Chapter 2: Care and maintenance"The Definite guide for beginner saxophone"
Saxophone Care and maintenance: Handle and Assemble
In this chapter you'll learn how to take care of your saxophone, so that you'll be able to use it at it's full potential and avoid costly repairs.
What's in the Saxophone case?
- The saxophone body
- The saxophone neck
- The mouthpiece with ligature
- Neck strap
- Cork grease
- Cleaning swab or rag
How to assemble the saxophone in 5 steps
How to handle the saxophone
Do this and you'll be fine!
There's a lot to think about when playing the saxophone. I can totally relate if you feel eager to get started and just want to throw everything together and play like a saxophone god. Am I right? However, I strongly suggest that you take some time to follow these tips and you'll keep your saxophone in good playing condition for a longer period of time.
- Grab and hold on to the saxophone by the bell
- Use the neck strap all the time to keep the sax hanging around the neck
- Use the reed cap to protect the reed while not playing
- If you need to put the saxophone down, use the outside of the case or another flat surface and lay it gently down with the keys facing down
- Never leave the sax laying around so that it could fall to the floor by accident
Do this and you'll be heading to the saxophone shop - bring your wallet!
I've added a few things on the "don't-list", so that you do not have to go through these costly misstakes. Some of which I've managed to pull off myself over the years and some that I know are really common among beginner saxophone players. As long as you handle the sax with some care you'll do fine.
- Lift the saxophone by the keys or the neck
- Don't put the sax on a chair that can make it fall to the floor
- Watch out where you have the MPC as it's easy to hit things (and teeth) while moving around
Saxophone Care and maintenance
Did you brush your teeth? No?
It's really a good practice to always brush your teeth prior playing the saxophone.
The reason is that if you've eaten recently some of the food or soft drinks (even worse) will transfer over to the saxophone, making the pads stick and the saxophone smell like food.
Imagine the next time you pick it up and it smells of old food. Not so pleasant, right?!
Cleaning the inside of the saxophone
Take your cleaning swap We already covered the basics of how to swab the inside of the saxophone in the paragraph above but if you want to learn more about how to clean your saxophone I'd recommend this guide at wikipedia that covers this in more detail.
Cleaning the saxophone mouthpiece
You need to clean the saxophone mouthpiece no matter if you play a metal or hard rubber mouthpiece. It can get pretty nasty quickly if you ignore it.
So, I'd recommend that you keep some wipes, napkins or a piece of cloth in your saxophone case, so that you can wipe through the mouthpiece after each practice session.
Further more, you should rinse it through water and do a deep clean at least a couple of times each month to avoid buildups of germs.
Cleaning the keyholes and pads
It may be easier to just bring the saxophone to the shop and have a professional look at it. However, these are my best tips on how you can do it yourself if you want to do that.
Each keyhole has a rim that should connect with the corresponding pad that's attached to each saxophone key. The pads need to match perfectly with those keyholes in order to get a tight seal, so that you can finger and play different notes.
If you have a saxophone that hasn't been swabbed regularly you may get some build up on the pads and keyholes, which cause the air to leak through in some places.
Having leaks around the keyholes is the single most common reason for the need of maintenance on the saxophone. This greatly affects your ability to play the saxophone as any leaks makes it harder to play, if not totally unplayable.
Use Yamahas "cleaning paper" for cleaning out the pads and keyholes. Cigarette paper works the same way.
The octave key (the little pad on the neck) is a well known weak spot on the saxophone as well as the three palm keys on the side (left hand). Start by cleaning those out by following the steps below.
Here are the basic steps to cleaning the saxophone pads and keyholes:
- Take a piece of cleaning paper (or cigarette paper)
- Position it between the keyhole and the pad
- Press down with your finger gently onto the middle of the key
Note that it's important to keep the pressure even on the entire key
- If needed, easy back on the pressure slightly and pull out the cleaning paper to the side
You should see residue and buildup guey on the cleaning paper. Repeat the same process using different parts of the paper. Take a new one if needed.
Tip: If you don't see anything on the paper as you've gone through the steps above, try again but this time with a wet paper. The buildup could be stuck and needs to get wet in order to be removed.
Final Thoughts on saxophone maintenance
If it seems like the issue with leaking air remains you should bring your saxophone to the shop and have a sax tech look at it. It may need to be overhauled.