How to Oil Valves on Trumpet, Baritone, and Tuba

To keep your trumpet, baritone, or tuba playing great, get in the habit of regularly oiling your valves. Our technicians recommend an oiling schedule of Monday, Wednesday, and Friday for daily players. If you only play a few times a week, always begin with a fresh oiling.

Oiling does more than just lubricating the valves. It will naturally cleanse your instrument and remove particles that could cause harmful buildup.

Step-by-step Oiling Instructions

For any piston-valve brass instrument, simply follow the steps below.

  1. Unscrew a valve cap.
  2. Remove the piston halfway from the instrument. Note the direction the piston number faces. This number needs to face the same direction when you reinsert the piston.
  3. Apply enough oil to cover the exposed piston entirely, but not so much that it begins dripping.
  4. Insert the piston back into the valve with the piston number facing its original direction. You should feel the valve guide lock into place, which prevents you from rotating the piston.
  5. Press the valve key to evenly spread the oil.

Common Mistakes When Oiling Valves

  • Don’t wait until your valves feel dry or scratchy to apply more oil. That scratching will lead to long-term damage.
  • Don’t oil the valve from the hole in the bottom. That is meant for excess oil to drain through, so you’ll end up with a mess.
  • Don’t be afraid to apply a large amount of valve oil. It takes more than a few drips to keep your instrument playing properly.


I just oiled my trumpet and now it doesn’t play at all! What did I do wrong?

Check the numbers on the pistons. They should all be facing the same direction, and for most trumpets they should face the player. If the numbers are not aligned, the holes in the pistons will not line up with the tubing, and air will not be able to flow through your horn.

What kind of oil should I use?

There is a variety of valve oils available for brass players. Typically, thinner oils offer faster movement but evaporate more quickly. Thicker oils will last longer, but create more resistance when the valve is pressed. We recommend Al Cass or Yamaha Light valve oil for a good balance.

Can too much oil hurt my instrument?

If you use too much valve oil, the extra will drain out the bottom. However, if your instrument is excessively dirty, the oil can begin to thicken and slow the valve movement. If this happens, take a lint-free cloth such as cheese cloth and wipe the buildup off the piston. Reapply fresh oil to the clean piston and you’ll be ready to play.

Need help? Let us know!

If you ever need help with your instrument, don’t hesitate to contact The Music Shoppe at (800) 322-5019. Our technicians are glad to take questions over the phone or in person!