Tuesday, July 15, 2014


When I saw the description of focal task-specific embouchure dystonia, I knew that's what was plaguing me for the better part of 10 years.  I was desperately hunting around the internet looking for anything that could help me bring back some semblance of my embouchure.  There it was in the comment section of a very nice YouTube video demonstrating proper flute playing technique.  Someone mentioned something off-the-cuff about dystonia.  I googled that word and felt a sense of relief knowing that I can finally put a name to the source of my frustration and unhappiness for the past several years.

I don't need a medical doctor to give me a diagnosis.  He or she would simply observe what I observed on my own: involuntary contractions in the muscles on the left side of my face causing the left corner of my mouth to pull uncomfortably to the left.  If I "strong-armed" my embouchure in such a way that it became extraordinarily tense and immobile, I could play.  Sort of.  It is a very uncomfortable and tiring way to play.  It certainly does not resemble by any stretch of the imagination how loose and flexible my embouchure felt when I played professionally.

Furthermore, according to all articles I have read about musician's dystonia, it has been determined to commonly afflict classically-trained professional-level musicians 35-45 years of age who have a disposition towards perfectionism and identity entanglement with their profession (I am what I do).  In addition, there's usually an event or a series of events that start the slow progression of focal task-specific dystonia:

"Wow, my embouchure feels a bit strange on those notes."  Turning towards a fellow musician, "Does my embouchure look more strained to you than normal?  Does my tone sound pinched at all?"  The fellow musician doesn't notice anything out of the ordinary.

"I need to woodshed more -- get back to basics!"  Marathon technical practicing sessions ensue and the problems become progressively worse to the point where the musician starts to seriously consider getting out of music permanently.

For those who aren't familiar with focal task-specific dystonia, the following website will give you a quick picture as to what it is:

The purpose of this blog is to document my personal journey to rehabilitate my embouchure.  I expect this journey to be a long one, but I am determined to play beautifully again.  Hopefully, this blog will also provide others afflicted with embouchure dystonia some comfort knowing that there's someone out there who understands exactly what they're going through and is right there with them.

No comments:

Post a Comment