Thursday, August 03, 2006

Flute students dealing with braces

A solution for flutists wearing orthodentic braces on their teeth for the first time that I read on one of the Flute discussion groups (could have been P.George who suggested it):

This technique works like a charm to get the tone back after braces are on:
It's the famous "layering of masking tape on the lip plate trick."

You take masking tape and cut a piece to fit the chin side of the lip plate.
You can cut an oval, rectangle, or get fancy and cut a jelly-bean shape for the near side of the lip plate; as long as it doesn't hang into or gum up the embouchure hole.
You apply the masking tape to the lip-plate,and have the braces-wearer play for a minute or two with one layer of tape, and then add one by one, more layers of masking tape until their tone improves.

Usually 3 to 5 layers of tape bring the angle back up to the right one to get their tone back. The tape brings the blowing angle up in compensation for the lips being
pushed forward over the braces.

Dental wax on the sharper parts of the braces cab also help to avoid cutting the lips from the inside.

Rubbing alcohol will remove adhesive and gunk build-up on the headjoint when the tape needs to be replaced, or becomes worn from use.

Every time the student has their braces tightened (every few weeks) be prepared for 2-3 days where the teeth feel slightly too tender to play the flute for any length of time comfortably.
But it can be done. I myself wore braces for three years (grade 9-11) and played despite slightly sore teeth (2 days every three weeks), and I remember that I re-found my tone quality by persistence, even without knowing about the masking tape trick.
And this was 30 years ago when the braces were BIG, UGLY, and hugely metallic! :>D

Other flute teachers with great tricks for students, please leave ideas in the "comments" section below.
Thanks. :>)

Jen Cluff
Comments (52)
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thank you! My 14-year-old daughter is pretty picky about her flute playing. She just got braces last week and is to give a solo next Tuesday. Just tonight she was lamenting about her tone quality. We'll try your tip!

Wednesday, March 07, 2007 9:01:00 PM

Blogger Jen Cluff said...

Yes, I had braces too for three years.
I don't remember how long it took me to get my tone back, but it seemed like just a week or so.
Let me know if the masking tape trick works for you. I learned it from listening to other teachers talk about solutions for braces.
Wax on any cutting wires against the lower lip can also help, I hear.

Wednesday, March 07, 2007 9:12:00 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

I am in 8th grade and absolutely LOVE to play my flute. About a year ago I got braces, and my tone went down the tubes. I was so frustrated and sad. Playing my flute was not fun anymore. I was desperate. My flute teacher and I were looking for solutions to my problem and heard about your site. We checked it out, and i tried the masking tape trick. My tone if finally back!!! The trick works great! Thank you so much for your help!! Thanks to you my flute is enjoyable to play again!! :)

Tuesday, February 24, 2009 3:21:00 PM

Blogger Jen Cluff said...

What a terrific thing!
Thanks for letting me know it worked!

Good news all around!!
Best, Jen

Tuesday, February 24, 2009 7:25:00 PM

Anonymous Dentists Orange said...

Thank you for sharing this. This will be of great help to people wearing braces and are having dilemmas on how they will be able to play the flute. All the best !

Tuesday, March 09, 2010 12:43:00 AM

Blogger Saxylizbeth said...

Thank you so much! My student arrived today with braces and I was utterly stumped. Masking tape did the trick!

Thursday, December 09, 2010 11:24:00 AM

Blogger jen said...

Dear Saxilizabeth,
So glad this helped. Jen :>)

Thursday, December 09, 2010 11:35:00 AM

Anonymous Lolly-Pop said...

I got braces about a month ago now and although everyone tells me to keep trying I still can't get a sound out. I have been quite upset and was hoping to take my Grade 5 in the summer do you have anymore suggestions?

Tuesday, April 19, 2011 8:20:00 AM

Blogger jen said...

Dear Lolly-Pop, did you try up to five layers of masking tape on the chin plate? Jen

Tuesday, April 19, 2011 8:54:00 AM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

So Jen, have you personally done this yourself on your flute? I don't want to mess up the finish of mine. And does it work on piccolos too? Thanks

Thursday, August 04, 2011 5:19:00 PM

Blogger jen said...

Masking tape is meant to be removeable. I have used it with my own flute (to create bamboo sound effects) and it left no mark. I had a student who used a HUGE amount on her gold Brannen, and it didn't leave any residue.
And adhesive residue comes off instantly with isopropyl alcohol.
So unless you have a plated lip plate that is very cheap and already flaking (from a $150 flute that's badly plated) then masking tape is not going to do anything to your mouthpiece, I don't think.

