the jazz authority; random dubiously zappy rants about 'the musicians music'.: Saxophone Maintenance & Care

Monday, May 30, 2005

Saxophone Maintenance & Care

Below is a list of things to do, things not to do, and stuff about saxophone maintenance and care. Pay attention!

If you value your sax and it has it's lacquer still on it, then wipe it clean with a dry cotton cloth after every playing session. Use damp Q-tips to clean out the crap in between mechanisms. For those less anal, just clean the easily accessible areas with a damp cloth once a week or so.

Pads are a great invention. You can clean and/or condition your pads once every two or three months, but either you do it or you don't. If it's a new pad job and you intend to keep it clean, then do it. If your horn has old pads and you aren't gonna clean them regularly, then stay the hell away from them. The worst thing you can do is dislodge some hairs or a speck of dirt on the pad that's creating a seal with the tone hole. This is sage advice. Your horn will play like a sieve if you do this.

To clean your pads first cut/tear strips of paper the size of your tone holes, place them between the pad and the tone hole, press down the key and wiggle the paer side to side and out. Then, swipe damp Q-tips around the pads. At this point you can either stop or go on to protect and condition your pads.

There are two products you can use – neatsfoot oil, and liquid silicone. The neatsfoot oil should be applied sparingly with Q-tips. Same goes for the silicone. Be sure that the pads are dry before applying the neatsfoot oil, and wait a couple of weeks before applying the silicone. The neatsfoot oil conditions and softens the pads, while the silicone will semi-waterproof them and keep them from sticking.

ONLY ATTEMPT THE ABOVE CLEANING IF YOU'RE CONFIDENT THAT YOU WANT TO. Don't be afraid to do more research before you get into it.

Apply oil to the rods and keys at least once a month. One time i took my horn in for a check up and the tech asked when the last time was that I oiled my mechanisms. It had been about a year, and he could actually see ground metal mixed in with the thick oily goo that was left. No wonder my action seemed sluggish and stiff!

Learn to put cork and felt on your horn. All you need is sheet cork, contact cement, sandpaper, sheet felt (good quality) and scisssors. Tweezers help too. I looked for months for good felt and never found it. All you can do is buy it from the repair shop or music store. Same goes for sheet cork 9unless you drink wine and you're willing to settle for crappy cork). Anyways, learn to do this because any serious musician should be able to fix their own instrument.

NEVER USE A STUFF-IT ROD. Those things have ruined so many horns pads. I'm refering to the long fuzzy rods that one stuffs down the length of their horn. They hold the moisture in, leave hairs stuck to the pads, and just plain suck eggs. Use a pull through swab. There are chamois ones that are great if you can find them. Once it's dirty throw it away and buy a new one.

If you hold your sax by the bell, hold it so that the horn is above the bell, not below. It is possible over time to weaken or even snap the soldered bell brace. It happened on my '71 Selmer tenor. Of course this isn't an issue for alto players, and I really doubt you're gonna try it with a bari. Also avoid holding by the neck. One great way to hold your horn is with you fingers on the keys like you're playing. Think about the rods and keys you're liable to bend if you aren't carefull.

That's about it for now. If anyone has suggestions go ahead and post them.


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