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Braces and Playing a Brass Instrument

Playing a brass instrument after being fitted for orthodontic braces can be very challenging to say the least.  Students will find that it may suddenly become very difficult to play higher notes on their instrument (especially the trumpet) or they may even have difficulty producing a sound at all.  While this can be very frustrating at first, a student can recover and see good recovery in a matter of a few weeks - - - if they are diligent in their efforts and approach practicing in the right way.

If you have just gotten braces, the first thing to do is find the right wax to place on your braces so that the sharp edges of the braces don't cut into your lips.  The wax will act as a barrier and will help you feel better when playing.  It has been our experience that the soft wax provided by most orthodontists is too soft to be effective for use while playing a brass instrument. It does not stand up to the pressure of the mouthpiece against the mouth.  While it is best to play a brass instrument with as little pressure against the lips as possible, some pressure is needed to keep the air from escaping around the mouthpiece when playing.  After years of research, we have found that "boxing wax" is the best kind of wax to use.  It is still flexible enough to mold around the braces, but strong enough support the mouthpiece pressure required to play the instrument.  This wax comes in rope-like strips.  I have found one company on the web that sells this wax. Click on the link below if you are interested:

Boxing Wax For Braces

When you get your boxing wax, break off about 2" of the wax and mold across your braces in front of your mouth (both top and bottom).  When you finish playing, remove the wax and throw it in the trash.  Use new wax the next time you play. Next, practice long tones - double whole notes and whole notes middle and low range of your instrument - for about ten minutes everyday at the beginning of each practice session.  This will help rebuild tone quality and endurance over a period of a few weeks.  Be patient! Patience is defined as: "calm endurance of delay or hardship".  You may be tempted to be frustrated with your progress (or lack of) at first, however if you stick with it every day improvement will be steady.

Once you feel stronger and see your range returning, start working on lip slurs using whole notes and only slurring from one harmonic to the next (like from low "C" up to "G" on the trumpet) and back at a slow and steady speed.  This will rebuild your embouchure strength the fastest and will help you be on the way back to playing like you did before.  Here is a helpful link:

Now that I have braces, what do I do?

Your orthodontist will probably give you lots of good advice about how to deal with having braces - what kind of foods to avoid, how to help the pain, etc.  Here is a link to a web site that gives general information about orthodontic braces:


Be patient!
Be diligent!
Don't give up!
You can do it!!!