Saxophones have a fantastic sound, but unfortunately, they’re prone to sounding spitty every now and then.
You might be wondering why this happens, and what to do if you find yourself in this situation.
Saxophones sound spitty when excess moisture causes blockages in the instrument’s airways. This occurs naturally over time, as air pushes moisture through the instrument when you blow into it. Baritone saxophones have spit valves because their shape makes them difficult to clean with a necksaver.
The rest of this article will elaborate on why your saxophone sounds spitty, and what you can do to solve this issue effectively!
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What Are Some Reasons Why My Saxophone Sounds Spitty?
Some reasons why your saxophone sounds spitty include inadequate cleaning, cleaning with the wrong tools, or mouthpiece blockage due to moisture.
Because wind instruments like saxophones require you to blow into them to make a sound, this can cause a lot of excess moisture buildup.
This excess moisture will make it harder for your breath to travel through the instrument’s different airways, creating that annoying and often frustrating spitty sound!
Your best solution is to remove the blockages.
What Are Some Solutions for the Spitty Sound?
Some solutions for the spitty sound your saxophone makes include cleaning your saxophone with a necksaver, the fuzzy cleaning tool used to reach inside the instrument and clean moisture blockages. You can also empty your spit valve if you have a baritone or contrabass saxophone.
Baritone saxophones are the only saxophones of the four most common variants to have spit valves.
Due to this, using a water key / spit valve isn’t always an option for if you’re playing a soprano, alto, or tenor saxophone.
If you’re using one of the other variants besides the baritone, the best solution for the spitty sound is to clean your instrument.
- Even if you’re playing the baritone sax, which has a spit valve, you should still be cleaning your instrument frequently and consistently.
As I mentioned before, you can clean your instrument using a necksaver.
This necksaver is essentially a long stick covered in a fuzzy material designed to absorb the moisture that collects inside your saxophone.
Take note that while the necksaver is marketed to be stored inside your saxophone, this isn’t recommended, as it can damage the instrument. A necksaver should only be used to scrub away and absorb moisture as a cleaning tool, or a brush of sorts.
Also, keep in mind that different necksavers are used for different saxophones.
This is because each saxophone variant differs in size, so the cleaning tools need to be adjusted accordingly.
If you’re in need of proper cleaning tools, I highly recommend this Alto Saxophone Rico Neck Saver (available on Amazon.com) for its quality and affordability!
Rico is a trusted brand for instrument accessories like reeds and, of course, necksavers.
- If you play the soprano saxophone, you can also check out this Blesiya Soprano Sax Brush Cleaner (available on Amazon.com).
- I recommend this product because it has high ratings and was designed exclusively for the soprano sax, and it’s also very affordable.
Neck savers are also sold for tenor and baritone saxophones.
Just be sure to purchase the right one to avoid potentially damaging your instrument!
Which Saxophones Have Spit Valves and Where Are They?
Spit valves are keys found on certain wind instruments that, when pressed, release a stream of spit that has built up inside the instrument.
These are commonly found in brass instruments, like the trumpet, and are emptied frequently to avoid blockages.
There are six main saxophone types:
- Sopranino saxophone
- Soprano saxophone
- Alto saxophone
- Tenor saxophone
- Baritone saxophone
Only baritone and contrabass saxophones have spit valves because their shapes are more unique and harder to clean than other variant. The spit valve of a baritone sax is located on the bottom of the neck’s curve.
The sopranino, soprano, alto, and tenor saxophones don’t have spit valves.
Do You Have To Clean the Spit Valve on a Saxophone?
You do have to clean the spit valve on a saxophone to avoid rust and blockage buildup. Ideally, you should be cleaning every part of your saxophone to keep it clean and functioning properly.
Otherwise, the sound quality will be affected.
While you can clean your saxophones easily with necksavers, they won’t always reach every part of the instrument. For this reason, you should consider taking your saxophone to get professionally cleaned every now and then to keep it working as smoothly as possible.
Necksavers should be a part of your regular upkeep, but for cleaning a spit valve, you might want to use a smaller tool like craft pipe cleaners, which you can find at any local art store.
You can also invest in straw cleaners like these Long Straw Brush Tube Cleaners (available on Amazon.com) to clean out your spit valve every now and then.
I recommend this set because it comes in a bunch of different sizes, which is excellent for cleaning accuracy. They’re also very inexpensive!
Saxophones are beautiful instruments with a lovely sound, but unfortunately, they can sound spitty when moisture buildup causes blockages in the instrument’s airways.
Baritone and contrabass saxophones have spit valves, which can temporarily solve the issue.
However, soprano, alto, and tenor saxophones do not have spit valves.
Even without a spit valve, these blockages can be cleared and prevented with regular cleaning by using necksavers as a brush to scrub away the gunk.
Also, to ensure accuracy, get your instrument professionally cleaned on occasion.