HOSTS- Jeremy Burns, Matthew Scott Phillips


TYPE- Special Topics




BUMPER MUSIC- "Facets of Being" (Matthew Scott Phillips)

ANNOUNCER- Mike Cunliffe  


We don't show enough love to our good horn section and other brass players! We're going to start making that right with a discussion on the general care and maintenance for the tuba, trombone, euphonium, horns, trumpet and other brass instruments! We will discuss their mechanics, routine cleaning suggestions and how to keep them sounding shiny and brassy!


Photo credits: dreamstime.com


1. SLIDE- On this type of brass instrument, the notes are produced by lengthening or shortening an elongated bended tube. The trombone is the most common example.


2. VALVE- The valve instruments produce different pitches by rerouting air into new tubes, there by increasing tube length. The PISTON VALVE drops a hole, in the valve, over the passagw to another tube. The ROTARY VALVE follows the same principle of air diversion. But it rotates the valve over the air passage instead of dropping them into place. This allows for smoother transitions between notes.


-MOUTH PIECE- From mouth to instrument, you have the RIM, the CUP and the SHANK. The shank attaches to the LEAD PIPE.


-LEAD PIPE- The lead pipe connects the mouth piece and moves it's vibrations to the VALVES.


-VALVES- The valves contain holes that reroute the air through different tubes. In their resting position, they are one note. When you press the valve in, the air travels through a longer length of tube. This lowers the pitch.


-TUNING SLIDE- You can use this to slightly adjust the length of this tube, thereby making mild adjustments on the overall pitch of the tube. The tuning slide can also be pulled out for spittle removal or general cleaning.


-SPIT VALVE- Most of the moisture that gathers in the instrument gathers at, and can be dumped from, this valve.


-BORE- Also known as the BELL TUBE, this final conical tube passes the air and sound on from the valves to the BELL.


-BELL- This is where the sound develops and is amplified before it makes its way to the listeners ear.


-In many cases, brass instruments will be coated in a lacquer and/or thinly plated in gold or silver to protect the metal beneath.


-Sometimes contact with tuning slide grease or valve oil will result in fingerprints on the instrument. These can be cleaned will a soft cloth to which a dash of furniture polish. If the instrument has a plated finish, remove grease, grime and finger prints with a glass cleaner. This will also protect the finish, there by allowing for fewer and further between cleanings. If this polish contains wax or silicone, it will reduce water spots that can collect on the metal.


-Over time, the silver plated instruments will tarnish, even just from exposure to oxygen. This can be avoided with a silver polish cloth impregnated with dry polish. The same combo is equally effective in cleaning gold plated instruments. Exposure to sunlight can also initiate the tarnishing process. So avoid extended sunlight exposure. A good way to do this is to keep it in the case.


-Try to keep the surrounding environment of your brass instrument at around 65-78ºF and around 50% humidity.


-Because of saliva and organic material getting trapped within the metal tubes, there is a build up that needs to eventually be addressed. Also, oxidization within can result in calcium build up inside the instrument.


-Oiling the Valves- This routine is pretty necessary, as it slows the corrosion process and prevents organic material from sticking to the inside of the lead pipe and valve ports.


-Swabbing- In addition to oiling, it is recommend that you swab out the inside of the lead pipe and any other component interiors, with a microfiber cloth or a swab. This also removes debris and moisture. Emptying out the “water key” only rids the tubes from half of the moisture that typically collects within. The rest is condensation which you can empty out until the instrument reaches room temperature or cools off. You can use cleaning snakes, a flexible rod with a cloth ball at the end, to clean the interior tubing.


-When it comes to smaller brass instruments, you can rinse the lead pipe and tuning slides with dish soap and water and give it a good run through with a cleaning snake.


-For larger instrument (baritones, euphoniums and tubas), you can remove the first valve and insert the pull cord (of the snake) through the lead pipe port inside the casing. The swab is then pulled through the lead pipe, exiting out of the receiver.


-Oiling (and greasing the slides) does 3 important things:

1- It allows for smooth operation of the valves and keys.

2- It keeps dirt and debris from settling.

3- It keeps your parts more airtight.


-It is recommended that when you first get your instrument, you oil it and play it as often as you can (everyday if possible). You’re basically breaking in all the moving parts. After about a month, you can oil it every 2 or 3 days and change the oil every couple of months.


-When putting your instrument away, you want to blow out as much moisture as you can…without adding more. It is a good idea to remove the mouth piece because sometimes they’ll get stuck. Be sure lock the slide and secure any moving parts before storage or travel.



-The Brass Family (Oregon Symphony)


-“How To Keep Brass Instruments Clean, Inside And Out” by Wayne Tanaben (Yamaha.com)


-“Proper Care And Maintenance Of Brass Instruments” by the Music Arts division. (thevault.musicarts.com)