PDA

View Full Version : Puffed Cheeks-Professional Opinions and Debate..Help Please



Sigmund451
09-29-2003, 08:48 PM
Regarding tenor technique my original teacher taught me to keep cheeks in tight and stated that tone would be best this way, she also suggested a straight up posture.

Today I had an interesting conversation with Ralph Morgan regarding a piece I got from him. In our discussion of tone he asked some questions and informed me that these were incorrect and unnatural techniques, and postures that inhibit optimum tone production and air flow. Now Ralph seems to have a pretty advanced (to say the least) understanding of mouthpieces, saxophones and just about anything related. Im inclined to consider his advice over my teacher who was a school band teacher prior to teaching independently. Ralph suggested a much more relaxed method stating you "breathe into a saxophone, not blow"

...so whats the buzz out there amongst experienced players and advanced teachers regarding this contrast?

Amy
09-29-2003, 08:57 PM
My teacher taught me the same as your teacher taught you. I'm no professional (I'm only 14!) but in my opinion, you've been taught correctly on the puffing cheeks thing.

Ritchie
09-30-2003, 07:23 AM
"breathe into a saxophone, not blow" is good advice for sure. How do you conclude from this you should play with puffed cheaks and ducked and distorted (as I would imagine the opposite to "cheeks in tight" and "straight up posture" look like). Please give some more bits of information what in your conversation with Ralph Morgan confused you! If you just overdo the "straight up" thing, some relaxing will not hurt...

Sigmund451
09-30-2003, 02:48 PM
He suggested holding the cheeks in tight was not the best method...I dont think was suggesting the Dizzy puffiness, just not the drawn in tight method many have been taught...Im no expert, Just trying to find the answer.

steve
09-30-2003, 03:01 PM
My take on this is that you decide what sound you want for a particular song. More edge? Keep cheeks in...look at some pictures of King Curtis. If you want to "foo-foo" your sound, maybe to play a soft ballad, puff them out a bit. Over-all, I think keeping them in will give your tone more stability and predictability. Playing in a bent over position would limit your air flow...I prefer to play standing up...but in a relaxed posture.

orions_belt27
09-30-2003, 04:48 PM
my philosophy is this: Do whatever you are comfortable with and naturally.

Perhaps it's just me and my instructor and our very unorthodox school of thought but, what matters is that:

1. You have a great tone
2. You have excellent breath control and air support
3. You have superb articulation
4. You are consistent with all these

How you achieve the above really is not much of a problem. you can puff your checks, have weird funny looking embouchures, or you may twist you head 360 degrees clockwise or anticlockwise before playing, the point is it doesnt matter how you achieve it, so long as you achieve it and you are COMFORTABLE and NATURAL achieving it :D

Dat is my philosophy and approach to the sax. please note dat i am essentially more into the jazz, pop, rock and wat not of sax playing and not classical. Given the strict rules of classical music, you might not be able to pull this one off :)

colibri
09-30-2003, 05:43 PM
I'm surprised you even have to ask. Ralph Morgan and "her", isn't it so painfully obvious who you should trust...?

For what it's worth, your beloved teacher probably only took saxophone for one semester in college.

JL
09-30-2003, 11:39 PM
Sigmund, no doubt Ralph Morgan can be trusted to give good information. But information is only useful if you fully understand what you are being told. It doesn't sound to me like he told you to slouch over and puff out your cheeks. It is quite possible that you didn't fully comprehend the message. If he told you a "relaxed" embouchure and "relaxed" body is desirable for playing the tenor, I'd agree. But that doesn't translate to "slouch and puff out your cheeks." You may also have slightly misread what your teacher told you. Could be they are both right. Ask for clarification rather than jumping to conclusions. And of course that applies to what you read on this forum. Just my small piece of advice.

Paul Coats
10-01-2003, 03:45 AM
You will have teachers teach you to keep your fingers close to the keys... why move the finger 2" before pressing the key 1/4"? What a waste of time and energy! How can you play with precision with fingers flying?