I haven't tried it on wooden piccolos, but piccs sit higher on the lower lip, and don't need it as much.
Best, Jen

Thursday, August 04, 2011 6:08:00 PM

Blogger Marina said...

A question: my dentist suggested a wire behind my lower front teeth to keep them from moving forwards.I'm a 55 year old professional flutist. My first reaction was, NO WAY, I can't afford to change anything in my mouth...... Do you have any information on this?

Tuesday, November 29, 2011 9:40:00 PM

Blogger jen said...

Dear Marina,
Sorry to say; no info. on that topic. But you might inquire at one of the large Flute Groups online: FLUTE LISTserv at might have another flutist with a similar appliance. Best, Jen

Tuesday, November 29, 2011 9:58:00 PM

Blogger Grace said...

I am a freshman and have an important solo competition I've been practicing for months for coming up... I got braces this week and now my practice is labored and painful. Any other advice?

Monday, January 30, 2012 7:42:00 PM

Blogger jen said...

Dear Grace,
I take it you've tried the masking tape layering on the lip plate?
And you've moved your lips forward, so that they come down and over the braces?
And you've done longtones in the new lip position?
What exactly is going on when you do these things?
Are you relaxed, and letting the embouchure re-shape itself?
Or are you trying to rush things?

Monday, January 30, 2012 8:34:00 PM

Blogger Grace said...

Thanks for the advice! I am learning to work with the braces, and have made big progress. I've experimented and found ways to improve my embouchure around the braces and am on the way to being as good as before. I've found that just practicing can help a lot. The tips were really helpful. Thanks again!

Wednesday, February 08, 2012 5:15:00 PM

Blogger jen said...

Dear Grace,
What wonderful news! Onward and upward! Jen

Thursday, February 09, 2012 8:09:00 AM

Blogger whitestrawberries48 said...

Hello Ms Cluff,

I am a 6th grade flute player who is first chair in band. I got braces a few days ago, and the moment when I started to play the flute, it got really fuzzy. Can Scotch tape also work for the masking tape technique? Please reply ASAP.

Thank you.

Wednesday, October 10, 2012 3:59:00 PM

Blogger jen said...

Dear 6th grade brace-ist,

Scotch tape is not thick enough, it gets sticky at the edges, and it also eventually starts sliding around. It's also hard to remove all the glue without using isopropyl alcohol (rubbing alc.)

Masking tape is thicker, and more papery. You need less layers to get the height you need. It's made to remove easily, stays put and is cheap to replace a fresh piece each time you wear it out.

So wait and get some masking tape.
You'll be so annoyed trying to get all the glue off if you use other tapes.
Best, Jen

Wednesday, October 10, 2012 7:08:00 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thank you ssssooo much! I just got braces today and when I practiced on my flute, the notes came out in a wheezy version! But now I found the solution! Again, THANK YOU!!!!! :)

Tuesday, January 22, 2013 7:42:00 PM

Anonymous Maureen said...

I've found that my students prefer the blue painter's tape to the plain masking tape. It leaves less residue for those that fear it. Seriously, alcohol works! My fluties are fashionistas so the blue appeals to them more than boring beige. Remember, a beautiful smile is worth the temporary inconvenience of braces!
Happy fluting!

Wednesday, February 13, 2013 9:58:00 AM

Blogger jen said...

Thanks Maureen!
Blue painter's tape sounds good.
Will look for it!
Less residue? Fabulouso!
Best, Jen

Wednesday, February 13, 2013 4:36:00 PM

Blogger tyleragent said...

Thanks for the read, and I can't imagine what it must be like to have braces while you're in the band. I'm just glad that I play the piano, and not any instrument that you have to put your mouth on.

Friday, April 05, 2013 7:46:00 AM

Blogger jen said...

Hi Tyler,
Mind you pianists have to often play on suddenly not-great pianos, when they go from place to place, whereas woodwinds can carry their instruments from place to place.

Friday, April 05, 2013 10:27:00 AM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Oh gosh, thank you! I've been playing the flute for almost seven years now. I'm in 11th grade and had to suddenly get braces. I've been trying for months to get my tone quality back, but it came and went. I have a playing test soon and was terrified, but this totally worked! less stress now, thanks!

Sunday, December 08, 2013 1:17:00 PM

Blogger jen said...

So so glad it worked! Yay for you! Best, Jen

Sunday, December 08, 2013 1:45:00 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

In the previous grade I played flute and I sounded fairly well until my braces came in. By the end of the semester I was better but never how I was b4 I got braces and this yr I am joining band and I am afraid I am gonna sound horrible in front if everyone. Do you have any advice for me

Friday, December 13, 2013 8:05:00 PM

Blogger jen said...

