Has your new trumpet stopped feeling smooth? Do the keys feel creaky, have you experienced hang ups, or is the trumpet sound a little off?
If your trumpet is not playing smooth anymore, you should get it checked as soon as possible. However, you can avoid taking your instrument to professional technicians for maintenance by carrying out some routine maintenance by yourself.
When you know how to maintain a trumpet, you will not have to shell out loads of dollars for expensive maintenance at the music store. Moreover, you won’t have to wait for days or weeks to get your trumpet shining and in good condition.
There are a number of actions you can carry out to take care of your trumpet. Here are 4 trumpet maintenance tips that will keep your instrument in top condition.
1. Oil the Valves
Oiling the trumpet valves is a little complicated for any beginner. However, when you know how it’s done, you will realize it is actually a simple process.
You should oil the valves of your new trumpet every day. On the same note, you should change the oil of a new trumpet at least once a week. By lubricating the trumpet valves regularly during the first month, you will make your instrument get “accustomed” to all its parts. The parts will move smoothly and the trumpet will produce a better sound.
If you have a used trumpet (one that is one month or so), make sure you oil the valves every 2 to 3 days a week. The oil should be changed every couple of months.
Why should you oil the valves regularly?
The oil valve serves three main purposes:
- Keeps the parts of the trumpet airtight to prevent air escapes
- Keeps debris and dirt out. Any debris on the sides are flushed out by the smoothness of the oil
- Makes the keys and valves operate smoothly
These three functions ensure that your trumpet sounds good when you play.
Preparing to Oil the Valves
The best way of oiling the valves is when the trumpet is tilted at about 45 degrees downwards, like when you are playing. At this tilted angle, the oil drops will easily spread on the valve surface.
For convenience, you can mark the valves with numbers. For example, you may want to name the valve closes to your mouth as “valve 1” and the one furthest from the mouth but closes to the bell of the trumpet as “valve 3”. The valve in the middle will be “valve 2.
After you are done with this pre-oiling step, start oiling the valves one at a time. It is advisable to start oiling valve 3 as it will be easier to diagnose any air-flow problems. One simple way of diagnosing airflow problems after oiling a valve is by blowing gently through the trumpet. If the air flows gently, your instrument is good. If the air does not flow, take out the valve and clean it up again.
When you start oiling the valve furthest from the mouthpiece, it will not be necessary to remove all the other valves w when you want to test the airflow.
How to Clean the Oil Valves
The first step is to unscrew the valve cap (not the key button, but the ring piece that connects the trumpet key to the trumpet). Unscrewing the cap will make the valve loose and easily come out. When the valve comes out, you will see the internal parts: the valve (the lowermost part with the holes), the valve guide, and the spring.
Make sure you do not pull out the valve entirely. Also, do not try to rotate it. In case you rotate the valve, keep twisting it until it clicks back into place.
After removing the valve cap, apply 2 to 4 drops of oil around the valve. If you apply too many oil drops, the trumpet keys will become sticky and slow. On the other hand, too few drops will make the instrument creaky.
Check the specification of your valve to know how many oil drops you should apply.
Repeat the same process with the two other valves. If the trumpet keys (valves) move quickly and smoothly, this means you have oiled them correctly.
Apart from oiling the valves, change the oil. You have to take out the valves, clean them with a lint-free cloth, apply oil, and put them back in. The process of changing the oil is similar to that of oiling the valves, but with a thorough clean required before applying the oil.
It is important to change the oil to prevent gunk buildup from making your keys stiff.
2. Grease the Slides
Next, take out the four trumpet slides and apply some oil on the outer side of the tube. Make sure you smear the oil over as equally as possible using your finger.
After greasing a slide, put it back in place and try moving it. If the slide moves smoothly but not too loosely, you have greased it properly. Make sure the slides are not feeling too sticky nor moving too easily.
Repeat the process with the other slides.
It is important to grease the slides at least once a month to keep your trumpet operating smoothly and producing smooth sounds.
3. Clean the Inside of the Body
Cleaning the insider of the body of the instrument is another routine maintenance you should carry out. For this activity, make a solution of brass soap. The solution should have 10-15 parts warm water (30°C-40°C) to one part brass soap.
To begin, soak a flexible cleaning brush in the brass soap solution and use it to clean the inside of the trumpet tube. Remove all the dirt inside the tube and then wash off the brass soap using clean water. Next, dry the inside of the tube using a gauze. When the inside is fully dried, apply grease or oil in the tube.
4. Clean the Mouthpiece
Maintaining the mouthpiece is a simple procedure. Simply swab the mouthpiece diameter with a special mouthpiece brush anytime you feel like.
Alternatively, wash the mouthpiece by running it under hot water with a dish soap. After washing the part, wipe it clean and leave to dry.
Watch the video below for a guide on assembly, disassembling and daily trumpet maintenance activities:
5. Replace the Cork on Water Keys
Extended use of the trumpet will lead to the water key cork becoming soft. When not replaced, the cork will get damaged and the key will not be able to fulfill its role. Therefore, you should replace the cork occasionally.
You can buy a cork as a standalone product on Amazon or music stores. The replacement procedure is all a matter of attaching the cork to the water keys using a quick-setting adhesive.
If you wanted to learn how to maintain a trumpet, now you have everything you need to know. Follow the above procedures regularly and your trumpet will keep sounding great for years.