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Playing the Flute with Braces: Challenges and Tips

Learning to play the flute is an exciting and rewarding experience. However, for some players this musical journey is interrupted by the arrival of orthodontic braces, which can present a challenge on the flute, and lead some to despair. But … do not worry, all will be okay!

In 40 years of flute teaching, I’ve had many students with braces and when one of my current teenage students acquired braces a few weeks ago, I thought maybe it’s time to share a few ideas and useful tips for aspiring flutists battling with braces.

Can You Play the Flute with Braces?

Absolutely! Many musicians have successfully played the flute while wearing braces. Although braces can present some challenges, they don't make it impossible to play. With a bit of patience, regular practice, and adaptation, you can continue to enjoy playing the flute even with braces.

What Challenges Might You Face?

  1. Comfort and Adjustments: Braces can initially cause discomfort as your mouth adjusts to the new hardware. This discomfort can be more noticeable when playing your flute, especially if your lower teeth are sensitive, since the placement of the flute puts pressure on the lower lip and teeth.

  2. Embouchure Changes: The embouchure, or the way you shape your mouth and lips to play, might need some adjustment. Braces alter the shape of your teeth, mouth and lips, requiring you to adapt your embouchure to maintain a good tone.

  3. Air Flow and Tone Quality: Braces can affect the way air flows through your mouth and across to the far edge of the lip plate hole. This might impact your tone quality initially, but with a bit of experimentation and regular practice, you can learn to compensate for these changes.

mouth showing teeth with braces

How Long Does It Take to Get Used to Playing the Flute with Braces?

The adjustment period can vary widely from person to person. On average, it might take a few weeks to a couple of months to become fully accustomed to playing the flute with braces.

  • First Week: The initial week can be the most challenging. Your mouth will be adjusting to the new feel of the braces, your teeth will be sensitive, and you might have difficulty producing a clear tone. Don’t worry if your sound is airy and fluffy – this is quite normal when you first get braces.

  • First Month: Over the next few weeks, as you play regularly, you’ll begin to adapt your embouchure and find ways to play more comfortably. The discomfort will lessen, and your tone will gradually improve.

  • Three Months: By the end of three months, most flutists have adjusted well to playing with braces. You’ll likely have found a comfortable embouchure and developed techniques to manage any remaining discomfort.

Tips for Playing the Flute with Braces

words on music background

  1. Consult Your Orthodontist: It’s a good idea to chat with your orthodontist. They can provide advice and might offer you orthodontic wax to apply to small areas of your braces that come into contact with your lips when you play. This can help protect your lips, especially at the beginning.

  2. Work On Your Embouchure: Spend extra time practising your embouchure. This will help you adapt to the changes in your mouth and develop a consistent tone. Start with playing long tones on notes you can easily play (you can even just use the headjoint). Use trial and error to adjust your embouchure until you get a clearer sound. Often you’ll find that you need to bring the top lip over the braces and further down. Some students find it helps to blow through a straw to remember the shape they need to form. Remember to KEEP YOUR EMBOUCHURE RELAXED! When you are happy with the sound, move a half step to the next note, working on a long tone chromatic scale. Also try slow slurred octaves to improve flexibility (start with easy notes first). Harmonics are another very useful tool for embouchure flexibility. Again, start on an easy note such as low D and see how many of the harmonics above you can play, without tension!

  3. A Little Every Day: If you keep playing a little every day, your sound will improve! You need to play regularly to strengthen the muscles for your adjusted embouchure.

  4. Adjust Your Head Joint Placement: Some flutists find that adjusting the placement of the head joint can help, as often the bottom teeth braces are where the flute usually sits. Experiment with tiny adjustments a little below or above where you would normally place your flute to find a position that allows you to play more comfortably with your braces.

  5. Be Patient: Be kind to yourself and BE PATIENT!!! You may feel like giving up flute, but don’t despair please. Adjusting to braces takes time, and it’s normal to feel frustrated. Keep playing regularly (this means nearly every day, not once or twice a week 😊), and you’ll gradually hear improvement.

Additional Advice

  • Regular Breaks: Take regular breaks during practice sessions to rest your mouth. This can prevent soreness and allow you to play longer without discomfort.

  • Stay Hydrated: Drinking plenty of water keeps your mouth hydrated and can reduce irritation caused by braces.

  • Reduce Performance Pressure: Consider when you have performances and when you have your braces put on and/or adjusted. You may want to reduce important performances during the time you have braces if you find you have difficulty getting a good tone. Remember that braces are temporary, and if you have difficulty with your tone, use this time to work on other aspects of your flute playing such as finger technique.

  • Other Options: talk to your orthodontist about other options, such as invisible aligners, which can be removed while you play flute. These may not be suitable for everyone and can be more expensive than metal or ceramic braces.

  • Seek Support: Talk to other flutists who have experience playing with braces. They can offer advice and encouragement based on their own experiences.

girl playing flute

In Conclusion

Many flutists, even at the professional level, have worn braces and continued to excel in their musical careers. Their stories show that braces don’t have to hold you back from playing the flute. With dedication and the right mindset, you can tackle the challenges and keep making beautiful music on your flute.

Interestingly, some flutists find their sound improves after their braces are removed because they’ve gained more flexibility in their lips and facial muscles and often created more space inside the mouth.

Playing the flute with braces might need some adjustments, but it's totally doable. Follow these tips, stay positive, and you'll keep enjoying your musical journey. Remember, every challenge is a chance to grow and improve as a musician. 

Happy playing!

Karen North is a music teacher, mentor and book author. She is passionate about bringing music into the lives of children and adults and has enjoyed working in music education for the past 40 years.

Karen is the author of the popular method books "The Young Flute Player" and has commissioned many new works for intermediate flute repertoire in "Lyrical Flute Legends" , "Lyrical Flute Encores" and "Inspiring Flute Solos."  as well as a new collection for beginner flutists, "Lyrical Flute Miniatures".

Karen has written two books of music games (with printable templates) "Fun & Games for Music Lessons", "More Fun & Games for Music Lessons 2" and has recently worked with specialist consultants on repertoire books for Violin, Clarinet and Saxophone.

Karen also organizes an international FLUTE CHAMPIONSHIP each year, to give students of all ages and abilities an opportunity to submit a video performance to an outstanding panel of judges. Her workshops for teachers are enthusiastically received and she also offers one-to-one coaching sessions.

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