Trumpet Care And Maintenance – Comprehensive Guideline from a Pro

Trumpet Care And Maintenance – Comprehensive Guideline from a Pro

Did you just buy for your first trumpet, but now you have no idea how to take care of it?

Trumpet care and maintenance are essential for making your trumpet last a long time. Trumpets can last for decades and centuries if taken care of properly.

On the other hand, I’ve seen trumpets become destroyed in less than a year if cared for incorrectly.

It’s not hard or expensive to care for your trumpet, but you do need to know how to do it.

Lucky for you, I’m here to apply my over 20 years of trumpet playing to help you learn how to keep up on your trumpet maintenance.

Note: Before you dive into all of this information, it’s important to know all the parts of a trumpet. Check out my guide on the anatomy of a trumpet for more information. Also it’s worth noting that most of the information below applies to various trumpet types.

How do you take care of your trumpet?

Taking care and maintaining your trumpet requires some regular steps. In this section, we go over the important steps to keeping your trumpet in good shape and the tools you need to get this done.

The Care section contains information on the following:

  • Cleaning the body
  • Oiling valves
  • Greasing slides
  • Cleaning the mouthpiece
  • Emptying “spit” and water
  • Polishing
  • Professional checks

How To Clean A Trumpet?

When I talk about cleaning a trumpet, I’m referring to removing grime and buildup from the outside and inside of the horn.

Part of cleaning involves oiling valves and greasing slides, but since you’ll do those more often, they are in a separate section from this one. The same is true of the trumpet mouthpiece.

Another way of looking at cleaning a trumpet is to give it a bath.

How Often? I recommend you clean your trumpet four times per year up to once per month if you play regularly (or you or your child play it after eating!). If the trumpet’s been sitting for a while, give it a good clean every year if you can.

#1 How To Disassemble A Trumpet

You need to disassemble the trumpet to give it a bath.

Start by unscrewing the valves in a counterclockwise motion. Once those are out, remove the top of the valves with another unscrewing motion.

Pull the valves off the valve stems. Unscrew the top of the valve and gently remove the spring inside as well.

These cannot get wet. When wet the pads lose their shape and result in a clunking sound when press you down on the valves or, worse, damage and denting from metal on metal. The spring can also lose their finish and rust quicker when they’re soaking in water.

Next, put the valves back together without the pads and springs so you don’t lose parts.

Then, unscrew the bottom of the valves as well.

Finally, pull out all the slides. If the slides are stuck, check our advice in the sticky slide section below.

Pro-tip: Make a mental note or take a picture of the slides next to the tubes where they came from. This helps with putting them back in the correct place.

#2 Let It Soak

Fill a bathtub or large sink up with lukewarm water with a little of dish soap (just enough to get a bit of suds).

Place all the parts gently in the water and let them soak for about 5 minutes.

Pro-tip: When you first put the parts in, give each one a little of movement back and forth to get the water into quick contact with every interior and exterior surface of the horn.

#3 Run The Brush

Using your brush and bristles snake (such as these from Yamaha’s maintenance kit) it’s time to break loose any grime and buildup inside the trumpet.

Use the brushes to gently rub inside each of the slides, valves, and opening of the trumpet. Use a twisting motion to make sure you get everything.

These parts where the slides meet are the ones most likely to have gathered debris over time.

Then, take the snake and run it through every slide, valve casing, and “tube” of the trumpet body. Do this three times for each part.

The snake gets into the hard to reach places just like the drain snake a plumber uses. The deep interior of the slides don’t get as much buildup, but it can cause problems and corrosion over time.

#4 Lightly Scrub

Inside the water, use a soft washcloth to gently rub the outside of the trumpet parts. Don’t rub too hard or you could damage the finish.

Pay extra close attention to the outside of the valve casing where your hands are. This is the part of the trumpet exterior that has the most problems from contact with your sweat.

Here is another good time to swish the parts around a bit to knock loose any final bits of crud.

#5 Pat Dry

Take out your trumpets parts. Gently shake them over the water, so some water falls off.

Set the parts onto your soft towel and pat them gently dry. Don’t rub them with the towel too hard because it can wear off the finish.

