Trumpet Discussion Discuss Why silver plating? in the General forums; The thread about the new Eclipse trumpet plated in rhodium got me wondering: Why is silver the most prevelant plating ...
Why silver plating?
The thread about the new Eclipse trumpet plated in rhodium got me wondering: Why is silver the most prevelant plating metal for trumpets, or musical instruments in general?
I remember that as a kid, if you had a silver plated trumpet, then you really had something. Silver plating was generally the one biggest visible difference between a student horn and a pro horn and for the most part, it seemed that there were usually only a few silver plated instruments in a sea of lacquered horns. Silver plating was considered somewhat of an extravagance. Now, it is almost the norm.
But why silver? Was it a cost vs durability thing? For me, I seem to always have trouble with silver plated instruments thanks to the acidity of my hands, although it always seems to be worse with Bachs than with other horns, and I don't seem to have near the problem with lacquer.
Now it seems that gold is becoming much more common as a plating metal, in spite of the added cost, and I've heard stories about platinum plated trumpets here and there. Now we have a trumpet plated in Rhodium.
Are we changing our idea of what metals to use due to a shift in our ideas about the life span of a brass instrument, and therefore we are seeing a new trend of plating with metals that are more resistant to corrosion or wear? Again, maybe my experience was an exception, but it used to seem to me that if you had a trumpet that had a decade worth of use, then you had a pretty old instrument. Now, it seems that not only are vintage instruments still being used, but in many cases, they are sought out preferentially over newer stock, and steps are being taken to preserve these gems. I know that's the reason that I'm considering gold plating my Schilke. It may not be an oldie, but it's a goodie!
But getting back to the original subject, considering that under heavy use, silver often bubbles, flakes away or simply wears away due to use, polishing and oxidation, one would think that it wouldn't be the preferred plating metal for musical instruments.
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trickg - just a thought - I think that we now have more money to throw at non-essentials. when I was growing up if a silver horn had cost $25 more then a laquered horn I would not have gotten silver. just a thought from old geezer Dave
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Well, as of the past few years, lacquering has become more refined. Look at the things Leigh does with lacquering, for instance.
Also, silvering is no longer only on pro horns. Therefore, the old mystique of silver is not there anymore, in my opinion.
I also think the general quality of silver on the mainstream horns today aren't as beautiful as the older silver horns. My opinion, though.
Van (Who is never getting another silver horn again)
Polite disagreement with Geezer Dave
In my individual case, as a third generation trumpeter/cornetist I find that in looking over the horns that I have inherited from my dad and his dad, I have two gold plated Couturier trumpets, a King Silvertone trumpet,( later stolen from me ), a Holton Clarke Model cornet, Martin Imperial Handcrafted cornet, Wurlitzer Improved Symphony short shepherds crook cornet, Wurlitzer Professional trumpet, Grand Rapids Band Instrument 'S Curve' cornet, all in silver. My family was not wealthy, but, believed in spending their money where the product would probably last for a long time. The exeption to this is Martin Commitee cornet my dad gave to me which is VERY unsightly because the lacquer is peeling. I am giving very serious consideration to having it stripped, polished and silver plated. The finish appearance will be secondary to the longevity to be gained by the silver plating. My hesitation on this is not the $500.00 cost, but, the possible intonation change that the silver plating might cause.
I know that the durability factor is one of the reasons for silver plating, but for me, Silver plating has generally been anything BUT durable. The plating starts to bubble where I hold the horn, and then it chips and flakes away, leaving the raw brass underneath. Of course, some might argue that I don't maintain my horn well enough and that's why the plating goes south, and there might be some truth to that, but as I said, I don't seem to have any issues with lacquer.
It probably is the "bang for the buck" factor that causes silver to be the plating metal of choice, even though some folks have some issues with it. It's certainly cheaper than gold!
"What we do in life echoes in eternity"
"At my signal, unleash hell."
