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Slide Maintenance and Care

The slide is THE most sensitive piece of equipment for a trombone player. It is also the most important. Differences of thousandths of an inch can make a world of difference.

Common Slide Problems and how to fix them.


Dents are probably the most common and most fatal damage to slides. A slight ding can sometimes be a big problem. As a rule, dents are less severe when they occur while the inner slide is in the outer slide, becuase it prevents the dent from getting DEEP. A small dent may not seem like a problem, but two small dents, in opposing directions can have a major impact on how a slide performs. Do Not Try to Remove A Dent Yourself! It is one of the easiest ways to ruin a slide. Dents should be handeled by a professional repairman. It is a simple procedure, but without experience, you can make the problem much worse. When brass is dented it expands and the repairman smooths out the dent while evening out the tiny bit of extra brass. A good slide repair can be done for $30-$50 dollars, US. But if you need something called an acid bath, it may run you a little more.

Residue in the Slide

Residue can build up in a slide for several reasons. If you eat before you play, then there are probably little bits of food in it. The most common reason for slide residue though, is the build up of old lubrication. Most creams and especially Slide-O-Mix build up in the slide and make it slower.

The easiest way to get all of that crap out of your slide is to soak it in a bathtub with some hot water. That will loosen up most of it, then take a trombone cleaning rod, wrap a piece of cloth around it, and run it through all four tubes. Another tool for this is called a "Snake." The snake is a little more specialized, in that it can get into the curve of your slide. When using a cleaning rod, the biggest danger is getting the cloth stuck inside the slide. Be careful. The makers of Slide-O-Mix sell a cleaning rod kit that makes it easy to clean your slide with, but if you know what you're doing, all you need is a rod and a rag.

If you have a REALLY dirty slide, then you can try the following, but let me warn you that it's real messy, and you could bend your slide if you're not careful.

First take the slide apart. Then fill the outer slide with hot water until the water gets to be about three inches from the top. Next get about a foot of toilet paper. Yes toilet paper, but make sure that it's the single ply stuff, or it will be tooo much. Stuff a foot of toilet paper into each tube of the outer slide. Now comes the messy part. Take the inner slide and stuff it into the outer slide, pushing the tissue into the slide. Don't worry it won't get stuck. The pressure will build up, and when you push hard enough, one side of tissue will shoot out of the slide. The other one probably won't, but here's what to do: pull the slide out again, and put your finger over the now empty tube, to block air from gettin in. Then push again. You might have to repeat this several times, but it will come out. Pour the water out, and go back to the beginning until the tissue that comes out is clean.

A more expensive way to have a slide cleaned it called an acid bath. Your slide is soaked in a mild acid that eats the crap inside, but not anything else. This might cost you up to $40 US.

Also called a sprung slide. This is a fairly common problem in school instruments. It occurs when either the inner slide or the outer slide are not exactly parallel. An inner slide can be sprung simply by mishandling. You can try correcting it yourself, just by bending it back, but be careful. An outer slide that is misaligned was made that way. It is caused when the hand brace is not the same width as the curve at the end of the slide. Even errors of thousandths of an inch can be a big deal. If your outer slide is misalinged, you will have to take it to a repairman, and they will have to take it apart. I don't know if this type of thing is covered under warranty.
There are three type of leaks that can occur in a slide, but they all have the same effect. When air is allowed to escape from the instrument, then it sounds like when blowing into the horn without the bell attatched. Most leaks occur at the spit valve or water key. The other leaks are just plain holes in the slide. Sometimes the oils in your hands can eat all the way through the brass where you hold the instrument. This occurs in a small number of people. Or a solder has come loose, and air is escaping there. You might be able to fix a spit valve yourself, but only a good repairman can fix a hole.

Spit Valves

This is also called a water key. The liquid that comes out is mostly water vapor and not spit. As far as I know, only three things can happen to a spit valve. The most common is that the cork or pad comes out. This is an easy fix, just get a piece of cork, cut it to size and glue it in. In a pinch, you can tape the spit valve, but that leaves you without the ability to drain your slide. The next most common problem I've seen is that the arm that closes over the hole becomes bent, and doesn't make a good seal. Sometimes you can bend it back, but they are usually made of aluminum, and are difficult to bend. If you can get the extra part, then you can put it on yourself by unscrewing the pin holding it in. But be careful of the spring, it is sometimes difficult to get back in. The last problem is that the solder holding the whole spit valve assembly comes off. Any repair person can take care of this.

Dents||Residue||Misalignment||Leaks||Spit Valves||Lubrication
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