Silver plated saxophones

Silver plated saxophones DEFAULT

IMG_1557Finally, there is a restoration procedure that truly restores! By integrating plating prep and mechanical restoration, the Sax ProShop has developed a new technique for restoring and refinishing saxophones.
The Silver Uberhaul: The replating is done in conjunction with your Uberhaul. It includes all of the same goodness of the Uberhaul, and it will look better than ever with a satin silver finish and gold wash in the bell.

Who would benefit from silver plating?

  • The original silver plate has worn away, with many patches of bare brass showing
  • You believe the lacquer on your saxophone muffles its resonance
  • The current lacquer is flaking away or gone
  • The saxophone was poorly re-lacquered at some point in the past
  • You’re a star, and your horn needs to dazzle as much as your playing

Why Are Our Re-plates So Good?

In the band instrument repair industry, it is normal to repair saxophones mechanically, and then they are buffed until shiny. Buffing can be a damaging process, and it can undo some of the work that the technician just did. In these cases, it will look fantastic once plated, but is mechanically out-of-whack. Technicians in high-volume shops don’t always have much choice in the manner, as many need to do the process quickly in order to keep up with work load and keep prices lower.

The advantage of the Sax ProShop is that since we complete our work assembly line style, we were able to fully integrate the plating process in with the Uberhaul. The end result after much research and hard work is that every single step along the way has been carefully considered in relation to what happens before and after.

Because the process of buffing is damaging, we have made the decision that we only offer satin finish which doesn’t remove any metal. A select few spots, such as the engraved area, the insides of the bell, and body bands will be polished and then masked off before the satin finish is applied. The satin finish makes the select bright highlights and engraving stand out and shine.

Once all of the body work and key work has been completed in the Uberhaul process, the bright highlights are polished and the bell is re-engraved. Next, the engraving and smooth highlights are masked and the body is given a classic satin finish with our proprietary blend of media. The media does not remove metal from the body: it simply changes the surface of it. At this point, the tone holes are leveled and the instrument is cleaned and ready for plating. With every single bit of work done carefully and meticulously already, the ONLY thing that happens at the plater is the actual application of silver to the keys, neck, and body. Everything comes back fitting exactly as it did when it was sent out, and the Uberhaul process continues as usual.

Our unique and proprietary refinishing service extends the life of an instrument and makes it a work of art, so at the end of your Uberhaul, your saxophone looks just as good as it sounds.

The Process:
Remove Springs
Strip Lacquer
Level Pad Cups
Cut Buff Keys
Straighten Body
Remove Dents
Add Modifications (if desired)
Remove Bell
Cut & Color Buff Bell & Smooth Highlights
Mask Smooth Highlights
Send Bell To Engraver (2 Weeks Turnaround)
Align Posts/Straighten Keys
Reattach Bell
Remove Old Pearls & Fit New Pearls
Key Fitting
Add Materials
Dry Fitting
Color Buff Keys, Degrease, Test Fit
Mask Engraving, Bell, and Smooth Highlights
Final Test Fit
Level Tone Holes
Pack Body & Keys for Plating
Send to Plater (2 Weeks Turnaround)
Unpack and Check
Install New Pearls
Install Springs
Continue with Materials, Padding, Set-Up, and Tuning and Toning for Silver Uberhauls


Plating a Saxophone by Curt Altarac

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Historically, players are fearful of re-plated and re-lacquered horns.  They have their saxophone reconditioned and it comes back to them looking beautiful but laden with strange issues and doesn't play well anymore. Even though it was just overhauled, the player is left saying the sentence players and technicians fear most: “It played better before”.  In the marketplace, people inspect the instrument, scouring the engraving looking for signs that the engraving has been buffed, or for signs that the engraving was re-cut, and they look at the body bands and the serial numbers, looking for evidence of heavy buffing, and search for lacquer on pearls and even on leather pads. Many of us have become experts in spotting re-lacquered horns because we all know if it's re-lacquered, the chances are very high that the condition is worse than it looks.