Dear Anonymous,

It might not be the braces alone.
It could be:
a) you need masking tape on the lip plate
b) your flute has not been to its once-annual repair visit and is leaking
c) you have not sought out flute lessons.
d) you don't actually know how to practice (or don't practice)

Go to a flute teacher and have them play-test your flute.
Even if you only go for five lessons, it will help you to know if your flute is working, to give you a headstart on improving, and will help you set the masking tape on the lip-plate to get your tone back.

good luck, Jen

Friday, December 13, 2013 11:36:00 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hi, I am in 8th grade and I have had my braces on for about a week, but I haven't quite gotten used to them yet. Although I can play notes and have a nice tone quality while playing, I am extremely flat. I have to push my headjoint in all the way before I am in tune again. Suggestions?
(I have checked the cork and it seems to be in the right place)

Wednesday, February 26, 2014 3:18:00 PM

Blogger jen said...

Dear Anon,
Sudden flatness due to braces could mean that now your lower lip is jutted out, because of the braces on the lower teeth, the lower lip is now covering more of the blow hole than it was before.
You can't retract the lower lip (as the braces are in the way) so you would want to try rolling the flute away from you in tiny increments (1 millimeter at a time) so that the lower lip is not covering so much blow-hole.
Your private teacher can help with this.
Best, Jen

Wednesday, February 26, 2014 8:18:00 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

I am so scared. I will have braces tomorrow. I am afraid, if I can't play flute I don't know what to do.

Maybe I shouldn't be scared. I am sopposed to do my last grade next spring and when I told that I am going to have braces my teacher was terrified.
Do the braces effect usually big?

Tuesday, May 06, 2014 12:17:00 PM

Blogger jen said...

Dear Anonymous,
If you can manage it, don't absorb anyone else's fear. Just deal with reality. Most people can play just fine with the layers of masking tape.
Others can play fine after a few weeks, even without masking tape on the lip-plate.
But it's not SCARY. It's just the way it is.
Worst case scenario, you can put off your exam for a year. The main thing is to have fun and not let the braces get you down.
Best, Jen
(who had braces for five years and played just fine; no problems. Goodbye buck teeth! :>)> ha ha.)

Tuesday, May 06, 2014 6:57:00 PM

Anonymous Ritchie Gonzales said...

I have an 11 year flute student and he has a beautiful flute tone. He is getting braces next next week. I am going to try the masking tape trick. I am hoping it will help solve any issues that may arise. Thanks!

Wednesday, July 23, 2014 7:31:00 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

is this masking tape purchesed of dentist?

Friday, September 19, 2014 12:22:00 PM

Blogger jen said...

No, masking tape is used for painters who are painting inside houses, to "mask" the edge of a window or door. It is yellow paper tape, plastic-paper sticky tape, and comes off easily.
You can buy yellow paper tape for painting at any regular store.

Friday, September 19, 2014 6:31:00 PM

Blogger Colleen O'Brien said...

I'm auditioning for All-State band on flute in a couple weeks and still having trouble getting a low C out of it. My teacher tells me to "flatten my upper lip" but I'm wondering if I'm having trouble because of my braces. Any ideas? Thanks!

Sunday, November 02, 2014 11:16:00 AM

Blogger jen said...

Low C can be difficult when there is a leak in the pad, or the C# or C keys are slightly bent. Has your teacher tested your flute to see if they can easily get a low C?
Thanks for answering.

Sunday, November 02, 2014 11:24:00 AM

Blogger Colleen O'Brien said...

Yes, my teacher has tried playing on my flute and she can get the C out just fine. I don't want to use my braces as an excuse, but I've been working on it for a while with slim to none improvement :(

Monday, November 03, 2014 12:04:00 PM

Blogger jen said...

Dear Colleen,
If your flute teacher has tested your flute, and the low C comes out fine, then it is not a repair problem.
You'll need to figure out whether the problem is caused by:
- an open hole is gapping because when you move your pinky another finger is shifting off its open-hole (typically F# or E fingers are moving). For this check in a mirror. One solution is to plug the open holes in those two keys with acrylic plugs, at least temporarily.
- you are LEAPING to low C, which causes many changes in students lips, hands and chin-support.
See article on how to fix problems with low C:

It may not be your braces, it could be a common reason that many students have to work out by observing themselves minutely as listed in the article above.
Write back if you find out what it was.

Monday, November 03, 2014 12:11:00 PM

Blogger Colleen O'Brien said...

