Trumpet Topics

Cleaning Your Equipment

"Cleanliness is Next to Godliness". When Rafael Mendez made this statement, which he often did, he was referring to a polished performance, not the sanitary condition of a trumpet leadpipe. However, neglecting the cleaning of the trumpet's bore can cause a tremendous effect in the performance characteristics of that instrument. Reflect for a moment about how sensitive we seem to be about the bore size of our instrument or the throat opening of our mouthpiece, whose dimensions might vary by only 2-3 thousandths of an inch. Now, speculate how many thousandths that crust is which has been building up in the leadpipe over the past two months!

At an ITG Conference a couple of years ago, I was chatting with the Bach trumpet representative at their display about some new leadpipe designs manufactured for Bach trumpets. He commented about the number of people who tried out the new leadpipes and were very impressed by how "free-blowing" they are. He said that he could probably save the expense of a new leadpipe for lots of them just by cleaning out their old one. Naturally the new leadpipe feels more "free-blowing"; it doesn't have any crud built up yet!

How often should our trumpet be given a complete bath? Actually, the answer could be "almost never", if we would run a "spitball" through the bore a few times after we are finished playing every day. Most of you are familiar with these little cylinders of polyfoam, available at most music stores. Blow it through the instrument a few times to clear all of the moisture, and then add a few drops of valve oil before one final pass, to lightly coat the bore.

Now, ask me how often I remember to do this. Oops, do as I say, not as I do. Sorry, I'll have to plead guilty of negligence.  So, it's important (especially for me) to remember to frequently give a thorough cleaning to the inside of the instrument. The cosmetics of the outside are probably a matter of personal preference, but the cleanliness of the inside of the tube is very important.

A "snake", available at most music stores, is the most common tool for cleaning the bore. I would like to mention a couple of products, which I have found to be very useful. The first is a cleaning set by: REKA, Kantstrasse 7, 40789 Monheim, Germany , tel: 049 2173/60001, fax: 049 2173/67815. It consists of brushes for cleaning the mouthpiece and valve bores, plus foam-rubber balls for cleaning the inside of the valve casing and the bore of the instrument. The ball for cleaning the trumpet's bore is on the end of a monofilament line that will literally go through every curve inside the instrument, including the leadpipe bend in a Schilke piccolo! These rubber balls act as a squeegee, and really do a great job of thoroughly cleaning the bore. I believe that this product is now available the U.S. (some of my students have purchased it from Rayburn Music in Boston).

Another product I've found to be useful is WRIGHT'S Copper Cream, found on grocery shelves next to the silver polish. For me, corrosion seems to be more of a problem on the valves of some of my  trumpets than on my other ones. This cream contains a very, very mild polishing compound and also some citric acid; it is quite effective in removing this corrosion.

My comments this week are, admittedly, a statement the obvious. However, I do feel that it's is occasionally not a bad idea to have someone remind us of the obvious. Well, I guess I'd better go clean a trumpet or two now!

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