BLESSING BRASS INSTRUMENTS BLOG APRIL 2012
Horn Hygiene by Josh Landress Monday, April 30, 2012 at 1:28PM
(Brass craftsman of J. Landress Brass and Sam Ash Music Manhattan)
Just like things we use in our day to day lives, instruments need routine maintenance and cleaning. On a daily basis, musicians come into the workshop with instruments that have problems that could have been avoided by a few simple steps. Typical problems include stuck slides, slow and sluggish valves, holes in the metal, stuffiness or hard to play, and even a foul odor.
When we play our instruments things happen on the inside of the tubing that we don’t even think about. Tiny particles of food can get blown in, saliva and water condense, and oils and grease breakdown -- all of which can accumulate in the horn. Build-ups inside the horn can distort the bore size and even house dangerous bacteria.
The good thing is that with just a few simple steps, musicians can maintain their own instruments, improving their sound and lifespan. You will need a few things with which to wash the horn. I recommend using a good degreasing dish detergent (I prefer Dawn), a snake cleaning brush or other instrument-specific brush, towel, valve or rotor oil, and slide grease, and of course, a place to clean your instrument (I use my bathtub). I recommend following the below steps on monthly basis:
Step 1: Disassemble
Take the instrument apart by removing all the slides, caps and valves (on rotary instruments leave the rotors in) and wiping off all old oil and grease. Make sure to follow the order of slides first, caps second and lastly valves. This will prevent any possible damage to the valve section if some slides are slightly stuck.
Step 2: Wash and rinse
Fill the tub with luke-warm water and mix in the soap. Submerge the body, slides and caps but NOT THE VALVES, and soak for a few minutes. Go through the parts with the snake cleaning brush, gently scrubbing the insides of the tubes. Once the horn has been scrubbed in the soapy water, rinse the horn with clean water until all soap residues are gone.
Step 3: Dry and assemble
Wipe down all the slides, caps, and body of the instrument with a soft towel. Stand the slides up and leave the horn out on the towel until everything is dry. Wipe down the valves with a soft rag and pull the rag gently through the valve ports (be sure to never force the rag or brushes through). If you feel something starting to stick, gently pull it back. If you have a silver plated instrument, this is a good time to polish the horn.
To start assembling the horn, reverse the disassembly order by starting with the valves. Oil the inside of the casing and valve and place back in the instrument. Put the caps on and then the slides back in with enough slide grease to lightly coat the tubes.
Following this process, as well as regular oiling and greasing all moving parts, your horn will last for many years, and continue to play and perform to its intended level.