Care and Feeding of Your Band Instrument: Trumpet

This post is the fourth installment of our “Care and Feeding of your Band Instrument” series. This series is geared toward informing the young wind player of some basic cleaning, care, and maintenance techniques to keep your instrument in good working order. Today’s lesson: the trumpet.


Care of any brass instrument is fairly straightforward. The most important thing to remember is to regularly empty water, and keep valves and slides lubricated.

Necessary Care Supplies:
Valve oil
Slide grease
Bore snake
Valve casing brush
Mouthpiece brush

Optional Care Supplies:
Polishing cloth

Water Key:
You should CONSTANTLY empty your water key (spit valve). This means every several minutes while you are playing, and especially before you return the trumpet to its case. Simply press the water key to hold it open, and blow air through the instrument so moisture will leave through the valve (it might be handy to keep a paper towel to empty your valve onto so you don’t leave a puddle).

Valves should be oiled REGULARLY: at least once a week, and every time they don’t move freely. To oil the valves, unscrew the valve caps at the top of each valve case (be careful not to unscrew the valve buttons!). Pull the valve straight up out of the valve casing. Apply a few drops of valve oil to the lower part of each valve (the part with the holes, usually a darker metal). You don’t need oil in the holes, just on the outside of the cylinder. Be especially careful when replacing the valves – if they are in the wrong order or not aligned correctly, your trumpet will not work! Usually, the valves will have a 1, 2, and 3 printed on them. More often than not, the numbers on the valves should face the lead pipe. There is also an internal mechanism called a valve guide – it should make the valve lock into place when it is in position if it is gently turned in the valve casing.

REGULARLY, (once a week or so), move each of the slides on the instrument. This will prevent them from “freezing” (getting stuck). OCCASIONALLY, you should grease your slides to clean them and keep them moving freely. Simply remove the slide (pay attention to which direction it faces so you can put it back correctly), apply a small amount of slide grease to the inner slide, and replace it. Wipe off any excess grease.

OCCASIONALLY (every 6-8 weeks or so), you should clean the inside of your trumpet. Mark Flegg has a great article on thoroughly cleaning your trumpet ( The good news is that most of your trumpet can be submerged in water! Fill a sink or bathtub with warm (not hot) water (you can also add a small amount of dish soap). Remove the valves from your trumpet and set them aside. Remove each of the slides from the trumpet and place them in the water. Let them soak for a few minutes, then use your bore snake to clean the insides (insert in one end and push through until you can pull the whole apparatus through the other end). Next submerge the body of the trumpet (minus the valves) in the water and do the same. Use whatever combination of snake and brushes you need to in order to clean the inside of all of the tubing. For the valves, gently clean the bottom section with the ports/holes (where you put valve oil) with the water/dish soap. DO NOT submerge the valves in water – the only part of the trumpet that shouldn’t get wet is the felt rings at the tops of the valves. Rinse each part of the instrument with clean running water, and allow to air dry. Oil your valves, grease your slides, and reassemble.

Use your mouthpiece brush (cone-shaped) to gently clean your mouthpiece AS NEEDED. You can use a mouthpiece sanitizing/cleaning spray, or a small amount of dish soap and warm water. DO NOT put your mouthpiece in the dishwasher.

OCCASIONALLY (once a week or so), you may want to use a dry (untreated) polishing cloth to wipe any dirt and residue from the outside of your trumpet. The oils from your fingers can cause the finish to deteriorate if not occasionally wiped off.

We hope that this has been informative for our young trumpet players. If you have any other questions, we would be happy to answer them at Willis Music. Next care and feeding lesson: the trombone!