Cleaning your trumpet is a basic part of routine maintenance and any in home trumpet instructor would suggest that you know how to do it yourself. If you plan on your instrument lasting a long time with the best sound it can have, you will need to clean it regularly. It is recommended that students clean their horns out once ever 6-8 weeks. The entire process is about 30 minutes or so and is quite simple!
Your mouthpiece is the part of your horn (for any instrument) that should be properly cleaned out more often specially after long hours of trumpet lessons. Once a week is generally a good rule of thumb. For the trumpet, there is a mouthpiece brush that would be helpful! You can simply run warm water through and around the mouthpiece and gently scrub with the brush.
- Fill a sink or tub with luke-warm water (bathroom sinks may be too small, try a bathtub or laundry tub). The space will need to be big enough to fit your entire trumpet and get it mostly under water. Add a small amount of soap (hand soap, not dishwasher detergent- this can damage the plating) need.
- Snake for cleaning the slides and lead pipe tubing
- Valve casing brush for cleaning the valve casings (these are recommended from most trumpet instructors)
- Lubricants (slide grease and valve oil)
Once you have everything ready, it is time to take apart the trumpet!
- Start by removing the valves and setting them aside in a safe place
- Remove all of the slides- BE CAREFUL WITH THIS ONE!
- If they are stuck, do not force them out, use pliers or any other tools! It’s really easy to pull the tubing apart in places you didn’t intend to and damage the horn. If you can’t pull the slide out with medium level effort, finish cleaning your trumpet and take it to a professional repair person to have the slides pulled.
- If your trumpet is a Bach Stradavarius Bb, the third valve slide can be separated into two parts.
- Watch out for small parts, they are easy to lost while taking your trumpet apart. These include your third valve slide stopper nuts and screws, bottom valve caps, clip-on pencil holders, etc.
Now that your instrument is in pieces, it is time to start cleaning!
- Begin with the slides first, soaking them in the water for a minute.
- Pull the snake or brass saver through the tubing
- After snaking the slides, rinse them with fresh water to remove soap suds, dry and set on a towel.
- Place the main body of your trumpet into the water. Make sure the tubes fill with water and let it soak for a few minutes.
- Begin cleaning out the various tubes. You can use either the snake or the smaller brush for each opening.
- After you finish cleaning all of the tubing, carefully rinse the entire body. Gently dry your trumpet and set it on the towel with your slides. This is a good time to arrange your trumpet matching up the slides to their proper spots.
- To clean your valves, you will use a small amount of dish soap and warm running water. It’s very important that you NOT get the top part of the valve wet! This is the part with the felt pads on it. If those felt pads get wet, they can compress and cause your valves to become misaligned. The only part of the valve that needs to be cleaned is the bottom section with the ports (those are the holes that line up with the various slides on the trumpet).
- Make sure you carefully rinse of all soapy residue from the valves. DO NOT DRY YOUR VALVES! Drying the valves can end up leaving small traces of lint on the surface of the valve which can make them stick or slow down later on.
- Before we put the trumpet back together, we need to grease our slides. You will not need a lot for this! Keep this in mind- “A dot is a lot!” We will only enough for a thin coat. An effective way to spread it evenly is to place the grease on one side of the slide at a time and insert only that half into the trumpet and rotate it around.
- After all slides are greased, you can insert them all and wipe off excess grease that may slide out.
- If your first and third valve slides are too stiff, mix a drop or two of valve oil with the grease.
- Now that your valves are dry, put a few drops of oil on each valve and carefully place them in their proper place (for more information on this, see the article “How to Oil Your Valves” from Mark Flegg.
Congratulations! You have successfully cleaned your trumpet! This process is almost identical for all brass instruments. Of course, it is always good to ask your In Home Music Lessons Instructor for their instrument-specific recommendations.
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