Cleaning the musical instrument on a regular basis will enhance its life to a great extent. Be a novice or an advanced player, you’ll surely benefit from these simple yet effective cleaning tips.
The saxophone is a highly delicate instrument and you should be extremely cautious during the cleaning procedure. Some of the keys are interrelated to each other so a wrong adjustment on the keys can change the overall tone.
If you know how a saxophone is made of, It would be easy to clean in properly. However, dirt and debris are some of the most prominent reasons your saxophone isn't delivering the same performance as the beginning. Dirt particles and other contaminants will eventually slow down the responding time of the keys and cause the metal to wear down.
So, if you’re curious how to clean a saxophone then you have come to the right place. We have broken it down to each element of the instrument so that you can easily determine the process. Make sure that you follow these tips by the books so that you can save from the hefty trips to the repair shop.
How to Clean a Saxophone?
The mouthpiece of the saxophone is more prone to accumulate germs as it directly comes in contact with your mouth. The warm air that you blow into the mouthpiece contains saliva and small food particles. The moist environment helps the bacteria and germs to thrive and help them grow.
Wipe off the reed with a dry clean towel or cotton swab after every use. You should give the mouthpiece a thorough clean at least once a week if you play regularly. First, remove the reed and clean the insides thoroughly with a small brush. Make sure to take out all the buildup or residue from the mouthpiece.
Cleaning the mouthpiece with lukewarm water is recommended by many professionals. However, make sure that the water is not too hot as that will deteriorate the quality of the instrument. If the mouthpiece is excessively dirty then we also recommend mixing a few tablespoons of antiseptic mouthwash to kill the germs and bacteria.
Regular cleaning on the neck is a must as that's where most of the air droplets accumulate in a condensed form. Many sax players wonder how to clean a saxophone neck as it isn’t easily accessible. You may worry that the sound quality will deteriorate, however, it works the opposite the quality of sound will get even crisper if you follow a regular cleaning regimen.
Before starting the procedure, make sure to remove the reed and carefully slide it down to the regard. Now, firmly grab the neck around the base and loosen the receiver screw. Give it a slight twist and lift it to remove from the neck.
Get a cleaning swab and shove it down to the bottom of the neck. Make sure that it drops down to the level until it comes out of the bell. Pull the swab through the body to effectively remove all traces of moisture.
Cleaning the body of the saxophone is an integral part of a rigorous cleaning routine. Saxophone Cleaning kits generally include a brush or a long cloth with string on each end. Turn the sax upside down and shove the weighted end into the bell.
Now, pull the cloth or brush through the body multiple times. This method helps to dry up the interior surface and eat up the moisture that is collected on the inside over time. It helps to prohibit bacterial growth as well. The color of the cloth may change after a few turns, however, there's nothing to worry as it's just the residue of the foreign build up inside the body of the instrument.
No amount of cleaning will bring up a good result if the keys are stuck due to excessive dirt buildup. If you notice sticky pads when you’re playing then clean them immediately with a wet cotton swab or a piece of thin paper.
However, if you don’t have any sticky pads handy then you can use rizla paper as an alternative. Many prominent sax players use rizla paper to ease the stickiness and combat the problem. They are super cheap and super effective in terms of reducing the moisture content as well.
You can also use key leaves to prevent the keys from sticking. The key leaves are made with silicon and they are placed under the C# and G# keys. It helps to facilitate the airflow in the trouble areas of the instrument which tends to slow the rate of bacterial growth. Many professional sax players swear by its effectiveness and said the keys are around 95% less sticker when equipped with the key leaves.
How to Add up Some Shine
Cleaning the external surface of the sax is just as important as the interior. The saxophone tends to lose its shine over the years. Well, it might be an oldie but a goodie. If the dirt and bacteria gather over time then they will drain away from the shine.
Most cleaning kits come with a brush or soft cloth to clean the body of the instrument. You can rub some furniture wax with brass lacquer polishing cloth to bring back the shine. However, don't use any washcloth or other materials that are not designed for the brass instrument.
Some players use silver plated or solid silver saxophones. Using a silver cloth to clean up the exterior is the best way to keep the surface smooth and glaze. You can find different silver cloths on Amazon and many musical instrument brands have their range of silver cloths.
Get yourself a Care Kit
A care kit contains all the necessary items that are required to perform the cleaning process with ease and perfection. There are many clean kits available in the market. Get yourself one that will help you take good care of the saxophone so that it performs well as new over the years.
You should get a kit that contains the basic items such as a through cloth with rope on both ends so that you can pull it through the instrument, a large cloth with rope on one end, a small cloth to keep the body dust-free, a mouthpiece brush, and a mild cleaning agent that doesn’t contain any harsh chemicals.
Microfiber mittens come in super handy for cleaning the exterior of the sax. You can find mittens out there that will fit your hand like gloves and make the whole process super easy and simple. This will help you get the nooks and edges of the instrument and give it a clean look in a jiffy.
Additional Tips for the Saxophone Players
Now that you know the cleaning regimen that you should follow to keep the instrument in tip-top shape, here are some additional tips that will help you take better care of the sax.
- Some people tend to carry the saxophone by the neck. If you have this habit then quit it as the added pressure on the neck will damage the neck tubing.
- We blow warm air into the mouthpiece. The air tends to get condensed as it passes through and accumulates as moisture. Therefore, never eat or drink while playing the saxophone as that will increase the bacteria content as you blow through the mouthpiece.
- Saxophones are quite expensive and it’s a must that you take good care of them even after you’re done playing. Sometime during the play break or after the session we get lazy and keep the instrument unprotected. This will make additional dirt and bacteria to pile up over the instrument and you may accidentally step on it. Never lay down the instrument unprotected even during breaks and after you're done playing.
Did you ever hear of the term called “saxophone lung”? If not then google it ASAP. Unclean saxophones can lead to severe respiratory disorders that can have damaging effects on your health.
Many people wonder how to clean a saxophone and the purpose of this article is to come up with an easy yet effective guide to keep the saxophone in its best form for years. This will help you save your money and time from those expensive repairs as well.
These are some of the basic cleaning routines that you can easily follow at home. Make sure that you get an estimated cost required for the procedures. Try to follow the guideline that we mentioned above to keep the saxophone in tip-top shape with a crisp tone throughout the years. Do try the methods that we recommended and keep the sax in a squeaky clean condition.
However, if the sax is beyond the home maintenance position then do recommend taking it to a saxophone cleaning service. We recommend getting the instrument checked out from a professional at least once a year. They will perform any minor repairs that are required and replace the old pads or corks if needed.
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