The physical trumpet is an expensive and beautiful work of art. As a musician, it is your duty to keep it clean, working, and in good repair. The following should help you to keep your instrument in good condition.
Oiling the Valves
The valves and pistons on a trumpet are
very delicate--and essential. The casing should always be free
of dents, and the pistons should be kept well oiled. Any
commercial valve oil, such as those sold in music stores and
pictured at the right, will work. The valves should be oiled
at least once a week, and usually more often. When the valves
become sluggish, you know that it is time to oil!
The best way to oil your valves is to
completely remove the pistons from the casing. First, unscrew
the cover on each of the valve caps, and lift the valves
straight out. Apply the valve oil liberally, getting a good
coating on them. When replacing the pistons, put them into the
casing about half way and then rotate them back and forth, to
spread the oil around evenly. When done rotating, line up the
valve in the casing according to the brand of trumpet you
have--most require that you have the numbers that are stamped
on each piston to be facing you when inserted. You will feel
the piston "sit" into place, and then you may re-tighten the
Often, there is not enough time to oil the valves in this manner. One alternative way of oiling the valves include flipping your instrument upside down and dropping some oil into the small holes on the bottom of the valve caps, and then moving each of the valves to make sure that the oil has reached all the way around. Another way, although less desirable since it tends to leave a taste in the mouth is to remove each slide and pour a little into the slides and allow it to reach the pistons.
Your slides are bare metal. They need grease to be applied to them to keep them moving properly, otherwise, they could freeze. Valve grease can also be obtained from
many music stores for a small cost. It takes only a very small amount of grease to work. First, remove all of your slides-- the valve slides and the main tuning slide. With your finger, place a small amount of grease on the part of the slide that is thinner and fits inside a larger piece of tubing.
Spread the grease evenly all the way around the slide, and then reinsert only one of the tubes back into place, rotate around, and repeat with the other side. Once both sides have been rotated in the tubing, the slide can be replaced normally back onto the trumpet.
Many trumpet players will also put a very small amount of valve oil on the first and third valve slides to make them move quicker when they are used for tuning purposes.
Bathing the Trumpet
About once a month, it is a good idea to
give the trumpet a "bath," to clean out dirt and saliva that
may have accumulated through use. First, fill up the bath tub
just enough to cover the trumpet. The water should be hot, but
not so hot that it is uncomfortable, and a small amount of liquid soap should be added. It is also a good idea to lay something in the tub such as a towel to prevent dings and scratches.
Disassemble the trumpet entirely. Place everything except the pistons in the water, and make sure all of the tubing is filled with water. Using a snake ( a long, flexible cord with brushes on each end), clean out all of the tubing. Run the snake's bristle heads in and out of all of the tubing several times underwater to remove any build-up. Pay special attention to the leadpipe, which has a tendency to have more accumulated grime than anywhere else. Using a mouthpiece brush, clean out your mouthpiece in the same manner that you used the snake.
After you have done this, rinse the entire instrument in clean water to remove the soap. Dump out the excess water, and then let it air dry for a little while. When you re-assemble the instrument, don't forget that you must oil your valves and grease all of your slides again.
Keeping a Shine
Shining your instrument, whether the finish is plated or lacquered, is very simple. Today, polish cloths are manufactured that contain the chemicals needed to polish a trumpet, so all you have to do is buff the surface with the polish cloth. Usually, the silver plated clothes are blue and the gold lacquered cloths are yellow.
On trumpets with the standard type of
water key (aka "spit valve"), the corks may need to be
replaced after they have become deteriorated. This becomes
apparent when the cork either falls off, or there is the sound
of air escaping from the trumpet while it is being played. The
old cork should be removed with a knife, and a new one should
be put in with a good snug fit. Corks are available from most
music stores, and most band directors usually keep a supply on
hand. Recently, corks are beginning to be replaced with small
rubber "corks" that serve the same purpose but last longer.
Some of the rubber versions also have a small nipple in the
center that fits snugly into the botttom of the water key,
minimizing the resistance in air flow at that certain area.
Dents, Dings and Scratches
Dents, dings, and scratches won't kill a trumpet, but they aren't very pleasing to look at. Small dents usually are not critical unless they occur in the valve casings, leadpipe, or bell. In these places it is critical that it should be dent free, because dents in these places can severely hamper the sound or disrupt the pistons. Scratches and dings don't cause any problems, but can be taken out with buffing, or if required, refinishing the entire instrument by a professional instrument repair technician. Don't try to take out dents yourself--it requires special tools and training to have the desired effects.
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Written and published by Chris Glazner, John Timpani, and Christian Reed.
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