How to Maintain Brass Instruments

Maintaining brass instruments will ensure that your instrument stays in prime condition and responds appropriately and reliably in performances. Brass maintenance routines should be completed regularly to help prevent problems before they occur. Procedures must be followed on an ongoing basis. Knowing these procedures and how to perform them will save you time and money in the long run because you're more apt to avoid costly repairs and shouldn't have to spend time trying to salvage a poorly maintained instrument.

Regular Maintenance 

Step 1 Use a cloth to wipe off your mouthpiece after each use. Before putting the instrument in the case, use a mouthpiece brush to quickly scrub the shank of the mouthpiece. Identify the shank by finding the long portion of the mouthpiece that fits into the lead-pipe.

Step 2 Choose an appropriate polishing cloth for your instrument. Brass instruments need a brass polishing cloth. After each practice session, polish the length of the instrument quickly with a polishing cloth before you place the instrument in its case. This will remove dirt, grime and oils from the instrument.

Step 3 Apply slide cream to your instrument if you have a trombone. Remove the outer slide and place a small amount of slide cream on the inner slide. Spread the cream with your hands along the length of the slide. With a spray bottle, wet the slide and replace the outer slide. Move the slide up and down to lubricate the slide evenly.

Step 4 Grease the tuning slides of your instrument on a weekly basis. Remove the slide from the instrument and apply slide grease along the tuning slide. Spread the slide grease with your hand and insert it into the brass tubing. Pull the slide in and out while depressing the valves to avoid pressure buildup. Remove any excess grease with a cloth.

Step 5 Remove the valves on valved instruments and apply valve oil to the outside of the valves. Place the valves back inside the instrument and press each valve several times to distribute the oil.

Monthly Maintenance 

Step 1 Bathe your instrument monthly using a bathtub filled with water and 1/4 cup of dishwashing liquid. You can also fill a large container with water but the bathtub makes this process easier. Remove all slides, springs, valves and valve caps prior to putting the instrument in the bath. Set these items aside on a cloth or towel.

Step 2 Place the main body of the brass instrument inside the tub. Using a snake, run the snake through the instrument tubing. Use a valve brush to clean out the inside of the valves. Clean the outside of the instrument with a soft cloth while in the tub.

Step 3 Rinse the instrument, dry it off and allow any additional water to drain by placing it on its side on top of a towel.

Step 4 Clean each of the slides in the bathtub by submerging them under water and using a snake to clean the inside of the tubing. Gently clean the outside of the tubing with a cloth. Clean the valves in the same manner, using a valve brush to clean the holes of the valves. Be very careful to avoid scratching or dropping the valves.

Step 5 Dry the parts thoroughly, reassemble the instrument and then complete the steps in regular maintenance to finalize your maintenance routine.


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