There are a number of reasons why these reconditioning jobs have earned a bad reputation, but it's a complicated issue.  Before I figured out a way to incorporate re-plating into the assembly line style Uberhaul, I used to discourage customers from getting their horns refinished.  What really mattered was that the horn played great and felt great. However, my customers kept asking for silver plating, so that led me to do a lot of research and experimenting until I could figure out a way to do it that didn't affect the quality of the Uberhaul.  Incorporating the plating process helped us zero in on the exact points where issues occur. In this article, I will discuss the issues with refinishing and what I did to mitigate those issues when I incorporated it into the Uberhaul assembly line.

If you are a technician, you may want to modify the process to fit a one-person overhaul. However, as you know, the order of things has a reason and I believe it may be the secret to doing good work. Please understand the order listed below and know why a particular job is not in what might seem to be the obvious place before moving that job in your course of overhauling a saxophone.

The Tradition of Refinishing

No doubt, the artistry and aesthetics of a saxophone's design and finish can be powerful.  Whether they realize it or not, the audience's perception of the sound can be influenced by what they see.  Some players love their saxophone to shine like a jewel from the stage, while others appreciate that their horn looks aged, well and often used, with battle scars to prove it.

Aside from aesthetics, some players have theories about whether lacquer chokes the vibrations and overtones of their instrument, so they will have the lacquer stripped or will leave it bare after existing lacquer wears away.

I personally believe that it's not healthy for your hands to be in frequent direct contact with bare brass.  It's also not great for a bare saxophone to be in contact with hands.  Bare brass will tarnish over time, eventually leading to corrosion, pitting, and wear, which compromises the integrity of the brass.  Depending on the pH balance of the player's sweat and saliva, this corrosion and pitting can be sped up greatly as the acids interact with the brass.

It is preferable for these reasons to not have a bare brass horn, but lacquer is not always preferred by players. In addition to sonic concerns, the process of buffing the entire body of a saxophone prior to refinishing removes brass, which can affect the overall stability of the body and potentially affect the sound of the instrument.

This thought process can lead a player to consider plating with a precious metal. Plating is both more expensive and more challenging to get right, which is why many saxophones were originally offered in both bare brass or lacquer as the more affordable option, and silver or gold plated for the artist models.

When considering re-plating an instrument that has been used and is in poor enough cosmetic condition to warrant consideration for refinishing, the decision to have the finish in smooth or satin is very important. Consider that brass is metal and a scratch is a long gouge in the surface of the metal. To remove the scratch is impossible: you must actually remove the metal from the scratch as deep as the scratch. You removed the scratch by removing the metal around it.

The purpose of buffing is to remove the scratches and leave the surface smooth and shiny. Think about a soft wheel packed with an abrasive substance working down the surface of the brass. It will also remove metal from the base of the scratch. Because of this imprecise nature of buffing, more material must be removed than just that which will eliminate the scratch. The result is a thin and sometimes wavy surface. To combat this, a good buffer will make sure to use a course buff and quickly remove surface metal and then at the right time, switch to a softer wheel and a milder abrasive. This is better but it still has the problems of buffing. Instead of this, many use a large belt sander. This will not remove metal from the base of a scratch or from the low spots on a rippled surface. It will only remove the top of the brass and work it down to the base of the scratch or level off that rippled area. Somehow taking a belt sander to your instrument suddenly seems like the safe approach.

When we sandblast an instrument for a satin finish, there is no buffing on the blasted parts, which is more than 90% of the surface area of the body. It is unnecessary because surface imperfections are lost in the satin finish. After blasting many saxophones, the media in the blasting unit shows no sign of brass dust or any brass loss. Buffing wheels, however, can easily get “loaded up with brass”. For this reason, I purchased a sandblaster and recommend a satin finish.

