Got a question on here earlier about a sticky G# key from Katie on the saxophone fingering chart on Sax Station, she asked,
“Hey, I just started learning the sax. I have pretty much all the notes learned but G#/Ab is giving me trouble! According to the finger chart, you play a G but then add the left hand pinky. When I do this, it doesn’t change the G at all. Does it need repair?”
Since it’s an issue that likely comes up for most sax players, I thought I would turn my response into a post and elaborate a bit. Also ask for some ideas from you if you have some tricks.
There are four keys that your left pinky can press down, generally you’ll use the top one, although technically you could use the other keys in a pinch or if it comes out more cleanly in a situation.
If nothing moves when you press it, you probably have a ‘sticky pad’ on your sax. Other pads can get sticky too, but the G# key and maybe the bis key seem to be two prime culprits.
Because of the design of the saxophone, condensation and whatever goes into the saxophone gathers there. Regardless of the reasons, it happens. And when a key is sticking, notes you don’t mean to play can come out. And that can sound funky in a not so great way.
Sometimes it is just delayed because it’s sticky. But check to see what happens when you press the key. A button should rise up on the saxophone.
To keep it from getting sticky, just drink water while playing sax and don’t eat anything or drink anything with sugar right beforehand. Ideally you want to brush your teeth before you play.
Often times you can see what’s happening yourself and even use clean paper (ie a new bill) to slide along the pad and make it function better. If it’s really bad, you might need to go to a sax repair person.