Sticky G# Key? Here’s How to Fix It For Good

Sticky G# Key? Here’s How to Fix It For Good

Sticky G# Key? Here’s How to Fix It For Good

Learn everything about sticky G sharp saxophone keys, what causes saxophone pads to stick, how you treat sticky keys, and how to fix sticky G# saxophone keys so your instrument plays the correct note every time.

 

How to fix sticky G sharp key on sax?

Fixing a sticky G sharp key on a saxophone can be tricky but there are great ways to fix  sticking keys and keep them clean so they never stick again. Prevention is the best cure and we’ll show you how. 

If you’re in need of an immediate solution… scroll down this guide for detailed instructions.

But ultimately we need to talk about how to fix a sticky G# for good. Before we dig in deeper let’s make sure we’re on the same page and you know…

How do you play Ab and G# on alto sax?

It’s easy. Simply press 1,2,3,Pinky on your left hand saxophone keys to play G# or Ab. See image below.
A photo showing how to play A flat or G sharp on the saxophone. It shows the fingering position for playing Ab and G# on the saxophone.

PRO TIP: If you want to learn all your saxophone note fingerings, try this free lesson including a fingering chart download.

What causes saxophone pads to stick?

The most common cause for sticky saxophone pads  often include user neglect such as lack of cleaning, or mechanical damage, or normal maintenance needs from heavy use of a fine mechanical device. Here is a list of the most common and preventable causes for saxophone pads to stick.

The saxophonist drinks or eats sugary foods before or during play.

A skull and cross bones made from tenor saxophones.

This is the most common and totally preventable risk factor for sticky saxophone keys. Food and drink are full of sugar, yeast, bacteria and fungus that should never be blown into the saxophone or any musical instrument. Before playing, wash your mouth out with water to avoid blowing food and drink particles into your instrument. If you don’t, those particles and the bacteria from your breath begin to grow inside the saxophone - especially on the raw brass edges of the tone holes and under the soft leather pads of the saxophone. That becomes a sticky mess! You can totally avoid this kind of sticky sax key damage and “pad rot” that develops from eating/drinking and playing your saxophone. Don’t do it!

The saxophonist does not swab clean their saxophone after every playing session. 

Gif of silk swab pulling through an alto saxophone to dry the inside and keep the pads clean and dry without sticking to tone holes

After you finish playing your saxophone be sure to remove the dripping moisture using a sax cleaning swab. This reduces the chance for sticky bacteria, yeast, and fungus to grow inside the saxophone. Plus it helps your delicate leather saxophone key pads stay more dry and clean. Each saxophone pad is a soft leather seal that must open and close with an airtight seal the saxophone tone hole. When you keep your sax pads clean and dry they last much longer and do their job better. Plus you have smaller repair bills. Bonus!

The saxophonist has never had their saxophone professionally serviced or cleaned.

A saxophone repair technician working on a selmer mark vi alto saxophone to repair sticky key pads like G#, Eb and Low C sharp

Your car needs regular care, maintenance, and oil changes. So does your saxophone. Saxophone is a delicate machine with oiled moving parts, micro-adjustment parts, and delicate leather valves called key pads. If you have not had your saxophone professionally cleaned, oiled, and adjusted (COA) within the last two years, go do it now. Regular professional maintenance will keep your sax playing better, lasting longer, and you will enjoy fewer mechanical troubles including stuck G sharp pads. In other words, don’t blame your G sharp pad for sticking if your sax is overdue for a professional checkup and cleaning.

Our breath and saliva make the saxophone sticky

A sticky rotten low E flat pad on an alto saxophone. This happens when sax players eat and drink while playing and do not swab clean or use Key Leaves sax key props.

Naturally over time, the closed key pads of the saxophone (including G#, Eb, and Low C#) become sticky because those keys stay closed after the saxophonist is done playing. This allows moisture and bacteria and, everything else we blow into our saxophone, to grow in the dark wet spaces between the key pad and tone hole. That causes sticky residue buildup which causes G# keys to hesitate or stick shut. That’s an embarrassing way to play the wrong note during a concert! Thankfully the image to the left is an extreme example of sax neglect causing sludge to grow on the low E flat sax pad. Yuk!

