Can You Play The Trumpet With Braces? Easy Tips How To Do It

“Playing trumpet with braces can be a serious handicap and a great source of frustration. However, if you play your cards right, playing with braces might just give you an edge over other trumpeters in the long run…”

a girl is playing trumpet with braces

Can You Play Trumpet With Braces?
10 Tips How To Play The Trumpet With Braces

Are you a trumpet player wondering how to play trumpet with braces? Or perhaps you have a child who is about to get braces and now you are asking, is playing trumpet with braces even possible at all? 

If so you are on the right page because in this post I will give you a few helpful tips on how to practice and how to play the trumpet if you have braces.

Playing trumpet with braces is indeed possible Don’t let the braces become an excuse

Playing trumpet with braces can be a serious handicap and a source of pain and great frustration. However, if you play your cards right, playing with braces might just give you an edge over other trumpeters in the long run. Make sure to read the whole article and you will discover just why that might be the case…

How to play trumpet with braces
Tip#1 : Use a plastic mouthpiece

There are no special trumpet mouthpiece for braces, however plastic mouthpieces have more “give” then metal or brass mouthpieces and they also feel softer on the lips. This makes them a good choice for trumpeters that are wearing braces, and as I wrote in the article plastic vs metal, what’s the deal, I would recommend any trumpeter who has to play with braces, switching over to a plastic mouthpiece…

…and that they put away their metal mouthpieceduring the period of having to wear them.

If you want more info on what trumpet mouthpiece for braces to use, you can always read that article, but personally I recommend the Kelly Lexan pieces as they have excellent build quality and the Kelly brand also seem to have the best consistency in manufacturing.

Go for a “normal” plastic mouthpiece

Don’t go for the lead mouthpiece “Kelly screamer” though. Wait until your braces are off before working on the high register stuff because right now is not the time for those, so go for a normal 3C, 5C or 7C. They are available on Amazon for less than what you pay for a metal mouthpiece. You can
click here to check the current pricing as it’s always changing a bit.

How to play trumpet with braces
Tip#2 : Stop before it hurts

This is so very important that we have to get it out of the way before we continue with the rest of the tips. Playing the trumpet with braces is absolutely possible but it will take some time getting used to. The first few weeks, with your them on, you will most likely experience discomfort and perhaps even pain when playing.

Here is the important part: as soon as you feel pain, STOP! Rest for a while before you go at it again. Don’t force out higher notes and never keep playing if it hurts! Don’t get scared of the pain either, just stop if you feel it and as long as you never keep playing while you feel the pain, you will be alright.

You have to be willing to rest A LOT the first few weeks, even if it means that you are having “mini practice sessions” of 20 seconds at a time. If soft playing for 20 seconds is all you can do , before it starts to hurt, then that’s totally fine. If so just do those 20 seconds, 10-40 times a day, and slowly build from there.

I have to repeat this…

DO NOT KEEP PLAYING IF IT HURTS! You can cause scarring on the inside of your lips and, in worst case, irreversible damage to your lip tisue.

At the same time I hope you realize how important this is, I don’t want you to become afraid of practicing either. It is very possible but it takes some getting used to, playing with less mouthpiece pressure…

…which leads me to the next tip:

How to play trumpet with braces
Tip#3 : Play with minimal mouthpiece pressure

Mouthpiece pressure + trumpet playing = bad idea!

Mouthpiece pressure + braces + trumpet playing = REALLY bad idea!

Learn how to practice and play with minimul amount of mouthpiece pressure. This is something that you just have to do now that you are playing trumpet with braces.

I’m sorry to say that you are going to have to put in more work on reducing mouthpiece pressure than your trumpet playing friends who do not have braces. There’s just no way around it, but don’t feel bad about this…

Here’s the deal…

While it might be frustrating right now, working on, and learning how to play with very little mouthpiece pressure, during this period is going to benefit you greatly for the rest of your life. Right now, with your braces, you are forced to do it, and in a way, that’s a blessing…

….why ?

Well, the rest of the trumpeters will most likely not develop such an efficient “non pressure” trumpet embouchure, just because they are not forced to practice like that. And even though they know they should use as little mouthpiece pressure as possible, things like that tend to be forgotten…

…You, however, CAN NOT forget it, because your braces are a constant reminder. Consider this to be a period in your life, when you are setting yourself up for super efficient trumpet playing, which will benefit you for the rest of your life.

