|"You’re Never Too Old To Learn Something New"|
|Items - Instrumentso musicales|
By: Gary Barton
After teaching for twenty-six years and playing my tuba for thirty-seven years, one of my biggest thrills is learning something new that others have known about all along. For almost four decades I have oiled valves the traditional way and have taught students to do so as well. As a teacher of beginners, I know I’m not alone when I think of all the strange things that happen to valves when we first teach the students how to take them out. They get replaced backwards, they get laid on the floor and replaced wearing a good coating of dirt, they get scratched — the possibilities are endless. Usually, we’re teaching the students to do this when they are the most fascinated by the mechanisms and how they work.
Famed trumpet player and designer Reynold Schilke wrote an article for The Instrumentalist about trumpet maintenance. Schilke wrote that valves should never be removed from the instrument except during cleaning. He claimed that if a trumpet player will simply blow oil through the lead pipe, the valves will stay oiled and that the inside of the instrument will always be coated with oil. This aids in cleanliness and prevention of corrosion. Players of rotary valve instruments have been doing this for years. For some reason the impact of this idea did not reach me immediately.
For several summers, one of my colleagues at the Indiana University Summer Music Clinic has been Karl Sievers, Professor of trumpet at Oklahoma University. During a conversation with Karl, I was complaining about nylon valve guides and telling him that I had a friend who was having metal valve guides installed on all of his new sousaphones. Karl claimed that he prefers plastic or nylon valve guides because as metal guides wear down, there can be some affect and nylon guides can be replaced easily when they are not true anymore. I pointed out that the young kids tend to wear down the nylon guides when learning to take out valves. He then said, “Why are they taking their valves out so often?” He then echoed the words of Mr. Schilke: “Valves should only be removed when cleaning the instrument.”
Since we know that blowing oil through the lead pipe works for the trumpet, I decided that it should work for tuba and euphonium as well. I discovered that many brands of tubas and euphoniums have a lead pipe that goes directly into the valve section. I teach students with these instruments to blow oil through the lead pipe. If the lead pipe does not go to the valves, a little detective work will find an alternate solution. On many front action valved instruments, pouring a little bit of oil in the first valve slide will deliver it to all the valves. We own some instruments where we simply apply a little oil in each valve slide. The most difficult situation appears with the top action valves of some brands, in which all the slides point downward and none go directly into the valves. Our solution has been to turn these upside down and to apply a few drops of oil in each valve slide, move the valves rapidly for a few seconds, then play.
As an experiment, I selected an instrument representing each type of valve section and for a complete school year I made sure that the valves were not removed. In June, I removed the valves and found them clean and literally dripping with oil. I have used these methods for two years now and I have been amazed by the results. By the time I give my lesson on properly cleaning the instrument, the students have lost the fascination with taking it apart and are comfortable with the horn. At the beginning, I am adamant about not “unscrewing things” on the brasses. I hope this will make your life easier and, by the way, I’ve not had to replace a nylon valve guide since I started using these methods. Thanks to the late Mr. Schilke and Karl for teaching an “old dog new tricks!”
This article has a Spanish translation by Luis Carlos Moreno Cardona on May 2009 with the permission of the author for Aulamusical.com
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