P.O. Box 9, Murray KY 42071
Brass instrument Care

Scott E. Thile
Piano - Instrument Technician
MSU, Department of Music

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General Care
Lack of regular cleaning and ignoring common sense precautions are the major cause of damage to brass instruments. Moisture, usually saliva, causes oxidation which rusts the metal. Oxidation is accelerated in the areas of the instrument where two different metals come into contact with each other, such as the silver mouthpiece and the brass receiver.

Always remove your mouthpiece, drain the water from your horn, and wipe your instrument clean after each use. Regularly clean the mouthpiece and receiver with warm water and mild soup, when the mouthpiece is dry apply a thin film of valve or key oil to the bore. Keep to a regular schedule of cleaning and oiling valves, slides, springs, and mouthpieces.

Remove, clean, and oil the valves daily. I recommend "Al Cass" valve oil. Remove, clean and lube the tuning slides often. The best lube is Anhydrous Lanolin (available through pharmacies) Applying valve oil to the valve cap and bottom cap threads will help to avoid stuck caps.
A stuck tuning slide can often be removed by placing a cloth or strap through the slide and then pulling sharply in line with the slide. Stuck valve caps can often be loosend by carefully taping with a rawhide or rubber mallet in a counter clockwise motion. Great care must be taken during these procedures to avoid damaging the instrument.

Oxidation or corrosion occurs on the outside of the instrument as well as inside. This comes mostly from acids left by perspiration from the hands. If you are not using a guard, take extra care to wipe down your horn after each use, especially around the areas where the instrument is held.

Avoid soft drinks, eating, chewing gum, or smoking right before (or while) playing. These form acids in your mouth which are especially destructive to your instrument. Rinse your mouth out with water after eating before you play your horn.

Stuck Mouthpiece? Please be careful!

Never try to use plyers or
fourcefully twist. You're
sure to damage the leadpipe
and possibly distroy your horn!

Method 1: Use a rawhide or rubber mallet to tap on the receiver while scurely holding the horn in your arms and pulling out on the mouthpiece with your free hand.

Method 2: A good mouthpiece puller, such as this one, is the very best way to remove a badly stuck mouthpiece.

The dreaded "stuck mouthpiece" can be avoided as follows. 1. Always remove the mouthpiece before putting away your instrument. 2. Take care when inserting the mouthpiece. Proper placement of the mouthpiece consists of placing it into the ferrule, then giving it a slight twist clockwise. Do not hit or pop the mouthpiece with your hand to seat it, this forces the mouthpiece past it's normal position. The shank of the mouthpiece must be perfectly round and undamaged. If the mouthpiece has ever been dropped, inspect the shank for any flat spots.

A miss-shapen shank like this one
is a sure recipe for a stuck mouthpiece.

Rerounding a heavy shank. Nicely rounded shank.
Keep your instrument in it's case when not in use to avoid possible accidents.

Aviod placing music and loose accesories in your case with your horn. Loose items can cause dents or become lodged in the horn, and forcing music into the case case bend delicate tubing and valves.

Coming soon: Specific instrument care and minor repair instructions for the following instruments:

Questions or comments: scott.thile@murraystate.edu
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