Jamie Kennedy draws up a complete guide to maintaining and cleaning a trombone. Whether you are a rank beginner or hardened professional, everyone has a skeleton in their outer slides.
The following trombone-cleaning guide is in two parts:
1) the main things that every trombone player needs to know; and
2) a general assortment of observations on my own bad habits.
I have placed the bare facts at the beginning in a compact form for those bare-facts kind of people, but if you feel so inclined, read on and contemplate the world from the other end of the cleaning rod.
The Simplest Stuff – Holding the Trombone
Be aware of where your slide is at all times. Just like a toddler learning to walk, it takes time to develop the bodily awareness, but unlike the toddler you don’t have to fall over and run into things for a year to work out how to control a trombone – keep your slide pointed down (when not playing), keep it out of the way of other people and music stands, and don’t stick it out of the car window.
Here is a simple demonstration of where to hold the bell and slide sections so you don’t inadvertently bend or bow the slide, and so you have greater control over the instrument as you put it together:
The resourceful looking fellow above has more control over the bell section because he is holding it by its largest and most central part, i.e. where the bell meets the brace. He is also holding the slide section by the braces at the top – especially when pulling it out of the case. He is also holding it the right way up, which is always a good start.
Meanwhile, this sinister character is probably pulling the inner slide tubes out of alignment or bowing them by holding it in the middle. The slide is a delicate construction – a slight knock can put it out of alignment and make playing difficult and unpleasant. Remember: although the mechanics of it are rather simple, if the slide stops working the trombone stops working.
Which brings me to another point: putting the trombone down on the ground.
The trombone in the first picture has three points of the contact with the ground and the slide isn’t one of them. Place the edge of the bell and the mouthpiece (or the receiver without the mouthpiece) on the ground – there is only one way this can be done – and it prevents you from damaging the slide. The other pictures are all examples of how to bow your slide.
Here is a list of all the essential equipment that you will need at some point:
- Slide cream/lubricant (e.g. Bach or Yamaha slide cream; Trombotine; Superslick; Slide-O-Mix; Yamaha slide oil)
- Water spray bottle (e.g. this one)
- Tuning slide grease (e.g. this one)
- Cheesecloth/soft rag, untreated
- Polishing cloth
- Long strip of thin/gauze cloth
- Mouthpiece brush (e.g. this one)
- Long bendy wire snake brush and/or trombone cleaning rod
For trombones with a valve section you’ll also need:
- Rotary valve oil
- Slightly thicker bearing and linkage oil