Green Key Leaves saxophone key props shown on a bronze body brass alto saxophone to stop and cure sticking G#, Eb, Low C# pads. The best way to fix sticking sax pads.

Leaving saxophone keys open to air dry with Key Leaves products prevents sticky buildup because the pad is no longer left to rot on the tone hole inside the case. This is the simplest and most natural way to break the cycle of sticky saxophone keys because it lets the keys air dry between playing sessions. Even if you don’t do the normal healthy steps of swab cleaning your sax and avoiding food/drink when you play, leaving keys open to air dry after play has been proven to radically reduce sticky sax keys. If you want a deep dive into the research see https://KeyLeaves.com/FieldTest

The saxophonist used powder or powder papers to treat sticky sax key pads

Saxophone pad powder paper is messy and clogs up the leather pads.

Over time pad powders will build up and cake onto the saxophone, giving the warm, wet bacteria a “matrix” to grow and thrive in - before the bacteria just had pad leather and tone hole brass. Pad powders are weak temporary fix that causes long-term trouble for saxophone key pads. Plus, powder pad papers can tear and become stuck in the key mechanisms causing leaks or malfunction. Professional woodwind players often avoid pad powder and pad papers because they can crinkle and make noise during recording sessions or concerts.

There is also a disgusting truth people often miss about using pad powder to treat sticky G# keys. Imagine you are sweaty and stinky after a big workout. You don’t slap on deodorant and suddenly become clean and dry until the next time you work out. The deodorant temporarily masks the problem of wet, stinky, and sticky bacteria-filled sweat. Using saxophone pad powder is a lot like slapping deodorant on a wet dirty armpit and pretending you fixed the problem. But the saxophone doesn’t get to go home and clean up and dry off. It gets put away in a dark sax case to rot and stew with all the bacteria, moisture and powder. It’s best to just clean your saxophone and keep the pads clean and dry.. 

The saxophone key mechanism is bent or damaged, causing the G# key to malfunction

A young saxophone student drops their saxophone case on the ground while running. This often causes saxophone body bends and key damage.

This is common when a saxophone has been dropped or bumped very hard, and it can also happen when beginning sax players accidentally snag the G# pinky key on the case padding while putting the sax into the case. You can check for this by feeling each part of the G# key mechanism as you move it slowly back and forth. If the key mechanism moves freely and easily this is probably not a concern. But if you feel hesitation or binding in the key, get it checked by a pro repair tech..

The saxophone body is bent, causing keys to bind

GapCap saxophone end caps shown in an alto saxophone and tenor saxophone. These work to protect the saxophone inside the case by absorbing impact and adjusting to fit the saxophone body tube and case perfectly.

When a saxophone case gets dropped hard, or the sax is dropped, the sax body tube can bend. Even slight body bends can cause sax keys to bind and become sluggish, or totally stop moving. If you suspect your saxophone has received a very bad fall or hit, have a professional saxophone repair tech inspect your instrument and correct any damage to the body and keys. Unfortunately, this is a costly saxophone repair so do your best to prevent damage by using a quality sax case and protective saxophone end cap.

How to get rid of sticky keys on saxophone?

If your sax already has sticky keys there are several things you can do to get rid of the sticky saxophone keys.

  1. Improve your daily saxophone cleaning routine using the steps shown in this guide.
  2. Start leaving your sax keys open to air dry after you play with Key Leaves sax key props. This prevents wet dirty key pads from rotting and sticking to the tone holes after you play.
  3. Try an emergency cleaning method such as paper or pad dryers to clean the pad and tone hole. See the full list of options in this guide.
  4. Get your saxophone professionally cleaned, oiled, and adjusted (COA).

Frequently Asked Questions About How to Fix Sticky G Sharp Key on Saxophone

How to clean saxophone pads?

If you’re asking this question, you probably already have sticky keys. So here are easy steps you take to treat and prevent sticky saxophone keys

Step 1
Take a small piece of clean white paper and place it between the G# key pad and tone hole like the image below. Then gently press the key pad down and slide the paper out. 