Traditionally, a saxophone is prepared for plating by one of two methods.  The first is that the technician does all of the bodywork, key fitting and sends the body, neck, and keys to the plater.  The plater does the preparation work: the body and keys are stripped of any remaining lacquer, cut buffed, and color buffing. The bell is engraved either in-house or sent off to an engraver and returned. The body and keys are then electroplated with silver or gold, wrapped up, and sent back to the technician.

The other common way is that the technician does the preparation work, including stripping the lacquer, buffing, sending the horn off for engraving, and then packing the body and keys up to send to the plater.  The plater simply electroplates the keys and body and sends them back.

What Goes Wrong?

There are a number of problems that can and often do occur during that process that damage the instrument.  During the first scenario where the plater is doing the prep work, buffing damage is the biggest issue.

Damage to Keys

The very process of buffing after key fitting was completed effectively undoes a lot of the key fitting work.  Keys get bent if they get caught wrong by the buffing wheel or if the person doing the work is handling them with force. Large pad cups are distorted by the pressure of the buff. The ends of the keys, which have already been carefully fit, get rounded off or shortened during buffing.  These problems are left because the plater has neither the time nor the money to check the fit of the keys after buffing.  In fact, they don’t even have any of the screws or rods to assemble the horn.

Damage to the Body

Next, when the body is buffed, damage occurs.  Posts get moved and postfaces get altered, level tone holes become unleveled, and the body can, and often does, get bent.  These problems are also not addressed at this point. Identifying these problems is not within the scope of the plater's job.

Engraving Damage

The process of engraving involves holding the horn in your lap very securely or putting in into a jig or pressing it into a stand. A variety of metal engravers are used, sometimes even by tapping with a mallet to cut the design into the brass bell. These processes can bend the body, move posts, unleveled tone holes, and bend or oval the bell.

Other Problems

Even if the technician does all of the preparation work themselves, checks it, and corrects any issues before sending to the plater, things can still go wrong.  The keys can get bent during shipping if not packed well.  A key could get dropped or scratched while at the plater and they will buff it to fix it, making it susceptible to buffing damage.

After the plating, the horn and keys return from the plater looking like beautiful jewelry, glistening in silver or gold.  The springs must be reinstalled at this point, which requires using metal tools and force which can cause posts to move.

Reassembling the Saxophone

Now the technician must reassemble the saxophone.  Inevitably, keys are not going to fit perfectly as they did before going to the plater. Some are bent and they bind once the rod is inserted through.  Silver now covers the key ends, so some keys no longer fit between the posts. Silver has coated the threads inside the posts, so screws no longer fit.  Silver is inside the hinge tubes so the rods no longer fit in their keys. Posts have often been moved or the body has become bent by buffing, further complicating the key fit.

The technician can find their self in a predicament: doing the work to make everything fit properly again and fixing the buffing damage will mar the fresh silver plate and the customer will notice.  Many times a technician is forced to choose to not cause cosmetic damage. So now, the technician is left installing bent keys over unleveled tone holes on a slightly bent body and trying to make it all work.

It's no wonder that when the player picks up the instrument after all this work, they might have complaints about how it plays.  A frustrated technician might blame the plater, but even if they cared about issues like key fitting and level tone holes, the plater has little they can do to check the work as a technician would. It's clear from this synopsis that refinishing doesn't work well with traditional methods.

Developing Our Plating Process

Knowing all of the pitfalls of the plating process helped us to incorporate plating preparation into the assembly line process of the Uberhaul.  Our goal was to put every step in an order where no job would undo work that was already done. This is something that required some trial and error, but after running a number of saxophones through this process, we have a great working order that nearly yields the results we were after.

