When it comes to movable parts on a trombone, the tuning slide is probably the most neglected. After all, trombones have a giant tuning slide. Who needs to bother with a second one? Of course, eventually you’ll have to service it. When that happens, you’ll want to bust out the slide grease.
As it turns out, greasing a tuning slide is pretty straightforward. First, remove the tuning slide if possible. Then, clean both the inner and outer slide thoroughly. Once the tuning slide is clean, apply a small amount of grease to the inner slide and begin to work it in place. If done correctly, you should have successfully greased your tuning slide. Below, we’ll take a look at each step in more detail.
Steps to Grease a Trombone Tuning Slide
If you’ve been using your trombone for awhile, you probably already know how to take care of the main slide. After all, you use it all the time. If something is out of order, you’ll notice and take some sort of action. For instance, you might just spray it with some water, or maybe you’ll reapply some lubricant like Slide-O-Mix.
When it comes to the tuning slide, you’re probably less likely to notice any issues. After all, when you use it, it’s typically at the beginning of a rehearsal, concert, or practice session. Of course, at the time, you usually only move it slightly. In other words, it doesn’t typically move through its full range of motion like the main slide.
Over time, the tuning slide can accumulate dirt and damage, and it’s even possible for it to get stuck. In this tutorial, we’ll take a look at the absolute worst-case scenario, a stuck tuning slide, and how to return it to its former glory.
Step 1: Remove the Tuning Slide
If you’re in a scenario where your tuning slide is completely stuck, you might need to invest in a penetrating oil. I can’t recommend any off-hand, but I can point to an interesting discussion around using WD-40. Regardless, you’ll want some lubricant that can squeeze in the gap between the slides and break up any sort of mineral deposits or rust.
If you’re still having trouble, I’ve heard that applying heat can be beneficial. In addition, there are a whole host of methods which can be used to aid in the removal of the slide. For example, try wrapping a loop strap around your tuning slide and through itself. Then, if you manage to tug the tuning slide free, it’ll be attached to the loop strap.
Beyond that, you can always try getting a hold of a trombone tuning slide crook plate. In general, these are metal plates that fit nicely along the inside curve of the tuning slide. Then, you can try tapping on the handle of the crook plate with a hammer to avoid denting up the tuning slide.
In the worst-case, run the horn to a repair shop where an expert can take care of your horn. In many cases, they’ll have tools like the ones listed above which can be used to remove slides. Then, they’ll go through a process which ensures that you get your tuning slide back in mint condition.
Step 2: Clean the Tuning Slide Thoroughly
Once the tuning slide is free, clean it thoroughly. Cleaning is a topic I’ve covered a bit on this site in reference to the main slide, and many of those tips still apply here. In particular, make sure that you clean both the inner and outer slide.
To clean the outer slide, you’ll want to get a hold of a snake or some cheesecloth which you can run inside the tubing. If necessary, you may want to run a mild soap on the inside of the slide to remove any old grease—especially if you used any oils in the previous step.
To clean the inner slide, run some cheesecloth over the tubing. Make sure that you’re removing as much of the old grease and other buildup as possible. If necessary, use a mild soap. If the situation calls for it, it might be worth it to run a stiff brush on the slide as well.
In the worst-case, run the horn to a repair shop where an expert can take care of your horn. In terms of cleaning, a repair may have special chemicals which can be used to remove old deposits and grease from the slide. If you’re lucky, they may even have tools to ensure your tuning slide comes back looking new.
Step 3: Apply Tuning Slide Grease and Assemble
At this point, your tuning slide should be in good shape. If not, repeat the previous steps as needed until you’re ready to put your horn back together. Otherwise, we can move on to applying slide grease.
- Corrosion protection (i.e. limits corrosion on exposed metal)
- Contact reduction (i.e. reduces damaging contact between inner and outer slide)
- Mobility restriction (i.e. keeps slide from locking but also from moving on its own)
To apply it, place a small amount of grease on the inner slide. Then, like a normal slide, begin to work the slide into place using a twisting motion with one tube at a time. If done correctly, you should get an even coating of grease along the inner an outer slide.
When ready, put the slide in playing position and remove any excess grease with a cloth. With everything in place, you’re finished. Remember to periodically check in on your tuning slide to ensure everything is in working order.
Unfortunately, I don’t have any grease to recommend at this time. However, feel free to check back as I’ll be looking grease options soon.
In short, taking care of your trombone tuning slide is a three step process:
- Remove the tuning slide
- Clean the tuning slide
- Apply some grease and reassemble the tuning slide
If you follow these steps, your trombone tuning slide should be back in working order. If not, don’t hesitate to reach out to a trombone repair facility. After all, they are the experts.
At any rate, thanks for taking some time to check out this tutorial. Before you go, don’t forget to respect the brass!