Tim teaches musical instruments in schools and colleges. He also plays the trumpet in several bands and arranges and publishes music.
How Often Should I Oil My Valves?
If you haven't oiled your valves before, it is best to do only one valve at a time. This way, you can make sure the valves don't get muddled up and get put back in the wrong order. It is common for beginners to put the valves back in incorrectly, causing the trumpet to end up blocked. If you do one valve at a time, you can check that the air flows smoothly each time. If the trumpet feels blocked, you will know which valve is in incorrectly. Turning the finger button clockwise will often fix this.
Here, you will find a step-by-step guide for how to easily oil your valves on your trumpet or cornet. Your valves will need oiling about once a week, and it only takes a few minutes. It is important that you oil your valves correctly, otherwise your trumpet will not work properly. I will show you where to put the oil on the trumpet so your valves work smoothly. I will also show how to put the valve back in correctly making sure the trumpet doesn't block up. I have also taken a video of myself oiling the valves on my trumpet so you can easily follow what to do.
Step One: Removing the Valve and Dropping the Oil
- Unscrew the valve cap and lift the valve halfway out (as shown in the picture).
- Add a few drops of valve oil on the wider part of the valve as shown.
- Make sure you use trumpet valve oil as other oils may be too thick or thin.
Step Two: Putting the Valve Back
Putting the valve back is the trickier bit. As you can see in the picture, each valve has a number stamped on it. Make sure that the correct valve is in its right slot. Valve one is nearest to the mouthpiece and valve three is nearest to the bell.
- With the number facing towards you (as in the picture above), push the valve back into its casing and then turn the valve a quarter of a turn clockwise until it clicks and locks in. The valve shouldn't be able to turn now. The number on the valve, which you can't see now, will be facing the mouthpiece.
- Before you screw the cap back on, blow through the trumpet to check that the air can still flow through it. If the trumpet is blocked, double check that the valve can't turn around and that the number on the valve is facing the mouthpiece. On some trumpets, the valves can lock in back to front. So be careful!
- To finish off, tighten the valve cap. Carefully take your time and make sure the valve cap is on straight. Repeat on each valve. I recommend watching the video clip below.
This technique will work on about 99% of trumpets. On some trumpets, the valve number won't face the mouthpiece receiver when clicked in. In this case, just turn the valve until it clicks and then check that the air can still flow through the trumpet. If it is blocked, then turn the valve a half turn again.
Cleaning Your Valves
Sometimes, no matter how much you oil your valves, they will continue to be spongey or stick. This is normally when your valves need a clean. To clean your valves, you will have to take them completely out and give them a wipe with a cloth, wiping off all of the old oil. You can do this dry with a cloth or a piece of clean old sheet. You will also need to clean the inside of the valve casing too. Remove the valve and unscrew the bottom valve cap. You can then pull a cloth through the valve casing with a cleaning rod. If you don't have a cleaning rod, you can push the cloth through with a pencil. Again, you can do this dry with an old piece of sheet, making sure you don't leave any fluff behind. Don't rest the valve on a dirty surface, as it will pick up specks of grit. It's normally best to have a cloth handy to rest them on. Once cleaned, put the valves back and oil the valves as described before. This can often make a dramatic difference to your valves as it only takes a little bit of grime to make the valves bad. Never clean your valves with something abrasive, like wire wool, as this will scratch them and make them worse.
Oiling the Valve Through the Bottom Valve Cap.
Oiling the valve through the bottom valve cap isn't advised. Although it can work, it is not nearly as effective as the method shown. Grime and old oil gathers in the lower valve cap, so washing this through your valve by oiling from the bottom is not a good idea. I would only ever oil from the bottom valve cap in an emergency and would expect to oil them properly soon after.
New Guestbook Comments
Reginald Thomas from Connecticut on June 27, 2019:
Nice article. A great hub for the trumpet player - young and old alike.
I am glad that you didn’t just say to turn the trumpet upside down and oil the valves in the holes in the bottom of the valves.
Young musicians need to know the correct way and be disciplined to do it regularly.
Susan Deppner from Arkansas USA on January 17, 2013: