Saxophone: Assembly, Care and Maintenance

Tuesday, 06 March 2018

Saxophones look robust in comparison to the rest of the woodwind family; maybe because of the sheer size of them, or the fact that they’re made of brass. However, it’s just as important to diligently maintain and correctly handle the saxophone. This blog is a literary guide to the video content, and a good resource for players, parents, and pedagogues.


With any saxophone there are three rules for failsafe handling and assembly:

1. Put your neck strap or harness on before handling the saxophone (so you can secure your saxophone during assembly)

2. Put the mouthpiece on the neck before you put the neck on the saxophone

3. Only pick the saxophone up from the bell (never from the neck, keys, or keyguards)


Like any other woodwind instrument saxophones need to be swabbed out after use. Unlike clarinets and flutes, saxophones are heavier and have curve in the bell, making it more difficult for the swab to pass through freely. Here is my procedure for correct maintenance post-practice/performance:

1. Take the neck off the saxophone and the mouthpiece off the neck and put aside in the case

2. Shake out your swab to ensure that there are no knots or bunched-up parts that could get stuck in the bore of the saxophone

3. Drop the weighted end down either end of the saxophone. Then, tip the saxophone until the weight drops out the opposite end and pull the swab through the instrument. Repeat this process until the majority of the moisture has been removed from the instrument. DO NOT try to force the swab through tight parts of the instrument. If a swab gets stuck, and you cannot pull it back the opposite way, take it to a service centre for repair.

4. Place the instrument in the case, handling it by the bell.

5. Swab the neck of the saxophone; be aware that some swabs do not fit through the neck and you may need to purchase an additional swab for the neck. It is possible to pull a swab halfway through the neck and then pull it back the other way, however, the neck is very delicate and it is best to buy a swab that either fits through the entire instrument OR buy a dedicated neck and mouthpiece swab.

6. Take the reed off the mouthpiece every time after you play to prevent mould and Verdigris build-up on the mouthpiece. Store your reeds in a reed case or the reed sleeve that your reed came with.

7. Swab the mouthpiece; as per step 5, remember that not all swabs will be suitable for the entire instrument.

In addition to this, it’s advised to remove moisture from the G# and C# pads with cleaning paper or the edge of your swab. This isn’t necessary, but those two pads seem to be more prone to sticking because of the way they are sprung.

To get the most out of your playing experience, it is very important to observe these principles for correct handling and maintenance. This will prolong the life of your instrument and help you enjoy playing music!

Blog Post by Brae Grimes

Brae Grimes (BMus., Hons. [Jazz Trumpet Performance] – Monash University) is a recent addition to Yamaha Music Australia’s Band and Orchestral team, taking on the new role of Product and Repair Specialist. Brae has had various roles in the music retail industry and brings over 10 years of experience. Brae has also worked as an educator in secondary and tertiary institutions, as well as having a number of successful private students. In 2017, Brae undertook training at Yamaha’s Toyooka Factory in Japan, and received official accreditation acknowledging his skills as a band and orchestral instrument repairer. Outside of his role at Yamaha, Brae is an active performer and composer, and trains at 10th Planet Jiu-Jitsu in Melbourne.