Your trumpet might be a great musical instrument, but it is also a piece of machinery. It has moving parts. And wherever there are moving parts, there are potential problems if they don’t get the correct maintenance.
Without the proper maintenance, your trumpet will just not operate as it should do. How long it is before this occurs will vary, but it will happen. And like most things that are not maintained, you could end up with a big bill for replacing deteriorating parts.
Maintenance is Part of Owning a Trumpet
Having an instrument like a trumpet demands some care and looking after. It goes with the instrument. For those who find that sort of operation rather daunting, I am going to walk you through all the stages, including the equipment you will need.
Additionally, maintaining a trumpet will mean that it needs to be regularly oiled to keep valves and slides all working correctly. It will also need a good clean as we are going to look at here, about every three to four months. This will depend to a certain extent on the amount you use it. So, it could be less than three months.
Musicians Need To Care For Their Instruments
That applies to all instruments, but instruments like the trumpet have special requirements for their maintenance. But there is a way of doing these things to ensure you don’t damage it in any way.
Like most things to do with music, properly cleaning a trumpet is a skill that needs to be acquired. The first few times might be painfully slow until you get familiar with what you are doing. But once you are familiar with how it all happens and in what order, it won’t take you longer than 20 minutes.
One last word of caution. If you have a silver-plated trumpet, the cleaning process is different from lacquered instruments. Okay, let’s get started with how to clean a trumpet.
What Equipment Will You Need?
There isn’t much in the way of equipment. And with some articles, you can use a variety of implements providing they won’t damage the trumpet.
Cleaning the insides of the Slides
You will need what is referred to as a “cleaning snake” to clean out the insides of the slides. I have enclosed an example below, and you will see they are very cheap to buy. You will also find them as a part of any trumpet cleaning package.
As an alternative, if you have a pipe cleaner that is the right size, that might also suffice. But you will need to use it with care. The snake cleaner is designed to do the job and is always the best bet, such as this Libretto Trumpet (Cornet) Flexible Bore Snake Brush.
Cleaning the Valve Casings
When we get to the procedure of actually cleaning, one of the first things we do is to immerse the trumpet in water. Don’t panic; I will go back to that in more detail later.
For cleaning out the valve casings, it is best to perform this after the trumpet has been in the water. This will help remove all the unwanted stuff, and there might be quite a bit, from the inside.
This process is performed using a straight brush, such as this Yamaha YAC 1083P Nylon Valve Casing Brush. It’s is available as a single item, as you can see but will also usually be included in a trumpet cleaning kit.
Cleaning the Mouthpiece
This is a brush that is similar to the brush to clean the valve casings but is arranged in a Christmas tree shape. Using this brush isn’t just limited to your major clean. It is something you can use regularly to keep the mouthpiece clean.
As this piece of the trumpet goes in your mouth, that might be a reasonable thing to do to keep it as clean as possible. Similar to most equipment, it will be included as part of a cleaning kit. However, if you just want this piece, you can get them as a single item, such as this Venture Brass Mouthpiece Brush.
How To Clean a Trumpet – Other Items You Will Need
When it comes to placing the trumpet in the water, you can use any soap you use for dishes if it is quite mild. Do not use powerful cleaners.
When you are in the process of putting your trumpet back together, you will need to apply some oil to the valves. There are plenty of options to choose from, and you will find some that have a particular smell.
It is a little bit of trial and error to find the one you prefer, but they all do the job about the same. My personal favorite is Dillon Valve Oil.
Grease for the Slides
The final requirement is some grease to lubricate the valve and tuning slides. Once again, there are plenty of options to choose from. They are not expensive, for example, Libretto Premium Brass Slide Grease Stick.
The Trumpet Cleaning Kit
I have mentioned a couple of times about trumpet cleaning kits. You can get the equipment you need to clean a trumpet as individual items, as I have said. But it can be best to get all you need in one purchase. Trumpet cleaning kits save a lot of hassle. An example of such a kit is this Yamaha Trumpet/Cornet Maintenance Kit.
