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Let’s talk pads

The bread and butter of saxophone playing and repair – the saxophone pad. But just what is this odd looking brown disc in your saxophone, Amy Craig explains all… Modern saxophone pads are made of 4 essential components – a cardboard back, a woven felt middle, a tanned leather cover wrapped around these parts, and finally held together by a, typically, metal or plastic resonator. They come in a range of sizes from a tiny 7mm diameter up to huge 70mm, in 0.5mm increments. The design of the saxophone pad hasn’t really undergone many technical changes throughout its life. Before resonators were designed a thread stitch was used through the middle of the pad the hold the three layers tightly together (a technique used already on bassoon pads).
In the Sax.co.uk workshops we use two different makes of pads as standard- Mypad premium deluxe and the LP-PRO pads. Both are made in Italy by the Pisoni company. We like these pads as they use a premium leather and felt combination to give a firm pad that seals well. The PRO pads are a slightly darker, more brown coloured pad and fit in well with the existing pads on some of our premium brand saxes. So if we have to change just one pad on your sax, it doesn’t stand out against the others – it’s the little touches that make our service special.
There are a growing range of options in the saxophone pad market. The one we get asked about the most are ROO pads by MusicMedic. These are made from kangaroo skin which has a much smoother and softer feel than traditional pads, they are also less prone to sticking. The ROO pads come with a range of resonator options too. Another alternative is the Jim Schmidt gold pad, yes that’s right, a gold coloured saxophone pad! If you are interested in these options and would like more information please contact our workshops.
Unless you have bought your sax in for a full repad we try to retain as many of your original pads as possible in a service. We look at the leather quality – is it still soft, it hasn’t darkened in any areas or started to wear excessively on the tone hole impression- and the way the pad is sealing on the tone hole – sometimes the leather quality can be good but if that pad just won’t seat in a good position it is more beneficial to fit a new one. Our pads are fitted using either hot melt glue or, more traditionally, shellac. The hot melt glue gives us a bit more flexibility in being able to move a pad in to a good position. Before fitting a new pad we check the tonehole to make sure it is level, then the pad is glued into the cup and- using a heat source to melt the glue slighty-the pad is gently adjusted into the best position to seal. The pad and cup are left to cool and then checked again until we are happy with it. This covers the most common questions and queries we are asked about saxophone pads, if you would like to know any more please ask us!