Double Lip Embouchure

Just over six years ago, I had an accident on a gig – I broke two of my teeth on my metal Otto Link. Even though I had the teeth fixed, I couldn’t handle the vibration of the mouthpiece against them. I tried dental wax, double and triple mouthpiece patches, and finally thought about switching my embouchure (temporarily) to a double lip. I would use it until my teeth were less sensitive, and then I would switch back to single lip.

I started doing my research, and discovered Tom Ridenour’s videos on how to learn to play double lip embouchure.

I was biting more than I realized! At first, my endurance was terrible – after about ten minutes I’d have no face left. This was going to be a huge shift in the way I played. Over a few weeks, I worked my endurance (relaxed my jaw pressure) up to an hour with no pain. I also realized that if I went to setups that were less resistant, I would have more endurance (who would’ve thought?!?!).

I had Ted Klum make me a set of mouthpieces that were equivalent to a C* and paired them with a 2M or 2H D’Addario Select Jazz – a little extreme, but it got me through this period in my playing. Over the last few years, I went to harder reeds and more open mouthpieces, but I am more aware of the feel of the setup than I was previous to the switch.

The more I played with this embouchure, the more I saw the benefits from using it, and have used it full-time since trying it. I play more in tune, the registers are more even (especially up high), and I feel like I can pull more colours out of my sound. Also, when playing instruments across the woodwind family, double lip works very similarly across the different mouthpieces, so physically it’s comfortable to switch.

In my teaching, I love using it as a tool for students. I encourage all of my students to try it to see how it changes how they play. I find with saxophone students who’s upper register thins out because they are biting, it makes them aware (the same discoveries that I had), and for clarinet students it came make them more aware of their tongue during high register articulation, and become more conscious of their tuning from low C downwards.

I’ve also been surprised at how many young students play in a double lip naturally (and how many band teachers try and change it). I have found that when students are playing in their most comfortable position, they also tend to develop more quickly. Being a double lip player (and teacher) helps them eliminate the initial tuning and stability issues that are associated with playing double lip.

Do you play double lip? If you haven’t, have you ever tried double lip?

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