Are Silver Plated Saxophones Good? (Honest Truth)

Are Silver Plated Saxophones Good
Written by Corey Morgan

It’s a general knowledge that the finishes of musical instruments (in this case, saxophones) can alter their sounds greatly. It’s considered as one of the basic pieces of knowledge you should have up your sleeves before going on to buy a saxophone.

Therefore, just by knowing the finish of a saxophone, you can predict how dark and rich its tone will be. Gold plated and silver plated saxophones are most common in recent times or lacquer.

However, we’ll place a particular emphasis on silver plated saxophones. Read till the end let’s find out if silver plated saxophones are good or not.

Why Use Silver Plated Saxophones?

  • The sound of silver is highly subtle, and the range that it possesses is just remarkable.
  • Due to the lack of lacquer coating, silver-plated saxophones have a tendency to produce a sound that is a little brighter and with a little more power for the same amount of effort. Instruments that are silver-plated may eventually tarnish, but they can be maintained so that they always look brand new with a few simple techniques.
  • Silver plate is not as widely used as gold lacquer, but it is more durable than the latter. On the other hand, due to oxidation, silver plates require more frequent cleaning.

What’s The Disadvantage Of Using Silver-plated Saxophones?

  • The disadvantage of silver is that it quickly becomes tarnished when exposed to air and moisture, which necessitates more careful handling than other metals. It is common practice to apply a lacquer to silver in order to assist in maintaining its appearance; nevertheless, doing so will result in the loss of some of the personality that silver is famous for.
  • Silver-plated saxophones are relatively more expensive.

Why Do Gold Plated Saxophones Always Have Silver Plating Underneath?

One micron of silver can be found underneath the gold plating on every one of my vintage horns, including the ones that have gold plating. Although it is constantly present, it is significantly thinner than the gold plating that is actually being used.

The major purpose of plating a layer of silver or nickel onto the brass first is so that the layer can function as a barrier. In such a case, the zinc will leach from the brass into the gold, which will cause the thin gold layer to tarnish in the same way as the bare brass does.

Additionally, having a silver-plating underneath gold-plated saxophones aids in the bonding of the gold to the brass, making it less likely that the gold will flake off as easily as it would otherwise.

Related: Do Vintage Saxophones Sound Better

What Factors Can Affect The Sound Of My Silver-plated Saxophone?

There are 3 major factors that can affect the sound of your saxophone. Let’s review them accordingly:

  • Geometry

This attribute is the one that has the greatest impact on the sound produced by a saxophone. Pressure pulses are produced as a result of the rapid opening and closing of the reed as it vibrates.

These pressure pulses cause the air column within the tube to resonate at a specific fundamental frequency. This is the source of the sound that humans are able to hear.

Additionally, the air column resonates at frequencies that correspond to fractions of the air column at the same time.

These contribute some of the harmonic content to the music that we experience, not as separate notes but rather as a colouring of the fundamental note. The fundamental contribution that the tube makes to the sound can shift significantly depending on the position and size of the tone holes, as well as the geometry (or form) and volume of the tube.

Saxophones with a small bore, such as the Selmer Serie III, produce a tone that is noticeably brighter. Large bore saxophones, such as the Keilwerth SX-90(R) and the Rampone & Cazzani, produce a sound that is both warmer and more forceful in its fundamental component.

When it comes to soprano saxophones, curved designs provide a sound that is deeper, throatier, and more saxophone-like than straight designs, which produce a more pure tone overall. Geometry is that single factor that can make almost all the difference there is in the sound produced by your saxophone.

  • Material

The body of the saxophone, along with all of the pieces that are attached to the body, vibrates because vibrations in the column of air cause them to. These vibrations offer more harmonic content to the final recipe of sound, which is what we recognise as the distinctive unique sound of a saxophone.

The presence of high harmonics is one factor that contributes to the brightness of a saxophone’s sound. Warmer, deeper, and more sensuous tones will be produced by a saxophone that has a fundamental tone that is forceful and harmonics that are relatively less powerful.

A horn that contains more harmonic content will have a more vibrant tone. If there is an excessive amount of harmonic content, the sound may become jagged, tinny, and even grating.

This is the sound that student horns make since their construction is often quite thin and they are made of lightweight and inexpensive metals. On the other side, if there is insufficient harmonic content, the horn will have a very gloomy sound that is devoid of any strength.

A solid nickel-silver alloy is used in the construction of the most recent version of the Keilwerth SX-90R. (an alloy containing nickel, zinc and copper). This alloy is tougher than brass, and it adds a great richness of high harmonics on top of the otherwise dark fundamental tone that is created by the SX90R.

  • Finishes

Finishes are the third most important factor that can alter the sound of your saxophone. Lacquered finishes for example give saxophones a warmer tone just like your silver-plated saxophones are assumed to sound fuller and richer than other saxophones with different plated materials.