The trumpet requires stamina, strong lip muscles, and a lot of practice to master. However, the whimsical instrument may take quite a toll on the musician’s body, particularly the lips. But how can we avoid this damage?
Playing the trumpet can cause damage to musicians’ lips. To avoid damage, it is essential to stay hydrated, moisturize the lips, practice often, and make changes to how you play if you notice discomfort.
The trumpet can produce beautiful sounds, but it shouldn't be painful. In this article, we’ll share more details about how the trumpet can hurt the lips, what you can do to best avoid or minimize damage to your lips, and how to treat damage that's already there.
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Does Playing Trumpet Damage Your Lips?
Playing the trumpet can cause painful damage to your lips that, if not corrected, can be irreversible. Below are a few ways it can hurt them:
- Strained lip and facial muscles: This is a very common occurrence when first learning how to play. It can cause painful cramping and spasms in the lips and face due to incorrect form while playing. The best way to fix this issue and/or avoid it altogether is to learn from a professional or adjust your form until the issues resolve.
- Ruptured lips: Although it sounds like a minor issue, ruptured lips can quickly become a major irreversible, painful condition if not handled promptly and properly.
- Metal allergies: Some discomfort can come from the metal from the trumpet’s mouthpiece. After prolonged exposure and playing, the lips can develop an allergy to the metal the mouthpiece is made from. Switching to a plastic mouthpiece for a time can be a great way to find out if your reaction is actually due to an allergy to the metal or another cause.
All of these conditions sound extremely painful, and they can be. Great news though, all of these can be prevented or heal if caught soon enough. Keep reading to see how you can potentially avoid these painful issues.
How to Avoid Damaging Your Lips While Playing Trumpet
According to Trumpet Hub, “the key to solving and avoiding injuries is to develop a proper embouchure,” or how you position your mouth. However, you can do a few other things to help lessen the chances of injuring yourself while playing:
- The best way to avoid damaging your lips while playing is by learning from a professional. If you are looking to take lessons, look for someone with years of experience. They will know exactly how to correct you if you are playing in a way that could cause damage to your lips.
- Practice with your instrument. If you practice often, then you will notice damage to your lips a lot more easily, and you will be able to modify how you play to avoid it.
- If you are unable to hire someone to teach you, you could video record yourself. Watch the videos you have recorded to see if you notice any areas you need to fix or change. It's important when playing the trumpet to have the correct lip formations; otherwise, your music will not be good, and your lips will be extremely sore.
- Take breaks. Don’t just take breaks during sessions, either. Don’t be afraid to take a day or two off from playing to let your lips and facial muscles rest.
How to Minimize or Prevent Lip Damage from a Trumpet
There are a few things you can do to minimize lip damage before it occurs. There are exercises and practice equipment designed especially for this.
- Lip calisthenics: Lip exercises can strengthen your lip muscles and limit the amount of damage caused by playing your instrument. You can do lip calisthenics with or without your trumpet mouthpiece. Several YouTube videos show you how to do the various exercises.
- Embouchure Training Device: This device can help you learn how to use the mouthpiece properly. It allows you to practice playing without excessive pressure and improper form, ultimately teaching you how to get the best sound without hurting yourself too much.
- Lip flapping: This sounds silly but can be a very easy way to alleviate pain and relax the face. It requires the musician to flap their lips like a horse. Note: It is essential to take a few hours off from playing right after this exercise, or your lips will go back to being tense.
- Practice with your mouthpiece: Practicing with your mouthpiece on its own allows you to practice your pressure range and learn to play without straining your lip and face muscles. It works similarly to using the Stratosphere embouchure training set.
- Brushing your teeth: According to The Trumpet Blog, the combination of the toothbrush bristles' action on the inside of the lips and the minty element of the toothpaste seems to hasten the circulation in the lip muscles, warding off stiffness as well as helping to keep your instrument clean and your teeth white.
How to Recover Lip Damage That’s Already Been Done
For mild lip damage, you can invest in a good quality lip moisturizer. This will help rejuvenate the lips and relieve lip irritation caused by the trumpet’s mouthpiece.
If the damage is more severe, like a strained face or lip muscles, it may take a little longer to recover. There are a few easy steps which can be taken to relieve the pain faster:
- First, assess where the pain is the most uncomfortable. Is it the lips or the entire face?
- Get a warm rag and place it on the area experiencing pain. You can alternate between warm and cool to relieve the tension and alleviate the pain.
- Take an over-the-counter pain reliever, for example Tylenol or Advil. Advil is ideal if you want to reduce any inflammation that is present.
- The final and most important thing to do is rest! Let your face and lips relax for 24-48 hours, repeating steps 2 and 3 as needed.
If you are experiencing extreme discomfort or your symptoms aren’t going away, then you should consult a doctor.
Keep in mind that it is essential to take things slow when you are coming back from an injury. Ensure you are completely healed before picking up your instrument, or you could cause more irreversible damage. Start out with small, less strenuous sessions and then slowly build back up to how you would typically play. Take your time!
Does Playing Trumpet Damage Your Lips? Final Thoughts
Playing the trumpet can cause a lot of pain and discomfort, but it doesn’t have to. The above tips will allow you to play the trumpet without causing permanent damage to your lips and face. Remember: proper mouth placement, regularly practicing, learning proper form from a professional player, and resting are vital to avoiding injury.
Try some exercises to strengthen your face and lip muscles before you show signs of discomfort. Practice with your mouthpiece and find what works best before straining yourself. It’s easier to make adjustments this way too.
If you do find yourself experiencing discomfort, seek a doctor if you can’t control the pain at home. If it is mild, try the warm compress, moisturizer, and resting. Don’t be afraid to put trumpet playing on pause to let your body recover. Introduce playing back into your day slowly and allow yourself a chance to heal.
Just remember playing your trumpet should be fun! Take care of yourself, and don’t get burnt out because of unnecessary pain.