We have all been there. You are in a practice room or on a stage and that dreaded silence killer comes back to haunt you, the sticky pad! Before we can address how to fix the sticky pad we need to figure out how it happened.
Stickiness comes from a substance being on the surface of your pads. It could be from something getting spilled on your instrument or it could be coming from the inside of you instrument, meaning you! It is really important to control what goes inside your instrument. Did you just eat 5 Krispy Kreme doughnuts? You probably want to go brush your teeth before you start to practice. Have you just finished a 20oz Coke? I’d rinse off those sugar lips before you put them on your horn. So you’ve brushed your pearly whites, practiced your heart out, and now comes the final step of your maintenance. Swab out your instrument! No matter how clean you are residue can still be deposited on your pads. If you don’t wipe it off. It will get sticky!
We’ve figured out the source of your stickiness, now here’s what you do to clean up the issue. Use a dry, clean piece of pad paper and put it between the surface of the pad and the tone hole. Gently depress the key while pulling out the paper. Repeat the process as necessary. Pad paper can be found at your local music store. Other people have had success using cigarette paper or even perm solution paper. In a pinch you can use a clean sheet of copier paper but use it with caution, it can be a little abrasive. All of those are good options but as fair warning cigarette paper could get you into trouble at a public school. Whatever you do, please do not ever use a dollar bill to clean your pads. Monetary bills are super absorbent and are therefore consistently used in pad cleaning. The problem is that money is extremely dirty. So while you are cleaning your pad you are actually leaving more dirt and grime on the surface. Keep your money in your pocket!
In rare cases the pads are sticky due to the impression being seated too deeply. If that is the case, just bring it in to your local repair shop. Any technician can switch out the troublesome pad for you.
We hope this information helps you battle the sticky war. Happy practicing!