How to use paper to fix sticky G# or Ab saxophone key. This shows the clean white paper being placed between the G sharp pad and tone hole.

Sometimes this will be just enough gentle cleaning to keep you playing and remove the green gunk that grows on saxophone tone holes. But don’t stop here. Add the next steps into your saxophone care routine!

How to use paper to fix sticky G# or Ab saxophone key. This shows the clean white paper being being pulled between the G sharp pad and tone hole and green sticky gunk being cleaned from the tone hole..
An image of someone using a folded dollar bill to clean a sticky saxophone key pad. This shows the G# sax pad.

PRO TIP: Do Not use a dollar bill or money to fix sticking G# saxophone key pads. Think about it. Money is super dirty, does not absorb moisture, and will rub dirty bacteria onto your already sticky and dirty saxophone tone hole and pad. The dollar bill trick is an old “folk fix” for sticky G sharp keys but it’s a temporary fix at best and does not cure the true cause of sticky saxophone keypads. 

Step 2 - Stop Eating/Drinking Before/During Play

Seriously! Just don’t. As discussed previously, this kills saxophones.

Step 3 - Leave keys open to dry with Key Leaves

The open keys of the saxophone tend to stay healthy and stick free, but the closed pads tend to rot and have sticky malfunction. So after you finish playing leave your keys open to air dry with Key Leaves sax key props. It take about 4 seconds to use but adds years to the life of your pads and helps break the cycle of sticky buildup between the pad and tone hole.

Step 4 - Swab every time you play

Don’t go to the dentist expecting zero cavities if you don’t brush your teeth. Swabbing cleaning your saxophone is like brushing your teeth. It’s just something you do every time you play to stay healthy and keep your saxophone healthy.

Step 5 - Leave your saxophone on the stand to air dry

If you can leave your sax on the stand after you follow the previous cleaning steps, this adds a great benefit of giving your more time to air dry. Leaving your sax on the stand discourages dark, moist growth of gunk inside your sax.

Step 6 - Try using pad dryer

This helps you target specific trouble spots like sticky G# or low Eb pads and remove moisture left on sax pads and tone holes. Pad dryers are also a safe way to remove the green brass oxide that naturally grows on the edge of the saxophone tone holes. This is our favorite saxophone pad dryer because it has a micro-groove texture to help clean tone holes well.

Step 7 - Water and cotton swab

If you are doing everything on the list above and still experience sticky G# keys, follow these detailed steps to use water and a cotton swab to clean the tone hole edge and pad seat.

Step 8 - Lighter fluid and cotton swab

If you have tried everything listed above for at least 7 days and multiple playing sessions, then try this more agressive cleaning method to remove the sticky residue from your saxophone pad leather and tone hole. Warning: This should not be a regular cleaning or care method. This is extreme and should only be tried after quality cleaning, care and maintenance routine is exhausted. 

Step 9 - Professional repair of your sticky saxophone keys

Saxophone pads do wear out over time and need replacing. If you are cleaning your saxophone well, practicing wise preventative care habits, and using the care routine shared in this guide, and you still have sticky G# keys, it’s time to seek professional help. Chances are your saxophone pad may need to be replaced or another mechanical issue is affecting the instrument.

How do you treat sticky keys?

To treat sticky keys on the saxophone, you should clean them gently as shown above and then  leave the keys open to air dry after you play with Key Leaves saxophone care products. This breaks the physical connection between the sax pad and tone hole so they cannot continue to grow sticky gunk. See the more detailed instructions above. 

Why is the G# not working on my alto sax?

The G# on your alto sax (or any sax) may not be working because 1) the need for better saxophone cleaning on a regular basis, 2) mechanical damage to the keys or saxophone body,, or 3) when saxophone pads age they can become sticky causing the pads to stick shut or hesitate when opening. It is best to prevent sticky G# keys on a saxophone with a regular cleaning routine that includes swab cleaning and leaving keys open to air dry after you play with Key Leaves saxophone key props. See the more detailed instructions above.

How to fix G-sharp key on sax?

