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Special Care of the Trombone Slide That Every Band Director Should Know

Trombone Slide Care

Do you have trombone players in your band? Consider the special care of the trombone slide that every band director should know.

Care for the Trombone Slide

The trombone slide is a finely crafted piece of engineering that should be carefully cared for and protected as it were a valuable asset. It is a musical tool that is fragile in nature and is precisely created to slide based on using exact measurements. In fact, many outer slides are approximate the width of three human hairs.  
In order to keep a trombone slide in quality operating condition, it must remain free of dents and stay in alignment. To meet this level of care it is required that there is a cautious level of handling with all trombones. This is approximately four and a half feet of trombone that must be carefully protected. 
Trombone Slide
Trombone slides are vulnerable to dents in the music classroom and at home. Dents in a slide can be caused from music stands, chairs and any hard objects. Even just accidentally bumping into someone can misalign a trombone slide. When these accidents occur it is necessary for you to enlist a trusted instrument repair man/woman to rebuild the slide so that it is in top operating condition.

The Dos and Do Nots for Trombonists

Many times trombone slides don’t get damaged by it’s user but rather other people. For this reason it is important for the music educator and trombonist to guard and adopt a number guidelines to live by. These include:

  1. Never leave your trombone sitting on your chair. This includes breaks, intermissions or anytime you aren’t physically with it. It is easy for someone to walk by the instrument and accidentally knock it off the chair. As a result, the instrument and, more times than not, the slide will get damaged. This damage will ultimately limit how the instrument will play. 
  2. When not playing the instrument always be sure to lock the slide. This is especially important when the instrument is not in your hands. Often many school children are curious about the trombone and if the instrument is unattended will attempt to play the instrument. If the slide is not locked and one of these curious individuals decides they are going to play on your instrument you might find that your slide has slid completely off and could have been damaged in the process.
  3. In general don’t leave the trombone in the vicinity of small children or in areas where someone can walk by and accidentally damage the instrument.
  4. In most cases, instruments should be picked up in a manner that involves thick and primary contact sections of an instrument. Delicate or physically weak parts of the trombone should not be used to pick up the instrument such as the two slide braces.
  5. Never sit on the trombone case. Often cases, even hard cases, cannot support the weight of the human body. As a result, of sitting on a case the trombone slide can get twisted and damaged.
  6. Don’t put trombone accessories in the trombone case. The reasoning behind this guideline is based on the idea that anything within the case can come loose and strike, bend or create a dent in the trombone slide while in its case.
  7. Be sure to treat the instrument and case with respect. This is especially important when the instrument is in the case.
  8. Open the case of a trombone from either the center or at the sides at the same time with equal pressure. If this is done without an equalized amount of pressure there is a possibility that the case lid, which hold’s the trombone’s slide, will twist along with the actual trombone slide.
  9. Don’t leave the trombone case open without it being attended. When the case is open it has a higher potential of being damaged. In addition, if the case remains open then dust will settle into it. As a result, the next time the trombone is transported, the dust will find itself within the instrument.
  10. Finally, be sure keep the rubber tip of the trombone slide on the instrument. This helps keep the instrument from sliding away from the trombonist or hit a chair or music stand when the instrument is not at true resting position.

The Slide: Cleaning and Lubricating

Having a smooth trombone slide that slides with ease depends on the level of care, cleanliness and lubrication the user employs. How often should a trombone be cleaned? This depends on how much playing has been done and the environments in which the trombone has been used. Musical venues such as parades, football fields or even dance halls have a certain level of dust and grime that can float into the air and then into the horn. This collection of gunk that can collect on a lubricated trombone slide should be minimized and cleaned when necessary.

Serious trombonists will often clean the slide at least once a week. Like any new clothes, a new trombone should be cleaned before playing it in order to eliminate any metal particles or dust from the production factory and shipping warehouse.

Slide Cleaning

In order to correctly clean a trombone slide, follow these steps:

  1. First, fill the assembled slide with warm water. Careful not to use hot water because it will ruin the lacquer finish.
  2. Next, insert a flexible cleaning brush or snake into one tube and then the other. Afterwards, flush the slide with warm water after removing the brush.
  3. Third, remove the inner slide in a vertical position and hang it up or lay it down on a towel in a safe position.
  4. Next, thread a thin cloth through the eye of the cleaning rod and wrap it around so that the cloth is covering the rod entirely.
  5. Fifth, pick up the outer slide then gently insert the covered cleaning rod with a slight twisting motion up and down several times. Then remove the rod.
  6. Next, fill the outer slide with warm water and run the cleaned snake brush into the slide to release any remaining dirt or grime. Rinse again, drain the slide and let it dry in a safe space.
  7. Time to clean the outside and inside of the slides. Start this by using a pipe cleaner through the cork or spring barrels. Then wipe down the outer part of the slides with a non-abrasive cloth.
  8. The slides are now ready for lubrication. Do this by adding some sort of specialize trombone ointment or slide oil sparingly to the slide stocking. I recommend a type of cream called “Trombotine” which is activated by water. Trombonists use a small water spray bottle to activate the lubricative nature of the cream.

Please note that between slide cleanings, when using a product like Trombotine, the slide must be cleaned. You must remove any old cream, oil and dirt prior to relubricating the slide. This can done with a non-abrasive rag or cloth. Once clean, reapply the cream and activate it with a spray of water and the slide should be running smoothly up and down the length of the horn.


In conclusion, the trombone is a powerfully musical instrument used in a great number of venues across the world. The care and maintenance of this instrument is absolutely necessary in order to keep the great performers, performing. Fortunately, music store resources and everyday cleaning materials make it easy to keep this process manageable. With careful practice and attention to detail trombone maintenance will keep instruments in tip top shape and playing our favorites tunes for years to come. 
trombone section


Kleinhammer, E. (2010). The art of trombone playing. Summy-Birchard Music. 

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