PSA: The Importance of Cleaning your Instrument

As I sit here staring at this winter tundra and trying to keep warm, I’ve been daydreaming a lot to keep myself occupied. One thought that randomly popped into my head this morning is that it has been awhile since I’ve cleaned Hector Lannible (my trombone), and by awhile, I mean almost a year ….oops!

I am posting today to remind you of why you should clean your horns and why winter may be the best time to get any adjustments done to keep your horn in top shape.

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When I went to clean Hector, (not to be too graphic),  a lot of green coppery residue (along with some other gross things that have been growing in there, I’m sure) came out. Once, a line of what looked like black mold came out with it after a particularly long hiatus. Thankfully, I had the sense to clean it before resuming my old practice regimen.

While actual deaths from playing a contaminated instrument have been rare (though here is one documented case), you have got to remember that this is the time of year that people are most vulnerable to respiratory illness and breathing in mold that may have taken up residence in your instrument is not going to help you stay healthy. In addition, not cleaning periodically is going to make cleaning in the future that much more difficult and can add undue wear and tear to your instrument.

 

If you have a brass instrument, a chem clean (a sort of deep clean that will help rid it of chemical deposits that will not come out with just soap and water and may obstruct the air column and in some cases effect valve action) along with an adjustment may be in order. Believe me when I say that it makes a difference when you are blowing through a squeaky clean pipe rather than a stalactite of lime that has grown in the dark cave of metal tubing over time.

If you can not clean your horn yourself (or after reading tutorials for your instrument are still afraid to try it yourself), please consider bringing it to a specialty shop to get it serviced. If you are in the Minneapolis MN area, here are links to a few good people and places that I know of that specialize in instrument repair and maintenance.

Laurel Chapman

Services Woodwind and Brass

Hours: Made By Appointment

Location: The Ivy Building, Minneapolis (Map)

Contact/Website :http://www.chapmanrepair.com/

 

Melanie Ditter

Services Woodwind and Brass

Hours: Made by Appointment

 Location: East St Paul

Contact/Website:https://www.roguerepairs.com/

612-382-0661

 

Twin Cities instrument Repair

Services Woodwind and Brass

Location: the downstairs corridor of Schmitt Music in Edina (Map)

Hours: Monday – Thursday: 10:00am – 5:30pm, Friday: 10:00am – 5:00pm
Contact: (612) 238-9930 Ext. 3

 

If you do not live in this area, ask around for recommendations. Those in your instrumental circles will know who “the Guy or the Gal” is, so don’t be afraid to ask for several opinions.

One last thought: If you need a chem clean or refurbishments, taking care of these needs during wintertime could help you avoid the rush that comes just before and after marching band season, so your horn is more likely to come back to you sooner. Remember though, that demand at shops varies so if you need your horn back in a hurry, always ask the shopkeeper for a rough timeframe and be upfront with what you want. They need some flexibility to make sure that you are getting quality work done right the first time. Or better yet, bring it as soon as possible to allow plenty of time to get it back before you need it!

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