The Care and Cleaning of Instruments

Nothing spells disaster for a practice session or a lesson like an instrument that’s dirty or damaged. Follow a few simple steps to ensure your horn works well at all times.


Protect your instrument in busy environments like band by placing it out of the way or in the case. Make sure it is stable and protected before leaving it. Try to avoid hitting it on doorways or stands or anything- dents do happen, but many can be prevented!


Mouthpieces should be scrubbed out once a week with your mouthpiece brush under hot water. Don’t ‘pop’ your mouthpiece while it’s in the horn- it might get stuck!

Tuning slides

Keep your tuning slides well greased so you can adjust them easily, and avoid getting them dented or stuck. You need to be able to move these, in many cases in order to empty water or play in tune.

Trombone slides

Trombone slides generally need to be re-greased for around every 30 hours of playing (about every 2 weeks). If your slide doesn’t move, neither does your music! Once you feel like it is difficult to move it, it’s time to clean it.

To clean:

1. Wipe the inner slide with a clean, soft rag. Run your snake or cleaning rod through both posts of the outer slide to remove any old grease.

2. Apply a small (about peasized) amount of slide cream (I use Trombotine*) to the stockings (the bottom of the inner slide posts) and spread evenly up and down each side.

3. Put the slides back together and test them out. You may have to repeat 1 and 2 if your slide is especially dirty.

4. Spray a little water on the inner slide, and go play!

If you get a ding or misalign your slides, take it into a repair shop as soon as you can.

*YMMV: Depending on your preference and also the make of your horn, you may prefer a different cream, oil, or grease.


There are two types of valves: Rotary and Piston. Most trombone F attachments are rotary valves, and most baritone/euphs have pistons. Tubas can have one or the other!

Rotary valves can’t always be taken apart. Apply oil to the inner working or feed through the tuning slide. Use linkage oil on the moving parts.

Piston valves can be unscrewed and taken apart. Carefully remove the spring and scrub the inside with your valve brush. Wipe the inner piston with a soft, clean rag. Apply valve oil to the piston, put the spring back in, and carefully realign the two parts before screwing the valve caps.

Major Repairs

Most working musicians have a repairperson they trust to handle their horn for yearly tune-ups and repairs. Trombonists especially want to find someone with strong experience in repairing slides. If you are in the Cities I am happy to recommend a technician to you at any time.

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