The Tadley Band
Instrument Care and Maintenance

General Care

Musical instruments, like most other bodies, collect dust and dirt. The inside of the instrument should be regularly and thoroughly washed out. Salts from the saliva and chemicals from hard tap water will dry and act as abrasives, but this can also be avoided if the inside is kept clean. An extra precaution would be to wipe valves clean of water after playing.

Keep the mouthpiece and mouth pipe scrupulously clean. This is the part that comes into direct contact with the mouth. Hygenic considerations apart, in a tapered tube, they are the narrowest part of the bore, where foreign matter will quickly collect, and if not removed will cause a partial blockage that will render the instrument difficult to blow, and can have a pronounced effect on intonation.

Do not be a party to the stupid slogan "more dirt - more tone". For best possible results the tubing is drawn to an accurate dimension for a required bore. If this bore is reduced and clogged by dirt, how can the instrument function properly ?

Brass instruments are liable to suffer in intonation through bruises or dents. A bad bruise may, according to its position, flatten a note, or notes, and sharpen others, but slight bruises (not to be encouraged, however) distributed over an instrument have not much effect.

Be sure that the corks and felts are properly maintained. Those on the valves not only govern the line-up of the valve ports to those on the tubing, thereby ensuring a clear bore, but prevent the valve action from becoming noisy. All valve slides should be kept greased to prevent them from setting, or becoming stuck fast in the instrument.


VALVES MUST BE KEPT CLEAN - Foreign matter that may enter the instrument will be blown on to, and caught up, by the valve. It may not seem very much, but when it is remembered that valves are fitted to decimels of a thousandth of an inch, even the minutest particle of soild matter is sufficient to stop up the valve.


Use a minimum amount of the thinnest and finest of oils. Modern valves are rendered sluggish if either saliva or a heavy oil is used. If the valves slow up after the first application (on a new instrument) continue to run the valve for a few minutes, and then wipe clean both the valve and the inside of the case, and oil again. If this simple operation is carried out with patience just two or three times, the valves will soon become "run in" and trouble free.

Be careful not to drop or knock the valves or casings. Any small distortion away from true can render them entirely useless. If an accident does occur and they become jammed, do not use force as this can add to any damage already sustained, consult a repair man. Grease the slides with slide grease or vaseline.

Trombone Slides

Each end of the stocking has been subjected to a micro-scale barrelling process. This, coupled with a special treatment of the outer slide, ensures the retention of a uniform film of lubricant between the stocking and the outer slide. Apply slide grease to the inner slide and work well in. When both inner slide and the inside of the outer slide are well greased, spray liberally with water. The grease should be a silicon based grease.

The playing slides are very delicate and require very careful handling, particularly when cleaning. First, remove the inner slides and wipe the outside clean. Then pass a weighted cord (not a long, straight weight, which will catch on the bend) with a piece of non-fluffy soft material at the opposite end, around the inside of the outside slide. This is mainly to clean out the bottom bow, into which a good deal of oil and grease is forced during the course of playing.

The straight slides can then be cleaned through with a cleaning rod. Again, pass the cord through to pick up anything that may have been left behind by the rod. The same rod can be used to clean the inside of the inner slides. Be extra careful about this, and make absolutely certain that you hold firmly the slide you are cleaning. If you hold one slide and force the rod through the other you may easily strain the slides out of alignment.

Finally, wash all the parts through with clean water to ensure that no pieces of material are left behind that might cause the slides to drag when re-assembled. Swill the bell section through with warm water, and dry out. If you have a rotary valve, lubricate the valve section. A small quantity of pure paraffin run down the tubing into the rotary will keep it free for quite a considerable time. It is a delicately balanced piece of machinery and, if running satisfactory, let well alone !. Never run the slides dry. Apply lubricant sparingly to the stockings at the bottom of the inside slides.


Do not lose sight that the instrument starts at the mouthpiece. Be very particular that the mouthpiece is suited to the instrument. It is quite true to say that an instrument is only as good as its mouthpiece. Too large a diameter and/or too deep a cup will tend to make an instrument woolly in sound and flat in pitch. Too small a mouthpiece, particularly on the larger instruments, will render the tone thin, and throttle the lower notes.

Always keep the mouthpiece secure with the instrument or in a wallet, and invest in a mouthpiece cleaning brush. Clean regularly.

This page was last modified on 22 November 2021