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Embouchure and Pitches for Woodwinds (Steve Russo) 9/27/2013
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Embouchure and Pitches for Woodwinds

For Flute, Oboe, Bassoon, Clarinet, Bass Clarinet, Saxophone players.

You should be able to produce the following concert pitches with your mouthpiece/reed/headjoint only. Use a tuner to check your embouchure pitches. If you can do so, your embouchure is correct. These pitches are for standard (classical) mouthpieces and reeds.

Flute - A on stopped or palm of hand covering the headjoint 
Oboe - Reed crow should sound B or C 
Bassoon - Reed crow should sound G or A 
Bb Clarinet - F# on mouthpiece and Barrel 
Bass Clarinet - F# on mouthpiece and reed only 
Soprano Sax - C or C# on mouthpiece and reed only 
Alto Sax - A on mouthpiece only; G# on mouthpiece and neck 
Tenor Sax - G on mouthpiece only; E on moputhpiece and neck 
Baritone Sax - D or D# on mouthpiece and reed only

These pitches are from "Developing the Complete Band Program", by Shelley Jagow and drsax.biz.

If you are not getting the correct pitch, check the following:

Air Speed - Always use fast air 

Flute Lips Aperture (hole between your lips through which you blow air) - Should be very small 

Flute Headjoint Placement against chin, up to lower lip 

Reed Strength/Quality - Reeds should be at least a #2 1/2 to #3 strength. By second half of first year, students should be playing on #3 reeds. Depending on mouthpiece/reed combination, harder reeds might be used as students progress. Van Doren reeds are recommended. Reeds that are too soft and/or poor quality may produce sounds that are flat (or under pitch). 

Ligature - Not snug enough? Ligature screws should be snug enough to hold the reed in place without the reed wiggling, but not so tight that the screws or ligature could break. 

How Much Mouthpiece or Reed in Mouth - For saxophone and clarinet, look at the mouthpiece (with the reed on it) sideways. Note where the reed meets the mouthpiece. That is how far you should take the mouthpiece into your mouth.

For oboe, put the tip of the reed on your lower lip, right on the line where the inside of your lip meets the outside of your lip. Roll your lower lip slightly over your bottom teeth, and bring the upper lip down to meet the reed. Shape your lips as if you are saying "oh," and bring corners of lips in.

For bassoon, bring upper lip to the wire of the reed and keep lower lip relaxed over bottom teeth. Except for a possible slight overbite, lips should feel relaxed and natural. 

Lip Pressure Clarinet embouchure should be very firm, with top teeth on top of mouthpiece. Push mouthpiece UP to create firm pressure against top teeth. Mouthpiece must not be able to wiggle in mouth.

Saxophone embouchure is similar to clarinet, but more relaxed.

Oboe embouchure is very firm. The lips should feel like an "oh" shape, as if they (the lips) are holding the reed open.

Bassoon embouchure is more relaxed.