- Just Flutes Blog (Chris Hankin): International Women’s Day – Fabulous Works by Female Composers
- Jenny Maclay (clarinet): 101 Clarinet Compositions Written by Women Composers
- joanmf.com (Joan Martí-Frasquier, saxophone): Women Composers
- Jennet Ingle | Oboist: The Magic of a PLAN
- The Theisen Journal – Alan Theisen, musician (saxophone): Issue No. 22: Kill Your Teacher
- Practice Monster (David Pope, saxophone): The Greatest Saxophonists in the World – and how the very idea is harming us
- Just Flutes Blog (Roderick Seed): “Can you play it in one breath?”
- International Clarinet Association (Barbara Heilmair): Collaboration with Boehm and Oehler Clarinets
- Steve Neff Music Blog (saxophone): An Inside Look into the Joe Allard Approach of Saxophone Playing: Memories of the First Three Lessons
- The Flute View (Paul Edmund-Davies): Why I Left the London Symphony Orchestra
- Joffe Woodwinds: Pedagogical “Doubling”
- The Flute Examiner (Jessica Dunnavant): Silver Linings and a Daily Routine
- Bill Plake Music (saxophone): An Important Thing To Notice The Instant You Prepare To Play
- Jennet Ingle | Oboist: Why Do We Practice?
- oboeinsight (Patty Mitchell): Teaching
Huey Lewis tells the story in Kansas City Magazine (strong language edited):
Well, my dad was a jazzer and Zoot Sims died. And when Zoot Sims died, they had a benefit in San Francisco at Kimball’s or somewhere. …
So I take him and sit down … and then I get a tap on my shoulder. I turn around, and it’s Getz. It’s really amazing … he’s wearing his horn and taps me on the shoulder, and my dad turns around and Phil Elwood turns around. And my old man goes, “Holy s***!”
Getz says, “Why don’t you let me play on some of your s***? I can play that s*** too.” And I said, “Oh, why, yes sir, I’m sure you can.” And then he took a card and he wrote on it: “Stan Getz. Have sax, will travel.”
He played beautifully, and on the way home, my old man says, “If you don’t take him up on that offer, I will never, ever forgive you!”
- Joffe Woodwinds (article by Ron Odrich): Science in the Art of the Clarinet Sound
- Hodge Products, Inc. Double Reed Supplies Blog (Rebecca Watson): Bassoon Wire Gauge: Does It Make a Difference?
- How To Make Oboe Reeds (Tim Feil): Reed Response
- Jennet Ingle | Oboist: Harder Isn’t Better
- International Clarinet Association (Marcus Eley): Clarinet Works by Black Composers
- International Clarinet Association (Katherine Breeden): An Overview of Making Clarinet Reeds by Hand
- Bill Plake Music (saxophone): Awareness In Playing Music: “Looking For” In Contrast To “Noticing”
- Indy Flute Shop (Erin Nichols): Open-holed flutes
- Best. Saxophone. Website. Ever. (Zhenya Strigalev): The Secret to Reaching Below the Saxophone’s Low Bb
As a ten-year-old beginning saxophonist, I was taught to form an embouchure like this:
- Put your top teeth on the mouthpiece
- Let your lower lip sort of roll or squish over your lower teeth
- Close your mouth
That’s how I played for years. As I advanced and started to practice more, I would sometimes hurt the inside of my lower lip, drawing blood or forming blisters or scar tissue. I considered this a badge of honor: I practiced until I bled.
But I don’t play that way anymore, nor do I teach students that way. I made an important change to my embouchure that lets me play for extended periods pain- and blood-free, while sounding better and having more control.
The problem with the lower-lip-over-the-teeth approach is that it sets the lower lip up to serve as a sacrificial cushion, to protect the reed from the lower teeth. Sure, you can just tell your students to “stop biting,” but if you’re teaching them an embouchure that’s based on biting, then good luck.
It’s more useful to think of the embouchure this way:
- Put your top teeth on the mouthpiece
- Let your jaw hang open a bit, so your lower teeth stay clear of the reed
- Keep your jaw open, and allow your lips to close around the mouthpiece and reed.
This approach makes sure the lips are used to form the embouchure, not the jaw. It improves tone, response, dynamic range, and more, and virtually eliminates lower lip pain.
If you are used to a jaw-formed embouchure concept, you might find that switching to the lip-formed embouchure leaves you feeling like you’ve lost some control of pitch and tone. If so, double-check your breath support; with the jaw out of the way you will need to depend on those support muscles more for stability.
Don’t play through pain—use a better approach.
I’m pleased to share videos from my recent Delta State University faculty recital. I performed for a very small in-person audience due to COVID-19 precautions.
