Flute Blisters

Welcome to this week’s edition of Flute Friday!

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Today’s topic is one that is near and dear to many a flute player’s heart: The famous (or infamous) flute blister.

I have had several horrifying nightmares throughout my career as a flutist that the 20+ year old permanent bump at the bottom of my left hand index finger would one day collapse  (or worse, POP…ewww) leaving a large crater on the side of my hand and that I would have to join the Circus. I know….. gross, right? Fortunately that has not happened. This friendly bunion, however, has caused some unfriendly levels of pain over the years (namely at the conclusion of long practice sessions) and I have discovered a few different ways to help cope, ease pain and discomfort and reverse the size of this flute blister using the below products. I know there are many other flutists like myself out there that just deal with the pain using ice or frozen peas, but I hope that this blog will provide some alternative suggestions for combating their own flute blister of terror. Don’t worry – we won’t have to join the circus!

First of all, let’s have a look at what this blister is:

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The flute blister develops over time as we rest the flute against the side of our left index finger to create a pressure point for balance and control of the instrument. The more pressure we put on this area the larger and more painful the blister (ouch). The worse the blister, the worse the nightmares…

How do we deal with this phenomenon when it is a natural consequence of playing the flute? Answer: adapt.

  1. Flute Gels.  I will begin with my newly discovered and absolutely favorite product – Flute Gels. These attach to your flute using an easily removable, mild adhesive backing and have a texture similar to one of those gel wrist pads we used to use before the days of ipads. These come in clear and silver and feel like pillows for your blister. I highly recommend the silver color as the clear Flute Gels show imperfections and dirt over time whereas the silver seems to hold up longer and blends into the color of the metal. I love them and I have noticed that my blister has dramatically improved since I started using them. photo 1
  2. Corn Cushions. You know you have come across these in Grandma’s medicine cabinet but did you know you could use them on your flute??? Like the Flute Gels, these cushions use a mild adhesive to stick to your flute and provide a comfortable distance between your blister and the metal. These are not as soft as the gels but are extremely affordable (a pack of 18 will run you around $2.00), easily replaceable and the empty space in the center of the pad aligns perfectly with the blister meaning that stabilizing pressure will not be placed against your flute blister (whether that pressure is contracted from the metal or the cushion). Word of advice – make sure to polish the area before applying the cushion or the adhesive will not properly stick to the metal. These are perfect if you prefer a clean surface to use once a week rather than a more longer lasting gel. photo 3 (2)
  3. Mounting Squares. These are traditionally used by college students to hang posters in their dorm rooms (I myself kept a stockpile of these during my college days) but they can also be used to create a cushion for your flute blister. Mounting squares use a much stronger adhesive than both the Flute Gels and the Corn Cushions but when stacked together allow the user to customize the amount and thickness of the cushion to the size of their hand. The downside is that the outside of the cushion, or the part that contacts the blister, will be sticky when you first start using it therefore you must wear off the adhesive before extended use (you can do this by tapping the adhesive a few times with the pads of your fingers). These are also an affordable option and are appropriate for flutists with larger hands or those of us that, despite our better judgment, tend to apply too much pressure between our index finger and the side of the flute. photo 2 (1)
  4. Good, Old Petroleum Jelly. This one is not necessarily a product that can be placed on the instrument (don’t… just don’t) but one that when applied to your blister before bed each night will soften the skin and provide daily relief.

Do you have a product that you use for your flute blister? Have you used any of the above products? Do you have any of your own pain relief tips? Please comment below!

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