Regular lubrication of your instrument will significantly increase its lifespan, helping maintain its playing condition, value, and lifespan.

Synthetic vs. Hydrocarbon/Petroleum-based

  • Synthetic lubricants are a premium option which usually include synthetic compounds (soaps, silicone, etc.). As a result, they do not dry out, or dry out extremely slowly, and won't gum up your horn either.
  • Petroleum-based lubricants are a less expensive option, but will dry out and need to be replaced more frequently. Very cheap petroleum lubricants can potentially 'gum up' your horn over time due to residues left behind when they dry up.

Light vs. Medium vs. Heavy

  • Light lubricants are intended for high-quality, brand new instruments which have very tight tolerances and smooth faces on the valves/slides. They spread out into a thinner layer, providing excellent lubrication but minimal sealing of gaps.
  • Medium/Standard lubricants are intended for horns which are a few years to a few decades old, or with some wear or less consistent tolerances. Their slightly less viscous quality lets them fill in any gaps and bumps to help your instrument continue to feel new.
  • Heavy lubricants are for antique or well-worn instruments. They are specifically designed to help even very worn valves make a good seal.

You should, as a rule of thumb, use the lightest oil on your instrument you can. Excessively heavy lubricants can adversely affect both the feel and even the playing characteristics of the horn. However, an excessively light oil on a worn instrument won't do as good of a job of ensuring a seal, and you may end up replenishing your oil application more often than necessary compared to with a heavier oil. Heavier oils usually do a better job protecting already-worn surfaces from additional wear, and lubrication especially in cases of antique instruments with plating loss or raw brass surfaces on the slides/valves.

Valve Oil vs. Rotor Oil

Generally valve and rotor oils are identical and interchangeable. The main difference is usually in the application tip; usually rotor oil bottles have a dull needle tip, which allows careful application in hard to reach parts of the rotor.

Trumpet Slide Oil vs. Trombone Slide Oil

Never use trumpet (tuning) slide oil on trombone slides, it's much too thick for that application.

Trombone Slide Cream (e.g. Trombotine, Superslick) vs. Slide Lubricant (e.g. Yamaha, Slide-o-mix)

Slide cream is intended to be used with regular spraying of water on the slide to "activate" it (i.e. get it to a good working consistency) and can dry out between uses. It is essential that you use a spray bottle in combination with these lubricants or the feel will be way too heavy/sticky.

Slide lubricants, such as the one-part Yamaha or Slide-o-Mix, or the two-part Slide-o-Mix are intended to be used without needing a water spray bottle on hand. They will stay consistent in viscosity between playing sessions. However, a spray bottle can always be used to adjust the consistency if needed.

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