Let’s face it. Germs are a hot button issue right now. We should all take proper precautions every day, but there are many things that trombonists let slide (pun absolutely intended. I’m not proud). Here are some very common and very avoidable issues that many brass players make.
- Emptying the Water Key. Go to any band room or rehearsal space, and I guarantee you’ll see little puddles on the floor near the brass players. Sure, you’ll hear people erroneously say, “It’s only condensation,” but we all know there’s more to it than that. Condensation, saliva, lubricants, and that coffee you know you shouldn’t be drinking while you’re playing, but you do anyway because it’s 9am all go into the instrument. Put down a towel or spittoon. Save your floors, and keep clean. You wouldn’t spit on someone’s floor. You wouldn’t pour water or coffee on someone’s floor, so don’t empty your water key onto the floor.
- Cleaning the Instrument. Far too often, we see instruments that are only cleaned when they have a strong odor. You must clean your instrument regularly. This is not only a hygiene concern, but dirty brass instruments are also more prone to corrosion and dezincification (AKA “red rot”). Take a few minutes a week clean your instrument thoroughly. Invest in a swab for your handslide, and clean it out after each use. These are very easy and inexpensive ways to prolong the life of your instrument.
- Trying Mouthpieces. This should go without saying, but I see this happen on a daily basis. If you are trying out a mouthpiece, you need to clean it before and after using it. At our store, we use various methods of sterilizing mouthpieces before and after a customer uses it. Mouthpieces are thoroughly scrubbed and cleaned with soap and water immediately after being play tested. They are stored with other clean mouthpieces in a designated area, and they are wiped down with an alcohol swab in the minutes before the next customer play tests them. Brass mouthpieces can be thought of similarly to silverware. There is no danger in letting other people use them as long as they are properly cleaned. Do not let friends, siblings, section mates, etc. play test your mouthpiece without proper sanitization.