I lost part of my lip. Can you help?

Hello Sherman,

I am an amatuer, but reaonably advanced player, having been at it for nearly 20 years. I play a Buffet full Boehm in their top grade – although the instrument is probably about 40 years old. I use a Van Doren crystal mouthpiece, Number A1, with Van Doren 1 1/2 reeds.

I have recently had a large chunk removed from my lower lip – initially a suspected keratosis ( a skin cancer), but subsequntly found to be diagnosed as non-malignant, and ‘scar tissue’. I wonder if lip injuries such as this are common amongst single reed players. The dermatologist who did the job was either unsympathetic or lacking in understanding, or both, as he did not appear to take my concenrs about lip-damage seriously, and despite initiailly assuring me it would not leave any trauma, subsequently admitted that my lip would never be the same, but why didn’t I just put the mouthpiece in the side of my mouth and play that way. (Grrrrr!)

Is this the right website? Can you offer any insigiht into the condition as well as how to recover. Can send hoeerndous lip-pics if needs be,If this is the wrong site, sorry to have bothered you.
There may be sites which will circumvent the issue in many ways, but there is not one of which I have cognizance specifically designed to answer such questions. (Dermatologist? I wonder if a plastic reconstructive surgeon may have been advisable.)

I have had questions pertaining to mouth cancer with its attendant difficulties and impossibilities and other problems which can be called physical .

Well, I must tell you that I have not seen exactly that problem with the embouchure, however I can tell you that like you, I have had many problems which would apparently keep me from playing including dental surgery of all kinds, and I have had many requests for assistance from everything from mouth cancer to just plain air leakage of an impossible sort and I do have an answer. In fact all of the problems are unique, yours, mine, and that fellow who couldn’t play because of mouth cancer.
The first trumpeter of a famous Symphony had an auto accident and lost all of his teeth, and after a time he continued to play, better than ever.
We all have various problems and there is no answer , not an individual one anyway.
I remember having Bells Palsy and being told that I would never be able to play again. It had an effect similar to yours but without the hole; I just could not hold in air on the right side of my mouth.
The prognosis was grim for me playing, and yet after several months I began to play and I do not leak air now.
I know you will be able to play again through whatever it is you have to do and I do not think it will be that difficult.
I have known many players who play their instrument without holding it in the center of their lips, not at all, and some on the extreme side.
What do they do?

One thing is for certain: the doctor is only interested in the healing process that takes place in your mouth. He has no cognizance of embouchure or any other kind of clarinet holding position, nor does he have any interest in anything but your healing.
You are going to have to deal with the problem solo as they say because it is just that.
You may, after the healing is somewhat complete attempt to use double lip embouchure which may help your ability to play, at the least it will give you something else to think about , or perhaps you may not be able to play, at least for a while.
Perhaps this will make you say “grrrrrr” yet another time, but if you are reasnoably painfree you will find a way to play your beloved clarinet; you have to and it is incumbent upon you that you do, and you will.
best of all good luck and spirits.
sherman friedland



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