Did you know that the health and beauty of your brass instruments require extra special attention? It’s true-their well being and happiness depend upon it. While we’re not talking about putting your tuba on a weight-loss program or taking your trumpet to the spa for a makeover, you do need to treat your brass instruments with care or they’ll refuse to come out and play. So, grab that brass and get ready for a workout-it’s time to clean!
When was the last time you saw a dirty French Horn in the orchestra? Probably never, right? That’s because professional musicians know how to take daily, monthly, and yearly care of their instruments. Now’s your chance to do the same! Starting with daily care, follow these tips to maintain the health and beauty of your brass.
Note: Because brass instruments vary, be sure to learn the specific cleaning methods for your particular instrument. For example, rotor instruments like the French horns, rotor tubas, and rotor trombones should always be cleaned by an experienced repair person.
Once a week, lubricate the valves on your brass instrument. Simply unscrew the valve cap and draw out the valve half way. Using the appropriate lubricant, apply a drop of valve oil to the widest part of the valve. Then, press the valve back to its original position. The valves on most brass instruments have a “guide” that helps you to line up the valve. Most often, you’ll hear a *click* when you’ve got the valve perfectly aligned.
If you play a brass instrument, you know what happens after a good session of blowing. You know, “moisture” can build up inside of your instrument. If it’s not removed, this moisture can do a real number on the health of your instrument. To be sure you’ve removed all moisture from your instrument after you’re done playing, you’ll want do a final blow with the water keys opened. This should help to keep the insides of your instruments happy and dry.
No Fingerprints Please
To keep your brass shining, be sure to wipe down the outside of the instrument after each use. This will help remove oils and perspiration left by your hands.
To spare your brass from unsightly “bruises,” be sure to always store your instrument in its case when its not being used. Doing so will not only spare your brass from damage, but it’ll also keep your instrument clean. Remember, your instrument case is for your instrument; storing music books, cleaning supplies, or even your lunch inside the case can lead to all kinds of problems with the slides or valves of your instrument.
Once A Month It’s Thorough Internal Cleaning Time
To do this, you’ll need to take your brass apart completely. You’ll also need some supplies, including cleaning brushes, liquid soap, slide grease (if your instrument has slides), and valve oil. If you’re not comfortable with any of these steps, take your instrument to a music shop for a professional cleaning to keep it in tip top shape.
Head to your bathroom or kitchen sink and get ready to get dirty!
- Remove all slides, valves and valve bottom caps and place them, except for the valves, in warm, soapy water. Soak the parts in the water for 10 minutes
- As your parts are soaking, run warm water over your valves and use the valve brush to brush out all openings. Give your valves a good shake to remove excess water and let dry
- Depending on your type of instrument, you’ll want to brush all its tubes and compartments as well as the valve casings
- Rinse the entire instrument with warm water and be sure to wipe off any excess moisture with a soft cloth. Before moving on to the next step, you’ll want to make sure your instrument is completely dry
- If your instrument has slides, apply a little slide grease to each and put back together reassemble
- Replace the valves and apply a drop of oil on each to lubricate. Most valves are numbered, so be sure to put yours back in the correct location