Monday, September 29, 2008
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Maintenance During the Performance Season by Chuck Hagler
This article was re-printed with the permission of School Band and Orchestra Magazine.
It's marching band time again, then on to basketball games, parades, holiday concerts, contests and those "Broadway spring shows." Grab that horn that sat around all summer, practice for a few minutes, and hit the field. Wow! What a way to make an entrance.
Since most of us are responsible musicians, we practiced during the summer and sent our instruments to the repair shop for that annual evaluation, check-up and repair. Since this was done, we should be all set for the new season - right? Well, in many cases you are right, but there are many cases where a little training and responsibility could make you a better musician, make your instrument play just a little bit better, and make your musical experience a more joyful one.
OIL, GREASE, LUBRICANTS
There are many choices of oils and lubricants for the woodwind player and the brasswind player. Not many years ago, whatever was in the case you put on the horn. A trumpet came with a bottle of valve oil, a clarinet had a bottle of key oil, or a trombone had a bottle of slide oil. Today there are many different brands, styles and choices for each. There are oils with petroleum bases then there are oils with more natural products like almond oils. There are synthetic base products and there are water-soluble products.
Did you ever change your brand of valve oil? Have you experimented with different styles or brands of trombone slide creams and oils? Have you thought about using a different mixture of oils on your French horn rotors? If you are a woodwind player, do you really know what bore oil does and, furthermore, do you know how to apply it properly to the bore on the instrument?
A good check-up annually at the band instrument repair shop is a must. Here is your chance for a professional to look at your instrument and repair and service it so you are playing properly and not "fighting" with it. Many servicing techniques which could involve just a professional cleaning or a minor adjustment can correct something you might not even be aware of. A good suggestion: make friends with your technician and ask about different lubricants, cleaning procedures, and applications. Be sure you ask about many different products available in your area. Just because an oil works well in Louisiana doesn't mean it would be the best for you in Maine. The heat, cold, humidity and dry air all create different problems for each family of instrument. Furthermore, just because a valve oil works well on your friend's trumpet doesn't mean it is the best for you, even if you play the same brand of instrument. Your body chemicals may be different and yours could react differently to the oil inside the horn.
CASES, GIG BAGS and STORAGE
Not may years ago a musician had a simple case and possibly a case cover to protect the instrument. These cases were wood or molded plastic. Today, we have cases and bags in all shapes and sizes. Some can protect your musical instrument far better than those old wood cases did for many years. "Blocking a case" is a job for a professional, but it can save you many dollars in needless repairs. How you carry your instrument, where you store it, and how rough you are with it may help determine which style is best for you.
Flush out your instrument on a regular basis. If you play your horn an average on 30 minutes per day, six days a week, you should thoroughly flush your horn a minimum of every four to six weeks. Also, remember, every time you change brands of oil or slide cream, you should give your horn a bath. Pistons, rotors and trombone hand slide tubes can slow down and drag just because you have mixed oils and creams.
Watch the brand of soap you use when giving your horn a bath. A mild grease-cutter soap is recommended. Whatever you use is better than nothing, but be sure to flush all the residue out and hand-wipe the casings with a lint-free rag to remove any caked-on deposits. Even with regular maintenance, the brass instrument should be professionally cleaned at least once a year.
Learn how to oil the bore on wood instruments if the original manufacturer suggests that it be done. This could be important if cracks develop on down the line. Have your local technician show you how to properly oil and lubricate the key mechanisms two or three times a year. Try different swabs to remove moisture when you are done playing. If you have a safe place, I would suggest you place the case down with the horn in it and leave the lid open. This will let the air circulate and help remove some of the moisture which has built up.
Learn how to clean your bow and, if you use any polish on the body, try to find a type which is best suited for the original finish. There are different gauges of strings which might work better for you as well as different chin rests, machine heads and bridges. Again, a competent technician can see what you have and suggest possible alternatives.
A good teacher can help you learn how to play and be a better musician, a good contact at your local music store can show you products which should help you improve your playing, and a good technician can keep your instrument playing at its best. A music experience should be a great one, whether you play by yourself, in a small group, or with the full band or orchestra. Keep up to date on the latest developments and products and learn how to use them correctly.
Chuck Hagler is the executive director of the he National Association of Professional Band Instrument Repair Technicians (NAPBIRT), P.O. Box 51, Normal, IL 61761. He is an advocate of music, and gives clinics on the repair and servicing of all band instruments. Chuck Hagler can also be contacted via email at: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Can we assist you with anything? Please contact your local Palen Music Center school road representative for all of your music education needs.
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