Brass & Woodwind: Basic care and maintenance | Saxophone & Trumpet

Care for your Saxophone or Trumpet

Regular cleaning and maintenance of your instrument is important for the instruments’ longevity as well as good instrument hygiene. Follow these simple maintenance and you can keep your instrument playing and looking its best for years.

Basic care and maintenance of the Saxophone

The basic maintenance and general care for your saxophone will generally be the same whether it’s an alto, tenor, baritone or soprano saxophone.

Care of the Saxophone crook:

The crook is the swan neck piece at the top of the saxophone that connects to the instrument body and mouthpiece. This is the only unlacquered area of the saxophone and it fits into the receiver at the top of the body. Probably the most common issue on saxophones, is that this metal joint can go green and discoloured and develop a build up of dirt. All you need to do is to apply a very thin smear of grease on the metal joint it to keep it from getting tight.

If it gets too tight to put back easily it has two effects:

  1. It tends to bend the part of the swan neck that operates the octave mechanism causing it to not work properly.
  2. It can twist the bell out of alignment. This happens when you hold the body at the bottom of the saxophone and the crook at the top to twist and force it back in to seat the crook properly. It is this twisting motion that tends to twist the whole bell section slightly out of contour. Because the keys Bb, B, C# and C are mounted on pillars on the main body, that part gets bent slightly and then the keys don’t line up as they are supposed to.

The above highlights the importance of keeping a drop of grease on the sleeve. Such a simple thing can save you a lot of money in repairs.

Cleaning sticky pads:

The other most regular thing you see are sticky pads on the saxophone. The two most common pads to stick are the G# and the C# at the bottom. These two pads aren’t direct levers but keys that open just via a spring rather than a direct lever and they are held shut all the time. Because of this, they tend to gather all of the muck that goes down an instrument. The best way to clean these are with a soft cloth and some white spirit.

Apply a little white spirit on the cloth, place the cloth under the pad and just draw it out (it won’t damage the leather pads which are highly durable. White Spirit and a drawing action won’t aggravate the pads like it would on a clarinet or flute because they are made from leather and much more resilient to ripping. Pull the cloth out a few times and that will move the debris/green corrosive deposit that’s been gathered between the pad and the top of the tone hole.

Using pull-throughs:

You can buy various pull-throughs or pad savers which goes in through the body of the saxophone. Don’t use the pull-through inside the crook because the pull through is too bulky for that. It will get jammed. Just use the pull-through for the body of the saxophone.


Keep your saxophone clean, lightly grease the crook and use a Sax pull through regularly.

Enjoy your saxophone!

If you have any problems, don’t hesitate bringing it to the shop and your saxophone will go to the repair man for some surgery.

Tips and advice for basic maintenance of the Trumpet

The basic maintenance for a trumpet is the same as for a cornet. You will never need to take a brass instrument to a professional repairer if you look after it and don’t have any accidental damage. Basically, you just need to care for the valves that need to go up and down and the slides that need to come in and out. If you don’t drop it, that’s all you need to do aside from washing it through

Oiling the valves:

Don’t be afraid to take them out, they are numbered 1 – 3 with number one being nearest the mouth pipe. With the majority of instruments, you can only put it in one way. If you put it in 180 degrees round the wrong way, the valve guide generally won’t sit. This is the plastic part that sits on the recess ledge just inside the valve casing. So, if you just put it in and give it a little twist you will eventually see that it is in the right place. You will hear a slight click as the valve seats properly and you won’t be able to turn it any further. Carefully twist it out and in when greasing and cleaning.

Oil the valves once a week by twisting them out and oiling them. Alternatively, you can turn the instrument upside down and drop the oil in from the bottom through the drain hole. Move the valve up and down to distribute the oil.

Clean and grease the slides:

First, let’s look at the main tuning slide which is probably the most important one to be able to tune the instrument. A lot of children don’t move this until a week before they have an exam and then can’t get it in tune with the accompanists’ piano because the slide is stuck solid. In this case you would need to take it to a repair man to be fixed. If, however, you grease them all on a monthly basis you will avoid the problem. Compartment four (the little slide by the valves) is sometimes a bit stiff due to the smaller size but if you just rock it, it will come out. Grease all the slides regularly using slide grease, oil the valves regularly and your trumpet will give you many years of trouble free service.

Regular bath time:

I would suggest that, every three months, you should take all the slides and all the valves out. Immerse it in some warm soapy water and get a valve brush and carefully go through all the ports that you can reach. Then, just run it through with some warm water. Don’t use cold water, the only reason being that if you use warm water it will dry quicker and leave less water marks on the lacquer.


The other regular problem is when the mouthpiece gets stuck. Keep the shank of the mouthpiece clean but if it gets stuck and you can’t get it out, take it to the shop and they may have an extractor. If not, take it to the repair man and he will be able to help you. It’s a simple job to remove with a proper extractor. If you wrench it and you’re struggling with it, you are likely to un-solder some of the stays next to the mouthpiece and/or by the valves. we’ve seen cases where people have pulled the whole instrument apart and caused so much damage that its as much to repair the instrument as to buy a new one! So if your mouthpiece is stuck,  bring it in to the shop and get it done properly.


Brass instruments are fairly robust and with regular, simple and cheap maintenance, it should give you years of trouble free service. Dents in the bell or other areas can usually be removed or made to look smarter by our engineer. If you get massive dents in the instrument, you will craze the lacquer slightly in the process of moving the dents. The important thing is to not drop it and be careful but we all know that accidents do happen. Most importantly, enjoy your trumpet and keep playing!

If you missed last week’s blog post and you own a clarinet or flute (or you child or friend does), check out our previous post regarding the care and maintenance of your clarinet or flute.

Handy care kits for your Woodwind instrument

Visit our online accessories shop for a CARE KIT specific to your woodwind instrument.

Music lessons

If you are interested in music lessons for Saxophone, visit out Music lessons page.

Saxophone & Trumpet products

If you are an aspiring saxophonist or trumpet player, head to our product page to have a look at the saxophones and trumpets we have in stock.

We are based in Bishop’s Stortford and sell, rent and teach guitar, bass, drums, vocals, piano, ukulele, band, saxophone, clarinet and flute. We also offer services to Primary education.

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