Once that’s done, let them dry out in the sunshine through a window or next to a warm place (but not too hot).

#6 Oil And Grease

After everything has dried to the touch, you need to oil the valves and grease the slides.

This is covered in detail in the section below, but here’s a quick look at what you need to do.

Oil the valves:

  1. Drip drops of valve oil until every surface of the valve itself is covered.
  2. Insert the valve into the valve casing and move it up and down.

 Grease the slides:

  1. Take a dime-sized amount of slide grease on your index finger and rub it on the entire surface of the slide (but only the part that goes into the trumpet itself).
  2. Insert the slide into the receiver.
  3. Rub off the excess grease from the slide.
  4. Move the slide in and out.

#7 Reassemble

It’s now time to put your trumpet back together. It’s as easy as reversing the steps you took to put it back together.

Don’t forget to put the springs and valve pads back onto the valves. When you insert the valves, most modern trumpets include a small engraves number 1, 2, or 3 to help remind you which one belongs where.

Reminder: The valve closest to the mouthpiece end is the first valve.

After you insert the valves, turn the valve in place until it clicks and drops a fraction. Then, turn the valve cap until it is locked in place.

Don’t forget the bottoms of the valve casings. For these, they’re all the same, so it doesn’t matter which goes on which.

Bonus! At this point, you can also choose to polish the trumpet. Look below in that section for more information.

For another way to look at it, check out this video on cleaning a trumpet.

How Do You Oil Valves?

In this section, we go into detail on how to clean trumpet valves. This isn’t a complicated process, but there are methods that some suggest that are ineffective and waste the oil.

Be sure to read this carefully to make sure you’re oiling them in the proper way. Well oiled valves prevent long-term damage and encourage short and long-term function of the instrument.

How often? Depending on how much you play, I recommend oiling your valves once a day to once a week. Or if you notice the valves are sticking or grinding you need to oil them immediately.

#1 Get Your Valve Oil

The first thing you need to do is get valve oil. Trumpets often come with valve oil when you buy them, and valve oil also comes with most cleaning kits.

In my experience, it’s best to buy the valve oil separately from the rest of the Yamaha trumpet cleaning kit or trumpet. You can use the valve oil that comes as part of the package with no problems, but separate valve oil tends to have the following benefits:

  • It lasts longer between applications.
  • The valves are lubricated better and therefore function smoother.
  • There is more to the bottle of valve oil for the price.
  • The oil prevents corrosion better inside the valve casing.

Valve oils are easy to come by. The two I always recommend are Music Nomad and Blue Juice.

Music Nomad’s costs a little more than the other valve oils, but their formula just works better, longer, and smoother than the competition.

Blue juice also works well for a slightly lower price, and it’s blue colored which many young players find amusing. It actually seems to encourage them to use it more often which can protect the valves’ function for longer.

#2 Remove The Valve

After you’ve picked and gotten your valve oil, it’s time to get started. Now, you need to remove the valves.

Note: I recommend doing steps #2 through #5 with one valve at a time rather than removing all three at once.

Unscrew the top of the valve where it attached to the trumpet. Don’t unscrew the part where your fingers press down.

Pull the valve out completely. You can get away with only removing it a little, but I recommend taking it out all the way. This makes the next step easier.

#3 Apply The Oil

Take the top off of your valve oil. Holding the valve by the valve stem (the part you press down on) apply valve oil to the thicker, silver part of the valve. This is the part with the holes.

I recommend anywhere between 3-8 drops depending on how much oil comes out with each drop. Your goal is to coat the entire valve exterior with a light layer.

Note: Nothing will be hurt if you use too much valve oil. Just make sure to shake the valve a bit to remove the excess oil, so you don’t have to empty it out of the water keys later.

#4 Distribute The Oil In The Casing

To get oil in the casing you need to start inserting the valve back into the valve casing (the part where the valves go in the trumpet).

Don’t screw anything down or press them down all the way. Just insert the valve so it sits there loosely.

Now, move the valves up and down slowly while twisting the valve. This coats the interior of the casing and helps get the oil in hard to reach places.

