A couple of weeks ago, I attended the 10th annual Atlanta Trumpet Festival, at the Emory University campus. If you'd like to learn more about the Atlanta Trumpet Festival, start with my review from 2012. That article includes an introduction as well as some information about Kay Fairchild, the festival organizer, and her Atlanta Trumpet Ensemble.
Once again, I participated as a playing member of the adult ensemble. Not to toot my own horn, but I played better this year than I've played in any previous year of the Atlanta Trumpet Festival! For the first time, I even played one of the first trumpet parts (members pick there own parts and I normally pick lower parts). I can't say for certain, but I think the soft playing that I've done this year has resulted in a more consistent upper register and improved endurance.
TRUMPET CLINIC - HOW TO CLEAN YOUR TRUMPET
Each year, the Atlanta Trumpet Festival includes two master classes, or clinics. Usually the master classes focus on warm ups, or some other aspect of trumpet performance. This year, however, one of the master classes didn't have anything to do with playing the trumpet at all. Instead, it was a clinic on how to clean a trumpet, hosted by Rich Ita. If you've read my "equipment information" page, you might recall that Rich Ita repaired and restored my trumpet back in 2008.
As of this writing, I've been playing the trumpet for a total of 17 years. While I haven't exactly been the most diligent trumpet cleaner, I've certainly done it enough times to know what I'm doing. Really, though, how much is there to talk about? First you fill the kitchen sink up with soapy water. Then you take the trumpet apart and put it in the sink. After waiting an hour, or if your wife declares that she needs to use the sink (whichever comes first!), you remove the trumpet parts, grease up the slides, and accidentally drop one of them onto the kitchen floor.
To my surprise, the trumpet cleaning clinic ended up being one of the more interesting clinics that I've attended at any of the trumpet festivals. And as it turns out, I've been cleaning my trumpet improperly all of these years!
For my trumpet playing readers, here are some of the things I learned during Rich Ita's clinic on trumpet cleaning:
- Wipe off the slides and valves before soaking the trumpet - After disassembling my trumpet, I always put everything into the water as-is. It's better, though, to use a paper towel to wipe off the grease and valve oil first so you'll have cleaner water and a cleaner final horn.
- Soak the trumpet in lukewarm water with a little bit of mild dish soap - I always used very hot water, thinking that if it's good enough to wash dishes, it's good enough to clean my trumpet. In actuality, the hot water can cause some damage by eating away at the trumpet's finish. Similarly, you shouldn't use so much soap that you end up with lots of suds. That soap can also damage your trumpet's finish and result in flaking and/or pitting.
- It's a good idea to put a drop or more of valve oil down your lead pipe - Our saliva has chemicals, enzymes, and bits of food which can corrode the inside of the trumpet. Putting a few drops of valve oil into the horn and blowing it through will coat the inside of the horn, acting a sealant against your gross disgusting germs.
- If your valves are stuck, oil them, don't just mash them up and down - if you haven't played your horn in a while and a valve is stuck, or hard to press, don't press it up and down over and over again to free it up. Instead, remove the valve and add some valve oil. The valve was likely stuck due to crystallization of your saliva, corrosion, and that grande Americano you drank before practice. That stuff can be brittle and moving it around a lot without oil can scrape your valves. If you can't remove the valve because it's too stuck, you might try adding valve oil via one of the value's slides.
- Don't oil your valves from the bottom - I've always known it's not a good idea to oil valves from the little hole in the bottom of the caps, but I never really knew why. As Rich explained, it's a bad idea because deposits, sediment, and other junk naturally floats to the bottom of our valves. When we turn the horn upside down and oil from the bottom, we are encouraging those deposits to make their way back into the valve casing where they might damage the valves.
As always, I'd like to thank Kay Fairchild, her son David Fairchild, the Atlanta Trumpet Ensemble, and everyone else responsible for bringing us the Atlanta Trumpet Festival each year. It's an event that I always look forward to and we're lucky to have it here in Atlanta.