FAQs - Braces and Band Instruments
We often get asked, "Will my child be able to play his or her band instument after getting braces?" SeveraL years ago, we were very fortunate to get input from Mr. Chris Howard, the band director at St. James School at that time. Chris had been involved in directing music for over 20 years and had won numerous competitions, as well as received many awards and honors for his work at St. James. We are sincerly honored that he generously shared his insights to this frequently asked question.
Braces and Band Instruments
Thousands of children every year are faced with the challenge of playing a musical instrument with braces. The encouraging news is that thousands of children adapt and continue to flourish on their chosen instrument. These tips will help such students to get back to their "pre-brace" playing standards and even beyond.
Take time to make the adjustment
1. Come to terms with the reality that things are and will be different for a while. Your embouchure (facial muscles used in producing a sound) was developed under a different set of rules. Your teeth were in a specific position without any metal attached. Now, your muscles must readjust to compensate for the new braces attached to your teeth. The instrument may not play or you may get what you may consider an unacceptable sound. It takes time to compensate for this and you may actually damage your mouth if you try to return to your normal standards too quickly.
Practice with these specific goals
2. Play very soft, long tones in the medium low to low register of the horn. Use very little pressure and purpose to produce a good tone. Remember to give yourself grace. Very few, if anyone, in your situation can jump right back to where they were immediately. Know how you want to sound. Listen to recordings of great players who play your instrument and try to copy that sound. Understand that the braces in your mouth will irritate or even cause minor cuts in your mouth, and within reason it is a part of what you will have to tolerate. Play often in short but expanding intervals of time. Slowly add other aspects of your practice regiment as you feel comfortable.
Care and protection
3. I have seen students use everything from wax to cotton to protect their lips from their braces while playing. Many use nothing as they have slowly built up a tolerance to the braces by gradually getting back on the horn. There is not one correct answer for this problem. Wax will protect the lips better than nothing, but it is a step further away from your normal playing embouchure. My students and I have used the following "home remedies" with much success:
If I have a cut or a raw place on the inside of my lips, I take a sterile cotton ball and place a small portion of pure Aloe or liquid Vitamin E on the cotton. I then place the cotton ball in between the teeth and gums with the Aloe or Vitamin E facing the back of the lips. I let it set there for several minutes, or up to a few hours. The pain usually subsides immediately and the scratch is usually healed within a day or two. I also use this for canker sores in the same area.
Let me stress to you that I am not a Medical Doctor and would never presume to suggest any treatment to anyone. However, I can tell you that I have done this for over twenty years and have not personally had anything but positive results from it.
Don't give up!
Last but not least, please remember there are countless others out there just like you who are trying and succeeding on their instruments. It takes some longer than others to adjust. DO NOT GIVE Up or try to get back to your top playing level too quickly.
You can be a great "Horn Player" and have a great "Smile"!
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