2.3 Accessories - stands, maintenance, swabs etc.

This is not an exhaustive list!

Slings (straps).

Saxes can be heavy if you're playing all night or play baritone. A sling needs to be wide (not less than 3cm) and preferably be padded. It's also to your advantage to get an quick attachment which will not scratch around the eye on the sax. Whatever does it for you. If you're experienced you may like to get an elastic strap, which will give a little bit more support and help with weight distribution. There are several versions of this design around. Be aware that they are NO use if you're in a marching band! Harnesses exist if you find the sling idea unsuitable.

UK address for soft slings:

John Myatt Woodwind
57 Nightingale Road
Tel. +44 1462 420057

£17 plus shipping. I have one of these slings and find it extremely relaxing compared to a stiff version. The above supplier also sells standard straps for slightly less, and harnesses. At this point I would like to make an addition (June 1996) of another supplier. John Myatt Woodwind are well-established and reputable, but just recently I have had some very positive indeed dealings with Bill McNaughton Woodwind (again in the UK). This particular sax dealer is incredibly helpful and very friendly on the 'phone, as well as honest about his suppliers and stock availability. More to the point, I have not been able to find a cheaper source for any sax or accessory. As well as volunteering approval sales and being very genial, Bill McNaughton Woodwind are exceptionally good value. This, you might say, is a plug, but it is unsolicited. I feel that mail order saxophone buying could not be done better, and that's the truth! Here's the address and number:

Bill McNaughton Woodwind
No. 37 Forbes Building
Linthorpe Road
Cleveland, UK.
Tel. 01642 231428

As the majority of readers are in America, here is another address:

The Saxophone Shop LTD.
2834 Central Street
Evanston, IL 60201

One other thing about slings. In my experience, the sling positioning can be much more important than you might think. When adjusting the strap try to get the mouthpiece positioned such that you do not need to move your head to reach it. This will often cure tone problems!

Cork grease.

The cork where you attach the mouthpiece is important and needs to be a solid seal which won't leak. This is kept in good shape with cork grease. This is a very simple compound of waxy or oily substances which should be cheap but usually gets sold at a premium in music shops. With certain exceptions, you should be able to use any fairly viscous liquid which doesn't corrode the cork or dissolve the glue. Petroleum based substances should be avoided. Lip balms are just fine.


These are a useful accessory, like a long furry pipe cleaner. They are left in the instrument while it is being stored to dry the condensation formed during playing sessions (especially in dry air). This is very important because the pads on your sax will rot if you don't take care to dry up inside the instrument. Many players overlook this simple device but it is the easiest way to add years to your sax's life! Swabs are sized for the sax in question (S,A,T,B), and can also be bought for the crook. The main body swabs work best if they are tapered as you can half insert them and rotate while pressing the keys which have damp pads (eg. the palm keys) to get them properly dry. You can get them for mouthpieces, but pulling a simple cloth is entirely adequate instead, before you put the mouthpiece away. Note that swabs will get damp if you don't let them dry out from time to time, and will start to do more harm than good. If you don't like swabs you can get `pull-throughs' which are chamois leather cloths on a long piece of weighted string. They're not quite as effective. Note also that if you buy a swab, it's not a bad idea to thoroughly wash it before use to get rid of loose fibres which could get inside your sax.

Oils, powders and maintenance materials.

These are all quite useful if your sax has stiff or ineffective joints which need reviving. I wouldn't recommend trying to clean a sax with oils, though, as the key system is complex and you will not be able to wipe it all away thoroughly. It will then collect dust. Powders for the pads can help if the keys seem sticky, but it's far better to get them cleaned up properly in the long run. In general I advise you not to be caught out by maintenance materials: you could spend a fortune lining manufacturers' pockets and not really achieve much. Just look after your sax, and use a soft cloth to wipe away saliva before storage. Metal cleaners will not help for the same reasons that oil is not much use. Most saxes are lacquered, too, which will not take to harsh cleaners! A high quality soft cloth is the best tool you can get to look after the appearance of your sax, while a swab will keep the mechanisms working. Bent rods and other physical damage should be referred to a good repair shop.
"After I play the alto, I run a spit cloth through the body (without the neck or mouthpiece) Then, I run a slightly damp paper towel through the mouthpiece, to get the cruddies out. (don't leave a reed on any horn, it makes it turn yucky, and a funky fungus grows in the mouthpiece) When the neck needs cleaning, rub the inside, only the first few centimeters with a Q-tip and rubbing alcohol. For tenor, bari and bass, I have found that wiping the top part of the sax, where the neck fits in usually works best. The spit cloth seems to get stuck on an opening, or lost inside the body. The neck and mouthpiece cleaning is about the same, only you might be able to fit the spit cloth through the neck. Straight sopranos can be cleaned like a clarinet. I suppose C-melodies can be cleaned like altos, and I have no idea how to clean a curved soprano." - C. Michael Barnett


Invaluable when you're out gigging. Some manufacturers are good enough to include a clarinet (or soprano) peg on the same stand, which is very handy. Baritones will require a bigger stand so make sure you specify if you're mail ordering.

Reed holders.

These are very useful! If your reeds are going wavy or getting broken, get a reed holder. Good ones should hold the reed flat in storage, preventing most warping. Vandoren reeds ship with a reed holder as standard (bargain!). Some luxury holders even have a humidity control in with them to keep your reed from getting damp. Typically, you can get reed holders for one, two or four reeds.

Mouthpiece patches.

These are a sort of rubbery shock absorber which you stick onto the top of your mouthpiece where your teeth usually go. I have recently taken to using these and have found them quite a useful accessory. Here's Miles' view:
"I highly recommend playing with mouthpiece patches for three important reasons: 1. comfort from vibration on teeth from hard rubber and especially metal mouthpieces. 2. protection on the beak of the mouthpiece from teethmarks 3. (probably most important) helps open throat cavity. Actually, I can't play on any mouthpiece without at least one patch (I usually build up two or three - which helps the opening of the throat). It just takes getting use to." - Miles Osland

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