Today I want to show you how to oil trumpet valves. You are going to
learn the best way to oil your trumpet valves.
Trumpet valves are supposed to move very smoothly and quickly up and
down. In order to keep them moving smoothly and quickly, we need to oil
Trumpet valves can be very finicky. Too much oil and your valves will
be sluggish, too little oil and your valves will stick.
If you don’t oil your valves, they will start to get slow and hard to
push down and they won’t want to come back up. Oiling your valves allows
them to move properly reducing the wear inside trumpet valve casings.
It gets very frustrating to try to play with sluggish or sticky
Let’s go over this step-by-step.
How to oil trumpet valves — step-by-step
On the trumpet, we’ve got three valves. The first valve is closest to
the mouthpiece and the third valve is closest to the bell.
It’s important to know that our valves each have a number and a specific
order that they go. You don’t want to get this mixed up because then
our trumpet won’t work if you put them back in the wrong valve casing.
It is probably best you only do one valve at a time.
What you’ll need
To oil your trumpet, you’re going to need three things:
- Your trumpet, of course
- Valve oil
- Some paper towels
So let’s get started.
Step #1 — Unscrew the third valve cap
When oiling valves, you should always start with the third valve and
work backward. I will explain the reason for this much later.
So the first thing we need to do when we want to oil a valve is to
unscrew the valve cap. The part that you press on a valve is called
the valve button, the cap is right below that.
Do not unscrew the button itself even though it will come off. There is
no need to. You’ll probably drop it and it will roll it and you might
To unscrew the valve cap, turn it anti-clockwise all the way until it
If you have an older trumpet and maybe no one has unscrewed these valve
caps in a long time, they might be really stuck. Get someone with
Never use a pair of pliers or any tool whatsoever on your valve
caps. You’re better of taking it to a music store and they can help
get this loosened up for you.
Step #2 — Lift the valve to expose the valve surface
Once the valve cap comes off, you need to lift the valve out of its
casing to expose the valve surface.
Try and avoid rotating the valve as you pull it out.
Generally, you do not have to remove the valve all the way. Lifting
the valve about ⅔ of the way will allow the sufficiently lubricate the
You can see inside the valve now. There is the first part from the top
which is a housing for the valve spring. Here is where you can see an
engraving of the number of the valve.
There is a valve guide. This is the bit that slots inside your valve and
stops it from turning around—that is very important.
The bit we are interested in is the lowest, widest part of the valve.
This is called the valve surface, and it’s the only place we need to
apply the oil. The valve surface is the only part of the valve that
comes into contact with the valve casing.
We don’t need the oil in the spring housing or anywhere else.
Step #3 — Apply the oil on the valve surface
Now we’re going to pick up our valve oil.
Sometimes, on your valve oil, you might see a little child safety
mechanism. Just press that tab and twist the cup to reveal the nozzle.
When you apply the oil, put the nozzle on the valve surface and a couple
of squirts is all you need.
You need to apply only a few drops on each side of the valve—three or
four at most. Too much oil on the valve will cause it to be slow and
sluggish. Excess oil will also collect dust and grime eventually leading
to a dirty trumpet.
You don’t need to put the oil in the holes of the valve surface, just
Step #4 — Seat the valve back into place
Once the oil is applied, push the valve back down maintaining it’s
orientation. If you twisted the valve round and up and down to make
sure the oil gets spread (which is completely unnecessary), you’ve
likely lost the orientation.
This is the tricky bit.
On the valve (on the spring housing) there will be a number, I mentioned
this earlier. This number will be 3 for the third valve.
When the valve is eventually in, the number will be facing straight
towards the mouthpiece. Push the valve in with the number a ¼ of a turn
anticlockwise of the mouthpiece. Then, once it’s all the way, rotate it
a ¼ of a turn clockwise to bring it to its eventual position, and listen
for a click.
Once you hear the click, the valve guide has locked into the valve
The valve is properly seated.
When the valve is properly seated, it should not rotate. Sometimes a
slight left to right rotation is required to get the valve to click into
Step #5 — Tighten the valve cap
Once the valve is properly seated, tighten the valve cup.
Do not attempt to tighten the valve cap until you hear the click. That
tells you whether your valve is exactly right and working.
Step #6 — Spread the oil
If you lost orientation of the valve earlier, it’s likely because you
rotated the valve up and down to spread the oil, which I said was
Press the valve several times to help work the oil around the piston
and valve casing.
This should reveal that the valve is not operating smooth and fast.
Step #7 — Blow into the trumpet
After spreading the oil, I like to blow into the trumpet in between
oiling each valve to ensure the air flows freely.
If it doesn’t, then you’ve not put the valve back on properly. You need
to recheck the orientation.
Some brands only allow the valve to click into place when it’s in the
correct position. Many other brands allow the valve to click into place
in both the wrong position and the correct position.
If no air passed through the trumpet after oiling the third valve 180
degrees and see if it clicks into place.
You can also blow into the trumpet just before you tighten it to make
sure it is on correctly.
Step #8 — Repeat the process on the second, and finally the first valve
We will now repeat this exact process with the second valve and then the
Remember to oil one valve at a time, and check the air flow in between
each one as you go.
How often should trumpet valves be oiled?
Ideally, you want to oil your trumpet valves every time you
practice—which is every single day. And that’s fine. If you have a
rehearsal coming up or a performance, oil your trumpet just before. At a
minimum, you want to oil your valves at least a couple of times a
That’s how you have your valves moving nice and smooth so you can play
What kind of oil should you use on your trumpet valves
DO NOT use a cheap oil
First of all, using cheap oil is an absolute no-no.
DO NOT use vegetable oil
Secondly, vegetable oil should never ever come anywhere near your
trumpet. When vegetable oil dries, it will get stuck and jam your
valves, not to mention the green gunky moldy crap that completely takes
over your trumpet after that.
If you use vegetable oil, get an instrument repair technician ready
because it’s damn near impossible and time-consuming to get it all out,
and the only way to remove most of it is heating it with a propane
And be ready to pay extra for the hassle.
DO NOT use tuning slide grease
Thirdly, do not use tuning slide grease on the trumpet valves.
If you ever accidentally get tuning slide grease or Lanolin on your
trumpet valves, or if it mixes with valve oil, you’ll end up with sticky
sludge. That defeats the whole purpose of applying valve oil in the
first place—getting your valves to move smoothly and quickly.
So, if you’ve been working on trumpet slides before you start messing
with valve oil, always wash your hands really well so you can get all of
that Lanolin residue off your fingers.
Use the right amount of a quality trumpet valve oil
A quality trumpet valve oil, applied at the right amount, will have just
the right consistency and thickness to allow your valves to move
smoothly and quickly just the way they should.
Can’t you just put valve oil in bottom three trumpet valve holes?
If you’re a young trumpet player, you may have heard somebody tell you
that that you could just put valve oil into the three bottom holes of
each valve instead.
Except, that doesn’t work so well.
Think about it, the valve oil comes in through the little tiny hole at
the bottom of each valve, hits the bottom of the valve but when you
turn the horn over to play, it falls back out.
The valve surface is where we need the valve oil. Even though you might
get a little bit of the valve oil through, it won’t be even nearly
I hope that helps.