Will my braces affect my flute playing?

By Jade Bultitude
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I’m not talking about the trouser kind… trouser braces will not affect your flute playing so go for it! Haha! We are talking specifically about the kind that fill your mouth with metal…

Will braces affect your flute playing?

This is a question I am asked regularly, will braces affect my flute playing? Most commonly when my students get around the age of 9 or 10, but this can happen at any time I have discovered. 

With the popularity of getting braces now, almost every single student will go through this. Unfortunately, I cannot speak from my own personal playing experience. This is because, my flute teacher when I was at the age of getting braces told me that I should not do this and I actually ended up going down the route of having braces behind my teeth and then having Invisalign. 

However, I have taught many students who have had braces and I feel that by having to do this I have had to learn many different ways to help them adapt and get used to the extra metal in their mouth! 

What will I find when I first get my braces put on?

Immediately you will find that you lose your lip strength and flexibility and initially braces will affect your flute playing. You may not even be able to make a sound. Please do not panic! This is due to your mouth having to adjust to having to move your lip further forward to cover the braces.

By changing your mouth position, you will find that the muscles in your lips will not have any extra capacity to cope with forming the embouchure needed for flute playing as they are simply getting used to making that extra space needed for the braces. 

What should I do, will my flute sound ever come back?

Of course, your sound will come back, and stronger! Keep doing a small amount of practice every day to build up the muscles. Your lips will soon adjust to your new mouth shape and be able to bring back your sound. For the time being your sound will be a little bit airy and fluffy, but that’s ok! Enjoy this time to relearn how to make a beautiful sound! Reacquaint yourself with your tone exercises and long note practice.

Practice in the mirror and watch what your lips are doing. You must however make sure these practice sessions are short. If you practice for too long you may find that you end up with sores or cuts inside your mouth and on your lips and if this happens this will only slow you down. Your orthodontist or dentist should have given you some wax to put on top. Please make sure to use this at the beginning as it will protect your lip and gums.

I also believe it is important to do short bursts without the wax, as you do need to build up resilience to the metal. Braces are often on for 1 or 2 years, and in some cases longer, so you don’t want to be applying wax every time you go to practice!

How long will it take to get my sound back?

This varies greatly between students. I have observed students get their sound back in a week but I have also seen it take a lot longer, sometimes even 2 months. But please rest assured that it will definitely come back! Ensure that you practice every day and little by little you will regain your strength back!

How will braces affect me in the long term?

To be really honest I have found that by the time my students have their braces taken off their sound has actually improved tremendously! I believe this is due to the extra space that has been created inside the mouth which allows for extra resonance in the sound! I am not a scientist but this is what I have observed. So, although having braces in the short time will definitely hinder you, in the long term you will find a huge improvement! 

If I am yet to get braces what can I do to ensure they do not affect me as severely?

I have noticed that students who come to me with a ‘smiley’ embouchure tend to suffer the most when getting braces. You need to make sure that your embouchure is relaxed and not tight. If we have a tight embouchure we will be creating a lot of tension even before the braces are put into our mouth! The tightness will also pull the mouth meaning the metal can dig in more

If you are in the position that you already have a smiley embouchure, practice playing your harmonics. Practicing harmonics helps to loosen up the lips and will help you to develop a more flexible embouchure! More advice on how to get the perfect embouchure can be found on my blog. 

Don’t forget…

  • Always inform your flute teacher you will be getting braces. The more they know in advance, the more they can help you to prepare for when they are put on. 
  • Don’t have braces put on before an important event, whether that be an audition, competition or concert!
  • Having them put on is not the only thing to remember but braces have to be tightened as well. Ensure this is not done before anything important and again always inform your teacher!

I hope these pointers have helped you to feel confident getting your braces in!!

Have a great week!

Jade x

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Jade is a flute player and music educator with a passion for educating the next generation of musicians. She is a Masters Graduate from Trinity Laban Conservatoire of Music and Dance. Jade has been helping people learn music theory for more than 10 years from pre school children all the way to degree level studies.