Serving Central Indiana Since 1948


3 Ways to Take Care of Your Brass Instrument for Optimum Performance

trumpet music instrument

When you play a brass instrument, you must do some daily maintenance and routine cleaning to keep it in top form. Here are 3 tips you should keep in mind.

When you take up a brass instrument, such as the trumpet, trombone or euphonium, you get the lucky experience of being able to tote your instrument wherever you choose. You can look on in empathy at drummers and cello players with their humongous and heavy musical loads to bear.

However, brass instruments are not completely care-free. You must do some daily maintenance and routine cleaning to keep your instrument in top form. Practice the three tips listed below from your very first day as a brass player to enjoy your instrument for many years to come.

Keep the Case Clutter-Free, and Use It

Your instrument case is designed to safely hold your brass horn, your mouthpiece, your polishing cloth and a few tiny accessories. It is not intended to carry your music book, your notes or your homework. You should never throw snacks or writing implements into the case.

Paper, ink and other materials can damage the finish of your brass instrument. Unsecured hard objects in the instrument case can dent or damage the metal on your slides or other parts of your horn or trumpet.

Take the time to slowly remove your instrument from the case and carefully return it to its position after playing. Don't jam the instrument into the case. Don't set your instrument down in random places "just for a minute," but always place it in the proper case when not in use. One hard fall or hit from above with a heavy object, and your instrument can be damaged permanently.

Be Kind to Your Mouthpiece

Carefully remove your mouthpiece from the case and handle it gently. The mouthpiece may be made of metal, but that metal can be scratched or dented if handled carelessly. To disinfect your mouthpiece, you may use alcohol swabs or a special sterilizing spray.

When placing your mouthpiece into your instrument, insert it firmly. Make sure the mouthpiece and the tube are aligned straight. Once you have the mouthpiece inside the instrument, give the mouthpiece a gentle quarter turn in a clockwise direction.

It's not necessary to use your palm, a felt mallet or any other tool to force the mouthpiece to sit more securely in your brass instrument. You can damage the mouthpiece and your instrument by jamming the mouthpiece in harder than finger tight.

When removing the mouthpiece after play, gently twist it a quarter turn in a counterclockwise direction. Pull the mouthpiece out in a straight line. Never use pliers or any other tool to pull out a stuck mouthpiece. An instrument repair shop has the tools to safely remove a "stuck" mouthpiece.

Practice Daily Brass Hygiene

After playing your instrument, always do your daily cleaning ritual. Remove the mouthpiece and rinse it in lukewarm water. (Extra-hot water can ruin your instrument's finish, so keep the water temperature down.)

Set the rinsed mouthpiece aside to dry for a few minutes. Use that time to check your valves and slides. If any are sticking when you play, use valve oil or tuning-slide grease to loosen up the movements. Use the minimum amount of these lubricants to avoid buildup inside your instrument.

When working on your brass instrument, have a towel or soft cloth laid out on your table or countertop to cushion your instrument. Take pictures as you disassemble the valves and other parts if it's your first time doing so. Remember to set aside the springs and felts inside the valves as you lubricate the valves, since the springs and felts can be damaged by the valve oil or slide grease.

Once a month and before any shows, you need to disassemble and wash your instrument. Many musicians use a bathtub half full of lukewarm water. They may place a towel on the bottom of the tub to prevent scratches.

Plain dish soap, valve cleaners and a washcloth are used in the bath as the instrument parts soak. After rinsing, parts are dried, lubricated and reassembled. The entire instrument should then be careful polished until it gleams.

At Musicians' Repair & Sales, we include a small accessory kit with most instrument rentals. We also offer professional cleaning and polishing supplies for woodwind and brass instruments.