Maintenance Tips

CCB's maintenance tips and advice

Andrew Clennell - Brass, trumpet, trombone repairs in Birmingham

For established brass players, many of these tips will be well-known, but for beginners and novices, they are important to keep your instrument in good shape!

General maintenance tips

Apply fresh tuning slide grease to your instrument once a month. Clean off old grease on the outsides and insides of tubes with a clean old rag, torn into a 4 cm strip, and held over anything long and thin, such as a pencil. Move all tuning slides once a week, to ensure they do not stick. Stuck tuning slides can be very difficult and expensive to repair! DO NOT USE VASELINE! It is not suitable for brass instrument tuning slides. I recommend Selmer tuning slide and cork grease: it does a great job, is not expensive, and is widely available online.

It is a very good idea to wash your instrument out thoroughly every six months or so. Fill a bath tub or large basin with warm (not hot) water. Remove all pistons, tuning slides, etc and place all of them in the water, taking careful note of how to reassemble the instrument. Do not attempt to remove rotary valves; this should be done by an experienced technician. Leave to soak for thirty minutes or so, then using good quality washing up liquid and an appropriately sized bottle brush, clean the insides all accessible tubing. Use a sponge or dish cloth and washing up liquid to clean the outside of the instrument and slides. Rinse everything thoroughly in clean warm water, dry with a clean cloth, lubricate, and reassemble. Applying a small amount of furniture polish to the assembled instrument will help to eradicate any further water stains/marks, and bring a deeper shine to the lacquer. If this routine is undertaken every six months, it will lengthen the period of time between services, and will increase the life span and your enjoyment of the instrument.

For the reasons of hygiene and comfort, your mouthpiece should be washed regularly with a mild disinfectant. An appropriately sized mouthpiece brush can be used to clean the back bore.

Piston valve instruments, such as trumpet and the tuba family

Using good quality piston oil to regularly lubricate your valves will help them to move freely and help prevent unwanted corrosion to the piston and the casing.


A common problem with trombone slides is the build up of unwanted gunk on the inside surface of the outer slide. This is the result of persistently applying fresh slide lubricant without cleaning the old lubricant off. In order to avoid this, a couple of methods can be used.
The first method requires a slide cleaning rod, the length of which is wrapped with a 4 cm strip of clean cloth. The tip end of the cloth can be soaked with a cleaning/degreasing agent such as white spirit. This is then used to thoroughly clean the inside of both legs of the outer slide. Unwrap the rod and re-wrap with the clean end of the cloth this time at the tip end. Use this to dry off the inside of both legs of the outer slide. You can then lubricate as usual. Slides usually work best when lubricants are used very sparingly. Using too much lubricant will gum up the slide and give it a sluggish feel.

The second method is to pull a bendy cleaning brush through the length of the outer slide. If you can find one with little squares of leather or cloth next to the brushes on either end, it can be soaked with a degreaser as with the previous method. Use the clean brush end to dry off the inside of the outer slide. Lubricate as with the previous method.

Instruments with rotary valves, such as French horns and trombones

You will need three different types of oil to successfully lubricate a rotary valve: rotor oil, bearing oil, and linkage oil. To apply rotor oil, remove tuning slide(s) and depress the valve to the half way position. Put a few drops of oil straight down the slide leg, and work the valve open and closed several times straight away, so that the oil penetrates successfully. Now remove the valve cap(s) and put a couple of drops of bearing oil onto the spindle (Which normally has lines scored into it). Replace the valve cap(s) and apply a couple of drops of bearing oil to the spindle on the bottom of the vale (just below the stop arm). Work the valve straight away so that the oil penetrates. Linkage oil can be applied to all moving parts of the valve lever.


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Contact CCB

Clennell Custom Brass
30 Norton Road
Birmingham B46 1ET

Tel: 07971 489279