There are many different products on the market for keeping your slide lubricated. Amongst the oils, creams, sprays, and other products, there are waves of advice covering each one. Each type has its pros and cons, here I will lay out some of the knowledge I have gained on the use of each.
Before You Apply
It is extremely important that your instrument is clean before you apply any product. Unlike trumpet players who use oil to continually rewet valves, most trombone products have to be removed after each use. Not doing so can cause a buildup, seriously gumming up your slide and creating a more long term problem. When cleaning, use a wet towel or rag, wiping the inner slide all the way down past the stockings. Most paper towels are okay, but tissues and toilet paper are NOT. The paper used in these products disintegrates when wet and even when dry will leave paper particles on your slide.
Dents and scratches in the slide can also kill speed and performance. No amount of product will compensate for a dented slide. A clean, unlubricated slide should still move with ease and comfort. Anything you apply can only enhance a properly working slide, not fix one with problems.
Many beginning players and students use oil on their slide. It is cheap and easy to apply, and does not require you to clean the slide each time (although cleaning your slide regularly is still smart). All you need to do is drip the oil on dry spots and work it in by moving the slide.
In my experience, oil is just not adequate. It is definitely the slowest of the products, and I find myself reapplying too often for my comfort. It is important to note, however, that this is the same oil that most trumpet players use on their valves. In a pinch, I have often found a fellow trumpet player responsible enough to have oil on them at all times.
Using a slide cream is a great step up from oil, though it is harder and messier to keep up. It normally comes in a small jar and is white in color. This is not the same cream used on your tuning slide. As I said above, you must start with a clean slide. Apply a very thin coat to the entire slide. So thin that on the slide it still looks clear, not white. Work the product in, then use a water spray bottle to keep it wet. You will need to spray water at least once each time you play. You will know you need to reapply cream when the water no longer makes a difference in lubrication. Again, wipe off all remaining cream before reapplying.
These products generally use a combination of cream and oil to achieve top speed. Many players will swear by one or the other. I recommend trying many of them and making your own decision. As with most things, each horn and player are different and have a variety of preferences.
Most of these products have the same application instructions and considerations as normal slide cream does. Almost all of them will require spraying water periodically to keep the product wet.
Players who use Trombotine prefer it because of how long it lasts on the slide, and how little needs to be applied for it to work. That being said, there is a bit of a learning curve when using Trombotine, not overdoing it or leaving bare spots. Vintage horn players or those with slides that are “less than perfect” may use this because it means less total product that is going onto the slide, thus less long term problems with the slide being gummed up.
Probably the most used among professionals (and my personal favorite!), Slide-O-Mix is a combination product, part cream and part oil. It works a little differently than cream does. It comes as two liquid bottles, a milky one for the slide, and a tiny clear one for the stockings of the slide. The application is similar to using oil, except that you do need to spray water on it. Use the small bottle very sparingly, you don’t need more than a drop on each slide, and this bottle ALWAYS runs out before the big one!
They now sell a Slide-O-Mix combo bottle that you can use on the whole slide. It is slightly slower than the multi-bottle system, and needs more frequent application, but is cheaper and easier to use.
What Do You Use?
Please comment below with personal tips and product recommendations!