An Uberhaul with Full Cosmetic Restoration

  1. Disassemble the instrument.
  1. Straighten body, remove dents, correct any body damage, align the top and bottom stack posts, and level the pad cups.
  1. Complete any modifications that might affect the bow or bell keys.
  1. Buff around and in the engraving on the bell where no satin finish will be applied. Do not remove all scratches as we consider these little imperfections in the shiny engraving “vintage charm”. Leaving vintage charm in the shiny engraving saves the instrument a lot of buffing or worse, sanding. Coarse buff and color buff the inside of the bell leaving vintage charm as needed.
  1. Remove the bell and send to engraver if applicable.  Removing the bell prevents the engraver from unwittingly damaging the body or posts. We do a lot of our engraving in-house now.
  1. After the bell is engraved, mask it off the engraving to protect it. We prefer Nitto tape.
  1. Assemble the bell and bow, checking for alignment and roundness.
  1. Complete the rest of modifications.
  1. Cut buff the keys- this is the most invasive buffing process, and is ideal to do before fitting the keys.
  1. Dryfitting- This is where a lot of the major key bending will occur to set up the timing, as well as orienting the pad cups over the tone holes, and setting the keys up to leave the appropriate amount of room for the selected materials.
  1. Key fitting- This station will be completed in two phases, so certain steps are not brought to a finished state before the plating. The final fitting, such as facing the key ends and posts, will occur later.
  1. Check tone holes for levelness, and correct any serious issues that require dentwork, but do not level the tone holes at this point.
  1. Cut buff and color buff all parts of the body that will be bright highlights with a handheld buffer: the receiver, thumb rest, guards, body bands, etc.  This gentle process will help avoid posts getting moved.
  1. Color buff keys.
  1. Check all keys and make corrections if any keys got bent, followed by a touch up color buffing.
  1. Mask off all bright highlights, post faces, and double check that the engraving is masked appropriately.
  1. Sandblast- We choose to finish horns by sandblasting because it removes very little if any, brass from the horn.  It also helps mask minor imperfections in the brass that would otherwise need to be sanded and cut buffed.
  1. Level tone holes.
  1. Remove the masking and reassemble keys to make sure they still fit and make adjustments as needed.
  1. Keys and body are cleaned, wrapped, and sent to the plater with instructions.

Post Plating: 2 weeks later, the horn comes back from the plater looking beautiful.

  1. Key fitting- the key fitting process is continued at this point.  Silver plating will have added some length to the ends of the keys, added material to the post faces, coated the inside of hinge tubes, and coated the threads inside the posts.  Post faces and keys are faced, hinge tubes are reamed and lapped, threads are re-cut.  Anything that might have gotten bumped or bent at the plater is fixed, even at the potential expense of using a tool on fresh plating.  This portion of key fitting takes a full 8 hours.
  1. Tone holes are rechecked- the plating does not always go on evenly, so some light leveling may be necessary to bring the tone holes back to perfectly level.

This is the point where our Technician Plating Special ends- the horn is returned to the technician to finish the job for their customer.  We offer this to technicians so they can complete their customer's overhaul without the hassle and pitfalls of the plating process.

  1. Springs are reinstalled.  This is the one step that has a potential to move posts, but we have yet to find a way around that.  Keys are checked for fit after the springs are installed, and any slightly misaligned post is corrected. We only install gold plated needle springs in new silver instruments because they are so beautiful.
  1. Now the Uberhaul continues as normal.  Materials and pads are installed, the pads are leveled, the horn is set up and then tuned and toned.

More Thoughts On Replating

It’s interesting to consider some of the things that refinishing does to an instrument. You may think of things that you think change the instrument such as removing metal, cleaning, the application of more metal on an instrument, the sound bouncing off silver and gold, buffing, thinning, changing metal hardness by sandblasting, changing the inside and outside surface by sandblasting. This list goes on and is only limited by your thoughtfulness and imagination. Many have asked me if adding plating changes the sound of a sax; more than most people alive, I should be capable of answering that question. Many players report that their instrument plays better than ever when it's returned, and many blame the plating for this. We are unsure of why these instruments play so well and assume it’s the work that goes into them. Certainly, they are more valuable and their life is extended and not compromised by this work. All that said, I can tell you that this process of plating in this particular order definitely improves the tone and response of an instrument, in addition to the type of work that goes into an Uberhaul. With this comprehensive process, we have created a safe, reliable way to offer to refinish. It is a process that continues to evolve as we seek to always improve our execution and further streamline the process.

