Standard trumpets have 3 piston valves and a lot of bent brass tubing inside. This is what helps to create the variance in sound that you hear when the instrument is played.
This is because when the valves are compressed they change the length of the tubing, This alters the airflow within the trumpet and means that the pitch changes.
How often should you oil trumpet valves?
You should oil the valves of your trumpet at least 2 or 3 times per week to keep your instrument in good working condition.
If you notice them beginning to stick, you may need to oil the valves more regularly than this.
Why is it important to oil trumpet valves?
You can buy trumpet valve oil at all music stores and most online shops too.
How do you oil trumpet valves?
There are 2 different types of valve oil - petroleum and synthetic based. The choice mostly comes down to a matter of personal preference and you should experiment to see what works best for you.
Different brands of oil will work on your trumpet in different ways, and we suggest trying a few. They will also all react differently to your saliva!
Synthetic oils tend to be pricier but work better for tighter valves as they very efficiently reduce the friction. They also tend to last longer without evaporating, meaning you need to oil your valves less frequently.
Petroleum based oils are better suited to newer trumpets as it is lighter and less effective on trumpets that are worn. This may need more frequent reapplication.
Do not use silicone based oils as these can cause moisture to build up inside the trumpet and allow it to corrode. Avoid oils that state you should shake them prior to use. We also do not recommend using household oils such as WD-40 or cooking oils.
These can cause significant damage to your trumpet and you should always purchase an oil designed for brass instruments.
1. Place your trumpet on a flat surface to ensure you do not drop it during the oiling process. Unscrew the valve caps one at a time, in a counter-clockwise motion. Place the cap to one side and then slide the valve up.
Try not to take it out completely, but lift it enough to see the valve clearly. You should be able to see the silver section of the valve with the holes exposed.
2. When the valve has been removed from the casing a little, add a few drops of oil to the base of the valve, near the shaft. It is unlikely that you will over-oil your valves and there will be more issues incurred by under-oiling them.
Try to avoid getting the oil into the holes leading to the interior of the trumpet.
3. If dust and debris collects inside the oil, it may become sticky. If you see this happening, simply wipe up the valves with a clean and lint-free cloth. Re oil your valves before reinserting in the trumpet.
4. Once the valve has been oiled, slide it up and down inside the casing. This ensures that the entire valve is well lubricated. This allows the valves to move more smoothly, making the trumpet easier to play.
5. Slide the valve back down into the casing and return to its original position in the trumpet. Twist it in a clockwise motion until you hear it click back into position. Press down on the valve a few times to ensure the motion is smooth and it is in the right place.
6. Return the valve cap to the top of the valve. Place it straight on the thread and twist it in a clockwise motion until it fits snugly. If it is replaced at an angle this can damage the threading and cause the valve cap to fit incorrectly.
7. Blow into your trumpet to ensure the airflow through the instrument is correct. If you have not replaced the valves in the right place, this is the easiest way to tell. If you cannot play your trumpet normally, your first port of call is to check the positioning of the valves.
What if the valves still feel sticky?
Try to open the valve and remove the spring. You can stretch or compress this spring to encourage movement. If you are going to do this though, you must ensure the length of all the springs stay the same length.
If you have an old trumpet, the springs may be worn out. This is easy to fix by simply replacing each of the springs. They are fairly reasonably priced, at about $5 - $20 per set.
If the springs are not the issue, it may be due to your playing technique. You should be pressing down on the valves at a right angle. If you press the valves down at a different angle this can cause the shape to warp and distort, meaning that the valves begin to stick eventually.
Another home remedy for sticking valves is to use a little toothpaste to clean the valve casings and pistons.
Toothpaste is a mild abrasive and will smooth out the inside of the valve casings, removing any residual dirt. Ensure you have completely removed any toothpaste residue from your trumpet before attempting to reinsert the valves and play it.
What if you cannot unscrew the valve?
This could be caused by the valve cap being screwed on too tightly, or the cap not being removed for an extended period of time.
You can use a hammer to gently knock the valve out of the casing, but you should take great care. Never use a metal hammer to do this as it can irreparably damage your trumpet.
Lie the trumpet flat and gently tap perpendicular to the stuck valve. Use many light taps to dislodge the valve.