Great, your student has decided to join band and has chosen a brass instrument! But you may be asking yourself how to keep their instrument in working order and what you can do at home. We are here to help you and let you know!
Why You Need to Maintain Your Instrument
An instrument in proper working order will help insure that your student has the best chance at success in band. When all the notes play correctly and everything moves as it should, the student doesn’t have to fight the instrument (over compensate and learn bad habits) to get it to play. They will have a much more enjoyable time playing
A well “tuned” instrument will prevent more costly major repairs down the road. For example, if you get your brass instrument cleaned every year, it will help prevent red-rot (also call de-zincification) where you will have to get that part replace which may get pretty costly
Keeping your instrument well maintained will extend the life of your instrument. Quality brass instruments have been known to last generations. Many times we have seen "grandpa's old trumpet" that is being passed down to their grand-kids, and they are fantastic horns if kept in good condition.
Steps You Can Do At Home for Preventative Maintenance
At Rocky Mountain Music Repair, we like say we are similar to Dentists. Meaning that there is some at-home preventative maintenance that you can do (similar to daily brushing/flossing) and that every year you need to come see us for professional care (deep cleaning/x-rays). Here are some items you can do at home.
Daily Brass Maintenance:
Brass players oil your valves and rotors on a daily basis before and AFTER you play. We all remember from chemistry class that oil and water (spit) do not like to mix, so be sure to oil your valves to help wick away the water.
Weekly Brass Maintenance:
Use a mouthpiece brush to wash out your mouthpiece with a little Dawn dish soap and luke-warm water.
Vacuum out your case and remove any trash that accumulates (we don’t want that getting stuck in your instrument)
Wipe off old oils and grease from valves and slides, then re-grease slides with new slide grease and re-oil valves/rotors.
Every Two Months
Brass players, give your instrument a bath. If you are unsure of how to care for your instrument or need a refresher on bathing your horn, visit our Instrument Care section of our website for downloadable guide or click the link below.
Do You Really Need Professional Maintenance?
No matter how great you are at preventative maintenance, you will need to see a professional repair tech at least once a year for a professional cleaning, adjustments and changing corks and felts to keep your instrument playing in great condition.
A professional cleaning uses cleaning solutions that will dissolve organic material (like the chocolate chip cookies) that get stuck in your horn as well as neutralizing the PH of your spit to prevent red-rot.
Rocky Mountain Music Repair’s cleanings also resize corks and felts to make sure valves/rotors are in alignment. Not all repair shops include this service with their cleanings, so be sure to ask.
Waterkey corks are replaced so the horn doesn’t leak air and spit.
Repair techs will inspect every part of your instrument and let you know of other issues that may arise. Such as broken solder joints that should be fixed before more of your instrument falls apart, or a leadpipe with too much red-rot and should be replaced, or dents that need to be removed because it is affecting air flow, etc.
How Much Does it Cost to Maintain a Brass Instrument?
Taking your instrument in for a yearly repair is the most obvious cost associated with an instrument. You should also think long-term for costs associated with your horn, such as getting a new mouthpiece (or at least re-plating it), and replacing the case when it is worn out, are two great examples.
For more information, check out our article on budgeting for brass repairs and average yearly maintenance costs.