All the repertoire is unaccompanied. The program begins with multiple-woodwinds repertoire by Samuel Adler, Kyle Tieman-Strauss, and Nicole Chamberlain (a world premiere of a commissioned piece), followed by some odds and ends on recorders, clarinet, and tinwhistles.
- Steve Neff Music Blog: The Best Saxophone Embouchure: Where’s that Bottom Lip?
- Jazz-Sax.Com: Pedalboard 4.0
- ProneOboe (Jennet Ingle): When to Cheat
- Jenny Maclay (clarinet): Should you take a practice break? and 21 Clarinet Compositions from the 21st Century
For many household items, screws should be tightened if they seem loose. But for woodwind instruments it’s a little more complicated.
Woodwind instruments (flutes, oboes, clarinets, bassoons, and saxophones) have many screws on them. They are usually the slotted type, for which you would use a standard (“flat-head”) screwdriver. And some of them need to be tightened when they become loose, but some should be left alone—and it’s not always easy to tell which is which. If you aren’t sure, take it to your teacher or a professional instrument repair shop.
When tightening screws, always use a screwdriver that fits the screw very closely, to reduce the chances of damaging the screw. Mismatched screwdrivers can also slip, causing injury to you or scratches on the instrument’s finish.
Here are some kinds of screws you might find on your instrument:
Some screws simply hold some non-moving pieces together. For example, these screws on a saxophone hold this key guard onto the instrument. It’s not a moving part; the screws are just there so a professional can remove the key guard to do specialized work on the key. If these screws are loose, you can carefully tighten them just until they are snug.
The same is true of these screws that hold the oboe’s thumb rest in place—they are part of a non-moving assembly. If they won’t stay in place, the wood may be damaged (the hole is “stripped”). A good repair shop can fix it for you.
Woodwind instruments have many pivot screws, and also pivot rods that have slotted ends like screws. These allow some of the instrument’s keys to pivot (rotate) a little when you press and release them.
Here is one of the pivot screws on a flute. The threaded part screws into a post that is attached to the instrument, and the pointy tip of the screw fits into a void in the end of the key, holding it in place but allowing it to pivot smoothly. For a well-made and well-maintained instrument, usually you can screw these in all the way until they are snug and the head of the screw fits into the post without protruding. But if that makes the key stick or misbehave, it may be necessary to loosen it just slightly.
Here is a flute pivot rod. When it is screwed in it looks the same as a pivot screw, but when it is removed you can see that it’s long enough to pass all the way through a post and the keys’ hinge tube, and then screw into another post. Like a pivot screw, a pivot rod can usually be screwed in until snug, unless that seems to cause a problem.
Most of the woodwinds also have at least a few adjustment screws. These allow a professional to fine-tune how some of the keys move. They need to be tightened a certain amount, no tighter and no looser, like turning the knob on an oven to get the right temperature. If it’s too loose or too tight, it will make the instrument difficult or impossible to play. Making these adjustments properly requires specialized skills.
Here are some of the many adjustment screws on an oboe:
And here is one of the few on a clarinet:
If you tighten these adjustment screws and don’t know what you are doing, you will probably need to take the instrument to your teacher or a repair shop to undo the damage. This can be time-consuming and expensive.
If you have screws that keep loosening on their own, this may be because they are dirty, damaged, or need lubrication. A good repair shop can clean and repair the screws or rods without damaging them (or replace them if necessary), and can determine and apply the appropriate lubricant. (Most household oils aren’t right for the job.) If the screws continue to loosen after this treatment, take the instrument to the shop again and they may use additional methods to secure the screws in place.
- oboeinsight (Patty Mitchell): Empty Stage & Pit
- bassoon blog (Betsy Sturdevant): Rhythmic fingering on bassoon—a K. David Van Hoesen concept, and Beeswax for Bassoon Reeds
- Bill Plake Music (saxophone): Clarifying A Common Misconception About “Tension” In Playing Music
- Hodge Products, Inc. Double Reed Supplies Blog: COVID-19 Reed Sanitizing
- Jenny Maclay (clarinet): Clarinet Method Books to Help Develop Diverse Musical Genres and Styles
- JazzBariSax.com (Andrew Hadro): Essential and Deeper Listening Lists
- Blog :: –– Jason Alder :: (Bass) Clarinetist: The Big List of Contrabass Clarinet Albums (with
- ProneOboe (Jennet Ingle): Keeping My AIR to Myself and Top Six Reasons I Love Teaching Online Lessons
- Jennifer Cluff (flute): Rampal’s embouchure micromovements
- Jennifer Stucki, oboist: Tips for tips… (for tips??)
- Practice Monster (David Pope, saxophone): A Jazz Embouchure? and Creative Alternate Fingerings for Middle C-sharp
- Bill Plake Music (saxophone): Five Checkpoints For Healthy And Efficient Practice