Raw brass

Discussion in 'Horns' started by trumpetpimp, Oct 17, 2004.

  1. trumpetpimp

    trumpetpimp Piano User

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    Dec 6, 2003
    Toronto
    I'm considering some upgrades to my trumpet and I was thinking about stripping the lacquer and silver plating the horn. However, I'm having second thoughts about the cost.

    In my experience(and as far as I can tell, many other people's) lacquer deadens and stifles a horn. It makes it vibrate less freely and kills high overtones. That's why it makes horns sound darker(at first). I find the lack of high overtones made the trumpet sound really dark to me but as my ear got more discerning I found it was actually a less rich sound. The lacquer didn't add low overtones like rose brass or copper would, it just took away the high overtones leaving the low ones left over. [I hope that made some sort of sense].

    Basically I'm trying to brighten my horn slightly and take away the stifling effect of the lacquer. My concern about raw brass is that most people are allergic to it and that the horn won't be preserved in any way and just be bare to the elements.

    If I left the lacquer on the valve section and took it off the bell wouldn't that allow the bell to vibrate more freely and still savea my hands from turning green? Is there any other concern about raw brass? I don't care about tarnish so much as my bell wasing away to nothing in 10 years.

    [Sorry for the long post, I just like to be complete. lol ]
     
  2. trumpetpimp

    trumpetpimp Piano User

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    Dec 6, 2003
    Toronto
    Okay, I guess my first post was too long. If you want the back story read the above post.

    Otherwise, I'd like any thoughts you have about raw brass horns(specifically bells). I have heard that Leigh doesn't like them but I'd like to hear his thoughts first hand.
     
  3. MUSICandCHARACTER

    MUSICandCHARACTER Forte User

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    Jan 31, 2004
    Newburgh, Indiana
    There is always the well quoted "study" done by Schilke

    One large point of controversy has always existed between those who prefer a lacquered horn and those who prefer plated horns, either silver or gold, or a third group who prefer their instruments in plain brass without any protec-tive coating whatsoever. Let me give you my findings on the three different finishes of instruments.

    First, I tried to find myself three instruments that played absolutely identically. One, I silverplated, one I had a very good lacquer job put on and a third I left in brass. Now, recall that all three instruments played identically the same in brass, or as close as it is possible to get. I had various players from the Symphony working with me as well as other professional trumpet players in Chicago and they agreed unanimously on the results. The findings were that plating does not affect the playing qualities of brass instruments. That is, the plated instrument and the plain brass instrument played identically. The lacquered instrument, however, seemed to be changed considerably. This instrument, which originally had played the same as the other two, now had a very much impaired tonal quality and the over-all pitch was changed.

    To explain these findings as to why the silver and brass instruments played alike and the lacquered instrument did not, let me give you some figures. The silver plating on a brass instrument is only one-half of a thousandth inch thick. In other words .0005". The lacquer that goes on, if it is a good lacquer job, is approximately seven thousandths of an inch thick, or .007". Now to get an idea in your minds as to what these thickness figures represent, an ordinary piece of writing paper is approximately four thousandths of an inch thick so the silver that goes on an instrument is only 1/8 as thick as a piece of writing paper, while lacquer is almost double the thickness of a piece of writing paper. The silver in itself is very compatible to the brass. The lacquer, if it is a good lacquer and baked on, will be almost as hard as glass and not at all compatible to brass. The lacquer on the bell of an instrument is seven thousandths of an inch thick on the outside and another seven thousandths on the inside which gives you a total thickness of fourteen thousandths or .014". This is already the thickness of the metal of my instruments so the lacquer process would double the bell thickness. As you can see, it is bound to affect the playing quality of the instrument.


    This was published in 1956. The modern lacquers are not as thick as Mr. Schilke states here. But they are still thicker than plating and not a good "match" for brass as stated.

    So, that leads many to say that an unlacquered horn will play better. I know a professional trombone player who gets any trombone and the first thing he does is strip the lacquer off.

    I think with modern lacquers it is less of a problem - maybe so much less that it is barely noticeable if at all. An unlacquered horn needs constant cleaning and even with the cleaning, the horn will rust. Maybe not the best way to take care of an instrument.

    I'm not Leigh, but I would think that if you don't like the lacquer, get the horn plated!

    As for being allergic to brass, you are not going to put your mouth on the horn. Some people their hands will react, but not very many. Most people can handle raw brass. Now, you don't want raw brass on your mouthpiece. It can be toxic.

    Jim
     
  4. trumpetpimp

    trumpetpimp Piano User

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    Dec 6, 2003
    Toronto
    Rust?!? Really? I've got a 50 year old cornet(Ambassador, what else? lol) that is tarnished right to hell but I don't see any rust on it. Of course, it doesn't get played(and probably never did) as much as my trumpet does.

    I have had trouble noticing the different between lacquered and unlacquered horns as well. Especially Yamahas. However, I do find there is a small difference in the feedback and responce.

    I guess plating might just be the way to go. Lay down tha cash and forget about it. Anyone else have experience with raw brass? I'd really like to get Leigh's opinion here.
     