Do this until it feels smooth and easy to do.

Note: If it seems difficult to do this or you hear/feel a grinding, remove the valve and apply some more oil. If you haven’t oiled the valves in a long time, you may need to do this a couple of times.

#5 Reinsert The Valve

Once everything is smooth, twist the valve in the casing until you feel the valve guide click and sink down a fraction. At this point, you should be able to press the top of the valve down as if you were playing.

Then, screw the top of the valve back onto the trumpet. Be careful not to cross thread it.

Congrats, you’ve now oiled your trumpet valves! This is the #1 thing you can do to maintain your trumpet.

Here is a video that further demonstrates how to oil valves.

How Do You Grease Slides?

Greasing slides is an important part of quality trumpet playing. While sticky slides are less noticeable than stuck valves, you need to be able to move your slides easily in order to tune properly and keep your trumpet clean.

How often? If you can grease your slides once a week when you’re playing regularly, your trumpet will stay in working order for decades without major problems.

#1 Remove The Slides

The first step is to remove all the slides. There are slides for each of the three valves as well as the main tuning slide.

When you remove the slides that attach to valves, make sure you press down that valve as you pull it out. Failing to do this results in suction that can make gunk build up deeper in the valves or, in the worst case, damage the valve.

If a slide is stuck, check out our advice on stuck slides below.

#2 Apply The Slide Grease

Take a dime-sized amount of grease on your finger and rub it onto the slide’s surface.

There are a lot of greases you can use including general grease. But I recommend using an instrument tuning slide grease like the Yamaha slide grease.

You should be covering the thinner part of the slide that goes into the trumpet. You don’t need to coat the exterior of the slide.

Repeat this process for each of the four slides. It’s OK to use a lot if you’d like to edge the side of too much.

Warning! Don’t use trombone slide grease! This is meant to move as light as air. You need a slightly thicker formula for tuning slides.

#3 Insert The Slides

Once every slide has been greased, reinsert the slides one at a time. Make sure to press down the matching valve for the valve slides.

As you push a slide in, there may be some excess grease that gathers around the edges. Wipe the excess off with a soft rag.

Do this with all four slides.

#4 Move In And Out

Gently move the slides in and out a few times before letting them be. This makes sure the entire slide and receiver are fully coated and ready with maximum lubrication.

Feel free to watch this video and see how it’s done visually.

How To Clean Trumpet Mouthpiece?

Cleaning a trumpet mouthpiece regularly is one of the most sanitary things you can do for your trumpet. It also affects the sound and playability of your trumpet.

The mouthpiece is where all the vibration occurs that is the key to your sound. It’s also the place that collects the most crud.

Pro-tip: Don’t play right after you eat or drink anything except water, and you won’t have to clean your mouthpiece as often.

How often? I recommend cleaning your mouthpiece out at least once a week OR as soon as you notice any buildup inside.

All you need to clean the trumpet mouthpiece is warm water and a mouthpiece brush like this one by Venture Brass on Amazon.

Remove your mouthpiece from the trumpet and go to a sink. Turn the sink on with warm water. I think about water that’s a little cooler than the temperature you wash your hands at.

Stick the mouthpiece under the stream of water, so the water runs through the middle of the mouthpiece.

Then, take the brush and run it in and out through the mouthpiece several times until you can see through the mouthpiece.

Pat dry with a towel and then let air dry completely.

Warning: Don’t put the mouthpiece back in the case wet. The moisture can cause the case padding to grow mold.

And that’s it! You just cleaned your trumpet mouthpiece.

What’s The Best Way To Empty The Spit/Water Out Of My Trumpet?

Moisture gathers in your trumpet’s tubing from your mouth and condensation. Most of the moisture that comes out the “spit valve” or water keys is actually just water, not spit.

There are usually two water keys: one on your main tuning slide and one on your third valve slide. There are put here because this is where the majority of your moisture gathers.

To empty the main tuning key, angle your trumpet down and hold open the key with one finger. Blow short but powerful puffs of air (don’t buzz) into the trumpet. Continue until water stops coming out.

To empty the third valve water key, you do the same thing with one exception: when you blow, you also have to press down the third valve.