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How I Polish Silver Saxophones

Conn 8M C-Melody with "Naked Lady" engraving, overhauled by me.

Conn 8M C-Melody with “Naked Lady” engraving, overhauled by me.

One of the more common questions I get from someone who has recently browsed my galleries and horns for sale is “How do you polish silver?” or sometimes “How can I polish my saxophone to make it look like yours?”

Well you can’t polish it like I do without a full disassembly and removal of all corks, felts, and pads.  So my way can’t be done outside of an overhaul, but hopefully you will find this instructive and helpful whether you aim to do it yourself or whether you just want to be more informed about the process.


WARNING: Polishing is basically very slow and careful abrasion.  If you don’t know what you are doing, you can do permanent damage to the finish of your horn.  You CANNOT use a polishing liquid or cream or spray on an assembled saxophone- again they are abrasives, and the polish will work its way into your keywork and cause accelerated wear.



Ok, with that said, here’s my process:

I fully disassemble, removing all pads, felts, corks, and hinge rods.  I clean with soap (I use Simple Green in a spray bottle followed by Sal’s Suds on a boar’s hair brush) and hot water, and I use pipe cleaners and q-tips dipped in naptha to remove dried oil and gunk from posts.  This takes a couple of hours.

Any dentwork or soldering that needs done gets done now.  If the horn is getting a mechanical rebuild, that gets done before continuing.  Then I’ll wash again and continue.

Once the horn is completely clean (you can’t polish through grime, only through tarnish),  any particularly rough areas of tarnish will get a spray of 1/4 strength Tarn-X (sulfamic acid aka silver dip) which is quickly rinsed away, or sometimes I’ll do a soak in a very dilute Tarn-X bath- however, sometimes I don’t use it, it depends on the horn.  If I use the silver dip, I follow it with a very thorough repeat of the soap and hot water, rinsing until I’d be willing to drink the runoff.   Either way, at this point I start using nitrile gloves, and don’t again touch the horn with my bare hands.  After washing, dry with an air compressor.

Once the keys are dry and clean and any really tough tarnish has been removed, I spray the horn and keys with Hagerty’s Silversmith spray polish, and polish by hand by ragging with a silver cloth from Allied Supply ( though you can get similar stuff elsewhere) torn into strips maybe 2 feet long and 2 inches wide for the body and 2 inches square for the keys.  I use my hands and fingers most of the time, and really really get into it.

The horn body I mount on a polishing fixture in my vise. The keys I polish in my hands or on a table with a soft cloth underneath, taking great care not to bend or damage anything.  I polish every piece until the spray is gone.  No bit of the spray can remain anywhere.  Tearing the cloth into thin strips and threading it around tough to reach spots is good, as is using fingertips along key spines and other typically very tarnished areas.  Use a fast motion with a good bit of pressure- the faster and more pressure you’ve got, the better it works.  You may have to get creative to get it to reach in nooks and crannies.

Finally, I usually go over it the really tough to reach spots next to the key spines and next to posts with a Dremel-mounted silicone polish wheel (I use the pink ultra fine found here)on a low speed setting.  When the horn is finally fully polished, then repeat the soap and hot water wash, followed by a rinse until you’d drink the runoff and then dry with an air compressor.

The soap and hot water wash at the end is extremely important- the “tarnish preventative” in most polishes leaves a greasy, dull finish full of tarnish particulate from the polishing process. When you wash at the end, you will be astounded to see the water coming off black until it eventually becomes clear.

Then its padwork time- again, done with gloves on.

This polishing process described above takes me a full day or more of constant work, and I’ll be sweaty at the end of it.  Often I’ll polish the keys at night while watching a movie if the cleaning and/or body polishing took me a while to get right.  Nothing really too special about it, its just a lot of work, and not everyone wants to pay for a full day of labor to do what can be done 60% of the way by a silver dip alone in about 5% of the time.

