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Care and Feeding of your Band Instrument: Trombone

This post is the final 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 trombone.

 

The most important element to trombone maintenance is the slide. There are several slide lubricant options, but the important thing to remember is to keep it moving freely. Whenever you are playing, be aware of your surroundings so you don’t accidentally hit your slide on your chair or stand. The smallest dent or bend in the slide can make it not function properly, and this is an issue that needs to be taken to a professional repair person.

Necessary Care Supplies:
Slide lubricant (your teacher may recommend one of the following):
Slide oil
Slide cream and water spray
Formulated product (like Slide-O-Mix)
Slide grease (for tuning slide only)
Bore snake
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 trombone 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).

Main Slide:
It is extremely important to keep your main slide well lubricated – both for the condition of the instrument, and for ease of playing. Your slide will need to be lubricated FREQUENTLY, probably each time that you play. There are several different options:

  • Slide oil: the most straightforward option, and may be best for beginners. Simply extend your slide, apply slide oil to the inner slide, and move the slide in and out to distribute the oil.
  • Slide cream: slide cream requires water to work properly. Apply slide cream to the inner slide, and spray some clean water (from a spray bottle) to the slide before moving it to distribute. Some musicians like this method as it allows the slide to move very fast, and the cream does not need to be applied as often – only the water spray. The downside to the slide cream is that residue tends to build up on the slide faster than with oil, so you may need to clean your instrument more frequently.
  • Formulated products: there are many other products out there (one of the most popular is called Slide-O-Mix). Follow the manufacturer’s instructions on any type of product.

Tuning Slide:
REGULARLY, move the tuning slide on the instrument. This will prevent it from “freezing” (getting stuck). OCCASIONALLY, you should grease your slide to clean it and keep it 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. (Note that this is a different type of grease than the one you use for your main slide)

Cleaning:
OCCASIONALLY (every 6-8 weeks or so), you should clean the inside of your trombone. Mark Flegg has a great article on thoroughly cleaning your trumpet (http://markflegg.com/instruction/how-to-clean-your-trumpet/) that can apply to the trombone as well. The good news is that your entire trombone can be submerged in water! Fill a bathtub with warm (not hot) water (you can also add a small amount of dish soap). Remove the main slide and tuning slide from the trombone 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 trombone 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. Rinse each part of the instrument with clean running water, and allow to air dry. Grease your slides with the appropriate materials, 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 trombone. The oils from your fingers can cause the finish to deteriorate if not occasionally wiped off.

Questions?
We hope that this has been informative for our young trombone players. If you have any other questions, we would be happy to answer them at Willis Music. Good luck!

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:
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.

Slides:
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.

Cleaning:
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 (http://markflegg.com/instruction/how-to-clean-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.

Questions?
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!

Care and Feeding of your Band Instrument: Saxophone

This post is the third installment of the “Care and Feeding of your Band Instrument” series from Willis Music. 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 saxophone.

 

Like all woodwinds, one of the most important things to remember is that woodwinds and water don’t mix! There is a small disk of a soft material covered by a film or leather under each key (called a pad) that seals the key to the hole when it is closed. This mechanism is necessary for the instrument to work. When the pads get wet (water, rain, breath condensation), they disintegrate and fail to seal the keys. Pads will need to be replaced occasionally, but it is best to avoid needing to do it prematurely. Proper care of your instrument will ensure that it will last longer. The other big element to saxophone care is the reeds, which will have its own section below.

Necessary Care Supplies:
Swab
Cork Grease

Optional/Occasional Care Supplies:
Mouthpiece brush
Key brush
Polishing cloth
Reed Guard
Padguard

Cleaning:
After EVERY USE, you should swab (clean the inside of) your saxophone. The swab should consist of a piece of material (and perhaps a piece of foam or bristle) attached to a long string with a weight on the end. Remove your reed, mouthpiece, and neck. Make sure the swab is unfolded completely, and drop the weight through the bell. Turn and gently shake your saxophone until the weight drops out the other end, and pull the fabric through. Gently shake moisture from the neck (if the swab will fit through the neck, swab it as well).

The other option is a pair of items, often called a “Padsaver” and a “Necksaver.” These are flexible, fuzzy rods that are inserted into the instrument and left there to wick moisture from the pads. These are acceptable as well.

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 – it is not made to handle the heat and will warp and be ruined.

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 saxophone. Pay special attention to the keys – the oils from your fingers can cause the finish to deteriorate if not occasionally wiped off.

Cork:
The first several times you use your instrument, then EVERY FEW USES after that, you should grease your neck cork. The neck cork is a tube of cork on the next where the mouthpiece is attached. It creates a seal so that air cannot escape when the instrument is assembled. Apply a small amount of cork grease to the neck cork to make the mouthpiece easier to attach, and to condition the cork so it will last longer.

Reeds:
Reeds are one of the most important (and can be one of the most frustrating!) elements of caring for your saxophone. They are both the most fragile part of the instrument, and the part essential for creating a good sound (or any sound at all!). Take extra care when handling reeds and assembling your instrument not to let the tip (thin end) touch anything. The tiniest chip or crack will cause problems with your reeds. Proper storage when not playing is also essential to keep the reed from breaking or warping. NEVER leave your reed on your mouthpiece when you put your instrument away, it should always be removed and stored in its own case. Most reeds are sold in individual plastic protector sleeves – these are effective in preventing breaks, but can still allow the reed to warp as it dries. I recommend a reed case (like those made by Rico, LaVoz, or Vandoren), as they will prolong the life of your reeds.

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

Care and Feeding of your Band Instrument: Clarinet

This post is the second installment of our “Care and Feeding of your Band Instrument” series from Willis Music.  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 clarinet.

