Leadpipe Blues

A friend and former student of mine has revealed a troubling habit. No, not drugs or Internet porn (at least not that he tells me…) but a habit equally as potentially destructive:

Cleaning his trombone the wrong way! Oh, no!! Really???? Poor guy.

Cleaning a trombone is not complicated, when following some simple guidelines regarding respect for the softness of the metal, which is easily dented and/or scratched; respect for the small screws, which are easily lost and/or the heads twisted off and respect for the valve structure, workings and tolerance.

This may seem trivial but there is one aspect to cleaning the instrument that while seemingly benign, can damage a very delicate part and greatly impact how it plays. When cleaning the mouthpipe side of the inner slide, NEVER use a cleaning rod to pull a cloth back toward the mouthpipe. Doing so can damage the end of the leadpipe (especially older, more fragile ones) by having the cloth catch on the super-thin end of the pipe. The leadpipe is most commonly made of brass, which is a very soft alloy to begin with. The end of the leadpipe is necessarily very thin to make a smooth transition from the mouthpiece to the nickel inner tube. It is very easily damaged. A snake with a swatch of cloth over the end, run through in the direction of the air and pulled out the other end is the safest way to clean this tube. This can be done on each of the inner tubes. When using the cleaning rod on the outer slide, make sure you use a cloth so that the rod does not come in contact with the brass. The cleaning rod must be used with respect because its compositional material is likely harder than that of the leadipie and outer slides and can mar the delicate brass, if not used carefully.

If you have a removable leadpipe, take it out and then go ahead and use the cleaning rod to clean the inner slide tibes. Clean the leadpipe gently, being careful to not damage the thin end. I’m not kidding, once it is damaged, it is ruined. Respect.

This discussion then lead to another, about the different types of leadpipes and how they attach to the handslide.

There are a few different ways leadpipes can be attached to the trombone:

Hands down, for me, I prefer a soldered leadpipe. Being soldered, it is more a part of the instrument and I also cannot mess around with other pipes in hopes of finding something “better.”

Get rid of the variables. Get to the practice room.