How do I KNOW my horn is in good working condition?
You know your horn well – better than anyone, in fact. If anyone should know that something is wrong with it, you should.
So many players will come to me with a problem that just “suddenly” appeared. Often that problem is something that must have developed over time. So what “suddenly” happened?
Did the instrument reach some tipping point and suddenly fail, or did the player just suddenly notice something that was there all along?
Two things I don’t want players to do:
First, don’t become “hyper-aware” or your horn, worrying all the time that something is going wrong with it. A horn in good condition gives a lot of excellent, trouble-free service.
Second, don’t ignore obvious problems. If something isn’t right, take it to your technician.
Horns in good condition have valves that move quickly and with very little sound. The slides move readily when pulled, and don’t move when put in position. Parts that are supposed to move, move easily and with no “lost motion”, and parts that are supposed to stay put, stay put.
Get a routine
The best way to be aware of those subtle changes that may lead to trouble is to establish a routine with your horn. When you do the personal maintenance such as lubrication and wiping it down, pay attention to the appearance of parts, to how much oil or grease it takes to lubricate the horn, to whether you hear or feel clicking and if it’s getting louder.
Have a look at the linkages and make sure strings are not getting frayed or stretching. Gently make sure that screws are not loosening. If anything seems out of the ordinary, discuss it with your technician, who can advise you whether or not you need to take a trip to the shop.