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Keeping the Beat: Tips for Keeping Your Saxophone Warm in Chilly Conditions

Instruments will play out of tune when the weather gets cold. Why does this matter you ask? Because the cold weather can really affect the intonation in your instrument.  If you are busking outside doing solo gigs this isn’t a big issue, however if you are playing with a band that has multiple instruments trying to stay in tune, this can become a problem if you don’t pay attention to your horn. In this article, the discussion will lean towards ways to keep your instrument warm in cold weather when you are playing a performance.


If you have been playing the saxophone for some time, you may have had to play in the

freezing cold, during the winter months. When it is time to “warm up the saxophone instrument” in these weather conditions, it means a whole lot more than simply putting the reed on your mouthpiece, putting the neck on and blowing some air through the horn. When a horn player goes to warm up his instrument in these weather conditions, they literally have to invest more time in warming up the instrument. Below are 3-ways to keep your saxophone warm in the cold weather.


#1 Blow warm air through the saxophone

When the weather is warm outside, it takes little time to warm up the instrument because the temperature in the environment you are in is warmer. However, when the weather drops to 30 or 40 degree’s Fahrenheit, it could take a while for you to blow warm air through the horn to get it to play in tune. In cold weather, the instrument will play slightly sharp, the horn is cold and therefore a little tight. One way to do this is to put together your mouthpiece and neck, then blow warm air just into the neck before attaching it to your instrument. Once you feel the temperature on the neck increase, attach it to the body of the horn. Then, holding the instrument in your hands, close all of the finger holes and blow warm air through the horn. By doing this in stages, you will warm up the metal quicker. By taking extra time to blow warm air through the horn and neck of the horn, you will loosen up the metal by increasing the temperature and therefore flatten out the tone and start to play in tune.


Bonus Video

Watch the video below to learn 5-Wyas to clean your saxophone. Subscribe to the Saxophone Workshop YouTube channel to learn more about the saxophone.




#2 Keep the pieces in your pockets

An additional way to keep the parts of your saxophone warm before playing outside is to separate the neck from the body of the instrument and keep the mouthpiece attached. Put the cap on your mouthpiece to protect your reed, and then wrap it in a cloth or shirt and put it back in your case in the main area where the body of the saxophone would lay. Or you can carefully put the neck and mouthpiece in the pocket of the jacket or coat you are wearing. If the neck of the horn is small enough you might be able to put the pieces in your pant pocket, but be careful as the mouthpiece tends to stick out by your hands. The goal with this whole process is to keep the neck of the horn warm without changing the position of the mouthpiece on the neck.


#3 Put a coat on the saxophone

If you are playing outside, it may be a challenge to keep your instrument warm after you warm it up. The coat method can be used as a quick way to keep your horn mostly warm. Once your instrument is warm, and you spend the time to blow warm air through the horn to get it ready, you may have some standing around time. The last thing you want is for the horn to get really cold again. You want to make sure the metal stays as warm as possible before you play. In this instance, a method used is to wrap the body of your instrument with your lighter weight jacket or sweatshirt. Remove the neck from the saxophone and wrap the body of your horn in a sweatshirt or light weight coat.

Keeping in mind that it is important to remove the neck and mouthpiece from the instrument before you do this. 


*The weight of a jacket could potentially break the neck of your saxophone, do not place the jacket on the neck of your instrument.


Staying on these same lines, another way to keep your instrument warm is to put a coat on and keep the instrument strapped to you. Then hold your horn close to your body and wrap your coat around you and your body, sort of hugging the instrument and keeping it covered with your coat at the same time.


 It is important to be careful when assembling and disassembling your instrument to keep it warm as well as wrapping the instrument with any sort of clothing or fabric.

All of the methods mentioned in this article can be used and have been proven to work to some extent. These methods can be effective in keeping your instrument warm when playing in the snow, in a Holiday or winter parade, at a winter wedding or any outdoor gig that is played in the cold weather.


How do you keep your instrument warm in the winter when you play outside?

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