  5. dizforprez

    dizforprez Forte User

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    Nov 2, 2003
    brass does not 'rust', that is why it is used so much in boats.
     
  6. trptbenge

    trptbenge Pianissimo User

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    Jan 15, 2004
    Atlanta
    Yamaha seems to have perfected a way to put lacquer on in a way that is thinner then most any other manufacturer. There are some horns that I prefer with lacquer - like the Bobby Shew model trumpet. I also like Bachs in the tradional lacquer as well.

    Mike
     
  7. trickg

    trickg Utimate User

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    Oct 26, 2003
    Baltimore/DC
    I think that he was simply referring to the tarnishing or oxidation process of brass. When iron or steel rusts, it's oxidizing. With brass, that oxidation is just easier to remove. As for rate of oxidation, I'm not sure about that, but if you leave brass out long enough, it develops a crust, or verdigris.

    Verdigris n
    1. A blue or green powder consisting of basic cupric acetate used as a paint pigment and fungicide.
    2. A green patina or crust of copper sulfate or copper chloride formed on copper, brass, and bronze exposed to air or seawater for long periods of time.

    That's why the Statue of Liberty is green and not reddish copper in coloring - effectively it has "rusted" that color.

    The brass on boats would quickly oxidize to the point of being unusable if not cleaned and polished on a regular basis.

    Technically speaking when you are referring to metals, any type of oxidation is considered "rust". Even when you are blueing guns, (blueing is the technical term for the process that case hardens the finish on firearms giving them a hard, protective, rust resistant finish) the blueing process is more or less referred to as controlled rusting.

    But back to the subject, I would never want a raw brass horn because of the oxidation factor involved with it. In no time at all it would look like hell, and it would come off all over my hands, not to mention the whole allergic reaction to brass factor and brass poisoning factors.

    I am, however, intersted in going with a lacquered horn my next time out for the reason that it just seems to hold up better with the acid quality of my hands, which destroy silver plating.
     
  8. dizforprez

    dizforprez Forte User

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    Nov 2, 2003
    "Brass is composed of copper & zinc (typically about 75/25). When exposed to the air, some high copper content brass alloy mixtures turn brown – just like copper. This is called ‘copper bleed’. It is actually tarnish forming on the copper portion of your brass mixture. Tarnish is completely different from rust. Rust forms on ferrous metals as they oxidize (chemically react to oxygen in the atmosphere). Tarnish forms on certain non-ferrous metals (copper, silver, gold, nickel, and some of their alloys, like brass) as they chemically react to sulfur dissolved in the air (it’s everywhere).

    Rust will completely consume ferrous metals, given sufficient time. Tarnish is a surface anomaly that actually halts once the tarnish has become so thick it forms a barrier against further sulfur reaching the base metal. Corrosion is a completely separate malady that can accompany either rust or tarnish. Corrosion is a label applied to various other chemical reactions that metals have with different elements. Corrosion typically develops under wet or moist conditions. Corrosion is a complicating factor that is often not affected by rust or tarnish remover products. Corrosion is what causes pitting in brass. There are also various molds that can develop in conjunction with any of these other maladies. Molds imply wet conditions, and can be dangerous to people in addition to making horns quite ugly. Molds are different from rust, tarnish & corrosion in that they are living organisms – not merely dumb chemical reactions..."



    http://www.cybersax.com/QA/Q&A_Corrosion-Tarnish-Rust.html
     
  9. MUSICandCHARACTER

    MUSICandCHARACTER Forte User

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    Jan 31, 2004
    Newburgh, Indiana
    Wow,

    Quite a description Diz!

    Rust was a bad choice of words, oxidation would have been better. As for a 50 year brass horn lasting, that says something about how it was kept!

    Still, modern lacquers are much thinner. They have been epoxy based for some time now. The old lacquers were very think, and like the Schilke said, hard as glass. I would hate to keep cleaning the tarnish to make the horn look good. Of course some don't care.

    I have heard also that the scratched surfaces hold the lacquer better and therefore the finish can be slightly thinner than buffed brass.

    I found this webpage very informative:

    http://www.musichem.com/articles/corrosion_in_brass_instruments.htm

    Here is a snippet:

    The exterior of the horn is protected by a coating of lacquer.  If this coating is worn off, the exterior surfaces can suffer from a different type of corrosion.  This corrosion is the reaction of the salt and fatty acids in your fingers with the zinc in the brass; the process is called red rot or dezincification.  As the components in your sweat attack the brass, the zinc is selectively extracted until only a porous layer of  red colored copper is left behind.  The process is slow, and depends on the amount of sweat, and the length of time the skin debris is in contact with the metal.  If not further protected, the metal in that area becomes weak, and is easily perforate

    Jim
     
  10. Heavens2kadonka

    Heavens2kadonka Forte User

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    Jun 17, 2004
    Lebanon, TN
    I have to say that I played on a raw brass mouthpiece when I played french horn in high school, and I noticed my lips would start trembling terribly after playing on it, and would hurt for several days after hard playing on it. I've heard that raw brass kills the nerves in the lips, and actually, its the reason the old French Horn professor at TN Tech (Arthur LaBar), had to quit and put away the horn.

    Van
     

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