Learning to play the trumpet is a fun and exciting adventure. Keeping it properly maintained is critical to keeping it in prime playing condition. Whether you’re new to the trumpet or have neglected it for far too long, trumpet maintenance is actually quite easy. Since the instrument is composed of valves, slides, and the body, these are the three different areas of the trumpet you need to pay attention to. From oiling the valves and greasing the slides to cleaning the mouthpiece and storing the instrument properly, here are some tips for keeping your trumpet in tip-top shape.
Disassemble it Properly
First and foremost, make sure you can assemble and disassemble your instrument on your own. Since disassembly is crucial to trumpet maintenance, you should be able to take it apart and put it back together again with ease. Fortunately, disassembly isn’t difficult. Start by removing the valves and setting them aside in a safe place. Next, remove all the slides with caution. If they’re stuck, don’t force them out or use pliers or other household tools. If you use the wrong tools you could accidentally tear the tubing apart in places you didn’t intend to. If you can’t pull the slide out with minimal effort, finish cleaning the rest of your trumpet and take it to a repair technician to have the slides pulled out.
Oiling the Valves
When oiling the valves, it’s best to do so in the comfort of your own home. If you oil your valves in a busy room, it’s more likely that someone will bump into you, causing you to drop, dent, or otherwise damage the valves. Oil the valves one at a time, removing the cap of the valve oil bottle beforehand so both your hands will be free to focus on the trumpet. With the trumpet in your left hand, unscrew the valve cap counterclockwise and pull the valve out so you can see it. Hold the trumpet so the valve is pulled out but won’t fall out. Place a couple drops of oil on the valve before you push it back into its casing. Without applying too much pressure, twirl the valve until you feel the valve stop and click back into place. As far as frequency goes, don’t oil the valves every time you play. Instead, oil them a few times a week or whenever they feel especially sluggish.
Greasing the Slides
If you don’t grease the slides of your trumpet, the mineral deposits found in saliva will weld the tubes together. This can lead to an expensive repair. Also referred to as “stuck slides”, if you allow your trumpet to dry out all you’ll be left with are the deposits. You won’t be able to remove these deposits with soap, water, or a cleaning kit. Unfortunately, the only way to remove deposits is via an acid bath at a professional repair shop. To avoid this hassle (and expense), all you need to do is grease the slides every month or so. If you forget to grease your slides during trumpet maintenance and the slides get stuck, never try to “fix” them with a screwdriver or other household tools. A repair technician will be able to unstick the slides without damaging your trumpet. To grease the slides, use a specialized slide grease. Slide grease is formulated with brass instruments in mind, so you won’t have to worry about accidentally damaging your trumpet in the process.
How to Give Your Trumpet a “Bath”
Every six months or so, you should completely disassemble the trumpet for a deep cleaning. Set the finger buttons, valve top caps, and any other small accessories aside. Once your trumpet is disassembled, soak all the parts in warm, soapy water for a few minutes, making sure not to leave the trumpet in the water too long or the lacquer can peel off. From there, run a snake brush through all the tubes and scrub the valve casings with a valve casing brush. When finished, rinse all parts and dry with a lint-free towel. If you haven’t done so recently, grease the slides and add a few drops of valve oil to the valves once you reassemble the instrument.
Cleaning & Polishing the Outside
If you’re thinking about polishing the outside of your trumpet, do so sparingly. Unless your trumpet is in especially poor condition, using a clean dry cloth to keep the outside of the instrument clean should suffice. Although there are lacquer polish cloths available on the market that are OK to use from time to time, if you overuse them or aren’t careful, the wax on these cloths can lead to unsightly build-up. If you’re careful, you can also spray a small amount of Pledge on a cloth and use that to remove any stubborn stains. If your trumpet is silver-plated, you can use silver polish to keep the outside shiny. Before polishing, wipe the outside of the trumpet down with cloth that’s lightly dampened with rubbing alcohol. This process will remove any oil or dirt that has accumulated on the outside of the instrument.
Helpful Advice & Reminders
- Pliers and trumpets don’t go together- ever. If your mouthpiece does get stuck, don’t use pliers or household tools to pry it loose. Your band director may have access to a special tool called a mouthpiece puller. Check with them before heading to your local repair shop.
- When storing your trumpet in its case, don’t place books, accessories, or any other materials on top of it. Nowadays, most cases are designed with compartments for accessories. Forcing a book to fit by pushing down on the lid of the case can lead to a damaged instrument.
- Whether you plan on travelling with your trumpet or not, make sure you place an identification card with your name, phone number, and email on the inside or outside of the case. This way, you have proof of ownership if your trumpet is ever lost and an easy way for someone to contact you in case they come across your trumpet.
Think your trumpet may need a repair? Check out Common Repairs for Trumpets.