Saxophone Care & Maintenance Videos

Alto Sax Care & Maintenance Page

The Basics


Sit on the edge of your chair, and always keep your:

  • Spine straight and tall
  • Shoulders back and relaxed
  • Feet flat on the floor

Breathing & Airstream

Breathing is a natural thing we all do constantly. To discover the correct airstream to play your instrument:

  • Place the palm of your hand near your mouth.
  • Inhale deeply through the corners of your mouth, keeping your shoulders steady. Your waist should expand like a balloon.
  • Slowly whisper "too" as you gradually exhale air into your palm.

The air you feel is the airstream. It produces sound through the instrument. Your tongue is like a faucet or valve that releases the airstream.

Producing The Essential Tone

Embouchure (ahm-bah-shure) is your mouth's position on the mouthpiece of the instrument. A good embouchure takes time and effort, so carefully follow these steps for success:

Reed Placement
  • Put the thin end of the reed in your mouth to moisten it thoroughly.
  • Looking at the flat side of the mouthpiece, the ligature screws extend to your right. Slide the ligature up with your thumb.
  • Place the flat side of the reed against the mouthpiece under the ligature.
  • Lower the ligature and position the reed so that only a hairline of the mouthpiece can be seen above the reed.
  • Gently tighten the ligature screws.
  • Moisten your lips and roll the lower lip over your bottom teeth.
  • Center the mouthpiece on your lips and place it in your mouth about 1/2 inch.
  • Place your upper teeth directly on the mouthpiece. The reed rests on the lower lip over the teeth.
  • Close your mouth around the mouthpiece, like a rubber band. Your facial muscles all support and cushion your lips on the mouthpiece.
  • Keep your chin down and slightly relaxed.

Taking Care Of Your Saxophone

Before putting your instrument back in its case after playing, do the following:

  • Remove the reed, wipe off ex­cess moisture and return it to the reed case.
  • Remove the mouthpiece and wipe the inside with a clean cloth. Once a week, wash the mouthpiece with warm tap water. Dry thoroughly.
  • Loosen the neck screw and remove the neck. Shake out excess moisture and dry the neck with a neck cleaner.
  • Drop the weight of a chamois or cotton swab into the bell. Pull the swab through the body several times. Return the instrument to its case.
  • Your case is designed to hold only specific objects. If you try to force anything else into the case, it may damage your instrument.

Getting It Together

Step 1: Carefully put the thin end of the reed in your mouth to moisten thoroughly. Rub a small amount of cork grease on the neck cork, if needed. Clean hands.

Step 2: Hold the body of the saxophone near its upper end and remove the end plug. Loosen the neck screw and gently twist the neck into the body. Be careful not to bend any keys. Tighten the neck screw.

Step 3: Carefully twist the mouthpiece on the neck so that approximately 1/2 of the cork remains uncovered. Place the reed on the mouthpiece.

Step 4: Place the neck strap around your neck and attach the hook to the ring on the back of the saxophone. Adjust the length of the strap so you can comfortably put the mouthpiece in your mouth.

Step 5: Place your right thumb under the thumb rest. Put your left thumb diagonally across the left thumb rest. Your fingers should curve naturally.

Information above provided by Hal Leonard from the Essential Elements Methods Books.

Demonstration Videos

Anatomy of the Saxophone

How To Set Up The Reed

First Sounds

Properly Swab Your Saxophone

Cleaning The Mouthpiece

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