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Do you like silver plated saxes? If so why? It seems to me that owning a silver plated sax just means you spend all your time with a polishing cloth, but I fully realise that I am a lazy slob with a don't care attitude, so educate me... what's good about a silver plated sax?

OK, so my next question is, if you're going to silver plate a sax why not apply a clear lacquer coat over the top so that you can have your nice, shiny, silver finish and not have to keep polishing it? Or am I missing the point here?

If you don't like silver, what plate or lacquer finish would you specify? What about gold plate? Nickel silver? What about a special "vintage" finish or a brushed finish or actually do you just prefer plain old fashioned gold lacquer and be done with it?

All opinions are gratefully received...
 

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Hey Rick,

Some people feel the sound is richer on a silver plated horn. With regards to the clear coat, you may find this link useful:

http://www.saxontheweb.net/vbulletin/showthread.php?t=40878

I'm in discussions with a company here in the UK (FH Lambert. Do a google search) to have the bell and crook on my tenor silver plated, but if money was no object, I'd like to have the whole horn gold plated. Saw a series II tenor recently. W_O_W !!
 

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Hi Rick. Several arguments on this board about the effects of lacquer verses silver plating on a sax. Some feel it makes no difference to the sound on a particular model of sax and some do. I believe silver plating makes a difference on the sound. Lacquer slightly deadens the high harmonics one hears over a lacquered sax. Thus the sound in my view is slightly richer and more robust; just my experience each time I've tested lacquered models vs. their silver plated models. I've had several silver plated saxes, a Series III and a Z in both tenor and alto versions. Over the lacquered versions, the silver plated horns had a bigger richer sound. Not sure how I feel about silver plated horns in a classical setting, however, for jazz, their wonderful. Are they a hastle to clean? Yes. But wipping them down after each play and keeping silver strips in the case helps a lot.

On the subject of lacquer over silver plating, the silver will still tarnish, especially when exposed to the sun of any length of time, like in an outdoor concert. Unfortunately, there is nothing you can do to polish it if there is a lacquered coat.

Just my experience. Naturally there will be those that disagree with the effect of silver plating vs. lacquer.
 

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Discussion Starter · #5 ·
Thanks guys I really appreciate your thoughts. Personally I'm a fully paid up member of the "what it's made of doesn't affect the tone" school of thought, but I still think that there is aesthetic value in different finishes of sax.
Saxplayer1 said:
On the subject of lacquer over silver plating, the silver will still tarnish, especially when exposed to the sun of any length of time, like in an outdoor concert. Unfortunately, there is nothing you can do to polish it if there is a lacquered coat.
Really? I assumed it was to do with oxygen from the air coming into contact with the silver. That's certainly something to consider.
 

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It has to do more with the various sulphides floating about (SO2, SO4) and the nitrous oxides (NOx) than it does with the oxygen.

A silver plated horn requires a bit more attention in Houston (where we have photochemical smog in abundance) that it ever did in rural Illinois (where I used to live).

One other oddity about the atmosphere down here. I once did a big band job on the deck of the USS Texas, the last remaining dreadnought era battleship in the world which is preserved in a park setting on our Ship Channel next to all of the petrochemical industry. Other than location, there was nothing unusual about the job, excepting only one thing:

On my YBS 62 and on another player's YTS-62, all of the posts holding up the keywork became discolored. (The color shifted from the same as the rest of the horn to something more dark and smoky like.) None of the posts on any of the other saxes changed like this (including a YAS-63 alto), and while subtle at the time, by the end of the job all were noticeably darker than the rest of the horn.

Over time most of the shift has gone away, but the posts still are a bit darker than the rest of the horn.
 

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Saxplayer1 said:
On the subject of lacquer over silver plating, the silver will still tarnish, especially when exposed to the sun of any length of time, like in an outdoor concert. Unfortunately, there is nothing you can do to polish it if there is a lacquered coat.
Only if the lacquer is damaged. Same as brass.
 

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Silver makes for a nicer looking horn, but it does take more work, especially if you opt for the satin silver finish. Anytime I bring my Chu out to a band job, people just ooh and ah over it. Also, if you're in a situation where you are using colored stage lighting, the satin silver will take the color of the lights, really cool stuff.

Other than that, it's a pain in the butt to maintain. That's why when I purchased my Big B Aristocrat, I opted to go with lacquer over silver. It's simply easier to care for, and that is probably one of the reasons why silver horns went out of vogue in the 1930s, that and the depressed economy of the time made lacquer horns more practical.
 