Its Cleaning Time
The first thing you need to do is to take the trumpet apart. Let me remind you that the trumpet looks like a rugged instrument, but it has some very delicate parts. Treat each part gently. Also, do not remove the “Water Key” or any part loaded with a spring. I will go back to that later.
Remove the Valves
- Keep them in a safe place away from potential damage.
- Don’t drop them, and don’t separate them.
- Don’t use force if a valve is stuck; get help from a professional if it is stuck.
Remove The Slides
- Remove them one at a time commencing with the first.
- The tuning slide should be the last you remove.
- Again don’t apply too much force to remove them; they should come out reasonably easily.
Clean the Tubes and the Slides
- Choose somewhere to wash the trumpet where you can completely submerge it.
- Fill your sink or the container you are using to wash the trumpet with warm water.
- Apply a small amount of soap, just a few drops.
- Put the slides in the water and let them soak for two minutes.
- Clean the insides using the cleaning snake.
- Rinse away any residue, dry, and leave them to dry thoroughly.
The Body of the Trumpet
- Completely immerse the trumpet in the soapy water and leave to soak for two minutes.
- Pass the snake through the tubing.
- Take the valve casing brush and pass it through the casings several times.
- Rinse out the trumpet in fresh warm water and let it dry thoroughly.
Cleaning The Valves
Up to this point, you have been completely submerging the trumpet and its parts in water. You must now take care not to do that with the valves. Part of the assembly of the valve units includes felt pads, and they must be kept dry at all times.
Getting them wet will mean they will lose their ability to absorb contact, and they will have to be replaced.
- Clean the valve ports using the cleaning snake.
- Rinse with soapy water.
- Ensure that no sharp surfaces on the snake scratch the inside of the ports.
As the Bell has no moving parts or needs any oil or grease, I shall deal with cleaning that later.
Finally, Put It All Back Together
- The first stage of reassembly is to apply oil to the valves.
- Then apply oil to the first and third slides.
- Reassemble those parts.
- Use your grease on the main tuning slide.
- Apply grease to the second valve slide and reassemble.
- Do not apply grease to the third valve slide, as this affects the playing performance.
When It Is All Back Together
After allowing it to dry thoroughly and assembling it then you can bring it to a great shine using a dry soft polishing cloth. I shall deal with applying polish in a minute.
Some Extras To Remember
There are some important things to remember when cleaning a trumpet.
Let’s just briefly return to starting to take the trumpet apart for cleaning. When you disassemble your trumpet, do not remove any triggers that may have a spring. An example of this would be the “Water Key.”
These components need a special key and someone that knows what they are doing to refit. They are very difficult to put back in place without the right equipment.
Let’s return to the Bell of the trumpet and its cleaning. To clean the Bell, it simply takes a cloth dampened with soapy water. Wipe it carefully inside and out, and then allow it to dry before using a soft cloth to polish.
The water you use mustn’t be too hot. The trumpets’ finish can be delicate, and water that is too hot could damage it.
If you have a silver-plated trumpet, then you can use silver polish to remove any external tarnishing or grime. But you should never use polishes on instruments with a lacquer finish. The polish contains ingredients that could damage the lacquer and ruin the look of your trumpet.
Are you thinking of Buying a New Trumpet?
Also, have a look at our detailed reviews of the Mendini by Cecilio Gold Trumpet, the Mendini by Cecilio MTT-L Trumpet, the Yamaha YTR-2330 Standard Bb Trumpet, the Yamaha YTR-2335 Bb Trumpet, and the Jean Paul USA TR-330 Standard Student Trumpet for more great instruments currently available.
And don’t miss our handy article on What’s the Difference Between a Cornet and Trumpet and Are Eastar Trumpets Any Good for more great information about trumpets.
How To Clean A Trumpet – Final Thoughts
So, there we are. You have completed maintenance on your instrument that will ensure it stays in good working order. As I said earlier, it takes practice for you to become adept at the process. As you perform this essential maintenance, it will get quicker and get much easier.
Until next time, let your music play.