My process for gold plate is basically the same, but minus the Tarn-X (it will thin the plate considerably, so avoid it) and a bit gentler on the polishing pressure and speed since its a softer metal.  Do NOT polish gold until you are certain you have cleaned it extremely well- gold is non-reactive, and although the gold used to plate instruments is typically alloyed, a lot of the “tarnish” you see can dirt/grime/grease.   And since gold is soft and typically a thin layer (with the exception of some of the burnished instruments), you want to keep polishing to a minimum.   


See photos below for examples of the process and results.  All horns in the photos are original plate, and none of them started out pretty.  Click to enlarge.  The Conn alto before and after have HUGE photos so you can really see detail and judge for yourself.


Keys cleaned and sprayed with polish, awaiting polishing.

Keys cleaned and sprayed with polish, awaiting polishing.


Horn body mounted on polishing fixture, mid polish, viewed through my magnifying lamp.

Horn body mounted on polishing fixture, mid polish.


The type of ragging motion you'll be doing do the horn mounted on the fixture.

The type of ragging motion you’ll be doing do the horn mounted on the fixture.


Final rinse of polished keys. These are underwater, in case its not clear. Seriously, if you wouldn't be willing to drink the runoff then the keys aren't clean enough.

Final rinse of polished keys. These are underwater, in case its not clear. Seriously, if you wouldn’t be willing to drink the runoff then the keys aren’t clean enough.


Conn 6M before cleaning and polishing.

Conn 6M before cleaning and polishing.



That same Conn 6M after cleaning and polishing.

That same Conn 6M after cleaning and polishing.




A gold plated Conn New Wonder Series II soprano I overhauled (and polished).

A gold plated Conn New Wonder Series II soprano I overhauled (and polished).  Process is basically the same MINUS the Tarn-X and also a little gentler with the pressure and speed of hand-polishing.


Selmer Super (Balanced) Action that I overhauled and polished.

Selmer Super (Balanced) Action in silver plate that I overhauled and polished.


All that said, plated horns- particularly silver horns- will tarnish.  You can retard the tarnishing process by storing the horn wrapped in anti-tarnish silver cloth or keeping anti-tarnish strips in the case, but if you touch the horn, rest assured it will tarnish.  I advise my customers to just keep the horn clean and let the rest happen naturally and we can polish it again in 7-10 years when the pads need replaced.

Given the difficult nature of the work, I have tried to develop a sort of monk-like mentality it- in particular, about the fact that as soon as I am done the work, the work is being undone.  In fact, I am the only person who ever sees the horns I polish look as good as I can make them look.  I like to think of these:

Selmer Series III Silver Plated Tenor Saxophone

The music industry is filled with opinions.

One of the problems with opinions is that you never know for sure whose opinion is the most reliable.  Many times, people form their opinions based more on emotion and small-scale testing rather than factual evidence and large-scale testing which can lead to an opinion that is not necessarily right, but might not be wrong either.

Note: I am not going to present scientific evidence and claim to be 100% right but rather will speak from a larger scale experience than most can claim. I do not profess that I will give you undisputable answer to this question but I am going to give you my opinion based on my experience and further will give you a possible explanation behind the differing opinions on this subject.

So if you want a definitive scientific answer, stop reading. If you want someone who will talk sense and give you an explanation that will make sense … keep reading!

Understanding the “Sound of a Saxophone”

First and foremost, we need to understand that there is not one single “sound” as it relates to the saxophone. In fact, there are 2 ways to look at the “sound” of the saxophone as it relates to this discussion and we need to create a separation of the term “sound” as it relates to saxophones. In my opinion, this is actually the core culprit behind the difference in opinions on this debate. There are :

  • Out in Front of the Sax
  • Behind the Sax

Out in Front: this is the position of someone listening to another player play the saxophone. This person, whether they are 5 feet away or 50 feet away, is only going to hear what I like to call the “true sound” of the saxophone; the vibration of the air column that exits the horn interpreted by their ears/brain. ALL this person hears is the sound.

