General Care for a Brass Instrument

Despite the fact that they’re made of metal, brass instruments are easily susceptible to structural damage if they’re not well taken care of.  Treat your instrument with respect, and keep it in a case or gigbag when you’re not playing it.   Be sure to keep your instrument and case in a place where they’re not likely to suffer any damage. For example, you wouldn’t want to leave the instrument or case on the floor where people might be walking. Another place you should never leave your instrument is in a hot car.  Make sure to never stand the instrument on its bell; in fact, it’s best to store it with the valves up. It’s also important to remember to empty all the water from your instrument before placing it back in its case. To keep the finish in good order use a lacquer cloth or silver cloth to wipe it down after use as the sweat from your hands can eat away at the finish

If you want to avoid accumulation of nasty materials in your instrument, make sure not to eat immediately before playing. Food particles can easily build up in the instrument and breed bacteria. It’s for this reason that you should also avoid eating, drinking, or chewing gum while you’re playing.

How Often Should I Clean My Instrument?

Clean your mouthpiece with a mouthpiece brush and a little liquid soap at least once a week. Generally, you’ll want to give your entire brass instrument a good cleaning once a month. You can tell when this needs to be done if the lead pipe begins to smell.  Each month, you should flush out your instrument to clean out the dirt that’s accumulated. Doing so will also prevent corrosion. One great place you can do this is in a bathtub. Start by filling the tub with lukewarm water and add a little Fairy Liquid.   Before submerging your instrument, you should remove all tuning slides, unscrew the top and bottom valve caps, and remove the valves and you’ll want to make sure to remove any felts on the valves so they don’t get wet. Use a brush to clean the instruments tubes. After you’re done cleaning all of the tubing, you’ll dry the instrument. Put any felts that you removed back on the valves and reassemble the instrument. Remember to use a quality valve oil and quality tuning slide grease when putting it back together.  We reccomend UltraGlide Tuning Slide Grease with PTFE

If you think it’s time for your brass instrument to get a deep clean, beyond what you’re capable of in your bathtub at home,  you should consider bringing your brass instrument in for our specialist to give it a full service.   This should be done at least once a year for general maintenance and cleaning if you want to keep it in tip top playing condition and stop those slides and valves from seizing up.

Instrument Specific Care and Maintenance Tips

If you’re playing valved instrument, you’ll want to oil your valves every time that you play, or at least three times a week. Coat the entire valve in valve oil, after first clearing away any debris that may have built up on it. Keep your valve slides airtight by applying slide grease. Never use Vaseline for anything on your brass instrument because Vaseline will mix with the water and oil and congeal, eventually sludging up the valves.  You can clean the tuning slides with a snake brush and the valve casings with a valve casing brush.

If you’re a trombone player, you’ll want to make sure to always blow all moisture out of the instrument before storing. You should also lock the slide when you’re not playing, as it will prevent you from moving the outer slide. Applying slide oil once a week is recommended for young players. More mature trombone players should use slide cream and water. The correct way to apply slide cream is to pull the inner hand slide almost all the way out before applying your chosen lubricant to the bottom wider section called the stockings.. Much like with a trumpet, there’s a trombone cleaning brush available which can help to clean deeper in the outer slide but do take care.

As with any instrument, the proper care and maintenance of brass instruments such as trumpets, trombones, French horns, etc. is extremely important. Proper care can extend the life of the instrument by many years and will protect the quality of sound that the instrument is able to produce.