This is because the valve must be pressed down for air to travel through that part of the slide.

Pro-tip: You can tell where the water is in your trumpet by blowing air into the horn while holding down each valve in turn. When you hear gurgling, the water is in that valve. If the water is in the first or second valves, blow until the water sound is gone and then empty it out the main water key.

How often? Every time you go to play and you hear popping where you blow through the trumpet, empty your water keys. If you have a long passage of play, it’s a good idea to empty the water before you play as well.

How To Polish Your Trumpet

Polishing a trumpet sounds like an important step in keeping your trumpet clean, and it is! But it’s not hard at all.

Most modern trumpets are made with a silver or clear lacquer finish. This layer of protection means that all you need to do to polish your trumpet is wipe away fingerprints, grease, and grime.

How often? Polish your trumpet every time you give it a cleaning as described above or whenever you feel like it.

To “polish” your trumpet, use a microfiber cloth or glove to rub the exterior of the trumpet and remove the fingerprints and grease.

I recommend the Bach trumpet polishing gloves. But, honestly, a microfiber cloth like the kind you have for your glasses work almost as well.

Warning! Don’t use any polishing chemical or rub on a lacquered trumpet. This may strip the lacquer and cause damage to the brass metal itself. If you think your trumpet has no lacquer, take it to a music shop and get it checked out first.

If you need to see a video on the topic, check this quick one out.

Annual Shop Check

Even with all of this upkeep, it’s still a good idea to send your trumpet in once a year for a checkup. This is just like how people should go to the doctor for their annual.

The music shop can help with problems beyond your control like dents, bent valve stems, or corroded tubing.

However, by doing all the above care regularly, you can avoid major problems down the road.

How To Fix Trumpet Problems

No matter how careful you are and how well you care and maintain your trumpet, there are always problems that arise from normal wear and tear or accidents.

Beginners may want to just trust the experts, but professionals and advanced players should know how to do this. And if you’re looking for the best professional trumpets you can check out our reviews at the link.

You can fix some of these problems with little effort, but some require extra help. In this section we offer advice on how to fix the following problems:

  • Sticky valves
  • Sticky slides
  • Stuck mouthpiece
  • Lost or damaged cork for water keys
  • Dents

How To Fix Sticky Trumpet Valve

If a trumpet valve is stuck in the down or up position and won’t come out to be oiled, you have to fix the sticky valves.

This isn’t a hard process, but if you feel uncomfortable with it, you can always take it to a music store.

Be sure to read the directions carefully to avoid damaging your valves.

#1 Remove The Bottom Caps

The first step is to remove the bottom end caps of the valve in question.

If this is stuck as well, cover the cap with a cloth or towel and apply gentle force with a pair of pliers until it comes off.

#2 Reverse Oil The Valves

Use your valve oil to oil the valves from underneath. Make sure you drip the oil on the sides of the interior of the valve casing.

Pouring the oil straight down the middle won’t help. Twist your trumpet body to help the oil go down the edges of the casing and valve.

#3 Unscrew The Top Valve Caps

Unscrew the top of the valve caps until they’re free (use the same cloth-plier method if these are stuck as well).

#4 Pull Out The Valve OR

Pull on the valve cap NOT the finger button to see if the valve comes out. Most of the time with the valve oil, the valve comes out at this point.

If it comes out, skip to step #5.

If it still doesn’t come out, go to step #4.5

#4.5 Tap Out The Valve From Below

With a stuck valve after these steps, you need to get a bit more forceful. If you follow this step carefully, you won’t damage your valve.

But if you want to take your trumpet in at this point, don’t be ashamed!

Remove the finger button and the valve cap from the top of this valve. Also, remove the slide associated with this valve.

Use a wooden dowel and a rubber mallet to gently tap the valve from below. The easier, the better.

With enough gentle tapping and valve oil, it will get knocked loose eventually. Once this is done, you can move on to step #5.

Warning! Tap gently, gently, gently. Never tap the valve directly with a hammer.

#5 Oil The Valves Properly And Reinsert

Go through the normal oiling steps once the valve is out. Reinsert the valves while twisting to make sure the valves are well lubricated.