Behind the Sax: this is the actual sax player. Due to their proximity to the sax, they have a very different relationship and hear a different version of this sound than the person out in front. Additionally, the player has an extra set of influences from the saxophone that will impact their perception of the sound. Some of these variables include vibration in their hands as they hold and operate the horn, vibration in their teeth from the top of the mouthpiece and the physical feel of the vibration of the horn as it impacts their body.

The problems with testing…

The other issue with this argument as I mentioned at the start of the post is that there is a general lack of large group testing. Most opinions on this concept are based on a small batch group of testing that the player/person making the opinion has personally experienced.

There are also issues of consistency relative to the instruments used in testing that can GREATLY impact the person’s opinion and many times these issues are not accounted for. For instance, if they tested a lacquered sax and then another silver plated sax, are they 100% sure that everything else about the saxophones were 100% identical? Were they both perfectly setup and regulated? Did they have absolutely the identical key height? What about the fit of the neck? These issues (and many more) can have huge bearings on the performance of the saxophone and yet are not commonly considered by the end-user.

My testing examples…

So in an attempt to try to eliminate as much of these variables as possible, my testing references were Yanagisawa saxophones. I choose Yanagisawa saxophones because they manufacture their saxophones to the highest quality and consistency on the sax market. Furthermore, we have had a large sampling of Yanagisawa saxophones over the years as my family music store (shameless plug time) Kessler & Sons Music has been one of if not the largest Yanagisawa dealer in the USA for MANY years.

Over those years, we have had pretty much every finish & every option possible come through our doors, specifically though, we have had the A991 come through in virtually every finish possible. So every time we would get a unique finish (or lack of finish in the case of the un-lacquered, bare brass version), we would do some side by side testing. This side by side test has then been repeated on separate occasions with different production batches that verified the findings.

Please once again keep in mind that this is just my opinion. If you feel strongly against my opinion, I understand and I am not saying you are wrong or even that I am right, just rather sharing an opinion.

The Findings…

The most common testing instruments were the A991 (lacquered) vs. A991-UL (un-lacquered) vs. A991-S (silver plated). There have of course been plenty of other testing subjects from Selmer Paris, Keilwerth and the myriad of other intermediate saxophones as well as our own Kessler Custom saxophones. But for the purpose of this blog, I focus on the Yanagisawa saxes and what we found was this:

  • Out in Front: No Difference At All
  • Behind the Horn: HUGE Difference…

This test was repeated with many different horns, using multiple players and in different environments. Furthermore, many times a player would first start out as a listener or vice versa and then would switch positions and either play or listen. This way they could experience both sides of the sound. The perception was the same that while they were PLAYING the sax, the felt that there was a noticeable difference but when they moved to the position of listening to someone else play, they could not hear a discernible difference.

I would argue that the “true sound” of the saxophone, the vibration of the air column as it leaves the instrument and that vibration as it is heard by someone else’s ears, is not going to impacted by a cosmetic finish. However, all of the additional sensory input that the player receives behind the saxophone while playing can be impacted.

In the testing scenario above, when someone was playing the horn, they felt that the Un-Lacquered was brightest & edgiest, the Silver Plate was bright but a bit more refined and that the Lacquered was the mellowest but didn’t feel quite as “alive” in their hands compared to the others. I would argue that the un-lacquered and silver plated finish provide an “all metal” contact with the player (whereas a lacquered horn, the player is not directly in contact with the metal of the sax) thus allowing the “feel” of increased vibration whereas the lacquered finish would slightly dampen that same “feel”.

We have also tested the 992 (bronze model, lacquered) vs. the 992PG (bronze model, Pink Gold Plated – a plating consisting of 80% gold and 20% silver) on alto, tenor and soprano and on each occasion found that the PG option sounded the same out in front but behind the horn felt more lively and a bit richer in tone.