- Maximus Decimus Meridius
I remember the school trumpets at PS 206 in Brooklyn in 1958 were all silver. I'm told now that student trumpets came that way because the plating covered up sloppy soldering. Lacquer would not.
Now all the student trumpets the NYC schools get are lacquer. Go figure? I remember, I used to think silver trumpets were cheap.
If you look at how the silver reflects the light off, you can see errors.
Theres this Amati, GOOD LORD....
When I worked at York Band Instrument Co./Grand Rapids Band Instrument Co. We knew that less solder was used on horns for the lacquer room than those to be plated. This was NOT a case of sloppy soldering on the plated horns, but, that the plated horns were put together more solidly in the assembly rooms. Yes, the plating did cover a minor bit of solder at the joints, but, the spray coated horns had a much lesser amount of solder than those we plated. In some cases this meant that the solder joints were a good bit weaker. All of the horns to be lacquered had to be pressure tested before leaving the assembly rooms to prove the airtight connections at the joints. Not so the horns going to the plating tanks. Our salesmen pushed plated instruments to school systems for that reason, due to the harsh treatment that experience had taught that all school horns got. Another reason was that the plated horns could be polished by the students, using whiting and alcohol, whereas, the lacquered horns could only be wiped down with a rag, which only removed greasy fingerprints,( maybe). Another reason for plating of school horns was that they ALL got dents and wrinkles from harsh treatment. A plated horn did not show these repairs as vividly as the cracked lacquer on repairs of sprayed horns. Can you imagine the horrible looks of a lacquered sousaphone,euphonium,trombone, or alto horn bell after it had been dropped a few times and then straightened. The silver ones came back to very close to original appearance.
I have a large collection of brass instruments, The best looking vintage horns that I have are all silver plated. The majority of the lacquered brass look shoddy because of peeled and flaked lacquer.
Great Topic! Ok heres my 2 cents worth. My original exposure to Brass players was seeing the Canadian Brass in concert in my Jr high school back in the mid 1970's. They did a lot of schools on thier circuit back then. Anyway they had all these beautiful Gold horns and thier sound was that of Gods (so I thought at the time). Needless to say that everyone joined band and had Gold Trumpets the following day.
Silver horns back then were a rarity and a lot of kids wanted them. I didnt like the look of them because they reminded me of my Mom's silverware and a lot of my friends at the time felt the same way. There was something special about Gold Laquer with my group of friends because of the way it looked and the way it forced you to polish your horn with a flanelette cloth after each play. That taught me about trumpet maintainence, and I have stuck with Laquer since.
When I saw Miles Davis in 1990 I got into horn playing full time. I switched to a Red Laquered Martin Committee in 2001 and have stayed there since. I think that Trumpet Playing (specially today) is so highly competative that you need something that sets you apart from the crowd, unlike when we were kids and went with the crowd. And my Red Martin does that for me.
I am a freelance trumpet player and of course still like to do marching work every now and again, and in that line you will run into some puratins who want Gold, so I have an old Yamaha gold horn I use for those type of gigs. But 99% of the freelance work I do is with my Red Martin.
Back to the Gold VS Silver. Today it is a totally different scene with kids in schools. There is a new wave of kids that want raw brass because of the way it looks and how it doesnt show flaws like silver. Also Raw Brass is a big thing because of companys like Monette who started the whole raw brass movement in the late 1980's and have had endless imatations
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Holton Heim # 2 Mouthpiece
Rick AKA Trumpet Man
Why silver? I think it is cost vs. durability. Silver is not for everyone, but it is a tough metal that does not cost 2 arms and 3 legs.
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Cost, pure $120 /100g
Cost, pure $4400/100g
Cost, pure $13,000 /100g
C - Harrelson 750 Modified Bach Strad
Picc - Schilke P5-4
Flugel - Kanstul ZKF1525
Bb - Bach Strad 180ML-37
Bb - Bach Strad LT 180L-43
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