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I've been given the opportunity to play in a one-day marching band sort-of deal in my local town. However, the scheduled date is set to rain, but the stubborn director says we're going to play on that day no matter the weather. I'd really like to participate in this (I don't see many things like this here), but I've got concerns about playing in the rain.

Is it safe to play the saxophone in the rain, assuming it is largely unprotected (there is no umbrella)?

I fear that:

  • The pads will deteriorate.
  • The lacquer will be damage.
  • In non-lacquered spots: the underlying brass will tarnish.
  • The reed will get ruined.

Are these fears accurate? Would it be best just to not go, then?

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I've run into this situation before. Long story, but I was playing in a marching band, in the middle of Shanghai, in the rain, with my tenor, for about four hours.

I think the reed is the least of your concerns. They get wet all the time, and you're not going to be playing underwater (I hope). They are also relatively cheap, and wear out all the time anyway. Unless you're using a synthetic, which won't be affected at all.

The lacquer on my sax was pretty banged up already, but I didn't notice any significant deterioration afterwards. That being said, it isn't exactly a top of the line model, so I'm not too precious with it. If I had a new shiny one, I'd be a lot more protective.

I was most concerned about the pads. It went in for a service about 9 months later, and I think they replaced one or two, but it didn't need major rework.

I also don't recall too many issues for the rest of our sax section, which was about eight at the time (soprano through bari). The clarinets were much less appreciative; I think they were worried about the body of the instrument warping.

I'm aware this is a single data point, so may be hard to extrapolate from.

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    My experience with flutes in the rain corroborates this. The important thing is that the instrument doesn't stay wet for days at a time, so that the pads get moldy and steel parts get rusty. – Scott Wallace Nov 23 '16 at 13:49
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I've gonethru this in the past. First: the lacquer is not water-soluble, so unless you live in Beijing or New Delhi :-(, the lacquer won't care.

What I did was to take a stack of soft paper towels and gently press each pad onto a fresh section to remove some of the water. I then put in a few shims to hold all the keys open (so no pads were closed) and left my axe in front of an electric fan for a while. Maybe I was lucky but the instrument played just fine for the next 10 yrs w/o any pad failures.

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This is an answer I got from my neighbor when posed with the same question:

He was in the band two years ago. He said the rain had made it so cold that the cork of his neck had fallen off. He also mentioned how the moisture can do bad things to the horn (which, I admit, is pretty vague).

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