In the same way, if the air first must fill the cheeks, before exciting the air column in the sax, how can you articulate with precision? You can't.

The circle of muscles that form the embouchure cannot properly support the reed and control the tone with the cheeks puffed, as some of these muscles pass over the cheeks.

Some musicians, and I am one, when forming the embouchure, the muscle just under the cheekbones will bunch and APPEAR to be "puffed cheeks", though there are no air pockets in my cheeks.

Also, the air volume inside the mouth DOES affect response, particularly in the high range. There is no way you can play in the altissimo with a lot of air volume inside the mouth. In fact, playing the high range on any wind, requires the player to REDUCE the air volume inside the mouth.

Sigmund451
10-01-2003, 04:32 AM
Well, I will stick with what I know, Paul, what your saying makes sense...I dont think I misunderstood Mr Morgan but then again, descriptions on the phone can be misunderstood even if both persons are articulate. Thanks for all the feedback.

freeman
10-01-2003, 07:07 PM
how about circular breathing then? does this mean that the tone/quality/"characteristics" of the sound will not be good during the "puffy cheeks" stage?

Paul Coats
10-02-2003, 01:21 AM
There is a timbre change when puffing cheeks for circular breathing, which is clearly heard.

Gordon (NZ)
10-02-2003, 09:32 AM
Didn't Louis Armstrong puff his cheeks?
If so, did it wreck his articulation?

It only needs a single example to demonstrate the silliness of any dogmatic rule.

Steve J.
10-02-2003, 11:07 AM
Re: circular breathing the air is "temporarily" stored in the cheeks..... actually solidifying and illustrating what Paul C. explains. One does not articulate during the puff cheek phase.

Dizzy is an anomaly. I have to agree with Paul.

larry
10-02-2003, 01:44 PM
Interesting thread - Paul et al, wouldn't you concede that using your cheek muscles to help refine the air flow gives you one more tool in your kit? I sometimes find that there are little "cheek articulations" that I do that I can't mimick with just tounge and diaphragm alone. By keeping a bit of extra air in my mouth, it seems that I can better emphasize some attacks or even draw out notes a bit longer than my lung air provides.

Or am I just rationalizing?

Gordon (NZ)
10-02-2003, 01:56 PM
It sounds as if you use you cheeks as an extra playing tool - a tool which most people do not develop sufficiently to consider the usefulness of, let alone appreciate it..

Steve J.
10-02-2003, 02:04 PM
Interesting thread - Paul et al, wouldn't you concede that using your cheek muscles to help refine the air flow gives you one more tool in your kit? I sometimes find that there are little "cheek articulations" that I do that I can't mimick with just tounge and diaphragm alone. By keeping a bit of extra air in my mouth, it seems that I can better emphasize some attacks or even draw out notes a bit longer than my lung air provides.

Or am I just rationalizing?

I think if you are in control and choose to do this consciously for changing sound musical effect it is a tool.... only if you can play the proper way at the moment and choose to use such a thing as an effect. If this happens somewhat out of control it is a rationalization.

In general, for me, changing timbre or sound is only musical if for an entire phrase as in a statement. What you are describing sounds like you are getting fatigued and using different muscles.... just a guess. I've seen this before and it wasn't a musically conscious choice.... more an attempt to salvage some musicality when lacking proper air support and embouchure.

Mike Ruhl
10-02-2003, 02:07 PM
If you puff out your cheeks, you increase the internal volume of your oral cavity, which effects a change in its resonance, which may effect a timbral response.
(phew! that was a mouthful!)

Steve J.
10-02-2003, 02:32 PM
(phew! that was a mouthful!)

:lol: exactly :lol:

orions_belt27
10-02-2003, 03:02 PM
Gordon (NZ) : Didn't Louis Armstrong puff his cheeks?
If so, did it wreck his articulation?

It only needs a single example to demonstrate the silliness of any dogmatic rule.

