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Tips on Avoiding Trouble

In the foregoing we have made several suggestions on how to avoid trouble. Here are a few more, taken from the experience of both professionals and amateurs. Some of these tips may seem trivial, but it is some of these "trivial" things which cause big troubles.

  1. Don't chew gum or drink pop and other "soft drinks" while playing. Sugar from the gum and soft drinks will be blown into the instrument, causing the valves to stick. Don't smoke while playing, or tobacco particles will be blown into the instrument. After eating candy or food, rinse the mouth thoroughly with water before playing your instrument. The reason is obvious.

  2. Don't pick up instrument by grasping it near the end of the valve slides or tuning slide. See Fig. 9. At this point the leverage on the valve slides is greatest and the slides are liable to become sprung. Not only that but this leverage on the slides often puts a buckle or dent in the valve casing to which they are joined. It takes only a slight dent here to rub on the piston and cause the valves to drag. If you don't believe what we're telling you and you want to run the risk of damaging your valves, try this test: Push the third valve down, then grasp your third valve slide and apply a little pressure. This slight pressure will buckle the valve casing enough to bind the piston so it will not come up. Every time you pick the instrument up in this manner and squeeze the valve slides, you buckle the valve casing and then you wonder why the valves give trouble. Pick up cornets and trumpets by their valves. Pick up larger instruments by thumb ring, one of the larger branches, or other well-braced part.

  3. When holding the cornet or trumpet in playing position, don't put pressure on second valve slide with the right hand. This puts a strain on the valve slide, which in turn puts stress on the valve casing, causing the same trouble pointed out above.

  4. Don't lay your instrument down so stress and strain are put on any of the valve slides. This is especially important in the larger instruments, such as basses and sousaphones.

  5. Check up on the latch of your case to be sure it is holding properly. Such care may avoid a bad spill and damage to your instrument if the lid should fly open.

  6. Tie down or box mouthpiece and other accessories in the case so they can't bang around loose. Many a bad dent, especially in the valve casing, has been caused in this manner.

  7. Be sure your case is properly blocked to give protection to your instrument in the event the case and instrument are dropped or something is dropped on them. Usually a case made by the manufacturer of the instrument has been designed for this specific instrument. Beware of "special" cases made to fit all instruments. Also beware of second hand cases originally made for other instruments. They often support the instrument where it should not be supported and do not support it where they should.

  8. Don't force lid shut on a case crammed with music and other stuff. You run a big chance of springing slides and jamming the valves. And don't use your case as a seat, it isn't built to withstand such usage.

  9. Don't use rubber bands to hold water key shut, except in an emergency and temporarily. Sulphur in the rubber will tarnish silver and brass and eventually will eat into the. metal. Any rubber article, such as rubber mouthpiece, will tarnish silver if left in the case unwrapped.

  10. A piece of camphor gum absorbs moisture and is often carried in the case with the instrument to absorb moisture and retard tarnish or corrosion, especially in summer when humidity of the air is high.

  11. When you put your mouthpiece in your instrument, don't hit it with your hand to drive it in. This constant hitting your mouthpiece may damage the mouthpipe or other part of your instrument. Simply put the mouthpiece in the mouthpipe and give it a slight twist to seat it properly.

  12. Check springs, especially springs in the bottom of the valves, to see that their thrust is vertical and not sidewise. You can usually tell from the way the spring leans. Such a leaning spring exerts more pressure on the piston against one side of the casing than against the other, and tends to wear the casing out of round. If the spring leans to right, open up the coils on that side to push it back; and vice versa.

  13. Press the valves down by placing the ends of the fingers on the valve finger tips and making a vertical stroke. Some players use the second or third joint. See Fig. 10. This position pushes the piston against the opposite side of the casing, causing the piston to cock slightly and producing a bad valve action. In time this constant pushing against the opposite side will wear the casing out of round. It is no defense of this faulty style of fingering that some great artists use it. We know of one great cornet soloist who plays this way but we happen to know he has constant trouble with valve action.

  14. It is the practice of some to stop valve spring "sing" by applying some vaseline. This is bad, for the vaseline is liable to get into the valves and when it docs it will gum and cause trouble with the action. To remove sing, try new springs or interchanging springs from one casing to another. Also try increasing tension by stretching.

  15. Don't shove heavy mutes into the bell of your cornet or trumpet with too much force. This tends to stretch the throat of the bell and may in time affect the playing qualitities of the instrument. Any mute properly corked will stay in the bell satisfactorily if pressed in firmly and rotated or twisted slightly. If your mutes will not stay in without jamming them in with force, recork them.

  16. On the larger instruments with detachable bells, such as euphoniums, basses, and sousaphones, put a little tallow or vaseline on the bell receiver rings and bell set screws so they will work freely and so corrosion will be retarded. Be careful adding oil because it will collect dirt.

  17. Keep the larger instruments out of the reach of practical jokers who delight in throwing erasers, cigarette butts, clothing and refuse into the bell. This materials lodges in the bend of the bow where it cannot be seen and where it is difficult to remove. Presence of this foreign material, of course, causes stuffiness and faulty intonation.

  18. In playing an outdoor concert or parade, where there may be considerable dust and grit in the air, use more oil on the valves than usual and be sure to clean your instrument thoroughly when the engagement is finished.

  19. Some players have the nervous habit of sitting during tacit passages and entertaining themselves by twisting the finger tips, tightening and loosening them. Don't do it. This puts unnecessary strain on the devices which regulate the radial position of the piston in the casing, especially the star in the spring barrel type of piston and the pin in the valves.