The tooth, the whole tooth and nothing but the tooth

Let me begin by making an apology to all healthcare providers, for they do a magnificent service to us all, especially to diabetic folks like myself. They are all quite wonderful, and I have a superb dentist, who happens to love music, and a nurse practitioner, and various professionals who tend to my extremities, for which I am quite thankful(both my extremities and the healthcare providers) We have also had the arrogance that exists only in the healthcare areas, oh, yes, and in Music Departments everywhere, to say nothing of all organized or disorganized religious groups,and orchestras ;which reminds me of a story attributed to Brahms:

He was supposedly quite an astringent fellow, despite the ethereal quality of his perfect music. He would frequently make damaging statements at gatherings. At the conclusion of one gathering, he is said to have made this comment: “If there is anyone present whom I have not insulted, I apologize.”

I have had several questions concerning teeth and playing the clarinet, naturally double lip, which as mentioned, is the most perfect way of cushioning your teeth while playing. It is perfect in my view as it is very natural to cover both the lower and upper teeth with the lips. Here is both the benefit and the deterrent. When you cover both upper and lower teeth with the lips, you may experience pressure either in the upper or lower lip. If this prssure is applied with too much intensity, you may experience pain , caused by your teeth cutting your lips, either upper or lower. When the discomfort becomes more intense, we have the little culprit called pain which ensues, possibly causing all kinds or avoidance reactions, leading to changing the position of the embouchure, which is bad, because it just transfers pain . Pain is what it is. Yes, like this writer, you can get some preparation H, which is actually for another place, or any of the oral antiseptics containing the material that dulls pain. This is a blind alley because you really need as much sensitivity in your embouchure as possible. So, you may choose to live with the discomfort or actually try several other solutions. Not liquid solutions, which alleviate other kinds and types of pain. I have known several clarinetists who will fold a piece of cigarette paper over the lower teeth, which will help slightly, until you bite through it or it just falls apart in your mouth. Then, there is a further solution which is have your dentist make a fitting(at considerable cost,of course) that will fit over the lower teeth. This works for some folk, however it is not preferable. A third way is to have your lower teeth shaved down.The dentist will see or feel a jagged edge down there and will simply grind it down to smoothness, which can help to an extent, Of course, the best way to avoid pain in your lips is to play without biting on the reed. However , we know that biting causes pain, to say nothing of perfectly ghastly noises and a general irritation which can spread to other areas. Tuning is difficult ,if not impossible. We know that tuning of an individula note is difficult, there usually being a couple of ways to achieve making a given pitch either higher or lower, which requires either opening or closing the throat, shading the actualy fingering of a note, or using the lip. Don’t even try the latter method, which result in a net loss of the note itself.Here is where the absolute beauty of the double lip embouchure comes into play. If you continue with this embouchure, you will find the pain excruciating, and then what happens? You stop biting, using the corners of the embouchure to hold the clarinet in your mouth. After a time of not being able to play high C or the thumb F without something kind of help with other fingers, your embouchure will begin to straighten, and strenghenand the whole thing becomes self-corrective, ¬†resulting in a better sound, and a smoother legato. Why? Because if you bang your fingers on the clarinet. it will hurt your teeth, right? Right. And your legato will go from smooth to bumpy, which can turn into a chain reaction of unwanted sounds.Those are several reasons that this embouchure is superior, and is the most natural for the clarinet and for the avoidance of discomfort.

Some, if not all of the finest clarinetists have used double lip embouchure. Names like Harold Wright, Gaston Hamlin, Ralph Maclane, Gino Cioffi readily come to mind .Tom Ridenour uses it too, and he makes the best tuned clarinet.

But, if you have a hole or a callous on your lip, you can try your dentist. If he knows nothing, he is not telling the truth, and he has an ulterior motive, which will usually cost lots more than your clarinet(s). Simply put, you do not bite your lips or put a hole in your head from the clarinet. If your healthcare provider doesn’t know how to fix it, he has a hole in his head, or a card up his sleeve. One hears ittle from Mdical Doctors about your condition, simply telling you to take a medication, and you hear even less from a toothcare provider. That is, until the discovery of the internet, and of course, GOOGLE and other avenues of information. I had a terrible battle with a healthcare provider about a drug called Januvia, which helps in conrtolling blood sugar. I asked him about it, and he didn’t kow it existed, and he dragged in that huge book of all medications. SInce it was new , it didn’t appear in his book so, I went home and downloaded the information, and left it with his secretary. The next time I saw him, he was absolutely white with fury. He said he had never ever prescribed this medication for anyone, implying that it couldn’t be anything but ridiculous. It was a terrible appointment, Not only did mhe make me wait, but slammed the door on the way out. A couple of months later, he came in an told me it was an excellent drug. That is the truth. It has become very popular in this high-sugar town. It is not a bad drug, but the best one for sufar is putting less of everything into your pie-hole.

Stay well, and keep practicing, and don’t bite. If you wish another “solution”, try Cabernet Sauvignon.


From The Tooth, the whole tooth and nothing but the tooth, by Robert Benchley

‘The nurse appears, and looks inquiringly at each one in the room. Each one in the room evades the nurse’s glance in one last, futile attempt to fool someone and get away without seeing the dentist. But she spots you and nods pleasantly. God, how pleasantly she nods! There ought to be a law against people being as pleasant as that.

“The doctor will see you now,” she says.”


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