What is the Best Slide Lubricant?
By Greg van der Struik
That’s actually not such a straightforward question to answer! I’m sure many will have their favourite choice that they swear by. When I began trombone there were really only two choices – slide oil or Conn slide cream. Things have certainly changed with the large number of products currently available.
Ed Diefes recently gave me the opportunity to try a range of products and I was keen to see how they stacked up.
As for me I have used Slide-O-Mix for years (the two bottles with the red lids). I have found this to be effective and easy to apply, lubricating the slide each day.
Ed sent over a box that contained the following:
Slide-O-Mix Classic Set - two bottles with red lids
Slide-O-Mix Rapid Comfort – all in one
Superslick Slide Oil – this came in a spray bottle.
I also had previously acquired through Ed some Slide-O-Mix Light.
The last few weeks have been spent trying these products on a wide range of instruments and models ranging from soprano sackbut through to bass trombone. Brands include Conn, Bach, Thein, Kruspe, Benge, King and an Olds with a fluted slide along with some brass on brass slides. The ages of the slides varied from 2017 back to the 1930’s.
“While the creams are fine, being able to apply a product directly without getting it on your fingers is an advantage – easier also if you need to lubricate the slide in a rehearsal or show!”
All the products provide a good level of lubrication if applied on a daily basis and supported with the odd spray from the water bottle. The oils also benefit from an occasional touch up spray. For me, I am not as enthusiastic about the slide oils. In some cases you need to mix the oil with water and spray onto the slide. In other cases you can be left with a slightly oily, chemical smell at odds with some of the lightly perfumed fragrances of other products.
In terms of convenience it’s hard to beat the products that allow you to directly apply them to the slide. While the creams are fine, being able to apply a product directly without getting it on your fingers is an advantage – easier also if you need to lubricate the slide in a rehearsal or show!
As mentioned all products do the job but if you are not regularly wiping the slide down and reapplying lubricant some will last longer than others. The creams can last longer, the liquids not quite as much, although I feel that the thicker Yamaha and Slide-O-Mix Classic will rival the creams. Thinner liquids naturally dry out sooner. I will also add that it has been my experience that there is great variation in the viscosity of Slide-O-Mix Classic from bottle to bottle.
“My experience with students is that it is very easy for them to apply way too much lubricant, in particular the creams, which will cause the slide to feel heavy and restricted.”
The reason I find it difficult to give a definitive answer is due to the nature of the slides involved. My 8H Elkhart slide works fantastically on Slide-O-Mix Classic and I feel that this is in many ways my best moving slide. I have always found the same product makes my Conn 2525 slide heavy and gluggy. Moving to the Slide-O-Mix Light has really improved things.
A lot depends on how much lubricant you put on the slide. An older slide with some wear may need a little more than suggested by the manufacturer. My experience with students is that it is very easy for them to apply way too much lubricant, in particular the creams, which will cause the slide to feel heavy and restricted. They will then need to wipe the top half of the slides and spray with water to distribute the lubricant more sparingly across the entire slide.
“From my perspective I found the liquids worked best, the creams were very good and I would only use the oils in an emergency.”
So after going from slide to slide with different products and then mixing it up again and again what did I discover? There are lots of good lubricants that would suit slides in various states of repair. From my perspective I found the liquids worked best, the creams were very good and I would only use the oils in an emergency. The product that impressed me the most was from Yamaha. It worked consistently well on all slides and will make me think twice next time I need to buy slide lubricant.
Disclaimer: I have no affiliation with any of the products listed above.
Gregory van der Struik - Principal Trombone, Opera Australia Orchestra