This is part of my continuing series of posts related to what I have called “American Pride”. Each post reflects something in music which denotes the pride we feel for our country. This is a very good example of two characteristics Americans are known for- ingenuity and creativity. Where else in the world can someone combine in a creative manner an accordion player, a sniper crew and kids with an environmental setting? Let’s hear it for the Red, White and Blue for we are now on our way back to what we are supposed to be.
Reason #1- It’s healthier.
The amount of food, crud and moisture that builds up in our instruments in a short amount of time is impressive. Bacteria begin to develop to a point that germs can be contracted through our many hours of blowing into the instrument. Brushing our teeth after a practice session will help eliminate the possibility of these foreign bodies getting into your system. The exposed brass inside the mouthpiece and lead pipe can also cause chemical reactions to some players.
Reason #2- You sound better.
If you brush not only your teeth after practicing, but also the inside of your mouthpiece, you will decidedly improve your tone and response on your instrument. The amount of “junk” that accumulates inside a mouthpiece will directly affect your sound and the ease of playing. I am amazed at how little attention is paid to this area of our playing. I distinctly remember asking one of my students one morning during his lesson, “When was the last time you cleaned your horn?” He responded timidly, “Last week”. I doubted his honesty and walked him down stairs to the instrument repair room to see what we could find. As the cleaning brush exited the end of his lead pipe, I almost lost my breakfast. I will not go into details at this point for I would have a hard time describing what form of mass exited his instrument. After returning to my studio, he began playing again and the improvement in his tone was astounding. Also amazing was the fact that his range had dropped an octave.
Students are not the only perpetrators of unclean instruments. I remember filling in for my good friend and teacher Don Jacoby at the Club Village one night in Dallas. I saw his horn on the stand and decided to see how clean his lead pipe was. After removing the tuning slide, I peered down the pipe. I could not see any light through the lead pipe. How he was able to play as well as he did was amazing.
Reason #3- Faster recovery time for your “chops”.
After every rehearsal with our faculty brass quintet, I noticed that my good friend and colleague Keith Johnson (now at the University of North Texas, Denton), took time to brush his teeth before his next student’s lesson. I asked him years later if this routine was for dental reasons or for other reasons for I had found the action of brushing and the minty flavor of the tooth paste seemed to improve the recovery time of my lips after a hard session. He admitted that it was for dental reasons only. I had recently found that if I brushed my teeth after practicing, my lips felt much more rested in a shorter period of time.
For these three reasons, I strongly suggest that you get into the habit of brushing after every practice period or performance. It will definitely improve your playing as well as your health.