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Saxophone Maintenance Tips

by Paul R.Coats

1. Examine all pads for splits and seating,including octave key pads. Replace as necessary.

2. Check operation of the octave key. Finger Gand operate the octave key. The pad on the neck vent shouldremain closed, the pad on the body vent should open and close.Finger A and operate the octave key. The pad on the neck ventshould open and close, the pad on the body vent should remainclosed. Lubricate if needed. If it still does not work correctly,consult a repairman.

3. Finger middle finger C. Check that thelittle pad just above the first finger of the left hand closes.On Yamaha saxes adjust the left stack screw. On other makes arepairman must shim with cork or felt.

4. Finger 1-4 and 1-5 Bb. Check for properadjustment by depressing the Bis Key. Adjust at the setscrew justabove the F pad.

5. Finger D and work the G# key. The G# padshould remain closed and the tone should not change. If the G#pad opens even slightly it will prevent low C#, B, and Bb fromspeaking and prevent proper use of articulated G# fingerings.Adjust the G# setscrew.

6. For advanced players: Check intonation oflow Eb, D, C#, C, and B. Adjust the felt bumpers. Use a goodtuner for this!

7. If all else is O.K., doping the pads helpseven on new pads! Old stiff pads are sometimes softened with paddopes. Use the Lavoz "Pad Saver" swab. These two steps willgreatly extend pad life, more than paying for the cost of the paddope and swab.

8. Lube the neck cork with cork grease, ChapStick, or Vaseline. I use Singer Sewing Machine Oil on keys.Oiling the keys twice a year is adequate.

9. Wipe the sax several times a week with adamp cloth and buff dry. Wax with Pledge several times a year, orspray with Runyon Lacquer Life. Silver colored keys on studentline saxes are nickel plated and need no special care, just wipeclean.

10. Never leave the reed and ligature on themouthpiece when the instrument is stored. Wash the mouthpiecedaily with lukewarm (never hot) water. At the very least, wipedry with a tissue or cloth after playing. Use a brush ifnecessary--a Gerber baby bottle nipple brush works well. Soakingthe mouthpiece overnight in vinegar will remove saliva stains.Keep a minimum of 4--8 reeds at all times. Keep reeds in a goodreed holder such as Vito or Lavoz Reedguard VI. Never store yourreeds in the plastic "Novapack" containers that reeds comepackaged in. Never play the same reed two days in a row. Playreeds on a rotation schedule and they will last much longer. Wrapthe mouthpiece and neck in soft cloths (old gym socks work well)or commercial neck and mouthpiece bags. Do not allow them torattle around loose in the accessory compartment of the case.Mouthpieces are often damaged beyond repair this way.

11. When transporting your instrument on thebus (or shipping) place bubble wrap in the case around the saxand accessories. Do not use a "Gig Bag" unless you are willing tohand carry your instrument at all times and hold it in your lapfor trips. Compact "Flight Cases" are available that have minimumsize and the strength necessary to protect your instrument. I canrecommend the SKB Contoured Pro Sax Cases (my personal choice),the Winter Flight Cases, Pro Pac Contoured Cases by Pro Tec, andthe Selmer Walt Johnson Gig Cases (used by the Air Force's Airmenof Note). These are all truly "roadworthy".

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