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Jazz Sax Lessons: Upper Lip Loosening Exercise

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We're now gonna work on
an exercise that allows you to loosen
your upper lip and play correctly.
With regards to your emouchure, I talked
about in my tone production lesson that
you wanna make sure that you're not using
too much pressure with your bottom lip.
The more pressure you use with your bottom
lip, you need some pressure of course to
solidify the reed, but too much pressure
cuts of the vibration of the reed.
And therefore, it cuts down on your tone,
the amount of tone that you create.
Well, if you're bringing this down, but
your upper lip is also pushing
down on the top of the mouthpiece.
What's happening?
You're bringing the entire structure down
and the amount of pressure on the reed
from your lower lip isn't changing,
because your upper lip keeps pushing.
So we have to make sure that you're
not using too much pressure with your
upper lip.
This exercise, here's warning for you,
you've got to do this in private,
because it looks ridiculous.
[LAUGH] So the idea too,
bare in mind that with
regards to the entire upper structure.
If we talk about biting and
you're biting too much,
you can't bite too much
from your upper structure,
because your upper teeth
are connected to your head.
The only variable is your jaw.
So you're not biting down with your teeth,
you're biting up with your jaw and
that's why the only thing that you
can see as a result of that on your
mouthpiece are the tooth dents
on the top of your mouthpiece.
Now, I've been playing this mouthpiece for
about 26 years.
So hopefully, I'm playing correctly,
but that's more Wear and
tear then too much biting.
If I were biting too much,
I would have probably bitten through
the entire mouthpiece by now.
So here's the exercise.
Play a long tone and simply lift
your bottom lip off of your teeth.
Here's the end result of
what you want to accomplish.
I told you, looks ridiculous.
So make sure nobody can see you.
So easier said than done,
I've been working on that quite a lot.
The important thing again is to make sure
that your upper lip is not pushing on
the top of your mouthpiece and pushing
the mouthpiece down onto your bottom lip.
So the idea really is that,
it's not like you ever wanna play
like that unless you're trying
to smile when you play.
when you're doing it, basically,
the idea is that you
wanna create muscles that
counter the natural muscles
that are pushing down.
You want your lower lip certainly
to ultimately rest on the top of
your mouthpiece to make sure
that air isn't escaping.
There is some pressure
that comes from here,
especially on the sides to
center of the mouthpiece to make
sure everything is stable, but only enough
pressure to do just those functions.
And again, not to create pressure.
So to start doing this,
just take your finger and
be aware of the amount of
pressure that is being created.
If it's really, really hard to do,
you got an issue to work on.
I am literally taking my finger and
pushing it up my teeth and
off the mouthpiece.
Now, another function of your upper
lip too is to keep air from escaping.
So as I am doing this,
you are hearing some air escape.
But there is a component
in the way we play,
especially I would imagine in
the top of our throat in the shape
of our mouth that keeps the air
focused into the mouthpiece and
hitting the reed and
getting the reed to vibrate the most.
And so
I think the goal would be to be able,
I'm not even sure if I can do this,
but I know that the goal
is to be able to play with your
upper lip off the top of your
mouthpiece and
still not really hear much air escape.
So I'm hearing some air escape,
I'm not sure it's entirely possible not to
have any air escape, but you get the idea.
So as you're doing this,
again, you're just trying to,
maybe not even develop the muscles
that are pushing the upper lip up.
But to be aware and
perhaps in control of those muscles to,
again, counter the ones
that are pushing down.
So the first thing you wanna do.
Don't do this if you've got a lot of
air escaping, don't do it too long,
because you're gonna hyperventilate and
you're gonna be on the floor and
you're gonna blame me and
it's all gonna be bad.
So make sure that when you're playing,
again, there's two things.
The first thing is to use your finger,
if need be.
And just do this on any note.
I'm using my go to note, which is
G sort of my go to tone production
note on soprano, tenor,
bari, alto, anything.
And get used to that feeling and
simply get to the point
where you can play with your
upper lip off of the top of
your mouthpiece and
without having to use your finger.
It's just kinda one of those checklist
kind of things where it's not
like I want you to spend ten,
even five minutes doing this.
But being aware, but I do want you to
spend some time on it if you can't do it.
And if you suddenly realize, wow.
A lot of pressure is coming from my
upper lip, I've got to correct that.
So just doing this, again,
brings the awareness up.
And as you get into your
regular long tones,
you're gonna be thinking
more about your upper lip.
And if you can do this,
you'll be able to bring it up somewhat and
it'll improve your sound absolutely.
Cuz again, it'll help if it's an issue,
maybe it's not.
But if it is it'll take
the pressure off your reed and
your reed it will vibrate more and
you'll get a better sound.
So if you wanna send in a video, I wish I
could say, it's gonna be totally private,
but it'll be private within our circle
of jazz saxophones school student's.
So you're amongst friends [LAUGH] and
the good thing is that everybody looks
equally stupid when they do this exercise.
So if you're gonna laugh
at somebody else's
video of this, you're a brave person,
[LAUGH] because you're
gonna look just as bad.
So again, send in that video and
I guarantee you that if you work on this
exercise, it's gonna improve your sound.
Alright have fun.