Since the various components of a trumpet must work together in order for the instrument to function and play properly, it’s not uncommon for problems to arise. Fortunately, the trumpet is a fairly simple mechanism and the problems you’ll run into are pretty universal. Experiencing problems with the trumpet and its various components is a normal part of owning the instrument, and many of the issues can quickly and easily be fixed by a qualified repair technician. From stuck mouthpieces and sticking valves to broken solder joints and stuck slides, here are a few of the most common repairs for trumpets.
Not exclusive to the trumpet, stuck mouthpieces are also experienced by trombonists, saxophonists, and pretty much any other brass musician whose instrument uses a mouthpiece. Since mouthpiece shanks go from narrow to wide, it’s easy for them to get stuck over time. When the mouthpiece is first placed in the trumpet it fits snugly but, if it gets accidentally bumped or pushed in further, it’ll get wedged and won’t come out. Most new trumpet players assume they can unstick the mouthpiece with a pair of pliers or vice grips, but these are exactly the wrong type of tools to use. Trumpet brass is soft and bends easily, so don’t try to fix this on your own: repair technicians have a special tool that’s used specifically to unstick stuck mouthpieces without damaging the instrument.
If your trumpet is brand new, you probably won’t have many issues. But, once you start using it frequently your trumpet could suffer from leaking valves. Usually the result of normal wear and tear, air that leaks out between the valve and casing can affect your trumpet’s response. To reduce air leakage, you can try using a heavier valve oil. If that doesn’t work, take your trumpet into the shop for valve work or a full replacement. Even if you come across replacement parts on sites like eBay or Craigslist, leave this repair to the professionals. Not only do they know exactly what they’re doing, but they have access to the right parts and tools.
At one point or another the valves of your trumpet are sure to stick. While valves usually move up and down to facilitate the act of playing, the valves may get stuck at certain places. In addition to ruining the sound, sticking valves will make it more difficult to play. If you think your valves are stuck, the best way to handle the situation is to use a good quality valve oil and to keep them as lubricated as possible. If you play or practice the trumpet every day you should oil the valves of your trumpet at least once a week, while you’ll need to oil your valves less often if you only play the trumpet a couple times a week. Your band or orchestra teacher should be able to provide you with advice about how often you should oil your valves and which valve oil you should be using.
Broken Solder Joints
Since this repair involves a gas torch, it definitely shouldn’t be tried at home. Broken solder joints happen when a trumpet is twisted or dropped, and can be fixed by straightening whatever is bent. This is done by heating the joint with a gas torch until it’s hot enough to melt the solder, but cool enough to prevent damage to the finish. From here, the repair technician will solder across the whole joint and, when the solder cools, the repair technician will clean all around it. Since the repair technician cleans the area surrounding the joints, this part of your trumpet should look as good as new once the repair is complete.
A Stuffy Sound
If you’re noticing that a clogged or stuffy sound is coming from your instrument, don’t worry- it’s a common problem that’s usually related to the trumpet’s valves. To find and eliminate the problem check the valves to ensure none of the corks, felts, or spacers are worn down. If this isn’t the issue, the water key could be broken or leaking, or the valves may have been mixed up after cleaning the trumpet. The valves are numbered 1 to 3, and the first should be closest to the mouthpiece. If the valves are in order and none of the mechanisms are worn down, check for air leakage and make sure a foreign object isn’t stuck in the trumpet. If none of the above seem to be the issue, your teacher or a qualified repair technician may be able to provide more guidance.
Although stuck slides can be caused by an accident or bump, in most cases they’re caused by the chemical bonding of impurities left on them. For this reason, it’s important to keep your trumpet clean and well maintained. Sometimes the stuck slides will come apart with pressure, but don’t apply the pressure with a hammer or pliers, as these are too tough for the soft metal of a trumpet. Repair technicians have a variety of tactics they can try, including heat application and complete disassembly and reassembly of the trumpet. These may sound complicated (they are!) but if the technician is experienced your trumpet will look and sound the same way it did before.
Even if you never transport your trumpet to or from your home, a dent or two is bound to happen. Using special mandrels and other tools, a good technician can rub and pound out the dent until the metal is smooth again. In some cases, this type of work can be performed by a general metalworker in lieu of an instrument technician, but an instrument technician is recommended as they’ll handle your instrument with the care it deserves. If the trumpet’s finish or lacquer wasn’t damaged in the accident, you’ll have to look very closely to even see where the dent originally was.
If you need help finding someone to fix your instrument, head to Music & Arts or learn Hotru,w to Find a Qualified Repair Technician.