Are You Pushing Or Pulling Your Valves Down?


This may seem to be a strange question to be asking but the answer may determine the proper function and life span of your valves.

I have recently been added to the list of unemployed musicians in the Branson, Missouri area. Our show season runs from March through December and due to the fact that we now have some time off, I thought it time to check the condition of my equipment. Due to the fact that I have been experiencing some problems with my first valve, I decided to look it over for any unusual wear or damage. Unfortunately I found some.

After removing my troublesome first valve I noticed an unusual amount of wear on one side of the first valve. Most of my horns eventually develop some wear but my relatively new Bobby Shew, Yamaha indicated much more wear than I expected. This made me begin to question the reason for the early wear. After considerable thought (maybe ten minutes), I realized why my valve had worn so quickly and unevenly. Because of the constant and rapid mute changes during this past season, I was forced to support my instrument primarily in my right hand.

Piston valves on brass instruments are made to go up and down and if this direction is altered in any way, rapid wear begins to show as excessive worn spots on the side of the valve. The location of this area can be seen in the accompanying photo. You may now be wondering why changing mutes has anything to do with valve wear and that is why I posted this material.

Here is an undisputed fact,

“Your hand and finger position will determine the direction your valves travel”.

The ideal hand and finger position is indicated in the next photo. Notice that the arch of the fingers supports an up and down movement of each valve. Also notice that I have my little finger in the hook which was necessary only because I was holding the camera in my left hand to take the picture. In this position, the valves can smoothly travel in an up and down direction. The problem I ran into while playing the show was that most of the time I had to support the trumpet only with my right hand while picking up and inserting/removing my mutes. This unusual holding practice was the cause of the premature wear on my first valve. Instead of push the valve down, I was repeatedly “pulling the valve down and eventually wore the finish off the valve piston.

This week I will be dropping my favorite horn off at an instrument repair shop to rectify my problem and once it is returned, I will give you an update of what was done in case you might be suffering from the same problems with malfunction valves.

Published by

Bruce Chidester

Bruce was a member of the faculty at the University of Northern Iowa, School of Music in Cedar Falls from 1969 until his retirement in 1999. He has performed with many well-known entertainers such as Bob Hope, Jim Nabors, Roy Rogers and Dale Evans, Steve Lawrence and Eydie Gorme, Anita Bryant, Carman Cavalara, Victor Borgie, the Four Freshman, Blackstone the Magician, Bobby Vinton and John Davidson.

2 thoughts on “Are You Pushing Or Pulling Your Valves Down?”

  1. Bruce, the very same question arises in my mind too and I started to make some research on it. But I didn’t find the exact answer to this question. Once when I find your blog, I feel happy that I got my answer. Now I know what to do with my trumpet valves either to push or pull down. Thank you, Bruce, for sharing such a useful informative measure.

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