The #braceface diet.

As I sit here eating a banana that has been chopped into tiny pieces, with a fork, I thought I should compile a list (because I love lists) of discoveries on my culinary journey this past fortnight…  As with all lists, I may add to this one over the next year, and please feel free to share your own eating-with-braces stories.

Things I am eating as soon as the braces are off

I didn’t have enough time to fit lots of these things into the short period of notice that I was getting my braces on, and I’ve tried and failed to eat some of them in tiny little pieces…

  • Apples
  • Mars Bar
  • Toffee Crisp
  • Fast Food – eating McChicken Nuggets with a fork and knife really takes the fun out of it.
  • Biscuits
  • Donuts
  • Chewy sweets
  • Martha’s Red Dragon Pork wrap

A late addition to this list, and one I’m surprised I missed the first time…

  • GRANOLA.

This advert pretty much sums up my granola feelings.  I feel like I’ve only just got to know granola, and now when I go into Piece in the mornings I have to walk away without my favourite commuting breakfast.

Pleasant surprises

I’ve found some things I can eat that I hadn’t considered:

  • Jelly, woohoo I feel like a 5 yr old!
  • Ice cream – also great for numbing my gums.
  • Cake, yay!
  • Pizza – plain, in teeny, weeny pieces with a fork and knife.
  • Rice Crispies – I’ve actually had breakfast every day for the last two weeks!

Things I need to stay away from.

I knew from the beginning that turmeric would be off the menu (goodbye Indian food) but I’m finding out the hard way that some things, while quite edible, shouldn’t be eaten in public.

  • Leaves – herbs, spinach, whatever it is, it’ll find a way to get stuck.
  • Chocolate Cake.
  • Chocolate in general.

Other n0-go foods:

  • Beetroot
  • Chorizo
  • Tomato-based pasta sauces – can usually tell which ones are risky
  • Red pesto

The silver lining

To balance out my first world problem whinging, here’s the upside to all of this – I am eating SUPER HEALTHY.  Definitely getting my 5 a day, actually eating breakfast, drinking LOTS of water, and I basically can’t eat most of my favourite unhealthy things anymore. WOOHOO.  Challenge for 2016 is to find time to keep cooking – it’s been easy enough over the holidays, but I think I’m going to have to find space in my diary to actually write in food prep time…

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A discovery!

I just came across this article, written by a flute player who got braces when she was well into her career (making her the 2nd person I’ve come across in a 6-month search, the first being Andrea, my last flute tutor). I’m now armed with more new things to try to get my sound back to where it was.

Octave slurs, lots of octave slurs…

Now that my gums have toughened up, I can do this relatively pain-free and it is helping with flexibility so much.  It’s also helping with sound – taking my fairly solid middle register sound to my lower register. 

Re-finding my sound

I’ve been playing lots of pieces that I know inside out and was happy with my sound pre-braces – so that I can “hear” in my head what I’m aiming to sound like, which I find easier than not knowing what it could sound like it.  I’m finding this exercise helpful for flexibility too – remembering specific things I do for certain phrases/pieces, and then almost over-exaggerating everything to achieve the same thing with braces on.

Articulation

This is beginning to feel like a bigger hurdle – the higher the notes, the harder it is to clearly articulate at speed.  In an effort to get a more open sound, I’ve been playing with my upper and lower jaws further apart than before, particularly for high register notes, so I’m not tonguing between my teeth anymore which is slowing me down.  I think some work away from the flute will help, to re-strengthen my tongue muscles.

Onwards we go…

Assessing the damage!

So, I’ve had a bit of time to get reacquainted with my flute since getting braces on Tuesday, and here’s how I got on…

I can still pitch notes!  Low register is a bit thin and I can hear the airstream wavering at the top, but all is not lost.  The first few minutes did sound like a child who has just started learning though… 

The challenge is in moving between notes, especially bigger intervals.  My gums are still adjusting to rubbing against the brackets on my teeth, so I’m hoping in a few days I’ll find it easier to get more movement in my embouchure once the pain subsides. 

A piccolo surprise!

I CAN STILL PLAY PICCOLO!!!

I wasn’t expecting this to go so well, as the embouchure is so much more precise for piccolo playing and my lips are now in a different position.  I feel like I’m in a good starting position to work on getting back to where I was before (just last month I managed to crack some super high notes and really tricky fast stuff), although again movement between notes and articulation etc might prove trickier…

What does my practice diary look like?

Here’s a quick run down of what I’ve been doing:

  • long tones (to see what I could actually pitch)
  • slow scales (to see if I move between notes)
  • octaves (to identify the point at which intervals become tricky)
  • a couple of Moyse’s Little Melodic Studies to work on my tone
  • a couple of Andersen’s studies to see what it was like moving between notes quicker (slowly to figure out what’s changed with braces, and to use as a benchmark of where I was at pre-braces)

The Plan

The biggest issue seems to be in intervals involving any notes above the stave, so I’ll be making this is a focus. I’m going to take it easy for the next few days until my gums are a bit better, so will be focussing on improving the steadiness of notes above the stave, doing mostly long tones, being conscious of how I am using my air, support and embouchure.

A call for help from the flute world

If anyone has any advice, studies, exercises, tips, or similar stories and experiences, please do share them with me!  When I first found out I was getting braces again, I turned to the internet to find that this is a hurdle that has only really been documented for younger flute players, so hopefully my #braceface blog posts will be useful for anyone else who suddenly has to deal with getting braces as a working musician.

Brace Face

The time has come.  I said a while ago that getting braces was on the cards, as the safest solution to a tooth problem, and today I got train tracks fitted for the second time in my life, and hopefully the last.

Last time, I was in my early teens, had maybe been playing flute for a year before, and didn’t think too much of it since everyone had them.

This time around, I’m juggling flute-playing work commitments, PhD related things like fieldwork, presentations and other things that involve me speaking to people, and I’m in a bit more of a hurry to get this over with.

Where that leaves me, is with a short-term mission to adjust my flute playing, what sounds like an uphill struggle to try and re-conquer piccolo playing, and a year (hopefully no more) of eating only things that barely need chewed. I’m also off anything that might stain my teeth (yes, an Indian avoiding turmeric, wish me luck) since I opted for ceramics on my top teeth to make myself feel a little better about it all (and so that I look more like 26 years old and not 16).

Today I’m learning how to talk clearly, deal with food and getting used to the pain. Tomorrow I’ll hopefully be less grumpy, be able to get through a fieldwork interview without dribbling, and have a go at fluting.

I’m going to go now, and make the first of many batches of soup I’ll be seeing over the next wee while… if anyone has exciting recipes, please share them.

Tomorrow or Thursday you’ll find out how I get on with my flute.