Unfortunately, instruments don’t last forever. As with many materials, metal has a lifespan, and with exposure to moisture and frequent handling, every instrument is bound to fall apart some day.
But how long do saxophones last until they are no longer playable?
Saxophones can last up to 100 years with proper care as they’re very durable instruments. Most saxophones are made of brass, which can last up to a century with frequent exposure to moisture before it starts to rust and fall apart. With proper care, some saxophones can last well over a century.
In the rest of this article, I will tell you everything you need to know about the lifespan of saxophones so you know what to expect when handling both new and used instruments. Read on for more information.
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How Long Can a New Saxophone Last With Proper Care?
With proper care, a standard saxophone can last anywhere from 80 to 100 years, or even longer if the instrument is stored, cleaned, and handled properly. Mistreatment and damage can shorten this lifespan.
This is because most saxophones are made of brass, which can last up to a century, according to experienced plumbers who deal with the alloy on a routine basis due to the fact that many pipes are constructed from it.
However, let’s pause to think about that statistic for a moment. Plumbing pipes are typically used a lot more frequently than an instrument, and deal with constant exposure to higher levels of moisture than a saxophone will.
While saxophones deal with quite a bit of spit, they certainly won’t be handling running water.
With this in mind, a saxophone made of brass could possibly last longer than the 80-100 year time period suggested by plumbers. It really just depends on how frequently the instrument is used, and whether or not it’s taken care of properly.
But do certain brands last longer than others?
Do Certain Saxophone Brands Last Longer Than Others?
There are so many saxophone brands to choose from, but unfortunately, not all of them are at the same level of quality.
Saxophones from quality brands will last longer than those from budget brands. Saxophones from budget brands will be made with cheaper materials and will last fewer years. Higher quality instruments are expensive, but made with more durable metals that will last longer.
The thing about instruments is that the price is usually pretty relative to the quality you can expect from the product.
If you pay $400 for a brand new student-grade alto sax, for example, you can expect the instrument to last a lot less than a $3,000 professional-grade Selmer Paris alto.
This is because cheaper products are typically made with cheaper materials. Higher quality instruments are usually made with metals that are more pure, sturdy, and reliable, but a lot more expensive.
If you want to purchase a saxophone from a brand that will give you a reliable product with a lifespan you can depend on, you should stick to a brand that is reputable and trustworthy.
Here are the best brands that make long-lasting saxophones:
- Selmer Paris
- P. Mauriat
While it might be enticing to purchase from brands that offer affordable prices for their instruments, ultimately, it is not worth the investment if you’re looking for a product that will last as long as possible.
Your money is better off elsewhere. It’s a good idea to purchase something expensive but reliable than to purchase something cheap and low quality, as you will end up paying a lot more for repairs and potential replacements.
Here are some saxophone brands that won’t last as long:
A good rule of thumb is to stay away from Amazon brands, purchase from reputable brands and retailers, and do your research to make sure you find an instrument that will not only serve you well, but last as long as possible.
How Can You Tell the Age of a Saxophone You’re Buying?
If you’re buying a used saxophone, unfortunately, you aren’t always given a lot of information about the history of the instrument.
While this varies from seller to seller, generally, it can be difficult to tell how old the saxophone is. So, is there a good way to tell?
To tell the age of a saxophone you’re buying, you should first check for a serial number. If you can’t find one, analyzing the condition of the instrument itself can give you a good idea of how old it is. You can also check to see if the brass is antique.
Most instruments usually have serial numbers engraved on them. These numbers can be used to identify the manufacture date of instruments, which is a great way to get information about the origins of your saxophone, and essentially its expected lifespan.
Assessing the damage of an instrument is another good way to get a sense of how old it is. If there are lots of dents, scratches, and other flaws, this can be a sign of frequent use. More imperfections usually signal an older instrument. You can also check to see if the brass is antique.
There are many ways to check for antique brass. Some unique qualities of antique brass include a lack of magnetic properties, heaviness, golden hues, and the imperfections that usually come with age.
What Are Some Factors That Degrade the Lifespan of a Saxophone?
Some factors that degrade the lifespan of a saxophone include excessive exposure to water or salt, frequent use, damage, and the efficiency of your cleaning routine.
I’ll discuss each of these factors in greater detail. But first, let’s talk about brass corrosion.
According to the Canadian government’s website, the corrosion of brass is caused by a process called dezincification, which basically means that the zinc is separating from the copper.
This can cause superficial effects like color changes, but in the worst cases, it can actually cause the material to weaken.
Dezincification can be caused by exposure to water, salt, and acidic substances. Unfortunately, this is essentially the makeup of human saliva and perspiration.
When you play an instrument, it can be corroded by both the moisture of your breathing, the acidic properties of saliva, and the salt that can be found on your skin, which can transfer over to the brass when you handle instruments.
Fortunately, there are some preventative measures you can take to ensure that your saxophone lasts for as long as possible.
Tips for Making a Sax Last As Long as Possible
Here are some tips for making a sax last as long as possible:
- Try to keep your instrument free of dirt and dust.
- Clean your sax after every use.
- Don’t eat before playing, and always rinse your mouth out with water first.
- Wipe down your instrument after playing.
- Invest in protective cases.
- Get your saxophone professionally cleaned every now and then, if possible.
- Take your instrument to music stores for repairs and check ups.
- Handle your instrument with care and try not to drop it.
As I mentioned before, no instrument lasts forever. However, if your saxophone is taken care of properly, you can expect it to last up to 100 years, or longer, depending on the quality of the instrument.
By following the preventative measures mentioned above, you can slow the dezincification process and slow the corrosion of your instrument.
Hopefully, these tips have proved themselves useful, so you can make sure your saxophone lasts for as long as possible.