How to Strengthen Your Embouchure Using this Weird Looking Exercise

by Michael Lowenstern


Hi, I’m Michael, this is, Ariel, and we are going to teach you the exercise called the “Q-T” exercise. The “Q-T” exercise is to strengthen the side muscles or the corners of your mouth. Why would you ever want to do that? Well, because when you’re playing a clarinet or a saxophone or bass clarinet, or any of those instruments, there’s this thing called “biting.” What is “biting?” Biting happens because you have really strong jaw muscles. Why are they strong? It’s because you do things like talk and breathe and eat with them. So, what you need to be able to do is counteract that with the sides of your mouth, so that you don’t bite as hard. These things basically keep this [pointing to mouth] from being so strong, because they’re pushing in this way [pointing inwards]. Basically it makes your whole embouchure like a rubber band.

The “Q-T” exercise is aptly named because what we’re going to do is we’re going to say the letter “Q” but we’re going to stick our lips out really far. Ready? “Q!” Your lips are really far out. What I want you to do is push really hard with the sides [and] corners of your mouth, against your teeth. And then I’m going to count to ten and I want you to wrap it up into the letter “T.” (demonstrates in video) And you’re really pushing hard here [points to corners of mouth].

You’re going to feel it burning in there because those are muscles that you don’t use very often. A great time to do this is when no one is looking at you (because it looks really silly). I tend to do it in the car, and that just allows me to not have anyone make fun of me. So do this exercise - that’s one rep of three. Then take a little bit of a rest because your mouth is going to be tired, and do another one, take another rest, and then do a third one. This is also (incidentally) a great way to keep your embouchure in shape when you’re on vacation and when you don’t have your instrument to play. It keeps these muscles from getting really wimpy, so that when you go back to the instrument, you can only play for, you know, 45 seconds before the instrument falls out of your face. Hope this was helpful. Thanks!

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