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#1 2007-05-07 08:28:50

From: Finland
Registered: 2006-08-08
Posts: 413

Embouchure trick that I wanted to share.

Greetings all,

As I was going through my morning practice routine, I figured out something that helped my embouchure dramatically. I wasn't really trying to learn anything in particular and this basically just happened by accident. For a good while I've been able to play rather decent sounds without much effort but occasionally the sound just goes away and anything higher than Chi no Otsu turns weak. I never managed to figure out why this happens. I have tried to spread my lips to the sides more as instructed in almost every book out there to a point where it starts to seriously hurt. To me, that never really helped much. I could play more or less the same by keeping my lips like they are always.

What I figured was something different. I've noticed that sometimes after practicing for 3-4 hours or more without breaks, playing becomes effortless and it becomes easier to make louder notes while still keeping them clean. I started to wonder if I could somehow find the same kind of feeling right away instead of playing poorly for a good while first. One technique in particular worked like a charm. I'll do my best to describe the idea.

Before I blow I keep my lips and the surrounding muscles completely relaxed. No pulling or making weird faces. As I start to blow, I try to imagine a small string coming out of my mouth and I use my lips to squeeze it from every direction. If you just blow without doing that the air will leave your mouth freely and you barely feel it. As you squeeze more, you start to feel the pressure building up. Maintaining this pressure makes it possible to blow solid notes without having them suddenly change because you made a tiny mistake somewhere. Do not push the air out of your mouth - this only makes you choke and makes it impossible to use most of the air you have in store. The pressure will appear if you simply let the air go and then you squeeze it together.

When I checked this with a mirror, I noticed that rather than pulling my lips apart, when I blow like that my lips actually get pulled towards the center. I've always tried to correct any problems by pulling my lips more but now it seems like the way to go for me is to instead push them slightly together rather than apart. In fact, if I pull my lips to the sides I can't build decent pressure at all. In my case the pressure only forms once I use the sides of the lip opening as well for the squeezing rather than pulling them away from the air stream.

This just goes to show that more than anything shakuhachi playing is about finding out things about yourself. What works for one person may not work for another. Finding out things like this is what keeps practice interesting. I just wished to share this experience in case someone out there is starting out and is wondering why some explanation in a book just plain doesn't work for you. Don't be afraid to try out different things when it comes to topics that are heavily based on your anatomy.



#2 2007-07-18 22:26:46

From: South-eastern Australia
Registered: 2005-12-15
Posts: 85

Re: Embouchure trick that I wanted to share.

Thanks for that good description.  That is very similar to what my teacher has been telling me - don't blow, just start breathing out, gently part your lips and let the air stream flow.  Like you, I had been getting sore mouth muscles just trying to pull the corners of my embouchure back and keep it firm, but the relaxed approach works well.

... as if nothing is happening.  And it is!

Paul Mitchell, Jumbuktu 2006



#3 2007-07-18 22:29:14

Performer & Teacher
From: Boston MA
Registered: 2005-12-21
Posts: 830

Re: Embouchure trick that I wanted to share.

practising every day 3 hours you will discover a lot of things!!! Practise makes Perfect!!



#4 2007-07-19 08:59:13

From: Portland, ME
Registered: 2005-10-09
Posts: 613

Re: Embouchure trick that I wanted to share.

geni wrote:

Practise makes Perfect!!

Or at least Better.



#5 2009-12-02 05:08:11

Registered: 2009-12-02
Posts: 5

Re: Embouchure trick that I wanted to share.

I registered to this forum so I could thank you.
Thank you very much!!! This was THE most helpful piece of advice, for learning shakuhachi, I've ever got!

One question.. Even when I change the pressure and change the position of my lips, should they be as relaxed as before?



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