As a trombone player, it’s easy to sometimes fall behind on slide maintenance. After all, it’s not like we can just loosen a valve, dump some oil on it, and then get back to making music like some other brass instruments. Proper slide care is an ongoing process that includes, but is not limited to, cleaning your slide, correctly lubricating it, and even paying attention to what and when you eat before playing trombone! Rather than “reinventing the wheel” by writing out my process from start to finish, this post should give all of my students a good, centralized resource for trombone slide maintenance.
Micah Everett, Assistant Professor of Music at the University of Mississippi, has put together a great article on his website. My personal preference is to follow just about everything listed on his blog post, using the following equipment:
- Trombone cleaning rod with cheesecloth or the Slide-O-Mix cleaning rod sheaths (blue for large-bore, red for small)
- Bassoon swab (I use the HW Brass-Saver Trombone brush)
- Paper towels
- Spray bottle filled with clean water.
- Lukewarm water, preferably running water. Do not let the water get too hot, as hot water can sometimes damage or remove lacquer finishes.
- Trombone cleaning snake (vinyl or rubber-coated).
- Dishwashing detergent (Dawn is great!)
- Wright’s Brass Polish (On older slides).
Another great resource is the Edwards Trombones website, which has a page dedicated to maintenance and slide care. This page is especially valuable to those that are less familiar with this process, since it has a number of quality videos as well.
I prefer to use the following trombone lubricants:
- Yamaha Slide Lubricant
- Hetman Tuning Slide Gel
- Hetman Rotor Oil, Light
- Hetman Bearing & Linkage Oil, Medium
These are all great for both quick slide/valve action, but also for the minimal residue that they leave behind, which makes cleaning even easier. Keep in mind that every trombone (even between the same brand or model) can have slight differences that affect how well a particular cleaning method or lubricant works. It will take some trial and error to find what works best for you, but reading through these resources in their entirety will give you a great idea of where to start!