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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
  • Reeds
  • Cleaning swab or rag

How to assemble the saxophone in 5 steps

Step 1 – Start with the reed

The reed needs some time to soak in water, so that it is evenly moist and ready to play on. That’s why you should start with preparing the reed. (You get more tips on how to handle sax reeds in the next chapter.)

Step 2 – Neck strap

Put on the neck strap and adjust it roughly, so that you can hook up the body of the saxophone to it. Final adjustments in the length of the neck strap has to wait until you have the entire saxophone assembled.

Step 3 – Mouthpiece and saxophone neck

Start by removing the ligature (ring that holds the reed) and the reed cap from the mouthpiece, so that you only have the actual mouthpiece to work with first. I recommend that you add some cork grease to the cork on the saxophone neck each time you get ready to assemble the sax.

With the mouthpiece in one hand and the neck in the other, put the mouthpiece onto the neck by a “screwing”-motion from side to side.

Step 4 – Apply the reed to the mouthpiece

Getting the sax reed positioned right takes some practice. That’s why I recommend that you put the reed on the mouthpiece before you assemble the neck and the body. It makes it easier to move the reed around, which you have a complete guide on how to do in the next chapter.

The ligature will in most cases only fit in one direction so make sure to check that you are putting it onto the mouthpiece in the right direction. In addition you need to loosen (not remove!) the screws that’s on the ligature, so that it gets wide enough to fit around the thicker part of the mouthpiece.

A common beginner mistake is failing to put the ligature all the way on the mouthpiece. Most mouthpieces either have a line marking around the MPC or a distinct edge on top of the mouthpiece that can serve as a good mark of where to get the ligature passed.

Step 5 – Assemble the saxbody and neck

You should first put the neck with the MPC and reed to the side for easy access.

Pick up the saxophone body from the saxophone case by a steady grip around the bell. Try to avoid lifting it holding around any keys as they could get dented or bent causing the saxophone to leak air.

Hook up the saxophone to the neck strap and let it hang down your body. It will tilt a bit, but that’s alright.

Next, you need to grab the saxophone neck and put it on the saxophone body with a side-to-side motion as you gently press the neck onto the body. Remember to loosen the screw on top of the body, which you should secure once the neck is fully put on the body. Note that the neck needs to go down all the way onto the body for you to being able to play on it.


How to handle the saxophone

  • Y

    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
  • N

    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:

  1. Take a piece of cleaning paper (or cigarette paper)
  2. Position it between the keyhole and the pad
  3. 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
  4. 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.

Chapter 2: Care and maintenance"The Definite guide for beginner saxophone"

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