This is how you reduce your mouthpiece pressure

  • Strengthen your corners

Strengthen your embouchure corners to reduce the amount of mouthpiece pressure you use. The stronger your corner muscles are, the less you will have to compensate by pressing the mouthpiece against your chops.

  • Develop aperture control and efficiency

This will greatly help reduce your mouthpiece pressure. Good control and efficiency is like having excellent tires under you car, meaning they grip the road well even if the car is not super heavy.

  • Use good air support

You can drastically reduce the amount of mouthpiece pressure if you have your breath support working on your side. If your “air pressure tank” is working well, you need to do less work with your chops.

Ok but you didn’t say exactly HOW!?! 

I gave you the pointers and I can understand that you might want a more detailed explanation of EXACTLY how to do it…

…like a step by step action plan…

Fair enough!  Read my article how to play trumpet without pressure for a detailed explanation. I recommend that you read the whole article and don’t skip anything. Click the link and go read it after you are done reading this post. Also watch the video over there and don’t forget to implement the exercises as well.

Playing trumpet with braces
Tip#4 : Avoid the “smile embouchure” like the plague

The smile embouchure is when you stretch the lips a bit to the sides, like a smile, when you ascend to play higher notes. Hence the name “smile embouchure”. Playing this way is bad enough for trumpeters without braces and for trumpeters wearing them, it’s almost a guarantee for failure.

This is because the center of the lips, where you place the mouthpiece, gets thin and weak, if you stretch you lips into a smile.

 

Not only do they get thin but they also get very vulnerable and prone to damage from mouthpiece pressure. This is a VERY bad idea, especially if the lips are smashed between braces on one side and a metal mouthpiece on the other side.

There are always exceptions to the rules, however, and there are indeed very few trumpet virtuosos who successfully use a “smile” embouchure. And if using braces, the odds of it working are even lower. Just do not smile when playing.

Instead of smiling to ascend, do the opposite….

…which leads me to the next tip…

Playing trumpet with braces
Tip#5 : Use more of a “pucker” embouchure

The “Louis Maggio system from brass” is a method where you use more forward corners and a more puckered embouchure. This makes the center of the your lips much stronger, meatier and more able to handle mouthpiece pressure. This is, by the way, the embouchure most high note trumpeters use, with players like “Wayne Bergerone“, being one of them.

The pucker embouchure / MAggio embouchure is also the embouchure I personally use, however, I don’t want to put myself in the same sentence as, the master ,Wayne Bergerone, as I’m nowhere near his level of greatness.

Just like you can look at this period of time, when having to play the trumpet with braces, as an opportunity to learn how to play more efficiently, with less pressure, it can also be a great way for you to learn how to really master the puckered way of playing. Your future self might be forever grateful.

For more instructions on how to use the Maggio embouchure I highly recommend the book Louis Maggio System For Brass. You can click the link to check pricing on Amazon. There are usually several options so be sure to choose the cheapest one. You should be able to find one for around 35-45 dollars.

Playing trumpet with braces
Tip#6 : Work with your orthodontist

If your orthodontist thinks you need to have them on both your upper and lower teeth then tell your orthodontist that you want them both put in at the same time. Sometimes they want to do the upper and bottom teeth at different times. Doing only the bottom or the upper teeth would mean that the angle of your mouthpiece would change a bit.

We want to avoid this as much as possible as it would mean even more adjustment and, with that, more frustration. The same, of course, goes for when taking them out. Don’t let them remove only one, leaving the other, for an extended period of time. Make your orthodontist understand that it’s very important for you that they both go in at the same time as well as get removed at the same time.

Playing trumpet with braces
Tip#7 : Practice a lot of pedal tones

Practicing pedal tones will help you learn to play with more meat in the center of your chops. In addition to this you are also pushing your lips more forward, towards the mouthpiece, and this greatly reduces the amount of force the lips are pressing in on your teeth…

…needless to say, this is af great benefit if you are playing with braces. This is closely related to tip #5, but just in case you needed another way of looking at it, I figured this would do the trick…

…moving on!

