Reed and mouthpiece that plays by itself.

Hi Sherman,
I really enjoy your articles and hope you can help me.
I, unfortunately, have embouchure dystonia and would like very much to play again. However, I wouldneed a mouthpiece/reed combination that “practically plays itself”./strong>
Would the VD M15 be my best option here?
Thanks for your time.
Not willing to give up!

Thank you for your response Embouchure dystonia involves involuntary contractions
of facial muscles. I have read where only 10% of
players who have this disorder return to playing.

As for me, the right side of my face goes into a semi-permanent smile position with a deep vertical
depression in my upper lip on my right side.
I tried playing yesterday for about 5 to 10 minutes and found the usual facial distortions when I looked
in the mirror this morning. By tonight or tomorrow
morning my face should be pretty much back to normal
My muscles on the right side of my face tighten very
hard. I usually have to do a lot of facial stretching
exercises to help get some relief. In the past I’ve
also done a lot of gum chewing to help get relief from the muscles locking up.Right now I feel like selling everything I have and
just take something else up. I hate to give up playing the clarinet but it looks as if this disorderhas got the best of me.
If I could only learn how to play out of the left side
of my mouth I might have a chance.Thank you for taking the time to answer my query.

Hi Dan:
This is very interesting and I am happy to report to you my own experience with what you describe, or a very similar experience.

I have looked at the websites you mentioned, surprised to find them
actually, and while I do not disagree, I can only report my personal
experience with this dystonia , which mine was not, at least not the
My own experience happened as a complete falling of the right hand side of my face overnight.
I was a MM student at the U.of Mass, newly married and enrolled to get advanced degrees.
In any event, I had my Masters recital scheduled for December and this happened at the end of August , about like now, as I recall, some fifty years ago.
I went to a doctor in Boston, who kept trying to diagnose a stroke, asking me all of the questions having to do with saying words, measuring my face, etc. He also asked me to place my index finger on my lips, asking me to keep my lips tight while I tried to blow through them. It simply leaked everywhere.
I could not.
He told me that he doubted if it would ever come back, but then sent me to Mass General where they gave me the pin tests and all manner of others, which frankly I cannot remember. He also told me that it would never come back in all probability.
I let it alone and then tried to play with very minimal sound coming out.
I was undaunted and very determined, but also glad that I had abandoned my playing ambitions for teaching.
Little by little, it did come back and it has remained. He called it Bells Palsy, and actually I had had it in the early fifties when while trying to buy a used car, the same thing happened.
I stayed in the infirmiry for a couple of days while they looked, and then , well, I don’t remember.
I want to encourage you to do everything quite slowly. Do not push the time that you can play.
Only brief periods. You must play without the dystonia, and as soon as it appears, stop playing.
Try to lengthen very slowly the time that you can play normally. Do not play with any twitching or paralyses, or whatever it has been called.
Mine was never called that.
It was called Bells Palsy.
It doesn’t really matter does it.
We want to play and we will. Long tones in the low register first.
Go very slowly and do not give up hope. I know it will come back.

best of luck,
sincerely, Sherman


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