Proper Care and Feeding– Low Brass

Chris Lyon is my awesome guest poster for this post. i-W8MZvq4-LChris is an Assistant Director and Low Brass Instructor with the Bingham Marching “Miner” Band and has served in this position since the fall of 2010. He is currently the Director of Bands at Elk Ridge Middle School. He has taught band in the classroom for eight years, with the last five being at his current position. Mr. Lyon has a Masters of Education from SUU, a Bachelors of Music from BYU, an Associate of Arts from Snow College, and is currently working on his School Administration endorsement. While in college, Mr. Lyon studied bass trombone performance and has performed across the Salt Lake, Utah valley with groups including the Utah Symphony, various Broadway musicals, and in several big bands.  Mr. Lyon resides in West Jordan with his beautiful wife, his two amazing daughters, and his awesome son. He is an active member of his local church organization, is a leader in his community, and speaks fluent Portuguese. In his free time, Mr. Lyon enjoys playing and watching soccer, spending time with his wife, and playing with his children. imageMain_7_16Low Brass maintenance is an interesting thing to think about because, unlike the woodwinds, we don’t swab out the inside of our instrument after we play. Because of that, preventative maintenance is so important. It is vital that we remember that whatever is in our mouth will end up in our instrument. What that means is that oral hygiene is critical for maintaining your low brass instrument. There is a condition called trombone lung, in which a lung becomes infected from the fungi and other cultures grown inside a low brass instrument. I consulted with a dear friend and mentor, Victor Neves (tuba player, band director, and owner of the business/website bandtek.com) in preparing for this article and we were able to come up with the following suggestions. Cleaning your instrument: It is important to keep our instruments clean. Keeping the outside of our instrument shiny is easy because we can always 51jttzZOIBL._SY355_see it, but it is easy to neglect the inside of our instruments. My recommendation is to bathe your instrument monthly or every other month (depending on how much you use the instrument). To bathe your instrument, fill your bath tub with enough lukewarm water (NO SOAP) to completely immerse the instrument. Take your instrument apart and set it in the water and let it soak for a few hours. This gives the water time to break down the gunk in your horn. DO NOT put piston valves in the water because it will water-log the felt inside the valve mechanism. After the instrument has had time to soak get a cleaning snake and run it through all of the tubing. If you play trombone get a cleaning rod, wrap a non-shedding cleaning cloth around it (make sure it won’t get stuck in the slide), and run it through both the inner and outer slides. To clean the gunk off of the tuning slides get a scotch-brite pad from the local grocery store and scrub the part that goes inside the horn. Be careful not to let it touch the lacquer of the instrument because it will rub off. This pad can also be used to clean the shank of the mouthpiece. Do not clean your instrument right before a performance. As an instrument gets dirty, air resistance will build. If you clean it right before a performance you mess with the resistance that you are used to which can have a negative impact on your performance. Another reason to avoid cleaning right before a performance is because, if something goes wrong, you don’t have time to get it fixed (trust me, I’ve learned from experience…). Lubricating your instrument: The best valve oil for piston valve instruments is All Cass, it’s not terribly expensive, works very well, and doesn’t leave much of a residue on the valve. Rotor valves are made differently and require two different types of oil. For the internal mechanism any rotor oil will suffice (one repair tech told me that pure candle oil is the same thing), but for the outer mechanism use “air tool oil”. Lubricating your trombone slide is crucial to keeping your slide in working condition. If you hear grinding while you play, your trombone is past the need of lubrication. I used “Slide-o-mix” on my trombone for years and it always served me well. Lately I have been using a cream called “Trombotine” and I have been pleased with the results. “Superslick” is another popular brand. Whenever you lube your slide, first wipe off the old gunk with a rag. Then apply the lubricant. Once that’s worked in the slide, get a small spray bottle and spray the inner slide with water. Oil and water don’t mix, so the water beads up on the slide creating ball bearings for the slide to glide on. When the slide slows down, just add more water. Tuning slide grease serves two purposes. First, it allows the slides to be adjusted with ease. Second, it creates a seal keeping air from leaking out of the instrument. There are many options to lubricate your tuning slide and one isn’t necessarily better than the other. Some use tuning slide grease, others use cork grease, others use scentless Vaseline, and others use air tool oil. Use whatever you feel comfortable with. Just keep your tuning slides well lubricated. They should stay put when not touched, but should also be easily adjusted. Dents:2452090_orig Dents can be your worst nightmare! Be careful to make sure that your valve casings, trombone slides, and tuning slides remain dent free. Even the smallest dent can put your instrument out of commission and even after it’s fixed, your instrument will never be the same. If you get a dent, take it to your local repair tech and get it pounded out as soon as you can. The longer you play with a dent on those components; the more damage will be done to the instrument and the more costly the repair will become. Valve Guides anvalveguided Felts: Instruments with piston valves have valve guides to keep the valves aligned with the tubing and felts to keep the valves from clanking while playing. Keep an eye on those and replace them as needed. Your local repairman will charge an arm and a leg to replace these, but you can do it for yourself in minutes. All you need to do is purchase the right replacement part. Low Brass is the best! If you get good it can pay for college, but if you don’t take care of your horn, it won’t take care of you.

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