- I want to ship you my horn for work. How do I do that without having FedEx/UPS turn it into modern art?
Unfortunately shipping damage is a reality all musicians have to be aware of & consider at some point. Ace Ventura really does work for UPS & the like. The damage I've seen first hand is horrific & in most cases is... AVOIDABLE. The best thing you can do to combat this is package your horn like it's plutonium encased in a porcelain kitten and follow THESE DETAILED INSTRUCTIONS
"I read online that you're not supposed to Ultrasonically clean older instruments because it will damage them"
- That is an inaccurate statement based on the assumption that all older brass instruments are corroded & have a weak tensile strength to the metal. Horns of any age can suffer corrosion or have flaws that can be exploited during the cleaning process. If an instrument is well cared for & properly maintained with regular cleanings & oiling its lifespan can almost be limitless. Conversely, a horn that is not cleaned, not oiled properly & has an owner who eats &/or drinks things that introduce corrosive elements into the instrument can create a serious predisposition to metal failure almost immediately. Brass instruments can suffer damage during the ultrasonic cleaning process one of two ways: 1. The brass has red rot or a brittle metal fabric resulting from advanced corrosion. 2. During the manufacturing process the brass in certain spots can be stretched too thin or over-buffed creating a foil thing spot which is not usually visually distinctive & will inevitably fail in short time just under normal use.
-In each of these pre-existing conditions the aggressive scrubbing action of the sound waves can exploit the weak spots as it removes debris & cause pinholes or dissolve the brass in those areas. The fact is, if the brass is compromised to the point where the cleaning process can facilitate this kind of damage, the brass is already damaged to the point where failure is imminent regardless & it is literally being held together by the dirt & corrosion. A skilled technician will inspect the instrument for these types of conditions prior to cleaning & present options to the owner as far as recommending patch-work, replacing failed parts or in some cases forgo the cleaning all together if the customer so chooses. I know many players who just clean their horns manually & think that is sufficient. Nothing substitutes a professional cleaning, ultrasonic or otherwise. One thing is certain however, NOT cleaning your instrument will only worsen any adverse condition your horn already has & prevent you from addressing it so the instrument can be salvaged & continue a useful life.
Which valve oil should I use?
-Very few lubricants on the market are actually harmful to your instrument so your options are almost limitless. Players choose lubricants based on how well it works & how long it lasts. These factors are mainly established by "viscosity" & "film strength". Viscosity is how thin or thick the oil is; thinner typically used on newer valves with a tighter tolerance & thicker for older more worn valves. Film strength is how strong the chemical bond of the oil is. Speaking mainly of piston instruments, as the valve operates up & down the friction between the valve casing & piston face degrades & tears at the chemical bond ultimately rendering it ineffective. Another factor in how long it lasts is how quickly it evaporates or allows dilution from your body chemistry/saliva. Different oils react with the variety of alloys in the metal & your personal body chemistry differently so sometimes you have to try many kinds of oil before you find one that works best for you. Also consider the environment the instrument is used in; are you playing in an air-conditioned symphony hall or a 110 degree drum corps practice field? Lastly, it's important to note that calling valve oil "lubricant" is almost a misnomer. Technically any liquid can provide lubrication, up to & including your saliva. It's just a matter of it's effectiveness & lasting ability. The most important function of lubricants are to create a dielectric barrier to both shield the metal from corrosive elements & to keep them from chemically welding themselves together through galvanic corrosion, as dissimilar metals have a tendency to do over time.
If I clean my horn myself at home do I still need to get it professionally cleaned?
-Yes. While it is highly recommended that you DO regularly clean your own instrument, scrubbing it out with a snake using soap & water only (or by using our special trumpet care kit as recommended) removes the loose debris, or "horn cheese", to use a technical term. The most harmful build-up in a horn is the hard calcium & corrosion deposits that a nylon bristle brush won't touch. It is recommended that you have your instrument professionally cleaned at least once a year, twice if you play frequently.
If I travel with my instruments a lot is it safe to check them as baggage?
-I would avoid checking your instruments under a plane at ALL COSTS, regardless of the kind/brand of case it is in. I see all sorts of travel damage come through the shop & my opinion, if you check your instrument, even in an extremely well made case, you run a 70% chance of suffering some kind of damage either by rough handling &/or impromptu inspections by TSA when you're not present to assist. My suggestion would be to invest in a case that will fit under the seat or in the overhead, such as a Marcus Bona compact quad case, or other similarly sized cases. Be prepared however, regardless of how well you prepare & which case you choose, some airline staff will insist that you gate check it. When this happens, many of my customers have had success in impressing upon the gate agent the specific high value of your instruments & ask if they can be stored in a Steward or Captain's stowage area. If it still ends up being gate-checked, just emphatically ensure that you can pick it up on the jetway when you exit the plane & not have it enter the catacombs of luggage death & suffering. With that said, if you happen to be traveling with only ONE trumpet, Torpedo cases are the only cases I feel will provide adequate protection for a horn to survive being checked as baggage. That being said, nothing protects against a ham-handed TSA agent opening said case to "inspect" it.