The Instrumentalist

Articles June 2019

Adjusting to Braces


Advice for students struggling to adapt to braces and play the flute.

I am 12 years old. I have been playing flute for 3 years and I am currently working on Suzuki Book 6. I recently got braces and have been struggling to find my tone again. My flute teacher never had braces so she can’t give me many practical tips on how to deal with braces and play the flute. How can I adjust to my braces?

    When braces are placed on the teeth, the lips (embouchure) are pushed forward. This new embouchure placement can change how the air strikes the blowing edge of the embouchure hole. Everyone is different, and the style of the braces and whether you have thick or thin lips are factors that affect how the embouchure changes. You will need to experiment and makes some changes to find the best way to make a beautiful, focused sound while you have braces.
    The goal is to figure out how to make your new embouchure setup better direct the air stream to the blowing edge of the embouchure hole. One way to do this is to place between one to five layers of masking tape on the embouchure plate of the headjoint.

    Start by placing one layer of tape on the embouchure plate and play. If you like the sound, shape the masking tape to fit the space. If you don’t like the sound, add more layers until you find your sound.
Each time the braces are adjusted you may have to repeat this trial and error process. You also should remake the masking tape pad about once a week as it will get soiled when you  practice. Once you find the correct number of layers of masking tape for your setup, the tone exercises you have previously done with your teacher should work again.  


Patricia George

Patricia George

    Patricia George, Flute Spa teacher and columnist for
The Instrumentalist, is the author of The Top Octave for flute or piccolo and co-author of the pedagogical series Flute 101: Mastering the Basics, Flute 101.5: Enrichment, Flute 102: Mastering the Basics, Flute 103: Mastering the Basics, The Flute Scale Book, The Art of Chunking for Flute, The Art of Chunking for Clarinet, and The Flute Vibrato Book. She was principal flutist of the Sun Valley Summer Symphony for 13 years, flute professor at the Sewanee Summer Music Festival for 19 years, and Editor of Flute Talk for 10 years. George is a graduate of the Eastman School of Music (BM, MM, Performer’s Certificate in Flute) and recipient of the Chicago Flute Club Lifetime Achievement Award (2017).


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