If you ask ten trombonists what the best product and method is for lubricating a trombone handslide you will likely get fifteen very different answers! This is somewhat of a hot-button topic in the professional trombone community – we will therefore offer some basics on teaching younger players effective methods for making their slides move more efficiently.
This will be a very basic approach – if you would like more information on the subject I would recommend visiting our Resources section and reading the EXCELLENT and very in-depth article by Dave Molter entitled “Keep It Clean – A Basic Guide To Trombone Care“.
There are two basic materials that a handslide can be lubricated with:
1. Slide Oil – This is typically clear, thin oil (usually a little thicker than common rotor oil) provided with student trombones that is applied to the stockings on the inner slide assembly. While this oil is much easier for a beginner or young musician to handle it doesn’t provide very efficient lubrication of the slide – it is simply too thin, doesn’t last very long and does not “coat” the inner and outer tubes very well.
2. Slide Cream (NOT to be confused with slide grease!) – There are several different varieties of these products out there that provide excellent lubrication:
– Conn Formula 3
– Cold Cream & Water
I won’t get in to the specifics of each of these products – I will leave that to the opinionated pros! They all work well if the directions are followed. Possibly the cheapest and most efficient lubricant is standard, non-scented cold cream from the cosmetics department at your favorite store. The less “extra stuff” in it the better! Here is a method for applying and using:
1. The slide MUST be clean! Follow the steps in the above article for bathing your slide. If your slide has not been chemically cleaned in a year or more bring it to us and we will ensure that all of the stuff you can’t get out at home is removed.
2. Once the slide is clean and dry apply a SMALL amount of the cold cream with your fingers directly to the stockings (ends) of the inner slide tubes. Rub the cream all over the stockings and remove any excess. The key here is to use SMALL amounts! You want a very thin layer of the cream on the stockings.
3. Place the inner tubes in to the outer tubes and work the slide back and forth over the entire length of the slide several times.
4. Remove the inner tubes and wipe off the cream from the stockings with a soft, dry cloth.
5. Place the inner tubes in to the outer tubes again and work the slide back and forth several times.
6. Again remove the inner tubes and look at the stockings – if there is a substantial about of cream remaining repeat steps 4 and 5.
7. Using a small spray bottle with clean water lightly spray the stockings and reinsert them in to the outer tubes.
8. Again work the slide back and forth several times.
Your slide should now move very freely and quickly! There will be no need to clean and re-apply the cream for up to 2-3 weeks. Water should be sprayed on the stockings whenever the instrument is played initially and every 20-30 minutes afterward depending on how much it is being played. If there are still some areas where the slide is slow or hanging this could indicate a dent, bend, alignment issue or that the slide needs to be chemically cleaned.