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21 December 2013

How to clean a Trumpet

I tried to get my son J-Uke into ukulele, but it's never taken off. He's got two and they're never out of their boxes. What a shame! He likes the idea of playing one, but it just hasn't clicked for him. Earlier this year he got the opportunity to have a go at learning the trumpet at school. I'm pleased to say that he's never looked back!

J-Uke's Grandma bought this trumpet in a charity shop in Pontefract when I took her to the Grand Northern Ukulele Festival in October. She gave it to J-Uke just recently. Unfortunately, it wouldn't produce a note. I joked that it probably had a pea stuck in it. I promised that I'd clean it and we'd see whether I could get it playing. I've never done anything like this before. What a great little project. In typical style, I've captured what I did for you. Did I get it working? Read on...

I did some brief research on how to clean trumpets. Based upon what I was reading, I realised that I needed some specialist kit. Here's the cleaning kit that I ended up ordering. It's got various brushes, oil, grease and a cloth. Once the kit arrived I did some more research only to stumble across the Zachary Music page. Here's what I read:

"The first thing you should know.
Don't clean your trumpet and Don't buy a cleaning kit."

Oh dear! I don't much like the idea of not cleaning a second-hand trumpet. This trumpet was going to get cleaned no-matter what Zachary thinks. ;-)

I know absolutely nothing about trumpets. I don't think that I'd ever held one until J-Uke brought one home. I've tried, but I struggle to get a note out of his school one. I quickly realised that actually, there is a lot more to trumpets than meets the eye. I was amazed to learn how many parts make up the trumpet. See above the mouth piece and one of the slides. This was only the beginning... I pulled off many more parts!

I'm not sure who's produced this gif, but I include it here because it illustrates the mechanics of a trumpet. I had no idea of the magic in the design! 

In the instructions I read for cleaning a trumpet, a lot was made of the valves. They were easy to remove; The top screws to the body of the trumpet. You just unscrew them and then slide the valves out.

Here's another shot of the valves. The three "caps" are from the underside of the body. 

This is where the valves fit.

Each of the valves are different. On this trumpet they are numbered from 1 to 3. And stamped on the body are the numbers so that you can get the right valve in the right hole. I figured out that the number stamped on the valves need to face to the front if the valve was going to be properly aligned.

Yep, here are more of the slides that I took off. I placed the whole trumpet (except for the valves) into a bath full of soapy water. I used plain old washing-up liquid and let the trumpet soak while I marvelled over all the different parts and wondered if I'd ever get it back together. This trumpet is a sort of silver and the goldish parts you can see here are from inside the trumpet.

The valves got special attention. There are two rings of felt on the top of each. I realised that these mustn't get wet. I soaked the valves in a cup, keeping the felt out of the water. 

This is "the snake". I set to the trumpet with the various brushes and cleaned the insides as best I could. I didn't find any peas. ;-)

Here's another look at the trumpet body without the various slides fitted.

Having washed the trumpet, I then dried it. I was beginning to wonder how much fun I was going to have putting all the bits back together. Before I did that though, I knew that I needed to grease and oil it.

I'd been scratching my head at why the bloody trumpet wouldn't play. Look at this close-up of one of the valves. See that circle at the top of the picture. I was beginning to wonder if the valves had been fitted out of alignment. I've learnt that each of the holes are meant to align with a pipe. Could this tell-tale circle be a sign of where the valve had been misplaced?

I greased all of the parts and fitted the trumpet back together. Then I oiled the valves so that they popped back up when released. Would it play? There was only one way to find out...

J-Uke obliged a quick sound check. He was gutted that he made a mistake. I didn't notice... ;-)

How about this trumpet! I reckon I'll get J-Uke one for Christmas! ;-)

(Photo courtesy of The Truth


  1. I just throw mine in the washing machine.

  2. I bet you do ;-) Send it my way... I'm an expert now ;-)

  3. I haven't got a trumpet but if I ever do get one I'll know how to keep it sparkly clean :)

  4. They're the future evl! and soooo noisy! Ha ha!