The love for the trumpet has many enemies, and today we’re going to talk about a very specific one: Braces. Sadly, due to the nature of braces and everything they entail, this is mainly a problem that inflicts either kids or young people. For one, braces effectively disable trumpet players from tooting out high tones – but besides seriously hampering a trumpeter’s musical performance, braces can also cause lip damage, bleeding, and teeth fatigue or bruising.
Why is this perhaps the greatest problem that young trumpet players can ever face? Because young people are fragile, still developing, and having the iron curtain of braces standing between them and their love for the trumpet, many can just give up and turn back. Not to mention their self-confidence can get pretty badly bruised. Giving up on your dreams just because of a thin wire in your mouth seems like a pretty cruel thing to endure, regardless of age.
But we’ve all been there boys and girls! We’ve all been teenagers, and we’ve all tried hard at something when we were kids or young, ambitious prodigies. Speaking as an adult that’s been through a lot of challenges as an adolescent (very rebellious, ahem, still am!), the problem of braces isn’t to be underestimated – but it’s also not invincible. To cut it short, here’s an overview of the problems that braces can cause when playing the trumpet, and how to solve them. Or at least, make them a lot more manageable. You’ll thank me for this!
Prevention, a wonderful word. In the dictionary, it is listed as “the action of stopping something from happening or arising.” Prevention is key in avoiding many of the problems that trumpet enthusiasts will face down the line by wearing braces. This, of course, means that both parents and young people need to be very careful about choosing their orthodontist, and the type of braces she’ll recommend to be applied. A general rule of thumb in choosing your orthodontist is this: if they downplay or underestimate the fact that your kid will be playing the trumpet for hours every single day, it is best to visit other orthodontists. Most times, orthodontists who have experience with trumpet players will not underestimate this circumstance, and will either try to reassure you you’ll be fine with the trumpet, or offer types of braces that will be more comfortable for the active trumpet player. If possible, always go for the braces that have the smoothest edges and less wiring, or as an alternative (and if applicable) ask your orthodontist about the Crozat removable appliance. This is a sort of inverted-braces appliance, and is much more comfortable and less intrusive to wear in your mouth. Plus, it eliminates all problems when playing the trumpet, since it’s not between your front teeth and your lips.
First and foremost, the psychological impact will be the greatest. If you’re a trumpet player with a well developed embouchure, and have thus far performed very well – that will go away because of the braces. They introduce a change to your mouth structure that can’t be ignored, and be advised, this is not easy to adjust to, physically or mentally. Your performance can suffer greatly, which can get you demoted from first trumpet and so on, and if you find it too troublesome, you can even want to leave the band. If you are a beginner trumpeter wearing braces, it’s just as well – with perhaps having a lot less to lose. So, be aware of the impact that wearing braces can have on your mood and motivation. Here’s a few tips to help you out with this, make sure you always remind yourself of these:
- It will pass. Don’t forget this is merely temporary. Whether you have to wear the braces on for months, or a couple of years, time goes by, and by the time you take them off it will all seem like it happened in the blink of an eye. There’s an old wise saying, “This too shall pass.” It was supposedly engraved on the wise King Solomon’s ring, on the inner side, where only he could see it. So, keep reminding yourself of this. Imagining that Gandalf says it in your mind can also help greatly. Like this: THIS TOO SHALL PASS! The braces being the fight with the Balrog.
- You can improve and adjust your technique. The main problem with having braces on when you’re playing the trumpet is that you can’t blow too hard to get all the necessary tones. Working religiously on adjusting your technique towards reducing the pressure can be just as effective as having a really good mouthguard. So, review your playing habits, endure the first couple of weeks (it’s the hardest then) and you’ll be getting your sound, confidence and joy back before you know it. Might even get better at it, who knows? But a little adjustment can go a long way. Besides, learning to play without pressure is immensely helpful in the long run, because you’ll be richer by one technique.
- Don’t stress. (Self-explanatory.) But really, you could use some extra relaxation in your life if you’re a trumpeter with braces. Meditation, jogging, sports, drawing or playing games, everything is a good idea if it gets you more relaxed.
That being said, the cause of all these psychological challenges are definitely the physical obstacles (in your mouth, no less). Once you have those braces on, there is still a lot you can do to make it much more comfortable for you. For example, you can try applying dental wax to the braces before playing – this is one of the most commonly used workarounds. The wax serves as a soft buffer between the braces and your lips, which lessens the risk of injury. An alternative to this can be the folding of cigarette paper several times and inserting it under your lips. Other solutions involve getting mouthguards (like in boxing or football), and applying them over your braces. Take care however, since these need to get warmed up hot before applying, so try not to burn yourself. Speaking of products, you can also try protecting your lips from your braces by applying denture cushions, a product called a Braceguard, and a similar appliance called a Morgan Bumper. All of these are designed to make braces feel softer and more comfortable in your mouth. Just visit your local drug store (or Google, duh) and ask for lip protectors, and you’re all set. Of course, the choice is yours, but whatever you do make sure to help yourself.
Well, cheers! You made it! Time to celebrate. Actually… not. While finally getting rid of the Terminator in your mouth is obviously a cause for celebration, keep in mind that your technique has changed, and that going back to playing the trumpet with your mouth, now free, will take some getting used to. It can feel awkward, and you’ll be missing tones again. However, this will only take a month or two, after which you’ll be able to play the trumpet to your heart’s content, but this time with the benefit of wearing a beaming smile!
Who can resist that?