Imagine this…you just got out of a meeting or class and you have some time to practice flute. So you head to a practice room, put your flute together, and realize that your dry lips don’t feel so good.
We all struggle with dry lips at some point. But as flute players, it’s important to know how to self-treat your dry lips so you can get back to playing.
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The Problem with Dry Lips
Chapped or dry lips can feel pretty bad. Left untreated, they can really hurt. But, how do your lips get that way? Cold weather can dry out your lips, but so can being dehydrated.
For most of us, a layer of lip balm is enough to ease the pain. It also has the added benefit of moisturizing your lips, so the effects should last a while.
Even if you’re of the belief that companies make their lips balms dry your lips, a good lip balm is essential.
And if you want to play the flute, you have to treat your lips with care. Because most of us can’t apply lip balm right before playing.
Cracking can hurt
If you don’t take care of your lips, they can dry out. What’s more, dry lips can crack. In the best case, those cracks are slightly annoying.
But in the worst case, your cracked, dry lips can be painful. If you’ve ever had a cracked lip, you’ll know what I’m talking about.
Sometimes, it can be so bad that you don’t even want to pick up the flute.
And, at least in most cases, we don’t want to leave the flute in its case.
A good lip balm can help with dry lips by moisturizing your lips. Some even have SPF, so they can also protect your lips from sun damage.
However, you can use lip balm to prevent dry lips in the future. As long as you keep your lips hydrated and moisturized, you won’t have to worry so much about dry lips.
It may be tempting to lick your lips when they’re dry, but that isn’t as good as using a lip balm. So be sure you keep a balm handy.
How Dry Lips Affect Flute Playing
If you play any wind instrument, you need to keep your lips in good condition. Whether you play flute, clarinet, or trumpet, dry lips can make playing your instrument unnecessarily difficult.
But flute players have to be extra careful. We don’t have mouthpieces or reeds to rely on for help.
Your lips serve an even more crucial purpose in your playing than if you played a reed or brass instrument.
So how do dry lips affect your flute playing? There are a few important ways that the condition of your lips can affect your playing.
Embouchure is everything
As I mentioned, flute players don’t have a reed or mouthpiece to fall back on. In fact, your lips function similarly to the reed on a clarinet.
That means one slight change to your flute embouchure can make a huge difference. If you’ve ever gone through an embouchure change, you know it’s not easy.
And playing with dry lips is just as hard as purposely changing your embouchure. You’re probably used to playing with moisturized lips. Well, playing with dry lips is another ball game.
Like a reed
Clarinet and saxophone players have a reed and mouthpiece to help them produce a sound. Oboe and bassoon players have a set of two reeds.
Flute players, on the other hand? Yeah, we don’t have that. Instead, we have to blow at just the right angle so that enough air gets into the flute.
But enough air also has to hit the opposite wall of the embouchure hole. It’s a delicate balancing act that takes time to master.
Since the flute doesn’t have a reed, we have to do more with our lips to produce a sound. But the good news is we don’t have to worry about broken reeds.
On the other hand
Now, it may sound like I’m complaining about all the struggles that face flute players with dry lips. However, wet, or over moisturized, lips can also pose a problem.
That’s right. If you put on too much lip balm right before you play, that can also cause issues.
Sweating can also be problematic, especially if you sweat around your lower lip and chin. If your flute doesn’t have the friction necessary to stay in place, it can slide around or even slip off your face.
Of course, we can’t always climate control a performance venue. But you can combat the other issues posing flutists with dry lips.
How to Combat Dry Lips
Caring for your lips is an essential step in avoiding dry lips. But what if your lips become dry anyway?
A cold winter or lack of drinking water can both lead to dry lips, even if you do everything else right.
So knowing how to treat dry lips on your own is super important.
If you know you’ll need to play flute in a bit, apply lip balm now. Even if your lips don’t feel dry.
As I noted, too wet lips can also be problematic. So put on some lip balm now so that it has the time to absorb into your lips and moisturize them just enough.
And throughout the day, put on lip balm whenever you think you need it. Maybe that conspiracy is true…that lip balm companies make their products dry your lips so you’ll buy more.
But in any case, you need to treat your lips with care, even when your flute is stowed in the case.
My favorite lip balm is ChopSaver. It was made by musicians and for musicians, only contains natural ingredients, and feels good on my lips.
If I don’t have much time to let it sit and absorb into my lips, I can actually still play flute with this lip balm, more so than others I’ve tried.
Drink enough water
While drinking water won’t hydrate your lips specifically, it can help reduce the symptoms of dry lips over time.
If you can keep your whole body hydrated, some of that hydration will make its way to your lips. Of course, using lip balm is still important.
However, drinking enough water will help you and your body in more ways that hydrating your lips.
Take a break
This next tip is going to be controversial. I believe that, when possible, you should take a break if you have dry lips.
If your lips are posing a problem with your playing, like you can’t make a good sound, take a break. Apply some lip balm, and do some score study or another form of practice that doesn’t require playing the flute.
And don’t forget to drink some water, too!
Have you ever had to play flute with dry lips? How did you survive? Leave a comment below with your thoughts!