To fix your G sharp key on the sax try gently cleaning the sticky gunk on your pad and tone hole with a clean piece of paper and then improving your cleaning routine with swab cleaning every time you play, never eating before or during play, leaving keys open to air dry with Key Leaves sax key props, and having your saxophone professional cleaned, oiled and adjusted (COA) at least once a year. See the more detailed instructions above.

Why do saxophone keys stick?

Saxophone keys stick most commonly because the player does not clean and care for the sax regularly, allowing sticky bacteria, yeast and fungus to build up between saxophone pad leather and brass tone hole edges. This leads to sticky sax key malfunction, rot of the sax key leather, increased sax repairs for pad replacement and deep cleaning, and in extreme cases sticky pad rot can foster sickness in the player and cause brass corrosion at the affected saxophone. See the detailed instruction above for how to clean and prevent sticky saxophone keys.

A less common reason for saxophone key sticking is if your brand new saxophone has leather pads installed from  the factory with a protective leather treatment. Thankfully, this is a self-correcting temporary stickiness of the keys and can be a good thing long-term for the life of your saxophone pads. Just keep playing your sax for a couple weeks while the new treated leather pads “break in” to the humidity of being played. If the sticking does not go away naturally with a quality saxophone cleaning and care routine outlined above, then seek professional adjustment of the instrument. It may be that the tone hole of the sticky sax key just has a metal burr that needs to be cleaned up so the pad can operate normally. Sadly, this can sometimes happen even with new saxophones from well respected manufacturers.

What causes saxophone pads to stick?

The causes of saxophone pad stick may vary but often include the following reasons:

  • The saxophonist drinks or eats sugary foods before or during play.
  • The saxophonist does not swab clean their saxophone after every playing session.
  • The saxophonist has never had their saxophone professionally serviced or cleaned.
  • Over time, the closed key pads of the saxophone (including G#, Eb, and Low C#) become sticky because these keys are closed after the saxophonist is done playing. This allows moisture and bacteria to grow between the key pad and tone hole causing sticky residue.  Leaving keys open to air dry with Key Leaves products prevents sticky buildup between the saxophone tone hole and key pad.
  • The saxophonist has used powder or powder papers to treat sticky sax key pads and over time that powder gives warm and wet bacteria a “matrix” to grow and thrive in. Pad powders are a poor temporary fix that causes long-term trouble for saxophone key pads.
  • The saxophone key mechanism has been bent or damaged causing the G# key to malfunction. This can happen from the saxophone being dropped or bumped hard, and is common when beginning saxophone players accidentally snag the G# pinky key on the case padding when they put the sax into the case.
  • The saxophone body has bent. When a saxophone case gets dropped very hard, or a saxophone is dropped on the ground, the main body tube can bend. Even a slight sax body bend can cause the keys to bind up and become sluggish or totally stop moving. If you suspect your saxophone has received a very bad fall or hit, have a professional repair tech inspect your sax and correct any damage to the body and keys. Unfortunately, this is a very costly repair so do your best to prevent saxophone damage with a quality case and saxophone end cap

Can I use hydrogen peroxide to clean my saxophone?

No. Never use hydrogen peroxide to clean your saxophone. To clean the outside body of your saxophone use a saxophone cleaning cloth that is safe for metal sax finishes. If you need to clean stubborn dust or dried condensation on the saxophone body, use a slightly wet cloth and cotton swabs. 

Why is the G# not working on my alto sax?

There may be several reasons the G# not working on your saxophone. The most common reason is that sticky residue has grown between the raw brass of the tone hole and the leather pad of the saxophone G# key. This is a common risk over time as you play your saxophone. Learn how to treat and prevent sticking G sharp keys on your saxophone in the informative article above.

We hope this article on Sticky G# Key and How to Fix It For Good has been helpful and informative! 

Prevent Sticky G# with Key Leaves

Consider using Key Leaves saxophone care products to prevent sticky G# (and other sticky keys) in the future. Key Leaves sax key props work by safely propping open the stickiest keys on the saxophone while in your case, preventing rot and gunk (AKA stickiness).

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