How to store a saxophone & What to do with a sax after someone dies

How to store a saxophone & What to do with a sax after someone dies

When a loved one dies there may be a sax left behind that you don't know what to do with. Here are tips for the best way to store a saxophone long term, suggestions if you don't want to keep the instrument, and things to consider before deciding.


Some vintage saxophones can sell for $10,000 or more! A sax may have real market value that should be considered when resolving an estate. Talk to family members about the horn to learn about its history and value. Ask a sax repair shop for an informal or formal written appraisal. This is often fast and simple. The shop may also have consignment options or have customers who may want to purchase the saxophone. 



  • Store the saxophone in a dry place at room temperature.
    The best place is the back of a closet, NOT in an attic or garage. Room temperature storage helps prevent metal corrosion, pad rot and stinky mildew. Saxophones are made of metal, felt, leather, and lacquer. None of these react well to dank conditions or humidity fluctuation. 
  • Wash the mouthpiece Use luke warm water with mild hand soap to clean the inside and outside of the mouthpiece. You can also use cleaning sprays if you wish. After the mouthpiece is cleaned, it can be stored well in the case.
    NEVER BOIL A SAXOPHONE MOUTHPIECE! It will warp or crack. Likewise, do not use water that is too cold.
  • Dispose of cleaning swabs and used reeds. These are filthy and can grow mold that harm the sax, the case or a person's health. Unused vintage sax reeds are fine to keep and may be highly sought after by players or collectors.
  • Put desiccant In the Case. Every sax manufacturers places desiccant packs in the case before shipping to absorb moisture before it can damage the sax. I personally use DriBox on the saxes I don't play frequently because it is small and can be recharged by microwave or oven.
  • If the sax is silver lay a 3M Anti-Tarnish Strip on the silver before closing the case. These strips slow the dark silver tarnish but will need to be renewed every so often for maximum preservation of the silver finish.

          LET IT BREATHE

          When sax pads are shut for a long time, the bacteria on the pads can rot the leather and corrode the metal tone holes. This all leads to costly repair. Imagine setting a piece of dirty metal on a leather sofa for a few years. The sofa would of course be damaged. Sax key pads are similar. Pad are made of leather and have bacteria, yeast, virus and fungus on the leather surface from years of playing. Trapping all that nasty in a dark moisture environment is a very bad idea. The better approach is opening the closed sax keys so the sax body and pads breathe clean air. 
          • Use Key Leaves props to open the G#, Low Eb and Low C# keys that are normally left closed to rot. These pads are the most sticky key pads and tend to rot out quickly. The Eb pad is so prone to rot and sticking that it is nicknamed the "gutter pad" or "sewer pad."  This is basic sax care.
          • For premium care, also use a Vent Vine. The top of the sax is exposed to the worst bacteria because that's the end players blow into. Using a Vent Vine opens all the high key pads to breathe clean air and the Vent Cap™ allows more air flow through the body tube.  

              DO NOT CLAMP or Wrap the Sax Keys Closed

              Sax manufacturers clamp all the keys closed temporarily to protect saxes from being knocked out of adjustment in rough transit between factory and retail store. But clamping a sax closed is a horrible idea for long term storage because pads have already been exposed to bacteria, yeast and fungus that encourage rot. The precious lacquer finish of the saxophone can also suffer if the pads are wrapped closed. I made this mistake years ago when storing my 1964 Selmer Mark VI alto sax for a couple years. Please learn from my mistake! 

              My Mistake: As was common practice among sax manufacturers of the time, I used cork wedges to close the bell keys and a soft ribbon to loop closed the other keys. I put the sax body in a plastic bag and closed it in the case. The sax was stored in Seattle where humidity change is intense and I suspect the friend I asked to store my sax did not store it at room temp as I requested. When I unwrapped my beloved vintage sax after two years of storage, the lacquer tore off everywhere the ribbon touched the body. I think enough moisture got repeatedly trapped against the ribbon and body tube so the ribbon absorbed it. Over time the lacquer adhered to the moist ribbon like a wax strip. A sax stored open and at room temperature is the very best way to go.

              Stripes of lacquer damaged due to improper long-term storage of the saxophone

              A safer approach would be to use the sax storage advice above.


              If you don't want the saxophone...

              Sell it

              Take the sax to the most reputable repair shop near you and have them appraise it. This is a fast and simple way to learn what the sax is worth. They may have consignment options or offer to buy it from you directly. If you want other opinions take it to other shops or ask a professional sax player you know for their opinion as reference.

              Don't sell it on eBay, Craigslist or other sites like that unless you are a already confident selling on such platforms. It's easy to get taken advantage of if you aren't sure what you have and how to broker it safely. 

              Donate your saxophone in memory of your loved one

              If you learn that the saxophone is a quality professional instrument, offer it to a college student or university music program. If the sax is a working student model then contact the principal, band director or PTSA at your local school. Gifts like this can make a big difference in the life of a musician.

              I hope this helps you and your family in a season of mourning. The loss of a loved one can be painful but preserving their saxophone is possible and often worth it.


              Rulon & the Key Leaves Family

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