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Saxophone First Aid Source: Sax Shop
1 STICKING KEYS
 

By blowing, a lot of moisture enters the saxophone. This moisture (condense water & saliva) consists of a lot of sugars and other sticky substances. It also sticks to the pads. Especially the keys that are closed when in rest can become very sticky. The upper keys, G-sharp (left little finger) and the low D-sharp (right little finger) suffer a lot from this problem. The high keys and the low D-sharp are pressed open manually, but the G-sharp has to be opened by a spring. This can give problems.

The solution: dry the saxophone thoroughly after playing and do the abovementioned keys, if necessary, extra; use absorbing tissue paper. Clean the pads and the rim of the socket with a cotton bud, soapy lukewarm water or methylated spirit. When the pad is dry, talcum powder it a bit with a cotton bud. Usually the abovementioned pads have to be replaced sooner than the others. You can tighten the spring that opens the G-sharp key extra. BUT then you will often also have to tighten the contra spring (the one closing the key). And the left little finger already suffers so much from being the underdog...

2 THE SAX CAN ONLY PLAY HIGH NOTES
 

Either one of the octave keys or one of the high keys are open. If the octave key on top of the neck is open; bend it a little. Just take the neck with one hand and with the other bend the key towards the keyhole. The octave mechanism is rather fragile because at this point two parts of the sax are slid into each other. These parts frequently get abused.

For instance when you put the sax back in its case. Therefore, always use an octave key protector (the black cap). It is also possible that one of the upper keys is bent because it has bumped up against something. Just bend it carefully back. Preferably in such a way that the pad exactly fits the socket. A real high pitched tone is usually caused by the reed and / or the mouthpiece.

3. A KEY HAS SUDDENLY GONE LIMP
 

Every key has a spring that constantly pushes the key in its resting position. By accident these springs can jump off the hook. Hook it back on with a crochet hook or a pair of tweezers. In case of a broken spring: have it repaired professionally. Temporary you can perfectly solve this problem by using a piece of elastic.

4. A METAL ON METAL CLICK
 

A piece of cork or felt bumper is missing or has fallen off. Glue it back on again. Not too thick, not too thin. A metal on metal click caused by play in the rod is more serious. Sometimes it can be remedied by oiling the rod extra, otherwise you should let a craftsman attend to it.

5. LOOSE SCREWS, RODS AND SHAFTS
 
Regularly check all screws and rods to see if they are tight enough. It could be difficult finding a replacement screw. Also check if the shafts do not walk out of the screw point. You can tighten them with a small screwdriver. After you have done this check if the key still runs smoothly and, if necessary, turn the screw or rod slightly loose again. You may fixate the screw or rod with nail polish.
6. IF A PAD FALLS OUT
 

Actually this may never happen, but still. Glue the same pad back in the same position. (Use glue or even better shellac). The chance that this pad will seal the socket is very small. Look at it as a makeshift solution and let a skilled repairman check it later when you have the time.

7. THE LOW D & D-sharp SOUNDS EMPTY
 
Because of its build every sax more or less has this feature. By opening the low C (right little finger) a bit further you can minimize this problem. Cut a bit of felt away with a sharp razor blade or you could also open the low C-sharp (left little finger) while playing these keys. The low D and D-sharp will sound reasonable clear now.
8. THE SOLDER IS LETTING LOOSE
 

Makeshift solution: glue it. But be warned, skilled repairmen hate it when you do this.

9. OUT OF TUNE
 

This could be the build of the instrument, in which case there is nothing one can do. The cause can also be the balance adjustment (thickness of the corks, felt bumpers etc.). Up to a limited extend this can be remedied. Or: the instrument is leaking; this can of course be fixed, but it is best if you let a skilled repairman do this.

10. THE PINNACLE OF OUR TOP TEN: LEAKS !!!!!
 

The most important shortage of a saxophone is and   and will be: A LEAK! The low tones attack difficult and you can only produce a sound with considerable force . You can hear this and, with the right equipment, also see it.

TO HEAR IT: Leave all the keys open (middle C-sharp). Now play with light finger pressure softly downward (so: C, B, B-flat, A, etc.). If the pitch jumps" an octave or if the tone starts to "bobble", the sax is leaking. The lower the key, the more difficult it is to attack. (A piling up of leaks occurs). TIP: Never doubt yourself here. If you find it difficult to play the low keys it is nearly always the fault of the saxophone and not the player.

TO SEE IT: Go to Dick Smiths and buy a 9 volt light bulb and a holder for it, a 9 volt battery and a clip that goes on top and a 1.5m length of +/- electrical wire. Solder one end of the wire to the + and - of the 9 volt battery clip and the other to each of the contacts of the bulb holder. Screw the bulb into the holder and attatch the battery to the battery clip. The light bulb should now work. Next, make a room as dark as you can, take off the Gooseneck and pass the light slowly down inside the sax. Close the keys with light pressure. If you can see light coming out from under a closed pad, you have a leak.

REMARK 1. It is easy to put a new pad in the key yourself. As a makeshift solution this can temporary keep you out of trouble. To let the pad completely seal the socket is, as said before, a difficult, highly skilled, tedious drudgery. Make no mistake about that!

REMARK 2. A new saxophone absolutely does not mean it functions well. Often several keys are leaking. The same also holds for expensive brands!