Trumpets have several moving parts that can corrode and break when not cared for properly.
In this article, we take a close look at how long trumpets generally last and how we can make sure they last as long as possible.
This Is How Long Trumpets Last
Good quality trumpets will last around 60 years when cared for properly. The valve pistons are typically the first things to break. Some trumpets will last close to 100 years and still be fully functional if they are well-taken care off and haven’t been played much.
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The materials used on the trumpet also play a role when looking at durability. Silver trumpets can last a really long time and monel pistons are also known to be extremely durable.
How to Check If a Trumpet Is Too Old?
It’s not that hard to check whether a trumpet is in good or bad condition. Some things can easily be fixed while other issues around the pistons and valves can be more severe.
Checking the pistons
As we will look at below, the first things that usually break on a trumpet are the valves and the pistons. These are the moving part of the trumpet and they are the main wear parts.
These are the first things you should examine when checking if a trumpet is in decent shape or if it is too worn out to be of any use.
You can test these by simply pressing them up and down while paying close attention to any sounds and friction.
If you feel any resistance you need to stop immediately and apply oil. For the valve pistons, we use something called “valve oil”. It’s a little clear or white bottle that should be found inside the trumpet case.
Loosen the valves at the top and carefully take out the pistons to apply a few drops of oil.
(If they are dirty or if you can see any lint, hair, or dirt you should clean them before applying oil.)
Now you put the pistons back into the valve cases and check for any resistance.
If you feel any resistance when operating the valve pistons or if they don’t pop back up immediately, the trumpet does not work properly.
Checking the water keys
If the water keys are leaking you should check the cork around the closing mechanism. It might need to be replaced and it can easily be done at a brass repair or workshop.
You can also buy a new piece of cork at most bigger musical stores. Just ask for cork for a trumpet water key and they will know what to get you.
You can easily replace the little piece of cork by adding a small drop of strong adhesive.
What Are the First Things to Break On a Trumpet?
These are the parts of a trumpet that typically break:
- Valve pistons corrode
- Major dents affect the sound
- Water keys start leaking
- Tuning pipes get stuck
How Long Do Trumpet Valves Last?
Trumpet valves can easily last 60-70 years if the trumpet isn’t played extensively and if the valve pistons are oiled regularly and taken good care of. It’s important to always use oil to remove any friction and to keep the moving parts working.
If the valves have corroded or if they have any marks or dents they need to be replaced.
The valve pistons are also the only real wear part we find on a trumpet, because the water keys and the tuning pipes are not really used that much.
Also, the pistons play a very vital role on the trumpet as you cannot play it without operating the piston valves in a quick fashion.
How Long Do Trumpet Mouthpieces Last?
A trumpet mouthpiece can last for more than 100 years if it’s well taken care of.
However, the silver plating might wear off after 30-50 years if it’s not cleaned properly and stored in a dry environment. The mouthpiece on a trumpet will typically outlast the pistons and valves.
These are my mouthpieces and funny enough they are roughly around the same age. All of these mouthpieces are around 30-50 years old, to the best of my knowledge.
The smaller mouthpiece to the left is a B&S mouthpiece for a cornet (used on a trumpet) and the next two are Yamaha mouthpieces. The shiny Yamaha mouthpiece is taken well care off and you can see that the next one has been laying around in a moist environment.
The three mouthpieces to the right are all Vincent Bach mouthpieces. The one in the middle is clearly more worn than the on to the right.
You can see how the silver plating on this Vincent Back mouthpiece is worn out from extensive use. This is the one I’ve been using for decades and the silver is gone but the sound is still superb!
Which Trumpet Brands Last the Longest?
I found more than 90 trumpet brands during some recent research I was conducting.
I’ve taken a look at some of the more prominent trumpet manufacturers and how durable their instruments are.
Example 1: How Long Do Bach Trumpets Last?
The biggest trumpet brand today is Vincent Bach. A classic Bach Stradivarius trumpet will easily last for 70 years when taken good care of. It is a good mid-range professional trumpet that you find in almost any brass band or classical orchestra.
The Bach trumpets are famous for being extremely well produced and durable.
It is the most-sold professional trumpet in the world and it features a one-piece bell and monel pistons that last longer than cheaper pistons made from inferior materials.
My brother plays a Bach Stradivarius 37 (the classic) produced in Elkhart, Indiana and it’s more than 30 years old. It still sounds amazing and I’m sure it has many more years in it!
Example 2: How Long Do Yamaha Trumpets Last?
Yamaha trumpets will last around 70 years. They are durable and strong and built to withstand wind and weather when used outdoor for marching bands. They are typically silver-plated and the silver may wear off over 20-50 years, but that doesn’t affect the sound.
My main trumpet is a Yamaha YTR2320 from 1987 and it’s still a very good instrument with a strong clear tone.
It’s gold lacquered and the gold finish has come off here and there as my hands sweat a lot when I play and the salt in the sweat will wear silver and/or gold lacquer.
How Do I Make a Trumpet Last Longer?
You need to do some basic maintenance and apply oil and grease on your trumpet in order for it to last as long as possible.
Here’s a list of things you should do:
- Remove lint and dirt from the valve pistons
- Apply valve oil regularly on the pistons
- Apply grease on the tuning pipes
- Wash the tubes with running water monthly
When you make sure to do these things regularly you will have a trumpet that can last for many decades. It’s extra important to do these things if you intend to store it for a couple of years.
Preparing a trumpet for long-time storage
When the trumpet is not played over a period of a few years you need to make sure that the tuning slides are pressed all the way into the pipe. This will prevent the tuning pieces from corroding and you should remember to apply grease first.
You should also take out the pistons and remove the thin valve oil. The oil will quickly dissolve over the years and not do any good during a storage period. Instead, you should apply the same grease as you will apply on the tuning slides. This grease will protect the pistons during storage.
Important: Remove the grease from the pistons before you play the trumpet again and apply valve oil.
This is important, and you might want to attach a sticky note on the trumpet to remember to do this before using it in the future.
If you intend to store the horn or trumpet for more than a few years, it’s better to completely disassemble it and store each part separately while wrapped in cloth. I’ve heard about grease turning bad and sticky.
Always store a trumpet and any other brass instrument in a dry environment.