All Posts by Mark Flegg

How to Clean Your Trumpet

Cleaning your trumpet is a basic part of routine maintenance. If you want your instrument to sound its best and last a long time, you need to clean it regularly. I generally recommend that my students clean their horns out once every 6-8 weeks. You should plan to spend around 30 minutes or more the first few times you clean your trumpet. As you get used to the routine, it will take you less time. I can usually do the job in about 15 minutes including set-up and clean-up.

Although I don’t give instructions for it here, you should also clean your mouthpiece out with a Mouthpiece Brush. You should do this more often than cleaning out the entire horn. Once a week is a good rule of thumb.

Before you begin, it’s a good idea to prepare your workspace and assemble all the tools you’ll need for the job:

  • Sink or tub filled with moderately warm water — not too hot to touch, not too cold to be uncomfortable (I use a kitchen sink, but a bathtub or laundry tub works too… basically you need a space large enough to fit your entire trumpet and get it mostly under water). I usually add a small amount of dish soap (hand dish-washing soap, not dishwasher detergent, which can damage the plating)
  • Snake, for cleaning slides and leadpipe tubing.
  • Valve casing brush, for cleaning the valve casings (I prefer the H.W. Brass Saver Trumpet Cleaning Brushes for this)
  • Lubricants ([amazon_link id=”B0002E51XU” target=”_blank” container=”” container_class=”” ]slide grease[/amazon_link], [amazon_link id=”B0002F7IZ8″ target=”_blank” container=”” container_class=”” ]valve oil[/amazon_link]).

Shown here from left to right: HW Brass Saver valve casing brush and snake, regular snake, and regular valve casing brush.

Once you’ve got everything in place, it’s time to disassemble your trumpet. Start by removing the valves and setting them aside in a safe place (for me, this means out of reach of cats, who think it’s a lot of fun to knock them over and watch my entertaining reaction).

Next, remove all the slides. In the picture below you can see my C trumpet with the valves and slides removed. You can see the first, second and third valve slides, as well as the main tuning slide. Note that if your trumpet is a Bach Stradavarius Bb, the third valve slide can be separated into two parts.

BE CAREFUL WHEN REMOVING YOUR SLIDES! If they’re stuck, don’t force them out, or use pliers or other tools. It’s really easy to pull the tubing apart in places you didn’t intend to (ie: at the solder joints) and spoil an otherwise good day. If you can’t pull the slide out with medium level effort, finish cleaning your trumpet and take it to a professional repair person to have the slides pulled.

Watch out for small parts that are easy to lose while you’re taking the trumpet apart, and set them aside in a safe place. These parts can include third valve slide stopper nuts and screws, bottom valve caps, clip-on pencil holders, etc.

Now that your trumpet is in pieces, it’s time to start cleaning. I like to start with the slides first, soaking them in the water for a minute, then pulling the snake or brass saver brush through the tubing:

After snaking out each of the slides, carefully rinse them with fresh water to remove all soap residue, then dry and set them on the towel.

Next, place the main body of your trumpet into the water. Make sure the tubing fills with water and let it soak for a couple minutes. Then, clean out the various tubes. I like to use the snake on the leadpipe, an the thin end of the Brass Saver valve casing brush on the smaller tubes that enter the valve casings. Finally, I use the big end of the valve casing brush on the valve casings.

After you finish cleaning all the tubing, you can drain the water from your sink and carefully rinse the trumpet body. I find the spray nozzle on my kitchen sink works great for this, but be careful not to splash water all over the room!

Gently dry the trumpet and set it on a towel along with the slides. It can be helpful at this point to arrange the slides near the spots where they belong, especially if you’re new to the trumpet and aren’t totally sure where they go.

Before reinserting the slides, you’ll need to put some slide grease on them. I typically use two types of slide grease on my horns: For the main tuning slide I use [amazon_link id=”B003K7QIK6″ target=”_blank” container=”” container_class=”” ]Hetman Tuning Slide Gel[/amazon_link], and for the first and third valve slides I use [amazon_link id=”B0002E51XU” target=”_blank” container=”” container_class=”” ]Hetman Light Slide (Lubricant #4)[/amazon_link]

When you finish re-assembling the trumpet, it’s time to clean the valves. I like to use just a little dish soap and warm running water for this. It’s very important that you NOT get the top part of the valve wet! This is the part with the felt pads on it. If those felt pads get wet, they can compress and cause your valves to become misaligned. The only part of the valve that needs to be cleaned is the bottom section with the ports (those are the holes that line up with the various slides on the trumpet).

Make sure you carefully rinse of all soapy residue from the valves. DO NOT DRY YOUR VALVES! Drying the valves can end up leaving small traces of lint on the surface of the valve which can make them stick or slow down later on. Put a few drops of oil on each valve and carefully place them in their proper place (for more information on this, see the article “How to Oil Your Valves” elsewhere on this site).

At this point your trumpet should in great shape for your next practice session! Don’t forget to clean everything up behind you, and check the sink or tub for leftover trumpet slime.

Toledo Symphony

I’ll be performing Handel’s Royal Fireworks Music with the Toledo Symphony. From their website (Click to see it):

Stefan Sanderling leads the Toledo Symphony in some of the most recognizable melodies of the Baroque era. Handel’s Royal Fireworks Music has recovered from its disastrous premiere, when fireworks destroyed the outdoor stage, to become the music for many celebrations. Pachelbel’s famous Canon has accompanied celebrations of a different sort, being one of the most requested pieces for wedding processionals. It takes on a unique luster in the concert hall, particularly when paired with its companion-piece, the more boisterous but rarely-heard Gigue.

Two quartets are featured in the Classical works on the program. Mozart’s charming Serenata notturna features a solo string quartet, while Haydn’s Symphony no. 72 showcases the four French horns in a virtuoso setting that highlights the many possibilities of the then-brand-new instrument.

Website Redesign!

After many weeks of work, I’ve done a complete redesign of my website.

Over the past year or so I have been increasingly disappointed with PHPWebsite as the “back end” of my site. While it is a very powerful package, the documentation was so heavily geared towards programmers and hard-core site developers, I felt it would take too much time to implement any new features to the site. I also was concerned that it would be too difficult to upgrade to a new version of the software, which was a concern since my version was quite out of date, and was vulnerable to several possible security problems.

So, I went searching for a new system. I considered many options, including MS Front Page, Mambo, Drupal, and others, but have finally settled on WordPress. While it’s not as hugely full-featured as some of the other systems, WordPress seems to be much more suited to the “casual” website developer. It can be set up and operated with little or no programming involved, and there is a large base of documentation and community support available if and when problems arise. It is also heavily expandable through it’s “plugin” architecture.

For the last few weeks I’ve been working on the overall look and feel of the site, plus porting most of the content from the old site over to the new system. I’ve managed to do this almost entirely in 15 minute chunks of time while taking breaks from practicing the trumpet, so as not to disrupt my already busy schedule too much.

So, take a look around the site and see what’s here. Please check back regularly, as I plan to add content on a more regular basis now that I have tools in place to do so easily.


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