How To Love And Care For Your Brass Instrument

The cleanliness of brass instruments is really very important. Regular cleaning keeps the instrument in top condition and saves you money in the long run.

It is never a good idea to eat food and in particular confectionery or consume soft drinks before and during playing. The sugars and other food particles gather inside the tubing where bacteria can breed. Sugar and saliva can also effect the performance of the valves. Alkaline saliva can cause many problems with valve returns, because it gathers in the bottom of the valve casing, it attacks the zinc casing leaving deposits of calcium chloride which significantly reduces the clearances needed for the valves to operate effectively. Some musicians have perspiration with alkaline properties this has an impact on the visual appearance of an instrument primarily around the valve casing where the plating or the lacquer deteriorates and exposes the bare brass which can lead to dermatological infections.

The plating on mouthpieces should always be in good condition, especially covering the Rim and the Cup in particular, these areas of the mouthpiece are in contact with your embouchure and tongue. Bare or pitted brass can be a health hazard and lead to infections, such as cold sores etc, because brass and nickel silver alloys can be toxic. It is always good practice to carry a mouthpiece brush in your case, regular cleaning with cold or warm water will prevent build up of particles and not hinder the flow of air from the mouthpiece into the lead pipe.

To clean a trumpet for instance I have a plastic box which I fill with warm water, to immerse the instrument, never use hot water apart from personal injury, it can also damage the lacquering and weaken joints. Dismantle the Instrument before immersing, remove all slides and remove the valves, but it is not necessary to dismantle the valves themselves. I put a little washing up liquid in the water to help loosen particles in the tubing while it is soaking.

After about half an hour use a double ended flexy brush to clean as much of the tubing as you can reach, never try to push it around the tight curves in the 1st, 2nd and 3rd slides or to push it through the valve casing from the outer slides. A valve casing brush is ideal for the valve casings. Only use a soft sponge to clean the valves.

Rinse the instrument completely to remove any excess soap and dry externally with a soft cloth. When rebuilding your instrument use slide grease on all slides and a suitable valve oil. If at any time you have difficulty removing a slide or the mouthpiece, never use a hammer or a door jam, just seek the help of a repairer.


Rob Morgan Trumpet Teacher (Kingston upon Thames)

About The Author

My love of the trumpet started at the age of nine & has been part of me ever since. It's a passion. As I tell my students it's not all about exam success but is also just the pure enjoyment of making music as a soloist or as part of an ensemble.




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