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Silver-plating makes a big difference

The notion of enhances higher-harmonics is extremely correct! I currently play a silver Yamaha 875 and the high harmonics NEVER go away. Ever. (Granted, I'm playing a Freddie Gregory Mk II 7**.) I've recently tried this horn back-to-back with a black lacquer and a normal lacquer. Big differences between all three.

This can be a good thing or a bad thing, depending on the player's objectives for sound. I find it very hard to get a traditional dark jazz sound (a la Dexter Gordon, Stanley Turrrentine, etc.) out of this horn.

Just my two cents.
 

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BBJQSAX said:
I currently play a silver Yamaha 875 and the high harmonics NEVER go away.
....I find it very hard to get a traditional dark jazz sound (a la Dexter Gordon, Stanley Turrrentine, etc.) out of this horn. .
I doubt the lack of a "traditional dark jazz sound" has anything to do with the silver plate. More likely it's a combination of the horn itself, the mpc, and the player. I'm not entirely convinced that plating makes no difference in the sound, but it would be a very subtle thing if it does. There are multiple threads on whether there is a sound difference or not, so I'll leave that idea alone.

Regarding care, looks, durability, etc., silver plate is probably the most durable of all the finishes. It won't wear off nearly as fast as lacquer. I have a '39 Aristocrat tenor with original silver plate that looks brand new. I also think silver looks great, for what that's worth. And I don't find it difficult to maintain. I just wipe it down every other day or so, depending on how much I've been playing, and also put one of those silver protection strips in the case. My other silver-plated tenor ("156" 'Crat) was newly plated at Anderson's about 5 years ago and it still looks pristine. So it's not that big of a deal to maintain. But maybe if you live in an industrial area with lots of sulfur in the air it would be a different situation.
 

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As I've said, I live and play in the Houston area, where our Ship Channel industrial area has one of the greatest concentrations of organic and inorganic chemical plants and refineries in the world. I've used my silver plated horn all over the area, including on the Ship Channel itself (the aforementioned gig on the USS Texas. During all of this, I've had more problems keep a lacquered horn looking good that I have with the silver plated ones.

I keep silverware protective devices (mine are little ultra-reactive chemical balls in a blue plastic case) and have never had any tarnish problems beyond those from normal handling.

One other thing. The US Army used to specify silver plate for all of its saxophones, so at least one large organization agrees with this approach. If you ever get into an argument over silver plating after claiming that you're right and you get fed a comeback "Oh yeah? Well you and who's army are going to make me believe it?", you have a ready-made reply...
 

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I am totally convinced that silver plating makes a significant tonal difference. The unlaquered YAS26 I am holding gives my ideal sound to me with little effort. It is not so much bright but rather, rich, if you can imagine. Like your favorite kind of butter taste. Maybe I should just describe it as buttery.
 

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15 years later, I still like the way my silver plate horns look, I still don't do any special voodoo to take care of them, and I still don't believe any woo-woo occult BS about the effect of 0.002" of silver on top of 0.040" of brass confining a 0.5 to 6" bore.

I guess that makes me what?
15 years older.
 

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Don’t let it get you down. I realized after I typed my response that I am 15 years older too.

Arggghhh, no more denying it.

On the other hand, I heard a great band yesterday. I appreciate just how many miracles have to happen for that to occur.
 
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Re Sound: The type of metal does not affect the sound. Unlike guitars, Saxophone body's don't vibrate - it's the reed that vibrates. My main saxes (alto / tenor) are King Super 20 Silversonics - My backup saxes are KIng Super 20's without the silver bell. (all the same series less than 300 serial numbers apart) They sound and play virtually identically.

Re: Lacquer over silver: King Super 20 Silversonics have solid silver bells that are lacquered. Until the lacquer wears off, it remains pristine no matter it's exposure to light or other environmental conditions.
 

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15 years older.
Oh yeah. And I just realized from my post back then that I've owned that '39 Aristo tenor for at least 15 years. The silver plate on it still looks great, almost exactly as it did then, with very little tarnish over those years. I only gave it a light polishing a few times. Maybe I'll post a photo here of what it looks like now, when I get around to it. Silver plating is the way to go for a long-lasting and beautiful finish.

I am totally convinced that silver plating makes a significant tonal difference. The unlaquered YAS26 I am holding gives my ideal sound to me with little effort. It is not so much bright but rather, rich, if you can imagine.
You can believe whatever you want, but the rich tone quality you describe is not down to the finish. It has to do with the design of the horn, as well as the set-up (reed, mpc) and of course the player. The reason to have silver plating is not for any tonal advantage, but for the beauty and lasting quality of the finish.
 
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