May 2015 Posts

Oiling Rotary Valves

rotor-valve-cleanRotary valves require thicker oil than piston valves. The same reasons for using synthetic oil on pistons also apply to rotary valves. The oil we use comes in a bottle with a syringe type applicator. Unfortunately, even this is not very helpful. To properly oil them they need to be taken apart. If you play an instrument with rotary valves and are not handy with a screwdriver and mallet, tiny screws and bits of string, your ability to oil the valves is pretty limited.

The pictures will help you understand why.

A rotor valve has two bearing surfaces. Both must be lubricated for the valve to work properly. The bearing surfaces of the rotor are underneath the bearing plate (underneath the cap) and buried at the bottom of the casing just under the stop arm bumpers. Right away, it is easy to see that getting oil into those places is not for the feint at heart. Without taking the valve completely apart, it is possible to put a few drops of oil on the bearing surfaces. Take the cap off and moving the finger lever, you will see the rotor moving. Put a few drops of oil there.


Then, turn the instrument over and put a few drops in the crack between the stop arm (the part that moves and holds the string) and the body of the horn. Wiggle the valve lever to spread the oil.


That is all you can safely do. There is a third place that oil is needed: between the rotor and the casing. This area is not reachable except by putting oil down the slide tubes. Dirt and grease sliding down into the rotor ports will bind the valve just as it does with piston valves.

As you can see, this is a bit difficult and at best is not all that effective. Getting the oil to where it is needed is quite a challenge. The truth is, it is best to leave lubricating rotor valves to someone confident in taking them apart.

If you’d like to schedule your instrument for servicing, we’d love to help.  Please contact us at or by calling 1-800-337-0471.  As always, please let us know if you have any questions.

Summer Is Almost Here – Go See A DCI Show!

Summer is almost here and school is almost over. If you’re looking for some awesome entertainment that will blow you away, you should check out DCI or Drum Corps International.

From modest beginnings more than three decades ago, Drum Corps International (DCI) has developed into a powerful, nonprofit, global youth activity with far-reaching artistic, educational and organizational influence. Through the annual DCI Tour and more than 35 World Championships in 17 North American cities, Drum Corps International provides entertainment to millions through live performances and nationally-televised events. Drum Corps International is Marching Music’s Major League™.

Student’s ages 13-22 travel from all around the world to participate in DCI every summer. Each year more than 8,000 students audition for about 3,500 positions in the top-tier member corps and participate in about 100 events all across North America.

Fortunately for those of us living in Indiana, there are a couple of shows hosted here every year. Including the DCI World Championships hosted by Lucas Oil Stadium on August 6-8. If you get the chance, you should try and make it to one of these shows.

June 15 – DCI Dress Rehearsal – Ben Davis High School, Indianapolis

June 17 – DCI Tour Premiere – Lucas Oil Stadium, Indianapolis

June 24 – Drums On The Ohio – Reitz Bowl, Evansville

June 26 – DCI Central Indiana – Ball State University, Muncie

June 27 – Pageant of Drums – Ames Field, Michigan City

July 8 – DCI Fort Wayne – Fort Wayne

August 3-4 – DCI Open Class World Championships, Ames Field, Michigan City

August 6-8 – DCI World Championships – Lucas Oil Stadium, Indianapolis

View the complete schedule.

The 2014 World Champions were the Blue Devils from Concord, CA. You can view a short clip of their winning show below.

For more information about Drum Corps International, please visit their website.

Have a great summer!


Oiling Piston Valves

That your valves need oil is not in question. If it moves, it should be lubricated. Today we’re talking about piston valves (like on a trumpet) and the different types of valve oils. Let’s get started.

There are hundreds of brands of valve oil available. Some are synthetic others are petroleum based and each has its own advantages. For many years petroleum based oils were the standard. They smelled bad and stained your clothing, but worked fine. Some were more refined than others and some had added smells – everything from chocolate to cinnamon! Some even had additives to make them smoother and slicker. However, all petroleum based oils have a tendency to dry out and leave the additives behind to foul your valves.

For the majority of our school music instrument repairs we have chosen to use a synthetic oil. It does not smell, does not stain your clothing, is long lasting and works fine. Unlike petroleum products, it comes in thin (for new valves) regular (for student instruments) and heavy for instruments that have worn valves). We think for most players and students that synthetic oil is the best choice. We use Hetman and Accent oils in the shop for this reason and is what is provided in our starter packs.

You might be wondering if there is a right or wrong way to get the oil from the bottle onto the piston. There are many ways to do this: Some right; some not so right.

Generally, the best way to oil your valves without taking the undo risk of dropping them is just to lift them part way out of the casing and apply a liberal amount of oil to the part with the holes in it (called ports). Then you can turn the pistons around a few times and put them gently back into the casings. (See video below) If you are careful, the guide will “click” back into place and you are ready to go. If you were not careful and the valve stays misaligned, air will not go through the horn. If that happens, there is no need to panic. The valves are in the right casings, you just have to turn them half way around and again listen for the “click”. The secret is not to take the pistons out and lay them on a table or you lap. This is when pistons can get damaged or out of order and when re-installed, the instrument will not play.

Our advice is to stick with taking them half way out and applying the oil exactly where it is needed on the pistons and casings.

If you have any questions about caring for your instrument, please call 1-800-382-1099.  We’d be happy to help!

May Year-End Sale

yye-web-banner-landing-2015Our annual Year-End Sale is going now though the end of the month. If your student is going to continue in band or orchestra next school year, then this is a great time to bring in your student-level instrument and exchange it for an advanced-level instrument.

We’re offering a FREE month on all “step-up” instruments as long as you make the exchange before May 30th.  This means you’ll get to use the new instrument for an entire month for free and your first payment will be due at the end of that time.

How do I exchange my beginning instrument for a step-up instrument?

There are 2 Convenient Options:

1. Visit Our Store
By visiting our store in Indianapolis, you can complete the exchange in a single visit. This is certainly a very efficient method, allowing you to carefully audition the model your director recommends.

2. Call Our Store
If visiting the store is not convenient for you, please call the store at 1.800.382.1099. Our retail staff will do their best to provide other options.

Learn more about our Premier Rental Program here.

If you have any questions about the exchange process, please call 1-800-382-1099 or email our sales staff at