The Vampire Fang

Discussion in 'The Rehearsal Room' started by Jack E, Aug 26, 2017.

  1. Jack E

    Jack E Well-Known Member

    In the past, both on baritone and tenor horns, I've noticed that I sometimes have problems with air leaking out on the right side of my mouth (never on the left) - sometimes enough that I can hear a soft sizzling noise as I play! Even when it's not that bad, I sometimes have problems with notes sounding a bit 'breathy', rather than clear.

    This evening, the breathy notes were particularly noticeable - with some right-side leakage thrown in - so I started mulling it over for a bit, on the basis that it's better to work smart than bang your head against a brick wall, and a few thoughts emerged.

    1. the problems are always on the right side of my mouth;
    2. the right outer incisor tooth on the upper jaw is very slightly proud of the rest;
    3. that tooth is bang in line with the rim of the mouthpiece I'm currently using;
    4. one of the tutorials I found on YouTube was made by a cornet player with a slightly overshot bite.

    The cornet man said that, normally, it's best to have the mouthpiece centred on your lips, both horizontally and vertically - but he stressed that you should also take into account the fact that people are not shaped symmetrically; in some cases, as he said, people's faces are decidedly assymetrical, and you have to allow for that.

    In his own case, he said, though he plays with his mouthpiece in the middle of his mouth in the horizontal plane, it is not centred in the vertical plane, because his teeth would make it extremely awkward for him to play like that.

    Hmmmm . . . .

    So I shifted the mouthpiece enough off to the right that the vampire fang was in the cup of the mouthpiece, and clear of the rim . . . out came nice clear notes, with no sizzle, and not even a hint of 'breathiness' - even though it was right at the end of my practise session, and I was tiring.

    So I'll keep it there for the rest of this week, and see how it goes.

  2. Jack E

    Jack E Well-Known Member

    UPDATE - 29th August

    Well, I've only shifted the mouthpiece very slightly to the right - but what an immediate difference! I don't think I'm getting a better sound than I was getting before when I was warmed up, and before I got tired, but blimey - it's so much easier!!

    Considering how little offset I'm actually using ( I doubt it's as much as 1/8th of an inch, or 3mm), the difference it makes is remarkable. As well as the clarity of the sound, I'm using noticeably less pressure than I was before, even for the high notes - and it's eliminated another bugbear. Before, if I was playing something like a thirds exercise in C Major, it felt as though I had to really tighten up my embouchure to reach the top C, but then, when I came down the scale, I found it very hard to relax it enough to avoid fluffing the final B and C. Tonight, I played the thirds exercise as part of my warm up, and just went straight through it from bottom to top and back again, every note clean, and with far less effort than I'd needed before.

    I just tried looking in a mirror, to see how visible the offset was. I doubt that anyone else would be able to see it unless they were really looking closely. All in all, I think if I keep studying and practising for about 70 years or so, I might make some real progress!! ;)

  3. Andrew Norman

    Andrew Norman Active Member

    The Sunny Isle of Wight
    There is no such thing as a correct embouchure - find the position that works for YOU.
    As teachers we will always try to place the mouthpiece as central as possible but we must be aware that everybody is different.
    Jack E likes this.
  4. Tom-King

    Tom-King Well-Known Member

    Go with where it sounds best and feels best - "don't fight mother nature".

    All else equal, central side to side might be desirable aesthetically (though not at the expense of results) but exactly 50/50 top/bottom is a classic example of blinkered one-size-fits-all mentality... The best players in the world (and the rest besides) fall on a continuum, you'll find players who are anywhere from 90/10 to 10/90 across the cup - most (90%+ of us being downstream players) will sit somewhere between 90/10 and 50/50 favouring the top lip, but that's not a prescriptive statistic it's just how it works for most players.
    In some ways exactly 50/50 (rare in any case) is something of a trap. Some may look about 50/50 from the outside (self included) but really be more like 60/40 inside.

    Tl;Dr - don't try to conform to what you think looks best, go with what produces the most resonant tone (odds are unless you've got major flaws going on it'll be close to where it wants to go naturally)
    Last edited: Aug 30, 2017
    Jack E and Andrew Norman like this.
  5. Jack E

    Jack E Well-Known Member

    Andrew and Tom - many thanks to you both for your helpful advice.

    With best regards,

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