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The Trombone ForumTeaching & LearningPedagogy(Moderators: JP, Doug Elliott) Underbite Embochure Problems
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boneboy
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« on: Feb 01, 2007, 07:09PM »

I have an underbite and was wondering if this could be the reason for some of my problems as a player. I have always had difficulty with my high register and even after consistently practicing for several years, trying out various high range exercises and methods, the highest note I think I've ever been able to play is a C#  . On the other hand, I do have a fairly solid low register or at least it seems to come naturally to me. (I may switch to bass trombone in college, I play tenor right now though).

I also have the option of going through with oral surgery to "fix" my underbite. If I go through with that I expect I'll have to basically re-learn how to play the instrument and have a completely different embouchure (I am 17 right now and a senior in high school, the surgery would probably be between my softmore and junior year of college). Does anyone know or think they know if that would be a good idea? Would I lose my low range and sound if I went through with this, or does anyone know anyone with a similar problem who has found ways to work around this? Thanks for the help,

Ryan
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Andy Baker
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« Reply #1 on: Feb 01, 2007, 07:35PM »

It's very difficult to give good advice without seeing you play, but unless your underbite is very significant, it's hard to imagine this would have a real impact on your high register.
I have a slight underbite and have always had a natural high register while having to work hard on my low chops. If you find yourself with a natural low range, perhaps bass trombone is for you....
I recommend you consult your teacher and maybe go for a lesson with a bass trombonist in your area.
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« Reply #2 on: Feb 02, 2007, 06:42AM »

Boneboy,

I had jaw surgery to partially correct the OPPOSITE problem during the summer between my senior year of HS and first year of college. I had an extremely receded lower jaw and the surgery lengthened my jaw by about 5mm or so. It is still fairly short but at least falls somewhere within the "normal looking" range now. I went through this ordeal solely for embouchure reasons, and I think that all in all, it helped. It wasn't a cure-all, but made things a little better.

That said, it was a very ardous process- 18 months of braces, wisdom teeth out, the surgery itself, jaw wired shut for a month, 6 more months of braces, pain, and discomfort. Not fun at all! It took two years out of my playing career at a time when I could have really used the practice time to develop. Trying to rebuild chops in the middle of a college performance career is NOT fun. In fact, I ended up ingraining some very bad habits by trying to come back too quickly. This necessitated ANOTHER embouchure rebuild after I got to music school my Junior year. Forget about making music, I was just trying to survive each rehearsal!

I somehow muddled through, but gave up the horn for awhile after I got out. When I came back to playing 6 years ago, I took my time practicing the basics and slowly built my chops back up from the ground floor. I also found equipment choices that worked better for me than what I had used previously.

This is not to say that the surgery is bad or wrong for you, but it WILL have a huge impact on your college playing career. My advice is to first seek out some expert embouchure advice from somebody like Doug Elliot or Dave Wilken (both members of this forum) to see if there is some way other than surgery to correct your embouchure issues. You may be playing on the wrong type of embouchure for you, or you may just need to adjust your equipment to match your face better. Either way, you could save yourself a lot of pain, time, and money by avoiding surgery. I wish that I had known that there were people like that out there when I was considering it.

Good luck and keep us posted!


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« Reply #3 on: Feb 02, 2007, 08:30AM »

I'm sure your dentist/oral surgeon has told you that there are other reasons for "correcting" an underbite besides just your embouchure.  As I understand, the flow of saliva in your mouth doesn't happen correctly and can cause problems with the natural cleaning process, although these days with all the fancy electric and ultrasonic toothbrushes and fluoride treatments and such, that shouldn't be much of an issue if you're willing to spend the time on your teeth two or three times a day.  That's a good idea for anybody.

The upstream embouchure, that is pretty much required for an underbite, can be tricky to develop properly, but certainly not impossible.  Some of the best players in the world have had that embouchure, some with an underbite.  You'd possibly be the same embouchure after surgery anyway.  If you want help with your current setup, PM me.  It's pretty difficult to make valid recommendations without seeing what you're doing now.
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« Reply #4 on: Feb 04, 2007, 06:43PM »

I have an underbite. I am a bass trombone player. I have heard that typically underbites tend to place the mouthpiece slightly lower on the embouchure. Bass trombone players also have this tendency. Thats where I place my mouthpiece. Just about opposite of most of the other players I know. I place my mouthpiece with 1/3 above the lip, 2/3 below. I have tried the other way and can play effectively, but it feels very strange. You might consider changing the placement of your mouthpiece.
I have never had a problem with my high register. As a bass trombone player I can fairly easily get up to  and with some work get higher if I need to.
It obviously depends on the extent of your underbite, but my guess is that with some changes in your setup you'll be able to play whatever you want.
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« Reply #5 on: Feb 10, 2007, 09:16PM »

Sorry to branch off topic briefly, but I have a student with the opposite problem - an overbite similar to Dave's problem I guess. It doesn't seem to effect his playing, but when he goes to play with the marching band, his horn angle is terrible!!! I'm not sure that I should do anything to correct this, as marching bands certainly aren't a high musical priority in my country, but it will be interesting to see how his playing develops.

As far as your problem is concerned Ryan, I would certainly not have any sort of surgery while studying bone at college. You have to consider that when you are at college, you have 3/4 years of free practise time to concentrate soley on your playing. This time is very valuable. If you are considering getting the procedure done, I would do it before you go to college - do something else for a couple of years. Or, play bass bone!

-Bob

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