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What Are Saxophone Pads?

Cindy Quarters
Cindy Quarters

A saxophone is a musical wind instrument that is played by blowing air through a mouthpiece and through the instrument until it passes out of it through a bell shaped opening at the end. As the air goes through the saxophone, different keys and levers are pressed to manipulate tiny caps over the openings on the instrument, creating the various musical notes. Inside each of the caps are saxophone pads, which ensure that the air doesn’t accidentally escape from the hole.

The saxophone, often called a sax, is a member of the woodwind family, which means that in most cases it uses a thin reed in the mouthpiece, along with breath, or wind, to create the basic sound. There are different kinds of saxophones, such as the soprano saxophone, the alto saxophone and the tenor saxophone. Other members of the woodwind family include the clarinet, flute and bassoon.

Saxophone pads affect sound quality.
Saxophone pads affect sound quality.

Each type of saxophone is a different size and produces notes with a different pitch, but all operate in essentially the same way. When the covers over the holes are lifted, the sound of the instrument changes, creating the different notes. It is important that the saxophone pads fit snugly over the holes.

Saxophone pads can become lost, worn or damaged over time. Each pad is glued into the cap, and if the glue becomes brittle it can lose its ability to hold the pad in place, causing the loss of the pad. Saxophone pads are normally soft and slightly puffy, like tiny pillows, but over time they become stiff and flatten until they no longer seal the holes properly. The pads can also become torn or otherwise damaged, causing them to fail.

The saxophone is a member of the woodwind family.
The saxophone is a member of the woodwind family.

Most musicians examine their instrument before using it, and any missing or damaged saxophone pads are likely to be spotted during such an inspection. Sometimes, though, a problem with a saxophone pad is discovered because the instrument doesn’t work right. It may be possible to hear air leaking through the hole that is not being covered properly, or the notes won’t sound right because of the air leak.

Sax players usually keep a few saxophone pads on hand in case one is lost or damaged. The pads are easy to replace, requiring only that the old one be taken completely out of the cap first; then the new one can be glued securely in its place. Once the glue is dry, usually in just a few minutes, the saxophone is again ready to use.

Discussion Comments


@heavanet- I think that a good rule of thumb when changing saxophone pads is that if they look worn, it's time for new ones. There is no need to change those they seem to be in good condition, but on the other hand, if you play your saxophone a lot it is a good idea to keep some new pads on hand.


I was wondering if anyone has any thoughts about how often saxophone pads should be changed. I play my instrument frequently, and I would rather change them often than develop a problem on stage.

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    • Saxophone pads affect sound quality.
      By: Daniele Pietrobelli
      Saxophone pads affect sound quality.
    • The saxophone is a member of the woodwind family.
      By: Dangubic
      The saxophone is a member of the woodwind family.