________________


It sounds as if you use you cheeks as an extra playing tool - a tool which most people do not develop sufficiently to consider the usefulness of, let alone appreciate it..


Mike Ruhl : If you puff out your cheeks, you increase the internal volume of your oral cavity, which effects a change in its resonance, which may effect a timbral response.
(phew! that was a mouthful!)

Honestly, who gives a damn how you look like when you play the sax eh? :) Well, yea maybe those not listenin to the music but what's more important, is that you sound great. And that's why i say that it doesnt matter whether your cheeks are puffed, or your neck is twisted :shock:

Seriously, if puffing your cheeks helps you produce awesome tone, if doing something or anything unorthodox helps you produce a beautiful consistent tone, then what on earth is stopping you from doing those things?

This reminds me of what my instructor told me this morning during a lesson. Why is it that the synthesizer can reproduce the sounds of other instruments better but never fully and successfully reproduce the sound and articulation of the saxophone? well, that is because the sax is such an imperfect instrument and that's the beauty of the it all~

And because it is an imperfect instrument, we should approach it with open minds. The point is, why subject yourself and the instrument to rules which will inhibit its perfect 'imperfect' nature? 8)

Mike Ruhl
10-02-2003, 03:21 PM
Honestly, who gives a damn how you look like when you play the sax eh?My wife, for one. She doesn't want me to embarrass her.

Other than that - I agree completely. The thing is, we get a lot of what I have decided to call "developing players" here, for whom many of these notions are brand-spanking new, and therefore in their minds have never been considered by anyone else before today. So we have to help them realize that it just doesn't matter. :wink:

clem
10-03-2003, 06:11 PM
Zoot Sims always seemed to have his cheeks puffed out when he played, and I can recall seeing other "West Coast" saxophonists doing it too. When I want a light airy tone I find that it helps. But then doesn't Roland Kirk play with his cheeks puffed--even when he doesn't have 3 mouthpieces in his mouth?

mark_m
10-03-2003, 06:39 PM
There is value to generalized rules, even though there are exceptions to every rule.

A teacher needs to be able to say more than "do whatever it is that makes you sound great". Therefore a teacher needs to be able to specify those things that will help a student to sound great. For most people, puffing cheeks would probably be a hinderance, and so it makes sense that a teacher would teach his students not to do so.

We all benefit from our teachers, hopefully, by heeding their advice and practicing as they instruct us to. But of course ultimately we all need to find out what works for us individually.

So, there's no reason - in my mind - to debate the soundness of advising non-puffed cheeks - overall it would seem the correct thing to teach for the great majority of players.

It's also a great idea to play with what happens when you puff your cheeks, and explore that as a tonal tool - these are not conflicting ideas to me...

I do believe there are some health hazards also associated with extreme cheek puffing, anyone know anything about this? Maybe jaw- or ear-related?

Paul Coats
10-03-2003, 08:44 PM
Dizzy, in his clinics, would say, "Yes, I puff my cheeks, but I learned wrong. Don't do it."

Yes, I do occasionally puff one cheek for a tonal change. But this is not routine. I do all sorts of things for tonal changes and effects, some subtle, some not so subtle.

But in general, no, don't puff your cheeks. Hard and fast rule? No. In general, I don't want a student to slap tongue. But I do it for effect, on occasion... and I do it every place there is a little X on the note in "Slap 'n Sax". And I do the laugh in "Laf 'n Sax". And I growl "Tequila", honk "Tuff", and make all sorts of noises on the saxophone... some on purpose.

No, there are no hard and fast rules.

But I will suggest that a young player not puff his cheeks.

Sigmund451
10-03-2003, 09:11 PM
Boy did I open a can or worms or what :)

I still havent found what works for me but I certainly do not puff way out...there is, at least for me, a loss of control in such a posture. I do sometimes let them go out a little, mostly the lower portion of the cheek. I agree that too much air in there just sort of gets in the way when you need to perform certain movements.

