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For your trumpet to play properly, you must lubricate the valves with trumpet valve oil on a regular basis. Choosing the best valve oil may involve some trial error as it all depends on your preferences and what kind of trumpet you play. For tight valves and a very quick response, a light valve oil is the best choice. For older or looser valves, a heavy oil is often necessary. Valve oil is relatively inexpensive and readily available in music stores, online, and through catalogs.
There are two basic types of valve oil: natural and synthetic. Natural valve oil is petroleum based. Synthetic oil is typically more expensive than natural oil, and it is not as commonly used. Some experts claim that synthetic works well with newer instruments and that natural oil works better with older instruments, but in many cases, choice of oil is a personal preference.
Newer trumpets typically have tight fitting valves that work well with thin oils. Vintage trumpets that have seen a lot of use usually have more space in the valve and work better with a thicker oil. In some cases, manufacturers rate their trumpet valve oil as heavy, light, or regular. This refers to the thickness of the oil. Heavy oils are typically used with looser valves and light oils with tight fitting valves.
The valve oil, particularly its thickness, will effect how the valve reacts. Some musicians prefer their valves to have slight resistance, while others want a valve that slips up and down with the lightest touch. The only way to find out what oil is right for you and your instrument is to try different types.
Valves should be cleaned thoroughly before trying a new trumpet valve oil. Mixing natural oils can cause the valves to stick and mixing synthetic and natural oils can cause damaging corrosion to the instrument. Corrosion usually requires a chemical treatment to remove, which is costly and must be performed by a professional instrument repairman.
Although it may seem trivial, it is important to consider the packaging of the trumpet valve oil. Most comes in some type of bottle, but the lid or cap can make a difference in the ease of dispensing the liquid. Consider the few minutes before a performance or during rehearsal, and think about whether the bottle would be easy to dispense oil from. Even the best valve oil, if it cannot be dispensed easily, will go unused.
Many new trumpets have a small bottle of trumpet valve oil included in the instrument case. Advanced players agree that this oil is typically not high quality, usually doesn't last very long, and provides unsatisfactory results. Since even good valve oil is relatively inexpensive, it is worth it to throw out the valve oil that comes with the instrument and purchase a higher quality product.
Frequently Asked Questions
What factors should I consider when choosing the best trumpet valve oil?
When selecting the best trumpet valve oil, consider the viscosity, which affects the speed and smoothness of your valve action. A higher viscosity oil is thicker and may be better for older instruments with worn valves, while a lower viscosity oil is thinner and suitable for newer trumpets. Additionally, check for non-toxic, synthetic options that provide long-lasting lubrication and are less likely to cause allergic reactions or damage the instrument's components.
How often should I oil my trumpet valves?
The frequency of oiling your trumpet valves depends on how much you play and the conditions in which you store your instrument. As a general rule, valves should be oiled once a week for regular players, according to the National Association for Music Education. However, if you notice your valves starting to stick or become sluggish, it's time to apply valve oil regardless of the schedule.
Can I use any type of oil on my trumpet valves?
No, you should not use just any type of oil on your trumpet valves. Household oils or products not specifically designed for brass instruments can cause damage or build-up that hinders valve performance. Always use a dedicated trumpet valve oil that is formulated to provide the right balance of lubrication without harming the instrument.
Does the brand of trumpet valve oil make a difference?
Yes, the brand of trumpet valve oil can make a difference. Established brands often have a reputation for consistency and quality, and many professional musicians have preferences based on their experiences. It's important to research and try different brands to find the one that works best for your specific trumpet and playing style.
Is there a difference between synthetic and petroleum-based trumpet valve oils?
There is a significant difference between synthetic and petroleum-based trumpet valve oils. Synthetic oils are generally more stable, provide longer-lasting lubrication, and are less likely to gum up or evaporate. Petroleum-based oils can vary in quality and may require more frequent application. Some musicians prefer synthetic oils for their non-toxic and non-allergenic properties, as well as their environmental benefits.