Seen from the outside, the habits of saxophonists in terms of hygiene often appears as bad: we lick the reed, sometimes even the cork of the neck, we put the mouth on a mouthpiece (often not so clean), we blow, we splutter, we breathe ... Also, the saxophone and its small equipment are subjected to a severe test with the environment, the dust, the humidity, the cork too dry, the storage of the saxophone ... In short, for your own good, your money and especially for your saxophone, here is a guide to maintain your instrument.
What you need for the perfect maintenance of your saxophone:
The swab: this is the piece of cloth (often chamois skin) with a weight at the end of a string. It allows to go in the saxophone and the neck easily. Choose two swabs: a large one for the saxophone body and a small one for the neck and the mouthpiece (The anatomy of the saxophone is here!).
The tripod: also called "stand", it allows to deposit your saxophone by maintaining it by the bell. No key is put to the test and it's the best way to keep your saxophone mounted safely. There are some for all types of saxophone.
Grease: it is necessary for the maintenance of corks and the lubrication of parts of the saxophone.
Cigarette paper: it can help you fight against sticky pads and compensate for worn cork that has become too thin for the mouthpiece.
The repairman: Yes, it is the repairman who will make your saxophone like new! (Access our list of Syos repairman partners!).
It is essential to maintain the saxophone mouthpiece, it is a piece that is worn out and get dirty quickly enough. Regardless of the material, it is necessary to dry it and pass the swab after each use.
For further maintenance, the material must be taken into account. For Syos mouthpieces, there is no fear to have, you can put it under hot water with soap. Even better, put it in the dishwasher! On the contrary, for ebonite and metal, no hot water! This could tarnish the color of the ebonite and turn it greenish. Use a soft toothbrush to go inside the mouthpiece. Wipe and dry the mouthpiece after cleaning.
Small tip: To compensate for the wear caused by the teeth, it is advisable to use pellets to put on the chinrest of the mouthpiece.
The reed also deserves its drying time and its little rag. The drying of the reed also conditions its durability. It is imperative to remove it from the mouthpiece to dry it flat, in its reed guard or in a specialized case. This avoids curling the end of the reed and making the reed weak after a few uses. Others suggest leaving it in a humid environment so that it never dries, watch out for mold!
Small tip: To give a second life to the reed, you can opt for the reed cutter. Otherwise, there are now very good carbon reeds, durable and easy to maintain.
And now the piping! The saxophone's neck needs to be wiped after use, outside as well as inside. Use the small swab to go inside: slide it until the pipe is dry. The chamois skin of the swab can then be used to polish the exterior.
As for cork, maintain it by adding fat. It prevents the cork to dry and crumble, the fat nourish the cork. Do not hesitate to grease the other end of the neck if you have trouble embedding it on the body of the saxophone.
Small tip: use cigarette paper to compensate worn cork and make it more suitable for the tail of your mouthpiece (before seeing a luthier to repair the cork).
The saxophone body
It is the turn of the big swab to pass in the conduit. We advise to insert it by the flag and then to go up by the tube. And not the other way around because the swab often gets stuck in the key holes. Once again, chamois can be used to polish the exterior of the saxophone. Sometimes, some buffers stick while you play. This means that the buffer/stamp is a bit wet or has badly dried. In this situation, cigarette paper can help you. Slip it under the concerned buffer/stamp and press the key that plugs the hole. Repeat until the pad stops sticking and discard the paper.
To extend the life of your saxophone, avoid any type of shock. The bumps on the saxophone could cause leaks and fatal disturbances to the instrument. It is then necessary to store well the saxophone in the holster after use, leave it on a secure tripod, or put it on a flat surface on the side of the guards (and not on the key side!).
Small tip: For all saxophone cleaning operations, keep it hooked to your collar. On the other hand, do not leave the necklace hanging on the saxophone when stored or placed, it could scratch and dent the metal.
To conclude on saxophone hygiene
To live long, your saxophone needs to be pampered and spared by mold and technical problems. There are many other tips for maintaining your saxophone. However, you must pay attention to manipulations that seem too complex. A repairman will advise you and carry out a maintenance reliably on your saxophone. Clean the mouthpiece, the neck and the saxophone body after each use. And do not forget to close your saxophone case before traveling (and yes, it happens)!
To sum up, after each use of your saxophone we recommend to:
Dry the mouthpiece with a swab and put the reed in its protection
Pass the swab in the neck and in the body of the saxophone
At best: put the saxophone in its case to avoid dust. If not leave it on his tripod or put it aside side guards and not side key (Treble).
To adopt a mouthpiece that you can clean in the dishwasher, it's here: