All profit supporting special needs music education and Help Musicians

I broke two of my own saxophone rules in the last week


New Member
(I'm sorry if any of this has been covered before)

Last week I got the OK from my wife to "put together a saxophone family" (as I put it to her). As such I was allowed to purchase a soprano, an alto, and a baritone saxophone (I already have a tenor). I'd love a bass and contra bass, but I didn't get in that with her. This was one of those "in the years to come" agreement, not an an agreement to finish the goal all at once!

Rule #1 broken: I bought a saxophone sight unseen from eBay. I had told myself that I would never buy a saxophone without looking at it and playing it. The saxophone was four hours away, I could have made a weekend trip to go see it, but I figured, could it be that bad? There are so many "deals and steals" on the internet, I couldn't resist. I thought I covered all of my bases, and I thought I knew better.

Conn Pan American Alto - pretty old, part of the reason I wanted to see it.
Unpacking the saxophone, I liked the case that it came in. It looked like a vintage piece of luggage, very cool looking to me.

Opening the case, I found that all of the questions I had thought to ask the seller were answered truthfully, and there were no mechanical surprises when I received the horn. Everything with the saxophone itself was exactly as presented, in amazingly good shape for a saxophone that is most probably 70+ years old. The horn body is in really great shape, the lacquer is better than most. Pads are acceptable. Testing, it really does play "the whole range".

One big thing I forgot to ask? The case the horn came in smelled moldy, terrible, and that smell worked its way through the horn. Nothing that some Febreze and a very long airing out won't fix, but quite a surprise.

Rule #2 broken: I should not have purchased an alto. My banana hands made the alto look like a kid's toy. I remember now why I stopped playing alto and moved on to baritone and now tenor. I feel that holding that alto might have been a sign that I need to stick with my tenor playing and focus better instead of trying to broaden out my collection.

I'm thinking that when my saxophone family grows, it will skip the alto generation.

The interactive part of this story:

What other questions do you ask when you purchase an instrument sight-unseen?

How many here own and regularly use multiple saxophones? What are your thoughts to the pros and cons of having and using multiple horns either for practice or for live gig play? (Aside from the obvious reason, "I can't play solo x with saxophone y because it doesn't work or sound right").


ex Landrover Nut
The more the merrier as far as I'm concerned.

Give the alto a chance. Put the tenor away and only play the alto for a couple of weeks. Then try the tenor agian, it'll feel big and clumsy... And your concerns about alto will have gone.


Well-Known Member
I am 6’ 1” and weigh about 120Kg and play curved soprano quite a lot, now, that looks ridiculous!

Alto is not my horn of choice but I do play it and when I play it I like it a lot.

About the smell, don’t underestimate it or overestimate what febreeze can do for you other than putting a bad smell on top of another bad smell.

Most probably now all the pads are full of the mouldy spores which cause the smell and are infected. However you can try to wash the inside of your saxophone with a wet sponge (not to big that it blocks in the saxophone!) and some detergent, don’t worry if the pads get reasonably wet they will dry. Make sure the sponge is soaked in water and then squeeze it every time before you put it through the horn , do this several time then use a pad saver (which you will then wash thoroughly) and a swab to dry the moisture as much as possible then let it on a stand without the neck (don’t forget to clean the neck you can put the neck under the faucet!) to dry in the air.

The case.

Buy some spray carpet detergent, spray and follow the instructions, repeat several times, dry in the sun and leave it there for several days IF you have a ozone cleaner or can borrow one use that it seems to do wonders, also UV sterilisers can be used (but not the small ones for aquariums!).

Good luck, by the way don’t forget soprillo, sopranino and tubax


Well-Known Member

What other questions do you ask when you purchase an instrument sight-unseen?

How many here own and regularly use multiple saxophones? .
I've bought dozens of saxes sight-unseen, and only been let down a couple of times. In both these cases it was from established sellers on another forum rather than eBay. I don't tend to ask specific questions, but ask a series of unequivocal, closed questions about the particular instrument. Removing any possibiolity of ambiguity tends to result in a straight answer.

Multiple saxophones? I currently have abou a dozen, of which there is a core of eight which I play regularly. This includes soprano, alto, tenor, cmel and baritone. I just enjoy playing them. I don't really find any downsides other than, if I've been playing one type of sax for a few days it can take a little adjustment to get back into playing another. Unsurprisingly it's most noticable going from baritone to soprano.

Wade Cornell

Well-Known Member
I play nino down to tenor and almost always have a stand with the four of them on it. I practice all four fairly equally and play all fairly equally on gigs. This eliminates any issues of adaptation. The feel and embouchure are always there. Most of the saxes I have were purchased on line since New Zealand doesn't have that many used saxes available other than school beginner rental horns that are returned to the music store to flog once they are abused beyond repair. New quality saxes cost twice the price of what they would go for in the US.

I would have thought Motown would have heaps of pawn shops and music stores to go and try out gear. Never mind, you have got what you want (other than the mummy stink) and come up smiling. Good suggestions from Milandro about how to clean and freshen. Once you've got that initial stink out you might want to consider putting a tiny bottle of essential oil in the case. I like lemon balm, citronella, peppermint, and a few others. Just having the bottle in the case is often enough to keep that fragrance at a nice low key level. If needed one drop in the case will freshen things up (or at least cover any nasty smells). I often use peppermint oil on my fibracell reeds as they (unlike cane) hang around for a while so could develop a slight smell. It also feels good to have something that smells and feels fresh that you put into your mouth.

Best of luck with starting a new family. Most western wives would ask for a divorce.
Last edited by a moderator:


New Member
Putting a bottle of essential oil in the case is a good idea. My mind had stopped at Febreze and dryer sheets. Thanks for that idea.

Motown does have loads of pawn shops, and the instruments they have are 99% guitars, and 1% woodwind and brass. Of that 1%, almost all of them are student models that parents have sold because their kids lost interest.

There are some good woodwind stores, I can think of four of them within an hour of my house. I should have checked them all out before I made a quick decision on that Ebay bid.
Saxholder Pro
Help!Mailing List
Top Bottom