Twist the valve until you hear the click and settling that means the valve guides are in place. Then screw the valve and bottom caps back on.

If the valves won’t push up or down at this point, you should take the valves in. This likely means that something is seriously bent or dented.

Even though this video involves a euphonium, the process is exactly the same.

How To Fix A Stuck Trumpet Slide

Sticky trumpet slides are the most common problem that can result in serious damage to your trumpet. Not only does it affect the tuning of your trumpet, but the buildup and corrode the metal of your trumpet and damage it permanently.

When a slide is too stuck to remove, follow these steps carefully for an easy fix.

#1 Use Penetrating Oil

When a slide is stuck, the metals between the slide and receiver have no liquid or lubrication between them. A penetrating oil is needed to get into the space and lubricate the slide.

Believe it or not, I recommend WD-40 with a smart straw to do this. There are others available, but this one is the most effective in my experience.

Note: If you choose to use WD-40, make sure you give your trumpet a bath when you’re done.

Spray the edges of the slide where you can get at it. You want it to get into the slide as much as possible. Don’t overdo it because a little goes a long way.

#2 Brush The Corrosion

Use a gentle brush to scrub off any visible corrosion while the penetrating oil does its work. Don’t use a hard-wire brush, just wipe at it and see what you can get off.

#3 Give It Time

Wait for the oil to soak in. Give it 2-5 minutes.

#4 Pull On The Slide

Grab the slide where you can and give the slide a few firm, quick tugs. This is better than pulling with constant pressure.

At this point one of three things will happen:

  1. The slide comes out. Go to step #5.
  2. The slide comes out partially. Go to step #4.5.
  3. The slide doesn’t move. Go to step #4.5.

Warning! Don’t use pliers at any point on the slides. They could crumple the slides and cause damage beyond your ability to repair.

#4.5 Repeat If Needed

If the slide doesn’t move or only comes out partly, reapply more penetrating oil and give it more time before trying again.

If you keep trying and it remains stuck, you may want to take it to a music store.

#5 Clean The Trumpet

After the slide is out, clean your trumpet by giving it a bath as described in the article above.

Pay close attention to the brush and snake during the cleaning process. Do this step a few extra times to knock as much debris and corrosion out as possible.

#6 Grease The Slides

Using the process described in the above section to grease the slides.

Here is a quick rundown of that:

  1. Take a dime-sized amount of slide grease on your index finger and rub it on the entire surface of the slide (but only the part that goes into the trumpet itself).
  2. Insert the slide into the receiver.
  3. Rub off the excess grease from the slide.
  4. Move the slide in and out.

Check out this video for a demonstration.

How To Remove A Stuck Trumpet Mouthpiece

Getting a trumpet mouthpiece stuck is one of the most common problems that occur with trumpets, but it’s also one that results in the most damage if you try to fix it improperly without the correct tools.

Why does this happen? If the trumpet is accidentally dropped or hit, this may happen. It could also happen if the trumpet hasn’t been cleaned and the debris inside “cements” the mouthpiece in place.

Warning! Don’t ever use a pair of pliers or a vise grip to try to remove a stuck mouthpiece.

#1 Get A Mouthpiece Puller

The first thing you must have is a mouthpiece like this one by Bobcat on Amazon.

Mouthpiece pullers are specially designed to remove stuck mouthpieces without damaging the mouthpiece or the trumpet, and they work on all brass instruments.

#2 Set It To The Right Size

Manually adjust the two plates on the mouthpiece puller so the cup fits into the mouthpiece cup and the lower plate jaws fit on the mouthpiece just above the receiver part of the trumpet.

Note: Make sure the upper plate is even on the bolts by twisting the bolts until they are set.

Close the jaws on the bottom plate as tight as you can and then tighten the screws on the bottom of the mouthpiece puller.

#3 Twist to Lengthen The Top Plate

Twist the ends of the bolts to lengthen the distance between the top and bottom plate. Do two twists on one bolt and then two twists on the other.

Continue alternating until the mouthpiece comes out. This may take some time and pressure.

