Instrumental Tips & Tricks

OK, so you haven’t brought your horn to the shop in HOW LONG?

Your horn in important; it’s crucial to your job or your spare time, or just maybe your life. It’s the extension of your soul and it’s the thing that can make your heart sing or your blood boil. Either way, it can’t be ignored. Like your better half, it needs your TLC.

We’ve talked about people who have tried to do simple things by themselves, only to rack up giant repair bills. But there are some simple things you can do to keep your horn (and maybe your better half) happy.


  • Oil your valves daily; do not mix petroleum-based oils with synthetics
  • Keep your slides greased with Hetmann #7 or #7.5
  • Wash your instrument monthly with warm water and dishwashing liquid
  • Use warm, never hot water, on lacquered instruments

If you find that your horn pits or the plating blisters easily, then wipe your horn daily with a soft cloth. Pledge is good on lacquer, and Formula 409 (or similar) is best for plated instruments. It’s important that you spray the cloth first, not the horn.

Personally, I’m in the habit of swabbing my lead pipe almost daily; it’s amazing what a difference that can make.


  • Bring your horn into shop at least once a year, avoid August/September!
  • Keep your mouthpiece clean; use cold water on hard rubber
  • Swab your horn after every time you play
  • Check your keys for lint and dust; use a small natural-bristled brush

If you’re a pro and play every day, you should bring your horn in 2-3 times a year for adjustments to the pads and key mechanisms. I prefer cork or synthetic pads for clarinets and oboes. On saxes, bassoons and bass clarinets, I use the highest quality leather pads on the market. They last longer, and are more consistent.

Good maintenance, like for your car or your favorite person, is essential for your well-being, and will save you a lot of hassle and expense in the long run. Be sure to shower your horn with TLC and it will sing for you in return.

About randyjmueller

Sr. Instrument Repair technician
This entry was posted in Instrument Repair, Uncategorized and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s