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How to Care for a Saxophone

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How to Care for a Saxophone

by  | Jun 11, 2022 | School Band Instruments

When you bring home your saxophone for the first time, you are going to be so excited to play it! Saxophones are a fun and versatile instrument that can be played in marching band, symphonic band, jazz band, and even in a rock band! To keep your instrument in good working condition, you will need to know how to care for a saxophone.

Keep Your Saxophone Out Of The Heat and Cold

Many instruments are sensitive to extreme temperatures, and saxophones are no exception. It might be tempting to leave your sax in the backseat or trunk of your car, but this is not recommended. In the warmer months, the inside of your car can get extremely hot. When it’s 85 degrees outside, it can get up to 119 degrees inside a car after 30 minutes. This kind of intense heat can cause the glue on the corks, pads, and felts to soften and they could fall off or move out of place. When it is cold outside, your saxophone can also become damaged. If the temperature is cold enough, it could affect the finish on the instrument. Not to mention, once you bring the instrument inside to play it, you will be very out of tune until the instrument gets back to a stable temperature.

Clean Your Saxophone After You Play It

Keeping your instrument clean after each time you play it is going to keep it in good condition for longer. Here are the main cleaning steps:

Remove and Clean The Neck and Mouthpiece

Since the saxophone is a wind instrument, a lot of moisture can build up inside during play, and if this sits like this in your case, it can start to smell and grow mold. So when you’re finished playing, remove the neckpiece and carefully swab it out. Your saxophone may have come with a small neck swab that is either cloth with a weight on the end of a larger version of a pipe cleaner. Either of these work great, just don’t store your neck with the pipe cleaner left inside. Once the neck is dry, place it back in the designated area of your case. You can use the same cloth/pipe cleaner to swab out your mouthpiece. First, remove the ligature and reed, then swab it dry. Once the mouthpiece is clean, you can place the ligature back on it to keep it from rolling around in your case and getting bent. Then rise off your reed with water and pat it dry with a paper towel. Store it in a reed guard case. Do not put your reed in an airtight container like a ziplock back, otherwise it may grow mold over time.

Dry the Bore of the Saxophone

Don’t forget to swab out the bore of your saxophone, too (aka the inside of the body). This area will also collect moisture. Using a larger version of what you used to dry the neck out, swab the inside of the saxophone. If you have a large cloth with a weighted string on the end, start by putting the weight through the top of the instrument and let the weight bring the string to the bottom of the bell. Slowly tip the instrument over until the weight comes out of the bell. Gently pull the string and cloth through the body. You can repeat this process a few more times to get all of the moisture out. If you have one of the large, fluffy “pad saver” swabs, you can push it gently in and out of the instrument a few times. These claim they can be stored inside the instrument, but it is not recommended since moisture left on the swab will just be sitting inside.

Wipe the Outside

Before you put your saxophone away, take a moment to wipe down the outside too. If you were playing for a while, some moisture could have built up and started to escape through the finger holes. It is also important to wipe off any oily residue from your fingers to extend the life of the saxophone’s finish.

Tips for Before You Play

One pro tip on how to care for a saxophone is to do a few key things before you play, too.

  • If you can, brush your teeth before playing, especially if you have been eating or drinking something sugary. The sugar in your spit can get inside and make your pads sticky over time. If you can’t brush your teeth, take a few big gulps of water and swish it around in your mouth to get things as clean as possible.
  • Washing your hands before you play is also a good idea. You may have dirt, oil from lotion, or possibly something sticky on your hands that will end up transferring to the instrument.

Don’t Neglect Your Reeds

Saxophones rely on the use of reeds to get their classic sound and these reeds are pretty delicate! Taking care of your reeds will make playing more fun and give you a better sound. Plus reeds aren’t cheap, so keeping them in good working order will save money. When opening a brand new reed, let it soak in a cup of room temperature water for a few minutes before you start to play. This will help soften it up a bit and get rid of that “new reed taste”. It is a good idea to always keep at least 2 reeds ready and in rotation. They will last longer that way, and then if one reed gets damaged, you have a backup that is broken in and ready to go. Earlier, we mentioned avoiding storing your reeds in an airtight container. Having a reed guard case will let you store four or more reeds at a time. This device helps keep them flat and protected from being chipped while in your case.

Repair and Maintain Your Instrument Regularly

If your saxophone just isn’t playing the way it used to, don’t hesitate to bring it into an instrument repair shop to have it looked at. Saxophones are complex in construction, so even the smallest spring, screw, or pad that is out of place can impact how the instrument plays. Trying to fix it yourself could just result in more issues. The professionals at CIOMIT are highly skilled at diagnosing an issue for a saxophone and getting it repaired quickly! Services range from simple cleanings to full instrument restorations and everything in between. They can even give you tips for how to care for a saxophone. CIOMIT is proud to provide the highest quality instrument repair services to the Denver area.