If you’re new to playing the saxophone, there are quite a few different accessories available online and in music stores. Some of them are absolutely essential, some of them can be done without, and others are intended to be purely just for fun. Although the purchasing of “essential” accessories will evolve as you become more familiar with the instrument, there are a few saxophone accessories that are important right off the bat. From a sturdy case to the right mouthpiece, here are a few saxophone accessories that are essential, regardless of how long you’ve been playing the instrument.
Perhaps the most essential saxophone accessory, you won’t be able to produce sound without a good quality saxophone reed. Since the saxophone is a single reed instrument, you’ll only need to place one reed on the mouthpiece. Although choosing the right kind of reed typically depends on the player’s preferences and the type of saxophone that’s being played, there are still a few things to keep in mind when shopping for saxophone reeds. Any reed with discoloration, fluctuating widths of grain, or unevenness on either side won’t produce the consistent sound you’re looking for. For more information about saxophone reeds, check out our guide for Choosing a Saxophone Reed.
Since the mouthpiece of a saxophone is separate from the rest of the instrument, it’s easy to remove it and switch it out as necessary. They produce a variety of sounds based on the materials they’re manufactured from, so it’s not uncommon for saxophonists to have 3-4 different mouthpieces in their collection. To start, you’ll only need one. In most cases, brand new saxophones already come with a mouthpiece but if yours didn’t come with a mouthpiece or you’re interested in a new one, check out our helpful Saxophone Mouthpiece Buying Guide. It’ll introduce you to the different parts of the mouthpiece and give you more information about how materials can affect the overall sound.
If you’re renting or have purchased a brand new instrument, chances are it came with a tube of cork grease in its case. If not, or if you’ve run out, cork grease is easy to find and is typically inexpensive. This accessory is essential for the longevity of the neck’s cork. Without it, you risk accidentally tearing off some cork while forcing the mouthpiece on and off the neck. Although it’s typically sold in tubes that resemble lip balm, it doesn’t taste very good and isn’t approved for human consumption. So, handle with care and avoid ingesting cork grease whenever possible. When it comes to choosing cork grease, there isn’t much variation between brands and your music teacher should be able to recommend a brand they like.
Although there’s some disagreement about how vital neck straps are to playing the saxophone, neck straps are especially crucial to brand new players. A decent neck strap is vital to playing the instrument comfortably, and will provide neck support, a solid hold on the saxophone, and good height support for the comfort of your wrists and hands. Most saxes come with a basic strap attached, but these can become quite uncomfortable after extended use. For this reason, look for a neck strap that has extra padding, a harness, or slings. If you’re purchasing from a brick-and-mortar store, try a few different neck straps out and choose the one that’s most comfortable for you.
A Sturdy Case
So, you’ve spent a lot of money on a saxophone and you’d do anything to protect it from harm, right? If you answered “yes”, you need to purchase a sturdy case as soon as possible. Look for a case with a lot of space for the neck and mouthpiece of your sax, as models which require you to put them in a bag in the bell of the saxophone may cause damage to the bell. While hard cases are recommended, some saxophonists prefer gig bags or softer cases for personal reasons. Regardless of the type of case you choose, make sure you do plenty of research. For more tips, learn How to Choose a Saxophone Case.
Most, if not all, practicing should be done with a metronome- especially at the beginning. A metronome will help you keep time by generating a regular click at whatever tempo you set it to. When used properly, practicing with a metronome will stimulate better technique and time feel. Some metronomes will even generate a tone that you can tune your saxophone to. Referred to as an all-in-one metronome or a metronome/tuner combo, this is a very useful feature for saxophonists, as they can throw one product into their gig bag instead of worrying about purchasing a metronome and tuner separately.
Music stands are an essential piece of equipment for every musician- not just saxophonists. The two most common designs are a foldaway type that’s easy to travel with, and a sturdier but more expensive steel design. Regardless of the type of music stand you ultimately choose, make sure its height can be adjusted so you’ll be comfortable in both a standing and sitting position. If you aren’t sure what type of music stand to purchase, ask your child’s music teacher which type they use in the classroom. Purchasing the same type of stand for home use may help make your child feel more comfortable.
Not only does cleaning and maintaining your saxophone keep it looking great, but it’ll also help keep it in prime playing shape. Whether you purchase an entire cleaning kit or choose to purchase products one by one, here are a few essential cleaning supplies every saxophone player should have on hand at all times: neck brush, chamois swab, mouthpiece brush, polishing cloth, and a pad saver. In most cases you can clean your saxophone using just a little bit of water, but there are specialty cleansers available on the market. Just avoid using too much, as your saxophone can become clogged or sticky. Plus, when you take in your saxophone for repairs or routine maintenance, the repair technician will probably clean and shine the instrument as a part of their service.
Need to buy a saxophone, too? Check out our Saxophone Buying Guide!