In this tutorial, I explain 5 things that you should know about how the saxophone works. Learning these sax basics will make you a better sax player, as well as give you a much better understanding of what is going on with your saxophone when you are playing it.


  1. REED SIZE: I start off by discussing what sax reed size means, as well as the difference between sax reed size & sax reed strength. This will also be helpful information in determining what sax reed size you should use.
  2. OCTAVE KEYS: The octave keys on the saxophone can be pretty confusing. I explain how the sax has 2 octave keys and how they each work.
  3. RESONATORS: Resonators cover the pads of your saxophone to give you a bigger saxophone sound. I explain the different types of sax resonators and talk about how they can effect your sound.
  4. SPRING TENSION: Spring tension is the reason that your sax keys go up and down. There are 2 different types of springs that make your saxophone work. If you’ve ever had a sax key that stopped working, chances are that it was a spring problem.
  5. CORKS & FELTS: Your saxohpone has small pieces of cork & felt all over it to help with fine adjustments. The cork and felt on your saxophone also helps get rid of clicking sounds caused by the saxophone keys opening and closing.


This tutorial covers 5 things you should know about how your saxophone works, but inside the Sax School, I go into great detail about all of the basics for playing the sax and how the sax works. In the Beginner Course, I take you step by step through the first steps of putting the sax together, playing your first note, learning the rest of your notes, embouchure, tonguing, and all of the basics of playing the sax.

As you progress through each course in the Sax School, I continue to teach more advanced concepts about how the saxophone works and give you simple tips and tricks that will help you sound and play better. The Sax School is set up with a step by step teaching approach that will take all of the guesswork out of what to practice, how to practice it, and what to practice next.

A full-text transcription is available by clicking the accordion below. The timestamps line up with the video’s timeline.

5 Things You Should Know About How Your Sax Works

0:00:00.0 Speaker 1: Today, we are gonna talk about five things that you should know about how your saxophone works.


0:00:11.5 S1: My YouTube and Instagram comments as well as my inboxes are filled up with questions about the saxophone, so today I thought I would do a video explaining five things that you should definitely know about how your saxophone works. The first thing we need to talk about is reed size, but if you wanna be a whole lot more accurate, you're gonna call it reed strength. When it comes to determining a reed strength, it's all about cane density. It has nothing to do with the length, the width or even the thickness of the reed, it is the density of the cane that the reed is made of. Because cane is a plant, there is no universal density that is found in each piece of cane, so the way we measure for the strength of the cane density is with a machine.

0:00:58.8 S1: The machine tests how flexible the tip of the reed is. The more flexible it is, the lower your number is, that would be like a 2 or a 2.5. The stiffer the flexibility is, the higher the reed strength would be, so that would be your 3, or 3.5, or 4, or so on and so forth. So when you're talking about reed strength, you're talking about the density of the cane, not the thickness of the reed, not the length of the reed, and not the width of the reed. So when it comes to a specific reed type, from a specific reed brand, like this purple box, Vandoren, all of the strengths of this reed are cut to the same specifications, so they all have the same length, the same width, and the same thickness.

0:01:42.5 S1: What makes them different strengths is the density of the cane. If you have any questions about how the saxophone works or any aspect of playing the saxophone, leave me a comment in the comment section below. The second thing that you should know about your saxophone is that it has two octave keys. Now, the wording for this is gonna be a little confusing, because we're gonna use the word key for a couple of different things, but we call this the octave key. Obviously, when we hit this, the first top octave key comes up. Now, this only comes up if you're fingering A or above. So A or above, your first octave key opens. If you push down your G key, this octave key closes and this octave key opens. So this is your first octave key, and it works for A and above up until you hit the altissimo, and this is your second octave key and it works for G-sharp all the way down to your middle D.

Number three, every pad on your saxophone, except for the two octave keys that we just talked about, all have resonators on them. Resonators are metal or plastic discs that cover the center of the leather pad.Now, the job of a resonator is to resonate or reflect the sound, so it's gonna help keep your sound going through the saxophone, give you a bigger, better, fuller sound. If you didn't have a resonator covering the leather part of the pad, the leather would absorb some of your sound and then things would sound kind of dead, and you wouldn't be able to project your sound nearly as much. There are a ton of different types of resonators and they can vary by size, shape, material, even some texture in the resonator. There's all kinds of different variables that go into a resonator.

If you're a sax player and you'd like to add some structure to your practice routine, I'd like to invite you to check out the Scott Paddock Sax School. Inside the Sax School, we cover just about every aspect of playing the sax from the beginner level up until early advance. So if you're looking to take the guesswork out of what to practice, how to practice it, and what to practice next, check out the Scott Paddock Sax School, I will put a link in the video description below.

Every key on your saxophone is under spring tension, that is what causes keys to open back up once you push them down or to close once you've opened them up. There are two types of springs, the most common spring on your saxophone is a needle spring.

0:04:09.0 S1: It is attached to a brace and then the bottom part of the spring goes on to a post catch, which allows the spring to open and close the key that it's attached to. The second type of spring that's on your saxophone is a flat spring, and they are only on your palm keys. They rest up against the body of the saxophone, and when you push down the palm key and let go, it snaps it back shut. You can adjust the tension in each spring to your preferred action, and all that means is how stiff or light the key is to put down and how quickly it comes back up, and this is a total personal preference thing. I personally like stiffer action, so that my keys are a little bit harder to push down and they come up very quickly. Some people like it a lot lighter, where you don't have to push down the key as hard and it comes up a little bit slower. It's all a personal preference thing, and a lot of times it has to do with how your first or second saxophone was set up and what you're used to playing with. If you are used to a stiff action saxophone and you play one with a lot lighter action, you're definitely gonna feel the difference and you're probably gonna have some problems playing as clean as you normally would.

0:05:20.2 S1: So the amount of tension in a spring is known as the spring action, and that affects how quickly the key goes up or down. And something that every saxophone player should know about sax repair is that if you were playing your saxophone and it was working perfectly fine and suddenly, out of nowhere, it's no longer working perfectly fine, chances are your spring came off of the catch, so look at your saxophone from the side where all of the posts are, see if you can find the spring that is not behind the little latch. When you find that, and you put it behind the latch, your saxophone will work again. So if your saxophone suddenly breaks out of nowhere in the middle of a practice session, chances are the spring came undone or it might even have broken.

The last thing we're gonna talk about today is that your saxophone has little pieces of cork and felt all over it. This cork and felt has two functions. The first is to control how much a key will open, so it's gonna be an adjustment thing. For example, on my G-sharp key, there's a little piece of cork back here, so it stops the key from opening up too much. The second is that it stops the brass of the key from hitting the brass of the saxophone, so if you had the brass of the key hitting the brass of the saxophone, you would have all kinds of really loud sounding clicks and clacks, and it wouldn't sound good at all.

0:06:41.0 S1: So your cork and felt are for adjustment purposes so that your keys don't open up too much. They are also to stop the clicks and clacks of metal hitting metal on your saxophone.

If you learned some things about your saxophone today, give me a thumbs up and leave me a comment about what you learned. If you'd like to dive deeper into my saxophone world, I'd like to invite you to check out the Scott Paddock Sax School.



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