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KT's Corner #1

Is your top lip taking a beating?

I sometimes get calls from trumpet players looking for a new mouthpiece to solve their endurance problems. Some are using what would normally be considered an efficient set-up. They tell me that they start off with everything  great, but their endurance hits the skids after the first hour or so.  I’ll then ask, “Is your top lip taking a beating? It may not be your chops or even the mouthpiece. Did you ever think that maybe your lower jaw is tiring, which allows your bottom teeth to recede back, increasing the load on your top lip?”

If you have a natural overbite and have been having endurance issues, this easy test will help you discover if your jaw is the hidden offender:

1.Place a short pencil between your top and bottom teeth, as though you are going to bite it in half. Position your jaw so that the pencil stays straight out, parallel to the floor.

2. Hold this position for several minutes.

3. If you experience an uncomfortable strain in the tendons or muscles of your jaw, you may have just found the culprit.

When I first took this test I felt a strain in the back area of my jaw, beneath the ears after just a few minutes. I decided to practice holding the pencil straight out during my 20 minute ride to and from work. Within a few weeks, I could sustain the position easily for the entire ride. What a difference in my endurance at the end of the gig after remembering to “bulldog my jaw”. To  keep that discipline alive, I make sure to line up my lower teeth with my incisors when using my P.E.T.E. and no longer need the pencil as a prop.

So before ordering that bent backbore or rounded inner bite, try the test. You may save some money and grief by just remembering to “Bulldog that jaw!”