As a parent, the small things can quickly add up: replacing a lost retainer, unexpected field trip fees, visits to the doctor, the list goes on. If you want to prevent unexpected visits to the brass repair shop from being added to that list, there are a few preventative measures you can take. From avoiding the use of super glue to keeping your child’s brass instrument properly maintained, here are six things you can do to keep your child’s brass instrument in tip-top shape and safely at home where it belongs.
Avoid Super Glue
When a solder joint breaks, it’s many parents’ first instinct to throw some tape or superglue on the instrument to keep it together. Unfortunately, glue and tape only make matters worse and can actually add cost to the repair. Instead, wrap the broken solder joint with dental floss or string to keep it stable, and take it to a repair shop right away. Generally speaking, the longer you wait to repair a broken solder joint, the more damage the instrument will sustain and the higher the repair bill will be. Ultimately, avoid tape and glue in all situations- not just for solder joints! While this advice won’t keep your brass instrument out of the repair shop, it’ll prevent further damage/cost.
Keep Tuning Slides Greased
Most brass musicians grease their slides once every 2-3 weeks. As a general rule of thumb, don’t use Vaseline or any other type of petroleum jelly on the tuning slides- they’ll corrode the tubes and can cause seizing of the slides. Only use slide grease that’s created specifically for brass instruments. Many instrument manufacturers have their own versions of slide grease that are inexpensive, easy to use, and are balanced to avoid corrosion. In case a slide does become stuck, take the instrument to a repair shop. They’ll use specialized tools to pull it out carefully. Whatever you do, don’t use household tools to do this- using hammers and pliers will only result in twisted and bent slides that are much more expensive to repair than simply just pulling the slide.
Avoid Stuck Mouthpieces
When removing and inserting your mouthpiece, gently twist the mouthpiece- don’t bump or hit it with your palm. If your mouthpiece does get stuck, let your child’s band director or repair technician pull it out. Also, be careful about dropping the mouthpiece on the floor. After practicing, always instruct your child to put it back in the mouthpiece holder- NEVER let them throw it directly in the case without first placing it in the holder. If the mouthpiece doesn’t fit snugly into the receiver, take it to the repair shop. You may need a new reciever or more plating on the mouthpiece shank. Both are relatively easy and inexpensive fixes, but if you attempt to fix the instrument on your own without the appropriate tools you’ll be adding to the cost, once again.
Keep the Instrument Clean
If your child’s music teacher hasn’t already shown them how to keep their instrument clean, here’s the basics. Every month, use a flexible bore brush to clean out the lead pipe and main tuning slide. Wipe the valves and casings and re-grease the tuning slides. As mentioned, your child’s teacher should be able to explain the process in greater detail. In addition to monthly cleanings, you should take your child’s brass instrument into a repair shop once a year for a chemical cleaning. During these cleanings, lime and other build-up that cannot be removed at home is targeted. At this time, dent removal and any other necessary repairs should also take place.
Don’t Use Abrasives
Whatever you do, don’t use sandpaper, scouring pads, steel wool, or any other abrasive product when cleaning your brass instrument. Not only can they scratch or discolor the instrument itself, but they can contribute to tiny leaks that can completely ruin the instrument. Brass instruments aren’t dishwasher safe, so avoid tossing parts of your instrument in the dishwasher. If the valves, tuning slides, and other parts of your instrument are regularly wiped and lubricated, your instrument should be fine between professional chemical cleanings at the repair shop. If you aren’t sure what’s safe to clean your instrument with, you can’t go wrong with products from the instrument manufacturers themselves.
Use a Case
Last but not least, always use a case- even if your child is only transporting their instrument a short distance. Gig bags are better than nothing, but hard cases are superior in almost every way. For specific information on how to choose a case for your particular brass instrument, find your instrument below: