If you own a saxophone, you are probably proud of your beautiful musical instrument. There is no doubt that the saxophone is one of the most beautiful and difficult instruments to play music. A saxophone is an expensive instrument and you need to take good care of it. Cleaning your saxophone is essential so that it is well maintained and works well. A saxophone that is not cleaned well can give you problems during use. The article tells you all that you need to know about cleaning a saxophone.
Understanding the Saxophone
Before getting into the cleaning part, it is necessary to understand more about the saxophone. This will help you in cleaning it in the best possible way. Your saxophone is probably made of brass. It has four main parts. The size of the part may vary from one saxophone model to another, but the basic four parts are the same.
- The mouthpiece: This is the part of the saxophone that you use to blow into the instrument to create music.
- The neck: This is the part connected to the mouthpiece, which leads to the body, and is narrow.
- The body: This is the largest part of the saxophone and grows broader towards the bottom. The larger the body of the saxophone, the lower is the sound produced.
- The bell: The bell is the lowest part of the saxophone and is the place from which the sound is produced.
Throughout the saxophone are tone holes (usually 25 of them). They are keys provided to close the tone holes allowing you to produce the music of your choice. When you consider all the parts of the saxophone, you will find that there are more than 500 parts in your saxophone.
Why clean the saxophone?
You need to clean your saxophone to keep it looking attractive without any dirt or dust on its surface. More importantly, cleaning ensures dirt doesn’t go deep into the instrument, causing the metal to wear out. If this happens, it affects the life of your saxophone. Proper maintenance through regular cleaning can help you keep your saxophone in perfect condition.
Cleaning the saxophone
Your saxophone is a large instrument and complex. Cleaning it, though, is not very complicated. If you follow the right method, you can ensure the cleaning is done quickly and effectively. While you may feel that cleaning is boring and laborious, it is important that you spend some time on the cleaning to prevent future problems. Ideally, you need to clean the instrument after every performance. You can clean the main parts every time you use the sax. You can even clean the smaller parts once a week. Following a proper routine ensures effective maintenance.
The saxophone cleaning kit
While there are different ways of cleaning your sax, the best way is to use a saxophone cleaning kit. This makes your job easy as everything is on hand. Saxophone kits are offered by the manufacturer, else you can look in the market for cleaning kits. Your saxophone cleaning kit will have the following:
- A cork grease
- Tone hole cleaners
- Pad cleaning papers
- Cleaning swab
- Brush for the mouthpiece
- Cloth to use for polishing
- Instruction booklet/manual
Cleaning the saxophone – a step by step procedure
Start by cleaning the interior of the saxophone. Your cleaning kit will have a swab on a string with a weighted end. Insert the weighted end of the brush into the saxophone through the bell. Now make you sax upside down. Pull out the weighted end through the narrow end. This ensures one round of a complete cleaning of the interior.
Now use the swab in the body several times to ensure that the interior parts are completely cleaned. This ensures that dirt, dust, and any grime is removed. It also removes all moisture content preventing any bacteria from growing. This is why you need to clean every time you use the instrument. Keeping it aside may make bacteria grow.
Remove the neck from the instrument. Insert the swab into the larger end of the neck and brush thoroughly to clean. If there is an excess buildup of foreign matter, you can brush using a mild detergent and then dry it using a pad saver. Insert the pad saver from the narrow end. Leave it there for a few moments and then take it out so it absorbs all moisture. If you use water to clean, make sure it doesn’t reach the cork; else it may swell up.
The mouthpiece has all your saliva and other contents of your mouth. Make sure you clean it well. Remove the reed of the mouthpiece and then use a brush to clean it. Use lukewarm water to thoroughly clean the mouthpiece. Then swab using a clean cloth to remove any dirt left over and moisture. If the mouthpiece looks too dirty, you can soak it in detergent before washing and drying. You can even use mouthwash to disinfect it.
Use a small brush or a toothbrush to clean the reed. This must be done every time you use the mouthpiece since the reed is the first place where bacteria can grow. You can soak the reed also in mouthwash solution before drying it. Store the reed/mouthpiece separately to take care of it better. If you observe scratches, you can use sandpaper to remove the scratches.
You also need to clean the exterior of the saxophone. Use the polish cloth that comes with the cleaning kit to clean the exterior. Apart from dirt, your fingerprints will appear on the body. The keys and the rods are where your hands make contact with the instrument repeatedly. Sweat and any cosmetics on your hand can get transferred. Clean the keys and rods thoroughly as there is the possibility of the metal getting worn out if not cleaned well.
If you find a sticky key on your sax, use pad paper to clean it. Place the pad paper between the key and the tone hole. Hold the key down and gently pull the paper out. This ensures any dirt, saliva, or grime is removed. If required, do this 2-3 times until it is completely dry. While cleaning the body, clean each of the keypads and check them for any wear and tear. You can wipe them with clean water and then dry them.
Finishing it up
Once you are done cleaning the interior, neck, mouthpiece, and body, your saxophone is clean. It is time now to make it sparkle and look like a new instrument—Polish the saxophone to enhance its appearance. Every time you use the sax, no one should be able to say that it is an old instrument. You can use the polishing cloth that comes with the cleaning kit to polish the outside part. Do it slowly, gently, and thoroughly.
If you want to make the brass shine, you can use a little wax spray. Don’t use paper napkins or any material not intended for use on brass. This can cause scratches and spoil the looks of your instrument.
Once the cleaning is complete, you need to tighten the screws. You may have disassembled the instrument to clean it. Make sure you assemble it again properly. Once the cleaning is done, keep the instrument in the case and don’t take it out unless you need to play it. Keep the case also clean. Taking all these precautions are worth it. This will ensure your saxophone is clean, looks good, and is well maintained so that it serves you for a very long time.
Saxophone care tips
Here are some tips to help you clean and care well for your saxophone:
- One of the pads on the saxophone is the low EB pad at the bottom of the body just before it curves. If the pad looks black with a greenish ring, then it indicates there is moisture in the body and it needs cleaning.
- Don’t close the case of the sax immediately after playing. Allow any moisture to evaporate.
- Have a pouch for the mouthpiece so you store it securely avoiding moisture and dirt.
- Brush your teeth before using the sax! Yes, we said your teeth! That’s because if you have sugar in your mouth, it mixes with saliva and sticks to the pad. This makes it sticky and difficult to clean. It also becomes a breeding ground for bacteria.
- While cleaning start from the bell part, which is the largest part before you move to the top. If you do it the other way, you will end up spreading moisture all over the instrument.
- Clean the cleaners. Make sure you wash the swab, bell brushes, and pad savers with a little soap and water. This ensures your cleaning material has no dirt on it that can get transferred to the sax.
Regular cleaning and care ensure that your saxophone will look new for a long time. You can enjoy playing this instrument, knowing that it is well maintained.