If the puller keeps slipping off, you’ve probably attached the jaws onto the main part of the trumpet instead of on the mouthpiece just above the receiver.

The way the puller works is to gradually and gently increase pressure by pulling on the mouthpiece while pushing on the leadpipe receiver on the trumpet.

#4 Check For Dents In The Leadpipe

Once the mouthpiece is out, check the receiver and leadpipe for dents. This is what may have caused it to get stuck.

If there are dents, you may need to take the trumpet into a music shop for repairs.

You may also notice buildup inside the receiver as well. Make sure to give your trumpet regular cleanings (as described above) for long life.

If you want to watch it in use, feel free to check out this video.

Replacing Cork On Spit Valves

A natural problem that happens over time when the spit valve or water key corks break or stop sealing. Without a good seal, air leaks out of your slide creating a whispery sound when you play.

When you notice the cork not sealing, breaking, or having fallen off, it’s time to replace the cork.

Music stores can do this as part of your yearly check-up for cheap (or free), but if you want to do it yourself here’s a quick rundown on how to do it.

This is good information to have in case your cork falls off before a concert and you can’t get to a store to replace it.

#1 Remove The Old Cork

To start, use something sharp like a needle or knife to pry out the old cork. Many times, it’s already fallen out, so you may want to skip this step.

Pro-tip: Make sure every part of the old cork is out or the new one may not seal properly.

#2 Insert The New Cork

Take your new cork which you can get at a music store or you can buy them by the dozen like these Bach trumpet watery key corks on Amazon.

There are now two ways to insert the corks:

  1. Use a large cork and force it into the space, so it holds by friction. This is the preferred method because they are much easier to replace.
  2. Dab a little hot melt glue like this one by Wrea onto the cork and insert it into the space. This holds in better, but it requires a little more work when you have to replace it later.

Warning! If you’re going to use glue, use hot melt glue like the kind from a glue gun for crafts. This way when you need to replace it again, it’s easier to remove the glue by heating it up again and wiping it off.

#3 Test The Seal

Close the water key and give it a gentle press closed. This helps to seat the cork.

You can test the seal in a couple of different ways.

The most effective way is to remove the slide (make sure press down the third valve before removing the third valve slide). Then you cover one end of the slide with your palm and suck on the other end.

If you can’t suck, it’s sealed. If you can and some air comes through, it’s not sealed.

The other method may be “less gross” because you won’t accidentally get any slide grease on your lips. For this method, just play a long note as loud as you can and listen/feel for any air leakage.

This method is less accurate but still effective. Make sure you’re pressing down the third valve if you’re working on the third valve water key.

#4 Let It Dry/Sit

If you used glue, you need to let the glue dry in place for a while before messing with it again. You can use a rubber band or string to hold it in place while it dries as well.

Note: Make sure there is no extra glue that has seeped out of the edges. You don’t want to glue your water key to the trumpet.

If you did the natural method (which I recommend), it’s still a good idea to tie a rubber band or string to hold it tightly in place for a while, so that it fits more securely.

To watch the process, check out this video on changing a water key or spit valve cork.

Trumpets Dents

Many people are often overly worried about the dents that their trumpet may collect. This is usually due to an accidental collision.

In some cases, these dents are merely cosmetic and don’t require fixing. The general rule of thumb is this:

If the dent takes up less than half the space of the tubing interior, it doesn’t affect the sound.

 If the dent is larger than this or you want it fixed for cosmetic’s sake, then you need to send it into a professional. Search your local music store or ask your nearby band director for recommendations.

Warning! Don’t try to fix it on your own no matter how skilled you are at metalwork. Instruments can be delicate things, and if you repair it incorrectly, you may damage the instrument beyond functional repair.

Conclusion

These instruments can last almost forever with proper trumpet care and maintenance.

All of this also applies to cornets. If you’re not sure which is better, look for more information in our article on Cornet vs. Trumpet.

Knowing how to clean the trumpet parts regularly and fix basic problems is only a part of being a good trumpet player, but this guide can help you keep your instrument working for a long time.

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Trumpet Care And Maintenance - Comprehensive Guideline from a Pro
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