I bought my daughter a new saxophone last year, and she barely used it- ended up with a school loaner because she says it's "defective". The horn plays fine, but for lower notes it will either barely eek out a sound or play an octave higher (without octave key) unless she leans her head down to play them. I've tried myself and had the same result.

Octave pad appears to be in good shape and I don't see anything that stands out as a defect, but alas I am a trumpet player and no expert :D If we use a different neck piece it seems fine. Any suggestions before I go replacing it?

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    I’ll just comment since this is not my field, The octave key pad key look fine but it may be leaking, try shining a light into the horn and see if there is any light escaping from around the octave key. Jul 27, 2023 at 19:21
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    This kind of problem is impossible to diagnose in a forum like this. Even if you do find a leak yourself, youĺl have to go to an expert to get it fixed.
    – PiedPiper
    Jul 28, 2023 at 9:06
  • Eeek! you didn't eke out the right word :-) . Anyway, if the other horn plays OK, assuming same mouthpiece, then almost certainly a leak. Or the sax you bought is a POS. What brand & model is it? Also -- what do you mean by "neckpiece" ? the neck is the metal section that you put the mouthpiece onto. Jul 29, 2023 at 15:20

1 Answer 1


On a saxophone (also depending on the type of saxophone and mouthpiece and like with many wind instruments) playing the lowest notes can be a bit more tricky than the mid range, and the instrument should be setup quite well to allow for easy playing. Especially for a beginner this is important because it will get quite frustrating otherwise. Of course you also need a bit of technique to properly play the low notes, but if your daughter has no problems on loan instrument it is quite probable that it is the instruments fault here. Especially as you say that using a different s-bow the problems disappear, the thing at fault would most likely be the s-bow.

In this case there can be two probably causes: A leaking octave key and a bad seal on the cork (where you put the mouthpiece on). The first can be caused by a bad pad or by misalignment.

[Such problems can also often come from the g# key. This one should be closed by default, unless you press the key, which is on the same mechanical part as c#, b, bb keys. For this reason the lower hand mechanic will clamp this key shut to prevent opening on low notes. This might a sightly misaligned, leading to the g# key opening on c#, b and bb, making these notes harder to play. (Modern instruments will have an adjustable screw for this, so it is quite easy to align.)]

This is also something that might happen if the instrument is subjected to some strong movement, if it falls over, such stuff. Of course it might also just be that the other keys are not well aligned or padded. If it is a used instrument it might be that the instrument needs a service. If it is a new instrument there might be something wrong with it. Generally if you buy a new saxophone from a trustworthy source it should be set up well, have well seated pads and be playable. If the instrument was ordered and shipped this might cause some misalignment though.

A saxophone technician will be able to check for such problems, and fix them. Especially on the S-bow you can do some checking yourself: shut one end with your hand and blow into the other end (with your lips sealing). It should take some air pressure for the octave key to open. If instead air comes out of the octave key it is not sealing well.

Checking for leaks in the body is quite a bit harder. A technician will have a long straight light he will run down the instrument to find leaks.

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