LOOKING AFTER YOUR BRASS INSTRUMENT
Your instrument is a precisely made piece of engineering. If carefully looked after, it will give you years of trouble-free playing. Follow these simple guidelines for looking after your instrument.
1. KEEP IT IN ITS CASE
When not in use, keep the instrument in its case, as that is the safest place for it. Most accidents happen when the instrument is left unattended out of its case.
2.BE GENTLE WITH YOUR MOUTHPIECE
The mouthpiece should not be pushed into the instrument with any force; a gentle twist is all it needs to stay in place. If it does become jammed in the instrument, take it to your repairer who will have a special tool for removing the mouthpiece without damaging it. Don't try to remove it yourself! Expensive repairs can be caused this way.
3. NEVER EAT BEFORE PLAYING!
Your mouthpiece should be cleaned often, with a mouthpiece brush, under running water. It tends to collect dirt, which can then be blown down into the instrument, eventually interfering wiht the valves or slides.
Never eat just before playing. Food particles will be blown into your instrument and will begin to smell after a while. It's not only unhygienic, but can corrode the inside of your instrument if it's left too long.
4. CLEANING PISTON VALVES
On instruments with piston valves (i.e., everything except the slide trombone and French horn) the valves need regular lubrication with valve oil.
One at a time, remove the valves by unscrewing the cap at the top of the valve chamber. Clean the valve with a clean, non-fluffy cloth to remove old oil. Check inside the valve casing. If it looks dirty, remove the cap at the bottom of the valve and pass a cloth through. (Take care not to scratch the inside of the valve casing.) Then put the bottom cap back on. Apply several drops of oil into the valve and insert into its casing. Turn gently until the valve guide clicks into place. Replace the top valve cap, and work the valve up and down a few times to distribute the oil evenly.
5. CLEANING ROTARY VALVES
On instruments with ROTARY valves (French horns, and some trombones) the valves require regular lubrication with rotary valve oil. Unscrew the domed valve cap and apply a few drops to the central spindle. Replace the valve cap, and work the valve to distribute the oil. When in use, if the marks on the valve do not align with the mark on the casing, take the instrument to your repairer for adjustment. A little oil may be applied to the joints of the lever. Don't attempt to dismantle a rotary valve! They are troublesome to replace without the correct knowledge and tools.
The action of a slide trombone requires regular lubrication to ensure a smooth action. To clean, remove the outer slide and wipe the inner slides with a clean, non-fluffy cloth. Fill the slide with warm soapy water and work up and down a few times. A flexible cleaning brush will help get any grime out of the bow section. Rinse with clean water. If you use slide cream, apply a little to the tops of the stockings of the inner slide (the slightly larger section at the end of the inner slide.)
Replace the outer slide. (Check that the slide lock is the correct way round.) Work the slide up and down to distribute the cream fully. If you use different slide lubrication, follow the instructions that come with it. For final lubrication, pull out the inner slide and spray liberally with water. Apply more water whenever necessary. To prevent accidents, always lock the slide when the instrument isn't being played.
7. TUNING SLIDES
All brass instruments have tuning slides, which also need lubricating. If any of them are difficult to remove, remove them, wipe them clean and apply tuning slide grease. work in and out to distribute, and remove and excess.
If they are really stuck, don't force it! You may damage the tubing by trying to remove it, so take it to your repairer, who will have the correct tools to do this.
8.THE 6-MONTHLY BATH
About twice a year the entire instrument should be given a bath. Washing up liquid can damage the lacquer; instead, use a capful of mild disinfectant such as Milton fluid (NOT TOILET BLEACH!)
You can get long and flexible brushes from your music shop, to clean the longer or more awkward tubes. Dry the instrument with kitchen roll or non-fluffy cloth, and reassemble, lubricating all the valves and slides as indicated above. Don't try to remove rotary valves!
You can remove fingerprints from the instrument with a clean, soft cloth. If desired, you can bring lacquered instruments to a shine using silicon based furniture polish, but take great care not to get any polish on the moving parts.
You can polish silver-plated instruments and keys with a silver cloth, which can be bought in most supermarkets. Don't use silver/brass cleaner (such as Brasso) as this is abrasive and may damage valves and slides.
Small dents in the instrument will not affect it, but larger dents will alter the instrument's tuning. Your repairer can advise on this.
YOUR REPAIRER IS HERE TO HELP
If you have any problems with your instrument, do contact a qualified repairer who will be happy to advise and assist you. All instruments go wrong once in a while, but if you look after them carefully you can make visits to your repairer less frequent.