There are a few things we NEED to have to play the saxophone. The most obvious would be the saxophone with a sax neck. Also on the short list is a neck strap, mouthpiece, ligature and a good reed. But what else should be in a saxophone player's case?
My case is packed with little goodies that I have discovered to be helpful over the years.
Daily maintenance for the saxophone:
Swab, Pad Saver, Cork Grease, Pad Papers, Tooth Guard (mouthpiece patch)
To keep your sax in good playing condition you will want to clean it after every use. I use a sax swab inside the sax body and a small clarinet swab for the neck and mouthpiece. I also have a pad saver (long fluffy stick) that goes in the sax body after swabbing. You can use either or both. Note: younger students will prefer pad savers - remember, the saxophone mouthpiece can be washed out with warm water and a soft washcloth.
Cork Grease is designed to lubricate the cork on the end of the saxophone neck. Using a little grease every week helps the cork to last longer and makes tuning with the mouthpiece much easier. You push it in when you are flat and pull it out when you are sharp.
Sticky pads can be a real problem for any saxophonist. Pad papers are a great cleaning tool for those sticky pads.
I always include a tooth guard (also called a mouthpiece patch) on each mouthpiece. This is a small pad that is placed on top of the mouthpiece and it protects the bite area from excessive wear caused by your top teeth.
Extra supplies you need to keep handy:
Extra Reeds, Reed Case, Neck Strap, Mouthpiece Cap
Extra reeds: We all know reeds are fragile and wear out. When you get to the last few reeds, get an order in so you won't be stuck trying to play on a broken reed. I always carry at least a full box of new reeds to be safe!
Reed cases keep your reeds safe and flat for the next use, often prolonging the life of the reed. Many young students just leave the reed on the mouthpiece with the mouthpiece cap over it. I always pull them apart and store the reed in a reed case.
Extra neck strap: I can't tell you how many times I have opened my case and found I have NO neck strap! Over the years I have purchased several small inexpensive straps to use as a backup.
A mouthpiece cap can protect the reed from possible damage during a rehearsal, when the saxophone is not in use.
Basic repair: for more experienced players
Screwdrivers, Rubber Bands, Electrician's Tape Screwdrivers are great to have handy when adjustment screws are loose, but younger students should not try this on their own since most instruments have adjustment screws that are not designed to be closed tight. Be careful not to use the screwdriver unless it is obviously needed.
Another good repair tool is a simple rubber band. These little gems are like duct tape for a sax player. Rubber bands can replace a broken or missing ligature needed to hold a saxophone reed. They also can be used to temporarily replace a broken or weakened spring. Rubber bands do get old and should be replaced twice a year whether you used them or not. I have a few fat ones and a few smaller ones in each case.
Electrician's tape and small scissors can be used to replace a missing cork or damp a noisy key click. I don't use it often but it has saved me a few times.
As you can see, there are a few items that you should consider adding to your saxophone case in order to avoid a minor disaster and keep your instrument working at peak performance. As Thomas Edison once said, "An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure." Take a look in your case and see what you might need to add, just to be safe.
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Los Angeles based freelance saxophonist Greg Vail is among the most versatile woodwind players on the west coast. His work in jazz, pop and contemporary gospel music spans over 30-years. Greg maintains an active digital presence at www.gregvail.com.