Never Make These Saxophone Gear Mistakes
Here are 10 common gear mistakes saxophone players make that I want you to avoid or stop doing altogether.
#1: Don’t leave hard rubber mouthpieces in the sun
First up, do not leave old hard rubber mouthpieces in the sun. If you do, before long, the color would fade and they would turn a brownish green color.
The UV rays in sunlight oxidize hard rubber which we definitely don’t want.
Let me know in the comments if you have a hard rubber mouthpiece that has turned this color.
You may notice an unpleasant odor and taste as well. This is the taste sulphuric acid leeching from the rubber as a result of the oxidation.
So, short and sweet – keep your hard rubber mouthpieces out of direct sunlight as much as possible.
#2: Don’t wash hard rubber mouthpieces with hot or warm water
Number 2 is also a hard rubber mouthpiece killer. Don’t wash them in hot or even warm water. Always use cold water on hard rubber mouthpieces. If the water is not cold, you risk the same discoloring and terrible taste. Not to mention the loss of value.
#3: Always SWAB your saxophone & mouthpiece
This brings us to the third big gear mistake saxophone players commonly make and that is *not swabbing.*
This is the absolute bare minimum for saxophone maintenance and hygiene. If you swab out your mouthpiece every time after playing they will always be clean on the inside and won’t need to be washed anyway.
Mouthpieces that do not get swabbed out end up with nasty deposits of gunk that harden and become very difficult to remove over time.
Not only is this disgusting, but it alters how the mouthpiece plays by literally adding material to the interior.
Right now someone is writing a comment saying “Yeah, but swabbing mouthpieces removes material from the inside and ruins it over time.” That is completely untrue and disinformation, unless of course you are swabbing your mouthpieces with sandpaper.
If you don’t have a saxophone swab go get one today. I have made it easy for everyone since this is an absolute essential accessory. I have these great sax swab kits available here for alto and tenor sax. They come with a microfiber body swab and neck swab that also does the mouthpiece. There’s also a little microfiber pad cleaner included in the kit, so you can keep your saxophone clean and functioning for longer.
#4: Don’t leave your mouthpiece on the neck
The next common gear mistake saxophonists make is leaving the mouthpiece on the neck of the saxophone.
When you leave the mouthpiece on the neck cork while you’re not playing, besides not having cleaned anything out, the moisture is going to sit on the neck cork. Over time, that will result in that cork hardening and becoming brittle and eventually breaking.
The mouthpiece is also going to over compress the cork which will result in a less optimal fit.
#5: Laying down your saxophone properly
Number 5 is putting the saxophone down on the wrong side when laying it flat.
It seems like side of the horn with most keys should be the side we leave face upwards. However, the back side of the saxophone has keys sticking out like the palm keys and the LH pinky keys. So, when a sax lays on this side, the weight is going on these keys which isn’t the best.
Overall, it is better to use a good saxophone stand. But if you don’t have one available, the next best option is to lay it flat on the other side of the horn.
#6: Tightening the neck screw without the neck in place
Number 6 is tightening the neck screw without the neck in place.
This tenon receiver joint is designed to tighten around a neck tenon. If the male part of this equation is not in place you risk damaging the neck tenon receiver so be careful with that.
#7: Don’t force your mouthpiece onto the neck
Number 7 is forcing a mouthpiece onto a very tight neck cork with the neck on the saxophone.
This neck tenon is a weak point in the saxophone, so we really want to avoid putting any unnecessary pressure here. Also the neck itself can be rather delicate and prone to bending.
If you have a tight fitting mouthpiece, always put it on the neck when detached from the body of the instrument. Use cork grease and if that’s not enough, get the neck cork sanded down for a better fit.
#8: Don’t put your saxophone in a vice
Number 8 is not all that common, but I saw this on Instagram the other day, and thought it would make a good public service announcement. Please don’t put any part of your saxophone in a vice. Ever.
#9: Don’t use metal polish
Number 9 is something that I came across all the time when repairing vintage saxophones. People often think they can polish an old saxophone using metal polish. Please don’t do this.
First of all, most saxophones are lacquered. This means there is a layer of what is basically paint over the metal, so metal polish would be completely redundant and useless.
For saxophones that do not have lacquer, the metal can be polished, but this should only be done by a qualified saxophone repair technician as it is a very tedious and intricate job.
There are so many little crevices and hard to reach places, not to mention the dangerously sharp blued steel springs every where.
It’s also pretty much a big waste of time and effort since as soon as you polish a bare metal saxophone it starts oxidizing again and will go back to its unpolished state in a short period of time.
#10: Replace your case!
Number 10, getting a vintage saxophone overhauled and then putting it back in the old stinky, moldy, critter infested case.
If you make some eBay or garage sale saxophone purchase and end up with a gem of a closet horn from the 50s. Naturally you will need to get that saxophone overhauled at great expense. The repair technician will meticulously clean the instrument and replace all the pads, corks and felts and make the horn play like new.
They should also sell you or recommend you purchase a brand new case, because if you put that freshly overhauled saxophone back in it’s old case it’s going to smell like grandpa’s basement again which would be a shame.
Also that vintage case made out of wood is absolutely horrible at offering any protection for the saxophone. Dump it and buy a new one please.
If you’ve been doing any of these mistakes I hope this video will help you correct them. There is a lot of misinformation floating around out there so watch this video next where I debunk some of the most common myths about learning the saxophone.
And don’t forget to check out the BetterSax podcast! Listen to this lesson below.