Cleaning Your Trombone


Cleaning Your Trombone - Six Steps to a Smoother Trombone Slide. Does your trombone slide refuse to move as quickly as you want it to? Does playing feel uncomfortable because your slide is so rough? For most young trombonists, many playing problems can be solved simply by cleaning the trombone slide. After reading this article, you will be able to clean your slide and play trombone more easily.

The slide is the most delicate and important part of the trombone--it needs to move well for the player to change notes easily and play with good technique. Cleaning the slide takes about 15-30 minutes and only needs to be done once every two weeks, but can completely change the way you play. Cleaning the slide removes old lubricant, germs, and anything that you have blown into your trombone that shouldn't be there. Best of all, cleaning the slide can be done in six easy steps.

Step 1 - Gather your materials.

Start your trombone cleaning process at the music store. You will need to buy a flexible cleaning snake and a mouthpiece brush. Often, music stores sell "cleaning kits" with all the materials you need to clean your trombone. At home, get some gentle dish detergent, plastic cups, and a towel, and set your materials up around a bathtub or large sink.

Step 2 - Soak your mouthpiece.

Fill a plastic cup with hot water and a bit of detergent, and drop your mouthpiece in. Let it soak as you clean your slide, and then rinse it after you're done.

Step 3 - Clean the inside of your inner slide.

To clean your inner slide, pull your entire slide out of the case and lock your slide. You'll clean the inner slide with the outer slide still on, to protect it from damage. Put a drop of detergent into each tube, and then add a bit of warm water. Feed the snake down one tube, and gently scrub with an up-and-down motion. Pull the snake out and do the same thing with the other tube. Don't try to push the snake all the way through your slide--it might get stuck! After scrubbing, rinse the slide until you can pour out clear water with no soap suds.

Step 4 - Clean the outside of your inner slide.

This is the most delicate step of cleaning, because your inner slide can be easily damaged. Always handle your inner slide with great care, and be careful to keep it from hitting anything. Carefully pull your inner slide out and lay your outer slide gently on the towel. Put a drop of detergent on each stocking of your inner slide, and gently rub the detergent along the entire length of the slide. Rinse with warm water. When the slide squeaks when you rub it, it's clean!

Step 5 - Clean the inside of your outer slide.

Carefully place your inner slide on the towel and pick up your outer slide. Put detergent and water into your outer slide, and scrub and rinse just like you did in Step 2.

Step 6 - Finish Up! Clean your mouthpiece and tuning slide, and lubricate.

Take your mouthpiece out of the plastic cup, scrub it with your mouthpiece brush, and rinse with warm water. If your tuning slide is difficult to move, pull it out and clean it like you cleaned the outside of the inner slide in Step 3. Lubricate your slide and tuning slide with your favorite product. (Slide-O-Mix is great for slides and Selmer Tuning Slide and Cork Grease works well on tuning slides.)

After you've cleaned your trombone, your slide should move much more easily than it used to. If your slide begins to feel rough and slide oil doesn't help, you know it's time to clean your slide. Now that you know how to clean your trombone slide, playing your trombone will be easier and more comfortable.

Christina Thompson is a professional trombonist and music educator living in Raleigh, NC. She offers private trombone lessons, musical workshops, and creativity coaching designed to help you discover, develop, and enjoy your unique musical talents. If you need help learning music, please visit

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