Five Things to Help Work Through the Challenge of Braces

Alyssa Richards is a trumpet player hailing from Southern Pennsylvania. She was raised by two very musical parents, and her favorite childhood memory is watching her dad direct his high school marching band. Inspired by him, she decided to learn the trumpet in the fourth grade. Alyssa knew from a very young age she wanted to study music, but it wasn’t until high school she took it seriously.

Braces are any brass players worst nightmare. When I got braces as a junior in high school, I was terrified. I was angry that the one thing I loved more than anything in the world was momentarily taken away from me, and I thought that my life was basically over. I was in multiple groups as a lead player and determined not to make a fool of myself. I forced myself to get better, working until I physically could not play (which is one thing I would not recommend) just so I could regain my playing abilities again. Unlike the readers here, I had nobody who understood to help my adjustment and I had to sort through a lot of bad advice. Here are five things to help you work past the challenges braces can create.

1. Return to the basics

Anytime you go through a major transition it is important to return to those long tones and technique exercises we so often avoid. I personally practiced exercise number 47 in the Arban’s method book every single day because it helped me rebuild a foundation for my upper register. This may have worked for me,but may not work for you, so do not be afraid to experiment with different exercises until you find one that works for you. 

2.  Keep practicing

To stop practicing altogether is one of the worst things you can do for yourself right after you get braces. It prolongs the adjustment process, and ultimately makes everything more frustrating because if you are not practicing you are not getting better.

3. Don’t forget why you play!

One of the biggest struggles for me was that I no longer sounded good, therefore I no longer wanted to play at all. This is a terrible mentality to have and emphasizes one’s talent as opposed to enjoying music. It took me months to remember ehy I enjoyed playing and how I felt expressing my emotions through the horn. It was a big wake up call for me, and motivated me to practice again.

4. Breaks

A big problem with braces (who are we kidding, one of many) is that they create lots of cuts in your mouth, which is really annoying when you play an instrument constantly pressing into your mouth. To prevent this, small but frequent breaks can do wonders, and you will thank yourself later.

5. Medicine

I was always told to use wax (not a medicine, but whatever), but I found wax to be the least helpful. Not only did it not stay, but it made it more difficult for me to play. Braces create more space between your lips and your teeth, which is what throws everyone off once they try to play after the braces are put on. Putting wax on top increases that space more, even if just a little bit. Personally, I just used lots of Ibuprofen for the pain and an ulcer medicine called Kanka to heal the cuts. Obviously there is no magic cure, but it did wonders for me. Even though it is difficult not to, try not to get discouraged! With patience and time, you will adjust to the braces and your playing will flourish once the braces come off. I wish you all the best of luck!


Bio, continued from above:

In high school, Alyssa was part of the jazz band, the orchestra, marching band, the pit orchestra, the Lancaster Youth Symphony, the Allegretto Youth Orchestra, and many more. Alyssa got braces in her junior year of high school, but was able to successfully overcome the transition to pursue her love for music. She is now studying Audio Music Production at Lebanon Valley College.

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