The third valve slide on a trumpet is a basic specification but can be easily overlooked.
Consider what the slide can do and how it can help you play better:
Here’s What the 3rd Valve Slide Does:
The trumpet’s third valve slide helps you lower the pitch of notes like low D or C#. It’s also useful if you’re playing in hot conditions where the notes can be especially sharp. The valve slide can get stuck or be too loose and thus require a DIY or professional fix.
Table of Contents
1. What Is the Purpose of the 3rd Valve Slide on a Trumpet?
The third valve slide on a trumpet is to help with tuning. Some notes can be very sharp or flat; adjusting for those notes when you tune overall can affect other pitches.
You can use the third valve slide to adjust certain notes in the middle of a piece. That way, you won’t make other notes go out of tune to get some in tune.
After extending the third valve slide, you can move it back into the standard position. Doing so can be tricky at first, but it gets easier with practice.
2. When Should You Use the 3rd Valve Slide?
You can use the 3rd valve slide for various things when playing the trumpet. Some are more specific, while others require you to know your instrument and yourself well.
Here are a few reasons you may want to use the third valve slide:
Some notes on the trumpet are almost impossible to play in tune. Notes like low C# and low D are two of the worst offenders since they can play quite sharp.
You’ll usually need to extend the third slide valve more for C# than for D, but it could depend on your instrument.
Be sure to tune an open C with the slide in its regular place.
Then, you can use a tuner and adjust the third valve slide as you play each of the other notes. Consider where you have to position the slide for C# and for D so that you can adjust accordingly in the future.
Relationship to the Chord
You might need to use the third valve slide on other notes that may usually play in tune. This is because you must think about what note you’re playing in an overall chord.
If you’re playing the root or even the fifth, you shouldn’t need to use the slide (except for low C# or D). However, when you’re playing a third of the chord, you must consider the type of chord.
When you’re playing a major chord, the third needs to be a slightly lower pitch than normal. Sometimes, you can adjust the pitch with your lips, but you may want to use the third valve slide.
When You Need to Play
Especially if you’re serious about the trumpet, there may come a time when you must play the trumpet. You may have a long rehearsal or concert and can’t stop playing in the middle.
But if your lips get tired, it cannot be easy to maintain the pitch with just your embouchure and air. Some players tend to play sharp when they lose stamina.
If that happens to you, you can use the valve slides on your trumpet to compensate. Of course, you should also work to increase your endurance so that you can play longer without relying on adjusting your trumpet.
In Extreme Conditions
If you play the trumpet enough, you’ll probably play in extreme heat or cold eventually. When that happens, using your third valve slide may be a necessity.
The cold can make your trumpet flat, while hotter temperatures increase the pitch. If you have a lot of low Ds or C#s and it’s hot out, you may need to use the third valve slide even more.
It can also come in handy for notes that are usually in tune but may be sharp in extreme heat. Be sure to check your tuning in a new environment, and check tricky notes individually to see when you might want to use the third valve slide.
3. Why Should You Use the 3rd Valve Slide for Low D?
The most significant reason to use the 3rd valve slide for low D is to keep it from being too sharp.
Now, you may be able to adjust other notes that tend to be sharp with your embouchure or airstream.
However, the sharpness of low D requires more changes than that. Luckily, the third valve slide is fairly easy to use, so you can get it to play in tune.
4. What’s the Difference Between Using the 1st and 3rd Valve Slide?
Both valve slides can help you adjust the pitch of specific notes as you play the trumpet.
While the third valve slide is great for low C# and D, the first valve slide helps with other notes by extending the tubing in a different place.
The first valve slide is particularly useful for the first line E, second space A, top line F, and the A above the staff.
It would be best if you used your thumb to adjust that slide rather than the third finger of your left hand.
5. How Do You Loosen a Stuck 3rd Valve Slide?
Being able to loosen a stuck third valve slide can be the difference between being able to play your trumpet and not. The third valve slide is more important than many trumpeters realize.
Fortunately, you have several options for loosening the valve if it gets stuck.
Here’s what you should do to get your trumpet to work properly:
One option is to attempt to fix the problem yourself. You can use an old shoelace and thread it through the slide, and you can pull on the shoelace to get the slide to move.
If that doesn’t work, you might need to anchor the shoelace to keep those from moving around. Then, pull on the slide again to see if it will loosen up.
Make sure you’re gentle on the trumpet so that you don’t damage anything on the inside. You can get your trumpet to play after you unstick the valve slide.
Sometimes, you can’t fix the issue yourself, so you should take your trumpet to a repair technician. The professional will have the skills, tools, and experience necessary to unstick your third valve slide.
Unfortunately, professional repairs can be expensive, but they’re often worth it. For example, you might unstick the valve yourself, but you may break something else.
Save yourself time and money, and take your trumpet to a professional when you need help. That way, you can avoid causing further problems for your instrument or potentially needing to buy a new one.
Once you loosen the third valve slide, you should do whatever you can to keep it from sticking again.
Make sure you have some good slide grease to lubricate the tubing.
It also helps to store your trumpet in a climate-controlled environment. That way, the metal won’t expand and contract in storage and potentially cause the slide to stick.
You might also want to take your trumpet to a technician for regular maintenance. They can keep your instrument in good shape and look for and resolve problems, like early signs of a valve sticking.
6. Do All Trumpets Have the 3rd Valve Slide?
Most trumpets have the third valve slide, from student models to professional instruments. Now, some models out there might lack the slide, such as older models.
However, it’s such a useful feature that you should do whatever you can to get a trumpet that has it. Whether you’re looking for your first trumpet or an upgrade, make sure you can adjust the third valve slide easily.
7. How Do You Stop the 3rd Valve Slide From Falling Out?
While the 3rd valve slide can stick, it can also be loose and fall out often.
If you have the latter issue, you can try a few things to keep the valve slide in place.
Some options are easier or more affordable than others. Be sure to consider your budget and the extent of the problem when choosing which solution to explore.
Try the following solutions when your third valve slide can’t seem to stay in place:
Third Valve Slide Lock
You can look for a plastic or metal device to clip onto your instrument to hold the slide. These slide locks can work very well, but they can also keep you from being able to use the slide while you’re playing.
The plastic slide locks are more affordable, so they are better for students. However, metal locks may look better since they can match the appearance of your metal trumpet.
If you hardly ever use the slide, it can be worth testing the lock, at least for a while. This solution isn’t ideal for the long term, so you’ll want to explore other options.
Avoid Too Much Grease
If your third valve slide got stuck, you might want to overcorrect the problem and use a lot of grease.
Using some can help prevent that problem from recurring, but it could cause the opposite.
While you can use some slide grease, don’t use a ton of it. You might also want to switch to a thicker grease, especially if your current one is quite thin since the thicker grease can hold the slide better.
Proper Playing Posture
Maybe you tend to let your trumpet bell point toward the floor as you play.
This may feel easier on your arms since you don’t have to hold the trumpet as high.
However, it gives your trumpet more chance for the third valve slide to slide off. An easy solution is to hold your trumpet higher so that the angle holds the third valve slide.
As with the slide lock, this solution isn’t the best for the long term since you still have the problem of the valve is loose. It can get you through rehearsals and concerts until you can get something more permanent to work.
A Maintenance Trip
Sometimes, nothing else works but help from a trumpet repair technician.
You may need a professional look at the cork in the third valve slide to check for a leak.
Then, the tech can repair any leaks or other issues that may make the valve slide off. That way, you can get your trumpet back into playing condition.