Gordon (NZ)
10-03-2003, 11:12 PM
I imagine full puffing of cheeks means that the muscles within the cheeks are not being used. Constant puffing would then almost certainly permanently stretch the cheek tissues.

I suppose if sagging cheeks is the personal look you are after, then puff your cheeks. I am imagining a look where the cheeks droop and fold like a saggy belly.... with conscientious puffing the cheeks could even sag below the jaw bones. Haven't I seen a breed of dog like that? Did those dogs play sax in their past life?

Conclusion: If you puff your cheeks you will be a saggy-jowelled dog in your next life. Ha!

Sigmund451
10-03-2003, 11:30 PM
Good one Gordon. Now please go to my question on intonation and tuning and help me please...Its listed under sax repair...and your the local expert.

mark_m
10-04-2003, 01:40 AM
HA! Man I'm gunna REALLY watch my cheeks now!
good one.

saxbeginner
01-05-2004, 10:47 PM
Well, have found all of this most interesting...am only a complete beginner, not had one lesson yet (apart from studying my Eric Marienthal tips for sax players vid!!)

But I am thrilled to discover that my slightly 'puffing' cheeks are not actually puffing with air, but with my well-established cheek muscles! (no, not from talking...though my hubby would argue that) I've been playing the flute for ...er...ages now, 20 yrs, and that's obviously where they've come from!

So big thanks to Paul for explaining that, thanks!, as I have been getting a decent enough sound but had been wondering if the slightly puffing cheeks meant I was doing something wrong!

Wailin'
01-06-2004, 07:35 PM
With all due respect to David Sanborn, a famous alto player, there are several photos of him playing with puffed cheeks so you decide.

colibri
01-06-2004, 09:43 PM
Just because he sounds good with puffed cheeks doesn't mean that is good technique.

HOUSTON NONET
09-13-2007, 03:32 AM
Show Me A Cat That Circles Breaths And I'll Show You A Cat That Has A Bad Unfocused Tone
Cheek Puffing Is Counterproductive

HOUSTON NONET
09-13-2007, 03:33 AM
Show Me A Cat That Circles Breaths And I'll Show You A Cat That Has A Bad Unfocused Tone
Cheek Puffing Is Counterproductive:x

Dr G
09-13-2007, 04:06 PM
Hey HoUsTOn, YouR Caps Key is Out of cONTRol. ;)

HOUSTON NONET
09-13-2007, 04:09 PM
thanks Dr G

DXCamp
09-13-2007, 04:28 PM
Puffed cheeks are a sign of cheek muscle fatigue. The embouchre is another muscle group around the side and bottom lip area of the mouth that need developing for good tone producing, and should be firm at all times. Observing oneself in a chest high up mirror while practicing is helpful for avoiding that almost ready to drop dead look. :)

area51recording
09-13-2007, 05:02 PM
Now...I gotta admit that I've just coasted thru this thread, but I'm still trying to figure out how "relax and breathe into the sax" became "collapse and bend over-puff cheeks". ANY advice taken to the extreme is probably wrong. For myself I can feel perfectly relaxed while playing and have good posture and no puffed cheeks. In fact here lately I've been concentrating on releasing the air into the horn (after a good inhale) as opposed to blowing into it, and I find my tone is much better, more resonant.

SactoPete
09-13-2007, 05:20 PM
Wow, talk about bringing a thread back from the dead!

As far as I'm concerned, puff your cheeks or not, whatever works for you to get the sound / effect you are looking for. If in doubt, don't puff them.

As for the posture thing, it's probably more practical than anything else. Slouching over with a heavy horn around your neck cantilevered out there is bound to hurt after a while (based on experience). I do find that I can better control and fill the horn when my posture is more erect... it's kind of like "sighing" into the horn that way, if you get my drift.

However, what works for one might not for the other... Trane slouched badly while he played from the photos I've seen, that seemed to work OK for him....
Lester Young's photos make it look like he's evading a tackle when he's playing he's so contorted. Also, seemed to work OK for him!

Pete