1 Thing You Need to Know: Cork Grease

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Have you seen the chapstick looking container in your saxophone case? What is that for? Do you apply it to your lips when you get tired? I hope you haven’t because…well, I’m not sure what would happen. If you have applied it, I suggest washing it off.

This chapstick item is called cork grease, and it’s applied to the cork to make mouthpiece (mp) adjustment easy.

Whether you know what cork grease is or not, this post is going to share our recommendations, how to apply, and the benefits.

In short, there should be something helpful here for everyone.

The Benefits

Let’s talk about the benefits first. It won’t help you improve your articulation, technique, or motivate you to practice, but it can (indirectly) help with your tone.

If you don’t use cork grease it can be difficult to move the mouthpiece on the cork. If you can’t move the mouthpiece to the correct place on the cork, you won’t be able to get the saxophone in tune.

When the saxophone isn’t in tune, there are a few things this will affect. Here’s a quick list:

  1. Intonation (obviously)
  2. Tone
  3. Response (how easily a note will come out)

I’ve seen many beginning saxophone students who don’t have their mp in the right place (because it was too difficult to physically move it, and they didn’t know where the right place was), and when they change to the correct place, it makes the saxophone easier to play.

And all this because of a little cork grease. This really is 1 simple thing you can do to sound better on the saxophone.

Direct Benefits

We just spoke how cork grease indirectly improves your playing, but here are the direct benefits:

  1. Easy movement of the mp
  2. Longevity of cork life

If you don’t use cork grease, the life of the cork is less, which means you’ll go to a repair tech more often. It’s not a huge expense, but if adding cork grease adds life to the cork, then why not do this simple thing.

What to Use

Many times, cork grease comes with the saxophone, but it is not always the best cork grease to use. However, it will work.

My suggestion is a product that basically does the same thing, but eventually it sets up the cork so you don’t have to apply it very often. This cork grease is Selmer Tuning Slide and Cork Grease. Let’s talk how to apply both.

Chapstick Cork Grease

Simply apply to the cork, straight from the tube to the cork. Take your finger and rub in the grease. If you have applied too much, wipe off the excess amount (the white build up on the cork).

Next, slide the mp onto the cork, all the way, then remove the mp and repeat a few times. To avoid bending the neck (sometimes the mp does not slide easily) don’t have the neck on the body of the saxophone when sliding the mp on the neck.

Selmer Cork Grease

This cork grease is quite a bit different. It’s a sticky, gooey substance that you don’t want to touch. Even after washing your hands it still may remain on you.

Fore applying this grease, apply directly from the container to the very end of the cork. Don’t touch the grease, but place the mp on the saxophone neck. Then follow the same pattern just mentioned above (slide mp on and off, simultaneously twisting).

Eventual Goal

The purpose of all cork grease is for ease of mp movement, but also to properly “season” (I’ve never heard anyone use this term before, but is something I made up) the cork, so you end up using cork grease less often.

Eventually, you won’t need to use cork grease but once every few months. With a new cork, you’ll most likely need to use it every day.

One difference between the two cork grease options is that the Selmer product will get you to the “seasoned” goal a lot faster.


The cost is not that different either. As of today, chapstick cork grease is around $3, and the Selmer product is around $5.

That’s It!

Hopefully you gained more information on how cork grease can help you in your playing. To help expand our discussion on cork grease, what have you used? What are the benefits and weaknesses of the cork grease you’ve used?

We would love to hear about your experiences in the comment section below. Also, if you have any questions, please feel free to ask!

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