Topic: Embouchure Issues

Hello! I'm a high school bassoonist and I have been playing for about 5 years. In recent times(for the past 8 or 9 months) I have been having embouchure issues. I've been trying to maintain the round embouchure shape, applying equal pressure from corners and top and bottom, but when playing above a C4, I've noticed that my embouchure tends to get really tight (top teeth somehow get very close to the reed) and I can barely finish a phrase without wearing my embouchure out(better yet a movement of a piece). This is especially troubling, as I have college auditions this upcoming school year, and will definitely not be able to finish my rep if this problem continues to persist. I have braces, but I'm not quite sure that they are the issue. Any help I could receive would be great, thanks!


Re: Embouchure Issues

The bassoon embouchure serves as a cushion and fulcrum for the reed. The strength of the cushion (or the pressure of the lips surrounding the reed), and the position of the fulcrum change depending on register and pitch. For example, the upper register requires a firmer cushion with a fulcrum position closer to the shoulder. The lower register requires a softer cushion and a fulcrum position closer to the center of the blade. Both the firmness of the cushion and the position of the fulcrum are affected by the reed and the breath. A bassoonist adjusts the cushion and the fulculum intuitively by responding to the vibration of the reed. How a reed vibrates is affected by the stye of the reed and the amount of breath passing through it.

The breath, reed and the embouchure must be in balance to play the bassoon properly. Any imbalance of these three elements compromises sound production and causes embouchure fatigue. The imbalance often results from an inadequate reed and the lack of proper breath. For example, if the reed vibrates too freely and is flat, the embouchure must work harder to tame the reed. If the reed is too restrictive and the breath is not adequate for the reed, the embouchure must work harder to compensate for the imbalance.

Finally the musculature of the embouchre (orbiculares) must be developed and strenthened to prevent fatigue.

Yoshiyuki (Yoshi) Ishikawa, DMA
Professor of Music, Bassoon
Chair, Woodwinds
University of Colorado Boulder
College of Music, 301UCB

Yoshi Ishikawa
Professor of Bassoon, University of Colorado at Boulder, College of Music
Editor, IDRS OnLine Publications

Re: Embouchure Issues

Hi Isaiah,

Since your difficulty seems to be above C4, try producing C#4 with only the bocal and the reed, and memorize the muscle feel of your embouchure.  Try to replicate that muscle memory when you play the bassoon above C4, relying more on breath support to produce your tone.

Happy Bassooning!