Put A Spring In Your Playing

With all the advances in trumpet materials and design, you would think someone would do something to improve our valve springs. There is one thing that you can do yourself to possibly improve the performance of your instrument. And the answer is inside your valve casings.

Valves are made to go up and down when we perform and in most situations, they work well. Sometimes they stick and in most cases a good cleaning will solve that problem. But if a nice warm bath and cleaning has not improved your valve action you might consider changing your valve springs. After years of playing, even the best springs will loose their strength to some degree and replacing them might be just what you need for a better playing instrument.

Another possible improvement in valve spring replacement can be made when you want to improve your finger strength on your valves. Valve springs are in most cases designed about the same. If the spring fits into the spring holder without touching the inside walls, it will work on your horn. Some springs are built with more resistance than others and for that reason; you could replace your original set of springs for more resistance. By making this switch, you will be adding to increase the resistance in each of your valves and train your fingers to push the valve down with more force. This is a great way to learn to bang the valves down as “Doc” Severinsen used to preach in his lectures. I also remember my former trumpet teacher Don Jacoby saying, “when you push your valves down, you should hear a pop”. Adding stronger springs will help strengthen your fingers and when returning to your original springs, you will be amazed at the increased strength and speed you will have developed.

If you are unsure as to how strong your valves springs need to be, just play something very slow and see if the depressed valves return to the upright position as quickly as your fingers. When you lift your fingers from each valve the finger buttons should stay in contact with your fingers. If your finger leaves the button as it is lifted, you need to add more strength to your springs. Sometimes you can slightly stretch the springs to give you more resistance but if you do stretch your springs, be very careful that you don’t over do it for you will not be able to redo any damage you have done by over stretching. You also need to be sure that when you stretch your spring, it must remain straight. If your spring ends up looking like the letter C, you had better order some new springs for a bent spring will not work as it should inside the valve casing.

Increasing the resistance can be taken to an extreme as a student and I found out many years ago. The student complained that he didn’t have enough strength in his fingers so we decided to increase the resistance from a set of 7 oz. springs to a set of 9 oz. He was not satisfied with the change so we tried 7 oz. inside the valve and added a second set of 7 oz. below the valve. He was satisfied with the added resistance and continued to practice that summer with the extra set of springs. When he returned the next fall, I asked him how it went and he proceeded to push his valves down with crushing speed. He was very satisfied and I was happy he was satisfied. For most situations, this would be considered a bit excessive, but for him, it did the trick.

While preparing this post, I checked every repair shop on line which offered trumpet valve springs and could not find one that offered springs in different resistances. That is unfortunate for I was able to collect at least three different resistances for my own use. Each set was interchangeable in my Schilke, Bach, Getzen and Yamaha horns. The best way to start collecting valve springs of different resistances would be to ask your local instrument repair shop to show you all the trumpet springs they have in stock and test each for different resistances.

With all of the money being spent today on custom made, ultra light, ultra heavy, extra fast, and titanium with mother of pearl insert finger buttons and special alloy valve caps which will increase you upper register by three octaves, it is a wonder that no one wants to offer the trumpet world better valve springs. Could it be that there would not be enough markups in price?

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.

7 thoughts on “Put A Spring In Your Playing

  1. Tom

    Hey Mr Chidester
    I recently purchased a Phaeton trumpet that I am enjoying. It has a brushed brass finish which softens the sound. I had a Bach that was pretty well worn out and the sound was ‘brighter’ than I desired for most church settings; as that is where I do most of my performing. I have had some problems with valve sticking on the Phaeton. I’ve never owned a new horn and was wondering if this is normal as they ‘break in’ or should I be oiling them more (sometimes they even stick after I’ve oiled them). Or as you stated, just a good ‘bath’ would help. I’ve enjoyed your posts on the valve springs and the ‘silent trumpet’.

    • Bruce Chidester

      Usually when horns leave the factory they should be in perfect condition. Breaking in valves isn’t needed on most horns. If your valves are giving you a problem, try cleaning them again and start trying different valve oils. I found that the Al Cass that I have always used on my horns does not work as well on my new Yamaha as the oil that came with the horn. The Yamaha oil seems to be a little thinner. Be sure to clean every time you change oils. Let me know if it helps or doesn’t help for if it doesn’t help, we will go to step #2.

      As far as wanting a darker sound, I have found that the addition of a Curry Sound Sleeve on my mouthpieces brings down the edge just enough for chamber playing.
      Check it out at… http://www.thetrumpetblog.com/curry-sound-sleeve-mouthpiece-tone-intensifier-review/

      Thanks for stopping in.

  2. Duncan

    Here’s my problem – or not; When pushing my valves up and down I hear a spring sound like a “slinky”. A twang. A buzz. Anoying. I paid many bucks for my Bach. When I press down my valves, I don’t want to hear a slinky “walking” down the steps. Twang – Twang – Twang.

    So… What can I do? Send it to the factory? Change the springs? If so where would I find such springs?

    Help. It’s driving me crazy.


    • Bruce Chidester

      Good evening Duncan,

      First let me thank you for visiting our site and asking your question.

      I thought I had the solution to your problem until I listened to my Bach horns and I heard the same sound. Very interesting observation. BUT, the only way I could hear the sound was when I placed my ear in the bell and moved the valves. If this is how you are able to hear the slinky sound, don’t worry about it. The sound is not heard while you are playing.

      I checked with all of my other brands of horns tonight to see if they also had that sound and none of the others did. It was only on the Bachs. Then I switched valve springs from a Yamaha to one of the Bach’s and the sound was still there which makes me wonder if the sound is coming from the Bach valve spring enclosure.

      Due to the fact that I have had a very tiring day and the clock is now indicating an hour past my bed time, I will continue my investigation of your question and try to get to the real answer by next week. Please stop back and find out if I have come up with an answer.

      If you can only hear the sound when your ear is in the bell or the mouthpiece, don’ worry about it, no one can hear it when you’re playing. It is very interesting that only the Bach’s have this sound.

      • Doug

        One solution that I use to limit the “slinky” noise is to remove the springs, then apply a very small amount of slide grease to the coils and each end of the spring, but be careful not to use too much, or get any on the valve casing itself – as you don’t want the grease to seep into the valves when the grease breaks down. I’ve had great success with this, and never had a problem with this hurting the valve performance.
        Good luck!

  3. ivan hunter

    Thank you for this blog. I am a trumpet builder/repairer/player and may have a fix for your reader.

    The noise being described is probably the spring collapsing against the wall of the spring box. Make sure the springs are in good condition and are not bent, or have not been stretched in an attempt to solve sticking valve problems. Also make sure that the ends of the spring are securely located in the valve guide (make sure these are not upside-down). If all seems fine, replace the springs. If the problem persists, replace the springs with genuine Yamaha ones. These are the only springs I know of which have ground ends which further inhibit the rubbing problem.

    • Bruce Chidester

      Thanks for your comments Ivan,

      I always enjoy reading comments from someone who really knows what they are talking about. I agree with all that you said and I hope Duncan returns to read your suggestions.

      The very best to you and yours

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