchure when the mpc is subsequently connected to the sax, then you can easily cover the entire range of the instrument without changing embouchure for high or low notes. If the tone from playing the mpc by itself is sharp, you’re biting too hard and the lower range of the sax will break up. If the tone is flat, you’ll struggle with the upper range.

Now this test takes only a few seconds, cause I get A-880 easily on the alto. But as I was adjusting my embouchure I noticed that when I hit the A-880 sweet spot, my lower teeth hit the exact spot where I had chomped my lower lip the day before. Apparently while enjoying my breakfast, my brain or nervous system misfired and my mouth assumed the position for playing sax, not eating. I wonder if that means I’m practicing enough? :p

Speaking of the mouthpiece tone test, a good place to read about this is the website Sax on the Web, specifically, here. In addition to good instructional material, this site has an excellent forum where sax players of all proficiencies share all kinds of information. It’s great that professionals so readily provide advise to beginners and amateurs.

I recently discovered The SaxTips Podcast. One of many interesting music and sax resources I’m discovering on the web. It’s good era to (re-)learn an instrument.

Next week, I’ll get to the discussion on the sax in contemporary Christian worship music.


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