Trumpet Valve

Heavy Caps

A Trumpet Valve
Credit: John Francis

Trumpet Valve

In the life of a brass musician, valve response is crucial. Having a valve stick mid-performance is a major drag. Below are some handy tips to ensure safe playing in and out of the performance venue.

Make sure your bottom valve caps are all on securely - These small round attachments are crucial to keeping any unwanted lint, dust, dirt, ooze, debris, rubble, scrap, or trash out of your expensive valve receiver.

Clean your horn - A nice warm soapy bath for the instrument once per month, keeps crud out and moving parts moving. Though it is not a substitute for a lubrication, it is a precursor to a well-playing instrument. Dishwashing liquid is perfectly safe for this adventure. Also keep the horn case clean, nothing floating around in there that can bang up your instrument.

Lubricate the valve with valve oil - You must use trumpet valve oil for this endeavor, no other oil will do. Do not use vegetable, motor, baby, whale or any other kind of oil. The viscosity, ingredients and aspects of other oils can do more damage than good. Oil the entire valve, all around.

Inspect the receiving barrel - For any detritus or other crud that could be slowing down the works. The clearance of valve to receiver is measured in micrometers so this is crucial. If you have the smallest of dents in the receiver, it could bind up the valve, lock-tight.

Squeeze a little oil into the sides of the barrel - Create a mere film of oil on the inside. 

Insert the valve, halfway and rotate inside the barrel - This gives consistent lubrication to the valve assembly.

Insert all the way, screw on - Every valve is somewhat different in make. Make sure that the valve is aligned appropriately with the holes matching its corresponding holes inside the barrel.

What if it is still sluggish? - Then you have issues with clearance or finish on the valve. A home-remedy (careful) is to take a toothpaste with a little grit (like Crest - not a gel), smear it on the valve and work up and down. Reapply, work, clean, reapply, work, clean...for an hour or so. Then do all of the above steps again. This remedy is for a sluggish valve. A stuck valve is different and should go to a B.I.R.T. (Band Instrument Repair Technician) as soon as possible.