Dublin Scioto Marching Band - OMEA Competition at Newark White Field. Photo by Mike King

7 Steps to Protect Your Saxophone from Damage in Marching and Pep Band

Marching band can be a lot of fun but it is a higher risk activity for your saxophone. Follow these simple tips to protect and care for your saxophone while marching or playing in pep band. 

1) Don't use your best saxophone. Use a cheaper sax or school rental instrument.

marching band using cheap saxophonesWhen playing in marching band or rockin' a pep rally for the home team, there's a higher chance of dents, bangs and bends to your saxophone. So use a cheaper sax for marching and pep band like a rental sax or school instrument. Notice how all the high school musicians in this photo are using low-grade student saxes? That's because their best horns are safe off the the field and in the top condition for stage performance. There's nothing worse than tripping or taking the wrong turn and having your beloved saxophone suffer for it! Check out that last sax on the right of this picture and notice the horribly patched sax neck. Yep! Marching band. 

2) Snug the Lyre Screw

sax player with marching band uniform and lyre holderTighten the lyre screw enough so the lyre will not wiggle around. A loose lyre can gnaw away the brass of your lyre holder, or fall out during marching. Don't be that guy!


3) Use a tooth patch bite cushion on your saxophone mouthpiece

saxophone mouthpiece cushion bit patchThis simple buffer helps protect your teeth and your mouthpiece from the intense tooth vibration of loud play. It also helps with the extra tooth bumps you feel from marching.

4) Use a good sax neck strap

Use straps with locking hooks to make sure the neck strap doesn't slip off while marching.

If your band director allows it, use a sax harness or back strap for comfort and control. You may feel young and invincible now, but after decades of playing sax this style of sax neck strap is much more healthy because it shifts weight away from the neck (small bones and small muscles) onto shoulders (larger bones and larger muscles). The Balam "back strap" and Jupiter "Gig Strap" have rigid metal inserts that contour around your shoulders to hold more of the sax weight. Many pro sax players prefer this style for their comfort and more traditional look.

Padded neck straps like Neotech or Protec are also a good idea. You need the extra comfort for long marching sessions and many players prefer the slight elastic "give" of these straps so the hard steps and quick turns of marching band don't rattle into the teeth and saxophone as much.

5) Always swab your sax after playing. Especially after playing outdoors!

silk saxophone swab to clean away dripping moisture after you play.Blowing warm air into a cold saxophone creates more condensation and dripping moisture to spread bacteria, yeast and fungus through your sax. If you march in muggy hot climates your saxophone gets even more soaked from the extra condensation and humid environment. This is one reason why marching band instruments often smell, rot, stick and malfunction more than horns used at room temperature. Swab all that nasty away after you play! Hodge silk swabs are great because they pull through both sax body and neck and can easily washed. 

6) Open the closed keys to dry after you play

Key Leaves props on an alto saxophone to stop sticky Eb G# and C# key pads.The G#, Eb, and Low C# key pads of the sax are the worst for sticking and pad rot because those pads stay closed after you play. That traps bacteria against the pad leather and tone hole to rot. You can totally prevent the sticky sax pad problem using Key Leaves sax care after you play. The leaf-shape props slide under key arms to lift the Eb, low C# and G# key pads to dry clean. One size will work on all model alto, tenor or bari sax. Soprano sax options are also available. 

Check out this disgusting field test. Even without cleaning the sax for an entire year, Key Leaves stopped 98% of all sticking sax key pads. If you use them with swab cleaning the results are even better.
Eb sax pad comparison without and with Key Leaves products 


Skull and Cross Bones made with Skull and SaxophonesJust because you are on a football field and everyone is eating stadium food doesn't mean you should guzzle down soda and play your sax. Sugar is sax poison. The bacteria in your breath thrive on sugar. Then you blow those little beasties down your sax to eat up the metal and rot the pad leather.

It helps to think of your sax like a delicate machine with small moving parts... because it is. Sugar residue (even just from your breath) lays down a tacky, sticky film on pads that will cause malfunction. If you must eat sweets, rinse your mouth well with water before you play. 


Follow these simple tips and tricks to keep you saxophone clean and in great playing condition for parades, games and festivals. Happy Marching!

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