How to play trumpet with braces
Tip#8 : Talk to your orthodontist about  using protective wax

Some trumpeters find using protective wax helpful while others only find it to be yet another thing to get used to and therefor even more frustration and adaptation. However if you put in a lot of effort and still can’t seem to do your practice sessions without pain, the wax might be a valuable option…

…this is something you should talk to your orthodontist about as he might have several options for you to consider.

How to play trumpet with braces
Tip#9 : Consider using covers for your braces

Click image to read feedback from other  trumpeters on Amazon

The cover is formed from soft, pliable medical grade polyvinylchloride that was chosen for its flexibility and adaptability at body temperature. It helps some trumpeters while other trumpeters do not like them at all. I have no way of knowing in what category you belong, so I will be careful recommending them. They might be helpful for you…

…or they might not help you at all…

…they are however a possible option and that’s why they need to be on the list of tips. I guess the only way for you to find out if they are helpful or not is to try them out. Luckily they are not expensive at all. If you are interested then you can click here to check the price on Amazon.

Trumpet playing when having braces
Tip#10 : Play piano-pianissimo lip slurs

Practice a lot of lip slurs at soft to very soft volumes. This will develop great control over the center of your chops, and this will be helpful for creating high awareness of how much mouthpiece pressure, or lack there of, you are using. In addition to this, the greater control and “center lip sensitivity” will help you become a better trumpet player, able to play with greater control, later in life, as well.

Note: If the lip slurs hurt, then stop! Try to play them even softer and always focus on using as little mouthpiece pressure as possible.

How to play high notes on trumpet with braces

I have seen many students asking the question “how to play high notes on trumpet with braces?” and my answer to this can be summed up with one word…

Don’t! Just let the high notes be for now…

You should look at the period of having to play trumpet waring braces as a period for you to work on developing a very good foundation, with excellent efficiency. It is not a time for you to be working on the high register. That said, if you are very successful in developing your efficiency, then a more effortless upper register will inevitable follow on its own.

So how high should I practice when having braces?

There is noway I can give an answer to this as everyone is different. However you should always be using the guideline: if it start’s to hurt, back off and don’t go any further!

Playing trumpet after the braces comes off-what you need to know

The trumpet embouchure is a very sensitive and delicate mechanism that is built up by a lot of practicing in order to develop communication between the brain and the hundreds of microscopic muscle fibers in our chops. This is a  form of “muscle memory”.

When you finally get to remove them you should be prepared for that things might, again, be a bit frustrating for a while. This is precisely because of that muscle memory that you have developed while playing the trumpet during your period of having to wear those damned things. When they suddenly no longer are there, your embouchure is going to be confused. This is just the way it is.

Don’t worry about this as this should just be a short period, however, it is important that you are prepared that there most likely will be a, somewhat, frustrating transition period again.

Reap the rewards

If you have done diligent practice, the right way, during your period of playing the trumpet using braces, you are now going to start reaping the rewards…

…well, after the transition period is over, of course, because now you have a strong foundation with you being able to play efficiently and with great control, using the center of the lips and not much mouthpiece pressure at all. Many trumpeters never develop this efficiency but you, you had no choice because of those damned things.

This is why many trumpeters who had to play through a period of braces becomes monster trumpeters later in life. I sincerely hope this will be the case for you.

Take a look at this great video for some additional tips on trumpet playing AFTER removing the braces

Playing trumpet with braces
Final words

I understand that having to wear does damned things, while wanting to quickly excel and become a better trumpet player, can be very frustrating. It is very understandable and I also realize that having to wear them can even make some trumpeters quit altogether.

Even though this period can be a source of great frustration I would like to ask you to pursue patience and adapt the mindset that, while you might have many days that suck so bad, it is still an opportunity for you to learn and grow and perhaps, in the end, become a much better trumpet player than you would become if not having to play with braces….

…a trumpeter with a stronger foundation, better control over his playing and last, but not least…

…a trumpeter with more patience and self discipline.

I wish you all the best in your development and, while playing with braces may give you many days of frustration, remember to still try to approach your practice sessions with a lot of passion and fun. Life is too short to be a frustrated trumpet player =)

-Robert Slotte-

P.S. Are you a trumpet player who are wearing braces right now or did you have to use braces when you were younger? If so, please leave a few words in the comment section down below. Was it a difficult period for you? Do you feel you came out of it stronger or just more frustrated? Do you have any additional tips that I left out in this article that you could be willing to share for the young trumpeters out there?

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