As with any musical instrument, proper maintenance can go a long way towards making sure you get the most out of your investment. A well-maintained and cared-for trumpet can last for many decades, sometimes even getting better with age. By far the most important thing you can do to keep your trumpet working well from day to day is to oil the valves once a week.

Things You Will Need


Bottle of valve oil

Step 1

The first step is to obtain a bottle of piston valve oil, available at most music stores. There are two general types of valve oil; natural and synthetic. Which type you use is purely a matter of personal preference, but it's important that you never mix the two, as some brands don't mix well and could gum up your valves. If you're switching from one type to the other, give the valves and casing a thorough cleaning first.

Step 2

Now that you have your oil, you're going to unscrew each of the top valve caps and remove the valves from their casings. If you take the valves all the way out, don't lay them down on any surface that could transfer dirt or other debris onto the valves. That is a sure way to end up with sticky valves. Also, while most trumpets have numbers stamped on the side of the valves, some don't; and you don't want to get your valves mixed up. I usually just pull the valves about halfway out for oiling. Each walve will have plastic or metal valve guides near the top with tabs sticking out of each side. The tab on one side will be wider than that on the other. Take note of which tab faces which direction; these will help you to align the valves when you put them back in.

Step 3

Now you're going to take your oil and put 2-3 drops on the lower part of the first valve, where all the holes are. Put the valve back in the casing and move it up and down and turn it around to distribute the oil over the whole valve. Do this for all three valves.

Step 4

Now that you've oiled all three valves, make sure you've got them back in the casings and that the valve guides are lined up with the grooves on the insides of the casings. Once they're all in and lined up, screw the top valve caps back on. You now have three perfectly oiled valves!

Step 5

To double check the alignment, blow through the leadpipe of your trumpet (the leadpipe is the long narow pipe that the mouthpiece goes into) and press each valve down. If a valve is misaligned in the casing, no air will be able to get through when you press that valve down. If this happens, take the valve out again and make sure the valve guides are aligned with the right grooves.

If you oil your valves as described above once a week and give your valves (and the entire trumpet) a thorough cleaning at least once every two months, you can keep your trumpet in top working condition for many years to come.

Tips & Warnings

If you oil your valves but still find that they are sluggish and sticky, clean the valves and casings thoroughly with warm water and dishwashing soap, rinse, and let them dry completely. Then replace the valves and oil them again. If the problem still persists, you may have a dented casing or other issue that will require the attention of a professional brass instrument repairman.