Any instrument needs upkeep and small repairs if you’re using it for a long time – but how expensive is it to play and maintain a trumpet? With the right care, you’ll find it’s quite an affordable instrument to play!
How Long Do Trumpets last?
A good trumpet, if it is properly cared for, can last several decades before it’s time to get a new one. Having said that, how long a trumpet lasts depends heavily on the quality of the trumpet and the amount of care and maintenance it receives.
A low-quality trumpet that is not cared for properly will have a much shorter lifespan than a good quality trumpet that is properly looked after.
To ensure that your trumpet has a long lifespan, make sure to buy a trumpet that is of good quality and care for it regularly. A general rule of thumb is that expensive trumpets (like the Bach 190 Stradivarius) are of higher quality and hence will have a longer lifespan.
The reason that good quality trumpets last longer is that for the most part they are made with more care, made with better materials and have better quality components (valves, horn, mouthpiece etc). Care and maintenance is another critical step to ensuring a long lifespan for your trumpet.
However, all trumpets need to be properly maintained regularly no matter the quality. “So how do I maintain my trumpet?” you may ask. In the next section, you will see what you need to do to properly maintain your trumpet.
What Trumpet Maintenance is Necessary?
A trumpet has many components and all of them need to be cleaned and maintained. This is so that the sound produced can be as accurate as possible to what the producer intended and so that the trumpet lasts as long as possible.
Cleaning the exterior (daily/after use)
At the end of every day, or after the trumpet has been used, it should be wiped down with a cloth. Ideally, a microfibre cloth should be used as they pick up more residue than a normal cloth. However, any cloth will do the trick.
By doing this, you can remove any grease and residue that collects on the trumpet. Make sure to especially wipe where your hands touch the lacquer, as this is where most residue resides. Also, wash the cloth itself every month so that you are not wiping with a cloth that is dirty itself.
General bath (every couple of months)
A lukewarm bath for your trumpet is a good way to make sure that both the exterior and interior of your trumpet is clean. Take apart your trumpet and then submerge the pieces into some soapy lukewarm water.
Leave it in there for about 10 minutes and give the components a light brush. Finally, take out all the components and let them fully dry before reassembling.
Clean valves (at the same time as the general bath)
At the same time as you’re giving your trumpet a bath, take valves and submerge them in the soapy water. Brush the outside of the valves using a light brush such as a toothbrush. Then use a cylindrical brush or snake brush to clean the inside of the valves.
Oil valves (at least three times per week)
You should oil your trumpet valves at least three times a week, or better yet every day you play. Valve oil (like Music Nomad) is fairly cheap and will ensure good lubrication. Failure to oil your trumpet valves can at worst cause damage to the trumpet pistons.
To oil the valves of your trumpet, take the valve and coat it with a liberal amount of good quality valve oil*. Then put the valve back in the casing and make sure that the valve clicks into place.
Common Repairs For Trumpets And What They Cost
Even if you buy a good quality trumpet and care for it properly, accidents and issues can still occur. Here are some common issues that you should be aware of and what you should expect to pay to have them fixed by a professional.
Dropping your trumpet and causing a dent can happen to anyone no matter their experience. Dents should be fixed as they can affect the sound produced depending on where the dent is located.
Cracks in soldering seams can happen and can often be repaired by a professional (or by yourself, if you’re very handy). See the article Patching Cracks, Splits, Holes etc. over at robbstewart.com to find out more about common splits in trumpet tubing.
A valve alignment is about aligning the pistons with the corresponding holes in their valve casings. This can happen when your valve felt pads compress over time and shift the position of the valve hole slightly. Doctor Valve in Illinois will replace the pads with more durable pads that are supposed to last much longer than those made of felt.
Water keys are another moveable part that sometimes succumbs to the wear and tear of regular use and breaks or becomes damaged.
Stuck slides are a fairly common issue among trumpet players. This is one of the cheaper issues to fix – however, it’s also tempting to try to yank and pull at the slide until it comes loose. It’s best not to use too much force lest you end up with a more expensive dent to fix, so consider taking your horn to the repair shop instead.
These are also very common, and easy to fix – see our article on 3 Ways To Remove A Stuck Mouthpiece to find out more.
Sometimes your tuning slides end up not being parallel anymore (see image here), which you might want to get fixed. This might be one you can fix yourself, but it’ll also be one of the cheaper repairs you’ll have done if you take it to the shop.
Do It Yourself – Carefully!
If you do not feel like paying to get an issue fixed by a professional, there are always DIY tutorials to fix it for free/at a lower price. However, be aware that not all tutorials will fix your problem and could even damage your trumpet more. This is why it is recommended to get the trumpet fixed by a professional.
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