My low C has actually improved a lot. I just needed practice. It didn't come out well at my audition, but I was also very nervous. Thanks! :)

Thursday, November 20, 2014 1:02:00 PM

Blogger Lilfluter said...

Another way to get a comfortable embouchure is making a puffer fish face and then deflating it when you're in a comfortable place on the lip plate. It definitely worked for me on the first day. After a while you'll get used to the position and won't have to do the puffer fish face any more. (1-1 1/2 weeks at tops... depending how much the flutist practices)

Monday, December 08, 2014 12:45:00 PM

Blogger Erika Reilley said...

Hey, Jen

My daughter is in 4th grade and just started to play the flute. She was a cleft pallet baby, and still has a small hole in the pallet, but is doing fearly well with it. She will be getting braces within the next 6 months. Any advice on helping her prepping for it?

Tuesday, April 14, 2015 4:21:00 PM

Blogger jen said...

Hi Erika,
I don't know if there's any pre-braces preparation for a nine year old player.....if just beginning, the student may well not notice any problems at all. They merely have to get their lips around the braces somewhat to get a sound again.
Good luck and don't worry. Jen

Tuesday, April 14, 2015 6:00:00 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

I am soon getting braces and will defiantly try this trick!

Friday, June 05, 2015 4:44:00 PM

Blogger Ramiro Carvalho said...

I got braces two months ago and at first i had a hard time trying to play the flute again but now the tone is better than before! The problem is that my flexibility is gone and i canĀ“t help it. As it appears, the braces have the effect of "locking" my lips from inside and it is very difficult to move them in the way i used to.
Do you know if anybody else has had the same problem?

Another aspect is that my embouchure now is getting asymetrical...



Wednesday, August 26, 2015 1:53:00 PM

Blogger jen said...

Dear Ramiro,
Sorry this is happening; I hope it gets better for you eventually. I don't know much about this, and I haven't heard anyone else describe it exactly this way. But hopefully you'll work through it. Sorry I can't help more. Jen

Wednesday, August 26, 2015 3:33:00 PM

OpenID diljeetbhachu said...

Hi all,

I just got braces on for the 2nd time in my life (I was a teen learner last time, and now I'm a freelance musician), so I'm going to try and document my journey on my own blog. Today I came across this article, which has some useful tips on how to "re-find" your sound and experiment with the new layout of your mouth.

I'm definitely struggling more this time as I felt a bigger inital loss in my sound quality and flexibility, compared to getting braces on when I'd only been playing for a year last time.

Best wishes to everyone on this journey!


Sunday, December 20, 2015 6:14:00 AM

Blogger jen said...

Thanks Diljeet; I will be following the adventure. Best, Jen

Sunday, December 20, 2015 7:19:00 AM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'm an 8th grader that stated the flute in 6th grade for my band classes. Last week I got my braces and my tone and quality of it has gone down the drain. Every time I try to play a high note it ends up with the same note an octave or more lower. What should I do?

Wednesday, April 13, 2016 4:33:00 PM

Blogger jen said...

Dear Anon,
2nd paragraph above:
You take masking tape and cut a piece to fit the chin side of the lip plate.
You can cut an oval, rectangle, or get fancy and cut a jelly-bean shape for the near side of the lip plate; as long as it doesn't hang into or gum up the embouchure hole.
You apply the masking tape to the lip-plate, and have the braces-wearer play for a minute or two with one layer of tape, and then add one by one, more layers of masking tape until their tone improves.

Usually 3 to 5 layers of tape bring the angle back up to the right one to get their tone back. The tape brings the blowing angle up in compensation for the lips being
pushed forward over the braces.

Best, Jen

Wednesday, April 13, 2016 5:51:00 PM

Blogger Gaby Nguyen said...

My band is having a huuuuge competition next week. I just got braces two days ago and I practiced enough so I can play low and high notes. The only problem is, I'm finding trouble playing the middle octave. Please help me, I'm first chair and I have a huge solo!!!

Wednesday, April 27, 2016 4:34:00 PM

Blogger jen said...

Dear Gaby,
Often flute teachers tell their students: "If you're getting braces two weeks before your big competition/exam/solo, then ask the ortho if you can wait til after the flute solo to get the braces on."
However, since you didn't realize, just do your best. If the masking tape doesn't work, then there's not much you can do but be optimistic. When I was 12-15 I played with braces no problem, but it took 2-4 weeks to get used to them. Good luck; no doubt you'll shine through it.

Wednesday, April 27, 2016 7:06:00 PM


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