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Frequently Asked Questions about Brass Instruments

Click on the Question, it will take you to our advice.

How do I remove a stuck mouthpiece?

How often should I have my brass instrument chemically cleaned?

Can I chem clean my brass instrument at home?

Why should I have my horn chem cleaned by the shop?

Is it okay to clean my brass instrument myself and how is it done?

What happens if I don’t have my instrument cleaned regularly?

What is the best way to clean and polish my lacquered brass instrument?

What is the best way to clean and polish my silver instrument?

Why are there pink spots on my mouthpipe? What is red rot?

Can you remove – erase a dent from my instrument?

Can you re-lacquer my instrument?

If a part comes undone can I just use glue to put it back together?

The springs in my valves are making noise. Is that normal?

Why are my valves sticking even with oil?

What kind of valve oils and slide grease do you recommend?

Why can’t I blow air through the horn easily?

My tone is fuzzy and it’s hard to play in tune…what’s wrong?

Will dents in my brass instrument affect the way it plays?


How do I remove a stuck mouthpiece? My mouthpiece is stuck in my instrument.

We will do this for you free! It is best to bring it in to one of our shops in person. We have special tools for that and will remove your stuck mouthpiece at no charge. Please do not attempt to do this yourself. There can very easily be disastrous results when trying to remove a stuck mouthpiece without the right tool!
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How often should I have my brass instrument chemically cleaned?

For most students, in the normal school band program, once a year is recommended. It very much depends on the amount of care and cleaning you give the instrument at home. If you take excellent care of your instrument, properly lubricate it regularly, and give it a proper cleaning bath once a month, you can safely wait 2 to 3 years before you need to bring it in for a professional chem clean.
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Can I chem clean my brass instrument at home?

No, there are no safe chemicals available for home use.
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Why should I have my horn chem cleaned by the shop?

The acidity in your saliva causes corrosion build up inside your instrument. Over time this damages, eats into, the brass and can also lead to red rot. It is very important to the life of your instrument to take excellent care of it and have this corrosion process neutralized on a regular basis.
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Is it okay to clean my brass instrument myself, and how is it done?

Not only is it ok, it is highly recommended. Basically you will be giving your horn a bath, drying it well, and lubricating it. We recommend you do that every 2 or 3 months. First you will need to get a cleaning kit specific to your instrument. We have those available at all our store locations.
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What happens if I don’t have my instrument cleaned regularly?

It will greatly shorten the life and your instrument. We recommend that you give your brass instrument a bath every 2 or 3 months and bring it into the shop for a full chem clean at least every 2 years. A professional chem clean is especially important for French Horns and other rotary valve instruments.
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What is the best way to clean and shine up my lacquered brass instrument?

We have polishing cloths available that are specifically made for polishing lacquer finishes. You may also use a clean soft cotton cloth, like t-shirt material, with a small amount of Pledge applied to the cloth.
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What is the best way to clean and shine up my silver instrument?

We have polishing cloths available that are specifically made for polishing silver finishes on brass instruments. We do NOT recommend these silver polishing clothes for Flute or Saxophones. You may also use a clean soft cotton cloth, like t-shirt material, with a small amount of common rubbing alcohol applied to the cloth. This will lift the fingerprints and grease and oils from the silver.
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Why are there pink spots on my mouthpipe? What is red rot?

Those pink spots are called red rot and need prompt attention. See one of our technicians as soon as possible.
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Can you remove/erase a dent from my instrument?

Yes we can. We do this every day. For a price quote you will need to bring it into one of our shops.
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Can you re-lacquer my instrument?

Yes we can. For a price quote you will need to bring it into one of our shops.
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If a part comes undone can I just use glue to put it back together?

NO! Never use glues on instrument parts. The subsequent repair needed will cost you much more money.
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The springs in my valves are making noise. Is that normal?

No a lot of noise is not normal. A small amount of noise is common, although this noise can usually be removed. You may need any combination of new springs, valve felts, or valve guides. You should bring your horn in to one of our technicians to diagnose the problem.
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Why are my valves sticking? Even with oil.

It is time for a technician to take a look at your valves and valve casings. There are a number of different reasons for this. Your instrument may have taken a bump that caused a valve casing distortion, you may have corrosion problems, or if the instrument is very old and seen a lot of play time, you may have worn valves and casings to the point where they need truing, re-plating, refitting, or replacement.
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What kind of valve oils and slide grease do you recommend?

Valve Oil: We highly recommend Hetman valve oils, they are synthetic and last longer than regular oils. Hetman offers a wide variety of viscosities for different specific applications and needs. They make something for everybody. They do not have compatibility issues with other lubricants and cause gumminess or sticking problems often associated with mixing and matching oils.
Slide Grease: We recommend Hetman’s & Super Slick because they use lanolin based formula which prevents gumming, drying out, and stuck slides.
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Why can’t I blow air through the horn easily?

We have seen any number of items lodged in the bore of brass instruments, especially large brass instruments… a tennis ball, bottle of valve oil, wads of paper, pencils, pens, even a slinky! You may also have air leaks or valve alignment issues. On most brass instruments there is a number on the valve that indicates whether it is the first, second, or third valve. If you have given your horn a bath make sure that the right valve is in the right casing and also make sure that your valves are all facing the right direction. Sometimes a valve can be put back inside the valve casing 180 degrees off, facing the wrong direction, which will not allow you to blow air passed that valve. If you are unsure, one of our technicians can diagnose the problem.
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My tone is fuzzy and it’s hard to play in tune…what’s wrong?

There are many reasons for this. You may have air leaks somewhere in the instrument. That can happen at solder joints, slide fittings, or water keys. You may have misaligned valves that will actually partially constrict your air flow through the bore. You may have dents that are constricting airflow in the small bore areas of your instrument such as valve port knuckles or the leadpipe/mouthpipe. You may have a partial blockage of your bore do to some object. It is time for a technician to take a good look at your instrument.
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Will dents in my brass instrument affect the way it plays?

In most cases the leadpipe/mouthpipe and valve port knuckles most critical when it comes to dents affecting playability. Small dents in in the larger parts of the main bore the instrument do not usually affect playability. If you have several dents deeper than 1/3 the bore diameter it may affect playability. It is really a matter of physics and sound wave disruptions caused by bore changes in various areas of the instrument. It all depends on the type of instrument and the location and depth of the dents. It’s best to have one of our technicians take a quick look at your instrument and advise you.
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