 

Like all woodwinds, one of the most important things to remember is that woodwinds and water don’t mix! There is a small disk of a soft material covered by a film under each key (called a pad) that seals the key to the hole when it is closed. This mechanism is necessary for the instrument to work. When the pads get wet (water, rain, breath condensation), they disintegrate and fail to seal the keys. Pads will need to be replaced occasionally, but it is best to avoid needing to do it prematurely. Proper care of your instrument will ensure that it will last longer. The other big element to clarinet care is the reeds, which will have its own section below.

Necessary Care Supplies:
Swab
Cork Grease

Occasional/Optional Care Supplies:
Mouthpiece brush
Key brush
Polishing cloth
Reed Guard

Cleaning:
After EVERY USE, you should swab (clean the inside of) your clarinet. The swab should consist of a piece of material attached to a long string with a weight on the other end. After removing your reed, make sure the swab is unfolded completely, turn your clarinet upside down, drop the weight through the bell until it drops out the other end, and pull the fabric through. (Depending on how long the string is, you may need to swab your clarinet in 2 sections)

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 (just be sure to dry the cork very carefully and allow it to dry completely before you put it back in the case). DO NOT put your mouthpiece in the dishwasher – it is not made to handle the heat and will warp and be ruined.

Use your key brush (small, cylindrical) AS NEEDED to gently clean any buildup that may occur in your finger holes.

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 clarinet. Pay special attention to the keys – the oils from your fingers can cause the finish to deteriorate if not occasionally wiped off.

Corks:
The first several times you use your instrument, then EVERY FEW USES after that, you should grease your tenon corks. Tenon corks are the rings of cork that are found where each section joins together (including on the mouthpiece). They create a seal so that air cannot escape when the instrument is assembled. Apply a small amount of cork grease to the tenon corks to make the instrument easier to assemble, and to condition the cork so it will last longer.

Reeds:
Reeds are one of the most important (and can be one of the most frustrating!) elements of caring for your clarinet. They are both the most fragile part of the instrument, and the part essential for creating a good sound (or any sound at all!). Take extra care when handling reeds and assembling your instrument not to let the tip (thin end) touch anything. The tiniest chip or crack will cause problems with your reeds. Proper storage when not playing is also essential to keep the reed from breaking or warping. NEVER leave your reed on your mouthpiece when you put your instrument away, it should always be removed and stored in its own case. Most reeds are sold in individual plastic protector sleeves – these are effective in preventing breaks, but can still allow the reed to warp as it dries. I recommend a reed case (like those made by Rico, LaVoz, or Vandoren), as they will prolong the life of your reeds.

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

Care and Feeding of your Band Instrument: Flute

This post is the first installment of the “Care and Feeding of your Band Instrument” series from Willis Music. 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 flute.

 

As far as the woodwinds go, the flute is the most straightforward when it comes to care and maintenance. The main thing to remember is that woodwinds and water DON’T MIX. There is a small ring of a soft material covered by a film under each key (called a pad) that seals the key to the hole when it is closed. This mechanism is necessary for the instrument to work. When the pads get wet (water, rain, breath condensation), they disintegrate and fail to seal the keys. Pads will need to be replaced occasionally, but it is best to avoid needing to do it prematurely. Proper care of your instrument will ensure that it will last longer.

Necessary Care Supplies:
Cleaning rod
Rod cloth (cotton, flannel, or felt)

Occasional/Optional Care Supplies:
Microfiber Polishing cloth
Key brush
Key cleaning papers
Treated dry polishing cloth for silver
Fine steel wool

Cleaning:
After EVERY USE, you should swab (clean the inside of) your head joint at the very least. If there is visible moisture inside of the body or foot joints, these should be swabbed as well. To swab your instrument, thread a corner of your rod cloth through the loop of the cleaning rod. Drape the rest of the cloth over the rod loop, and turn it around the rod to cover any exposed metal/plastic/wood (the exposed rod could scratch the inside of your instrument). Insert the rod/cloth assembly and gently turn to wipe moisture from the inside of the instrument.

After EVERY to EVERY FEW uses, you should wipe down the outside of your instrument with your rod cloth or a microfiber polishing cloth to remove any dirt or finger oils that may have gotten on the instrument while playing.

OCCASIONALLY, you may want to clean and sanitize the lip plate of your head joint. You can use rubbing alcohol or a mouthpiece cleaning spray with a soft cloth or paper towel for this.

AS NEEDED, you may want to polish the outside of the instrument with a dry treated silver polishing cloth to remove any tarnish that may have developed. This should only be done occasionally, as polish will remove a small layer of the silver plating. Take care not to get any residue on the pads. Only use a DRY cloth intended for this purpose – DO NOT attempt to use a liquid or cream silver polish intended for jewelry.

Tenons:
Tenons are the two joints where the parts of your instrument come together. If they become dirty or bent, it may be difficult to put the instrument together or the joints may become loose and wobbly. When assembling the instrument, take care to be sure that the joints will go straight together, and that you are not putting pressure on the tenon at an angle. If it becomes difficult to assemble your instrument, the tenons may be dirty. Clean them with your rod cloth or polishing cloth, or if they are especially bad, you can gently use fine steel wool to remove any residue. DO NOT attempt to lubricate the tenons with Vaseline or cork grease, as they are not intended to need it. Having a substance on the tenon will attract dirt and make the problem worse. Simply keeping the tenons clean should be sufficient to keep them working well.

Questions?
We hope this has been informative for our young flute players. If you have any other questions, we would be happy to answer them at Willis Music. Keep an eye out for “Care and Feeding of your Clarinet,” coming soon!