Left cheek pops out when playing bassoon

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Home Forums Pedagogy Teaching – General: Solutions, Question, Tips Left cheek pops out when playing bassoon

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    Tim Rosen

    I’ve noticed over the last 6 months that my left cheek pops out when I play. It’s not all the time but it happens very often. Does anyone have any idea why/how to fix it?



    Old thread I know, I hope that you’ve solved your problem by now, but I have a few thoughts. One of my beginning pupils has this problem, and I think we’ve managed to make headway with it. I have no idea why this would start happening suddenly to an experienced player, but in my pupil it is related to embochure muscle weakness. He has no experience of playing a wind instrument, and the muscles on either side of his mouth just aren’t up to the task of maintaining the correct embochure for long enough– particularly the muscles that keep your lips in a pursed sort of shape. A month ago I asked him to hold the butt of his reed between his lips (so that the blades are sticking out and the mouth has to be in a small O; this would probably work with a drinking straw or a pencil or something) and to try to smile at the same time, without dropping the reed or allowing the lips to come apart. He did this every day for a few minutes, obviously he couldn’t maintain it for very long initially but worked up to five minutes a day. A month later he is able to keep both cheeks in for most of the lesson.

    James Jeter

    Buy tighter underwear! (Forgive me, just couldn’t resist.) :-)

    (The former suggestions were great!) Jim

    Neville Forsythe

    Good advice from thirteenthcorey. Sorry you haven’t had any answers since first post – (I’ve been neglecting the Forum for some time in the aftermath of our quakes).

    Instructing the student to focus on holding the cheeks against the teeth and to “contain” the air inside the cavity formed by the inner surfaces of the teeth, palate and tongue will help to give some firmer “scaffolding” to the cheeks. Making the vowel shape for “aw” should give sufficient “roundness” to the sound esp from “open F” downwards. As the tessitura moves upwards the tongue and palate should focus the air more with the vowel sound becoming more “oo” and even “eu” as the breath pressure is increased.

    All this should be done with the cheeks held against the teeth.

    To prevent “blow-out” occurring, try to avoid “smiling” or “grimacing”, which will quickly exhaust the thin “sheet-like” muscles of the cheeks. (This is the classic “undertaker’s solemn face” with dropped jaw or “stifled yawn”).

    Having said this, experienced players often allow a “controlled” release of the cheeks to achieve total relaxation of those cheek muscles, to allow blood-flow to flush toxins out and bring nourishment to the muscles. Managed well, this technique can facilitate very long periods of playing – as in a full 3 hr opera or concert.

    Some relentlessly high passage work can still cause players to “lose their chops”, but careful management of the oral shaping etc can reduce it considerably.

    Poorly set up reeds (that don’t crow freely with that “fax” sound when blown with good support and minimal “bite”) will inevitably “cut-out your chops” too.

    Good luck to both you and your student.


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