Adams Music Centre

Maintenance to your instrument

Maintenance - some of it you can do for yourself; other parts are better carried out by a specialist. Every musician knows that his instrument needs to be well-maintained. Not just on the outside, but on the inside as well. A lot of maintenance can be done by the musician himself. Yet there are things that are best done by a specialist. Take, for example, the problem of valves being slightly stuck or a trombone that is not sliding smoothly.

There may be any number of causes for this, including a valve housing that is no longer straight, small dents in the valves or in the inner or outer slide, or a valve that might be leaking or worn. On the other hand, some valves or slides may have operated poorly from the beginning. Such problems may be solved permanently by way of a valve construction, valve correction, or slide optimisation. Below, you will find a number of tips you can use to maintain your instrument. In addition, we will give you information about the methods used by specialists to maintain your instrument in optimum condition.

As mentioned above, an instrument has to be cleaned internally on a regular basis. You can do this once every two months by using luke-warm water with a dash of liquid detergent. (Never use hot or boiling water and/or washing soda.) Place the instrument into the water for a half an hour. Rinse it thoroughly under clean running water. (Again: not too hot!) If you are cleaning the valves, remove the valve caps from the bottom first. Wipe these with a lint-free cloth. To clean the valve housing, it is best to use special brushes. These are commercially available. Next, reassemble the valves and apply valve oil to ensure smooth movement. After some time, you will notice, however, that you cannot clean your instrument as well as you used to. Muziekcentrale Adams uses a special ultrasonic cleaning bath to remove all limescale and saliva residues that cannot be removed by simply placing the instrument into the water and rinsing it.

When valves get stuck
One of the most frequently hear problems with brass instruments is that, despite the fact that the instrument is kept clean and well-maintained, the valves will get stuck after a while. One of the solutions to this problem is to hone the valve housings and the valves and to nickel-plate these. But the term ‘honing’ is used for various actions. Often, the term is used to indicate the manual grinding of the valves internally or the making passable of these using a special paste. However, honing is to be done using honing stones, which are available in a range of sizes and degrees of coarseness. The honing stones are used to bore out the valve housing, as it were, to make sure it is perfectly straight and round. The valves themselves are placed between two honing stones to make them absolutely straight. Using high-precision equipment, the valves are measured in three places – top, centre and bottom – to ensure their perfect straightness, roundness and smoothness.

Maintenance booklet
You can pick up your free copy of the new maintenance booklet for brass and wood-wind instruments from Adams Muziekcentrale, or download it here.

Perfectly smooth movement once again
After the valve housing and valves have been honed, the valves are nickel-plated. At Muziekcentrale Adams, the hard nickel-plating method is used. This procedure is rather complex, which is why it is not often used anymore. It stems from old American times. Remember the perfect, smooth movement of the valves in instruments by Conn, Olds, Getzen and Edwards? At Muziekcentrale Adams, we use exactly the same technology for the hard nickel-plating of valves. After the valves have been nickel-plated, the valves and valve housings are measured using high-precision equipment. Valves are honed until they are just a fraction smaller in diameter than the valve housing and they will move perfectly smooth once again.

Valve alignment
Occasionally, a musician will notice that his instrument no longer produces the tone he is used to and that it no longer sounds open.
The cause for this may be that the holes in the valves are no longer aligned with the holes in the valve housing. The openings do not match one hundred percent. This may be the case when valves are pressed as well as when they are not. The American Bob Reeves investigated this phenomenon and has demonstrated that this poor alignment of the holes in the valves and the valve housing may be as much as 4 millimetres! When it is common knowledge that a deviation of one tenth of a millimetre is already quite noticeable to the musician. Adams has developed special equipment to be able to determine such a deviation in a highly precise manner. One of the methods to remedy a deviation is to adjust the thickness of the felt underneath the valves so that the two holes are perfectly aligned once again. At Muziekcentrale Adams, we use a special compressed material instead of this felt, which does not absorb any moisture and which can be made to a thickness with a precision of 0.02 of a millimetre. Adams uses this special material, because felt is known to expand when it gets damp, causing misalignment. The same is true when the valves are pressed. Here, also, the special material is used, with a precisely measured thickness, to make sure that the valve holes are exactly aligned to the holes in the valve housing. As a result, the instrument will play more evenly, with a better tone and a better sound.

V mechanism trigger
Even when the valve holes and the holes of the valve housing are perfectly aligned, you may still experience problems playing your instrument. For example when certain tones cannot be tuned. A solution may be to place a trigger on your instrument. This may be on the first or the third slide, the disadvantage of this being that you are only able to correct the tones you are playing with the first and/or third valve. That is why it is better to place the trigger on the main tuning slide wherever possible, e.g. on euphoniums and basses. This way, you are able to correct the tuning of all the tones. Muziekcentrale Adams has developed triggers for all brass instruments. They are unique in that they are operated by means of a V mechanism. This means that the trigger operates the main tuning slide on both sides, so that it will never block.

Trainings and experience
Many trombone players experience difficulties with the smooth up and down movement of their slide. This may be caused by damage to the inner or outer slide, a slide that is out of alignment, or one that scrapes or grates. There are different ways to align a slide. The people at Muziekcentrale Adams have followed special training courses, for example in the United States, and have a lot of experience of their own to make sure they know how to align slides and measure this alignment using high-precision equipment. In addition, we have developed a special procedure to remove minute scratches and dents form the slide. Your slide has never run more smoothly. If you want more information about any of the subjects discussed here, please contact Muziekcentrale Adams, phone +31 (0)475 56 07 00, or send an e-mail to

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