Looking after your instrument will keep lessen the number of times you’ll need a Saxophone repair. But, keeping a saxophone in good shape requires constant maintenance on the player’s part as well as monthly or yearly tune-ups by a professional repairman.
Many beginning saxophonists go on to play for their first few years without a taking their saxophone to be looked at by shop repairman. If it’s not visibly broken, there appears to be no need to have it looked at. Unfortunately, this attitude can lead to intonation and pad problems later on that emerge when it is most inconvenient, especially for performers. Needed repairs are more obvious, as they often impede on the player’s ability to play the saxophone at all. Some major repair issues include dents, leaks, and bends that are not part of the original saxophone design. Damage to a saxophone can make it difficult or impossible to play because it either interferes with the acoustics, the mechanical workings of the saxophone itself, or both.
If a saxophone is placed on a chair rather than a sax stand when not in use, for example, it can bend key rods and other parts of the body, thus rendering the horn out of tune or even unplayable over time. At worst, a dropped or ill-placed saxophone can become dented, which can be expensive to repair or unrepairable altogether. Avoid this by always resting your saxophone on a sax stand built for its size, and check that the padding on the stand has not torn off or worn out. Leaks and other problems with pads, such as poor pad seating, can be more insidious and difficult to diagnose. As a player, you may notice that specific notes don’t speak as well as they used to. This may be related to pad seating. A leak light, or small light attached to a thin rod, can be lowered into the body of the sax while all of the tone holes are covered to see where leaks are by where the light is coming out. This exercise is best done in a dimly lit room with two people.
Many professional players prefer to invest in a Saxophone repair kit, which contains an assortment of pads, screws, and tools for doing a minor saxophone repair. This is advisable for traveling saxophonists especially, as you never know where you will be when a problem appears on your horn (or a band mate’s horn). If you are in a bind without a repair kit or a woodwind shop nearby, some problems can be temporarily abated by ingenious uses of cling wrap, rubberbands, putty, tape, and other household items. Cling wrap, for example, can help a pad that isn’t sealing, but it is only a temporary solution. Putty can seal a dent that has created a fissure or hole in the body of the saxophone, but won’t abate the acoustic problems inherent to having a dent.
If all else fails, consider taking your horn to a professional repairman. They can often diagnose a problem on a saxophone quickly, and will have the best tools for repairing dents and analyze the acoustics of the horn to bring it back into perfect playing shape.