End Result and Opinion

I am of the opinion that the finish of the saxophone really does not impact the sound as heard by the audience but it absolutely can effect the perception of the saxophone’s sound to the performer. Furthermore, when you combine that concept with my original precepts of “The Saxophone Sound Equation“, I can argue that since the saxophone’s actual impact on PLAYING the saxophone is more for the benefit of the player rather than the audience, then logically the perceptual impact of the performance generated by the finish will only build on the player’s ability to project outward the sound that they have in their own head.

Unfortunately, many of the finishes come with a negative impact in either maintenance to the cosmetics via tarnishing (un-lacquered, silver plate, pink gold, rose gold) or in actual production cost (anything with the word gold in it). Some finishes also show wear and use worse than others (black lacquer where scratches can be bright brass scratches on your black finish). These reasons are the primary reason why I lean towards the standard lacquered finish. It is low cost, easy maintenance and in my opinion, really doesn’t make that much of an impact to the sound anyways. 😉

(Updated after posting to add clarification on statement)

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Saxophones silver plated

Woodwind Instrumentation Codes

Following many of the titles in our Wind Ensemble catalog, you will see a set of numbers enclosed in square brackets, as in this example:

Quintet in Bb [1011-1 w/piano]
Item: 26746

The bracketed numbers tell you the precise instrumentation of the ensemble. The first number stands for Flute, the second for Oboe, the third for Clarinet, the fourth for Bassoon, and the fifth (separated from the woodwinds by a dash) is for Horn. Any additional instruments (Piano in this example) are indicated by "w/" (meaning "with") or by using a plus sign.

Flute   Oboe   Clarinet   Bassoon   —   Horn

This woodwind quartet is for 1 Flute, no Oboe, 1 Clarinet, 1 Bassoon, 1 Horn and Piano.

Sometimes there are instruments in the ensemble other than those shown above. These are linked to their respective principal instruments with either a "d" if the same player doubles the instrument, or a "+" if an extra player is required. Whenever this occurs, we will separate the first four digits with commas for clarity. Thus a double reed quartet of 2 oboes, english horn and bassoon will look like this:


Note the "2+1" portion means "2 oboes plus english horn"

Titles with no bracketed numbers are assumed to use "Standard Instrumentation." The following is considered to be Standard Instrumentation:

  • Duo - Flute & Clarinet - or [1010-0]
  • Trio - Flute, Oboe & Clarinet - or [1110-0]
  • Quartet - Flute, Oboe, Clarinet & Bassoon - or [1111-0]
  • Quintet - Flute, Oboe, Clarinet, Bassoon & Horn - [or 1111-1]

Brass Instrumentation Codes

Following many of the titles in our Brass Ensemble catalog, you will see a set of five numbers enclosed in square brackets, as in this example:

Fanfare for the Common Man [343.01 w/tympani]
Item: 02158

The bracketed numbers tell you how many of each instrument are in the ensemble. The first number stands for Trumpet, the second for Horn, the third for Trombone, the fourth (separated from the first three by a dot) for Euphonium and the fifth for Tuba. Any additional instruments (Tympani in this example) are indicated by a "w/" (meaning "with") or by using a plus sign.

Trumpet     Horn     Trombone   .   Euphonium     Tuba

Thus, the Copland Fanfare shown above is for 3 Trumpets, 4 Horns, 3 Trombones, no Euphonium, 1 Tuba and Tympani. There is no separate number for Bass Trombone, but it can generally be assumed that if there are multiple Trombone parts, the lowest part can/should be performed on Bass Trombone.

Titles listed in our catalog without bracketed numbers are assumed to use "Standard Instrumentation." The following is considered to be Standard Instrumentation:

  • Brass Duo - Trumpet & Trombone, or [101.00]
  • Brass Trio - Trumpet, Horn & Trombone, or [111.00]
  • Brass Quartet - 2 Trumpets, Horn & Trombone, or [211.00]
  • Brass Quintet - 2 Trumpets, Horn, Trombone & Tuba, or [211.01]
  • Brass Sextet and greater - No Standard Instrumentaion
People often ask us about "PJBE" or "Philip Jones" instrumentation. This is a special instrumentation adopted and perfected by the Philip Jones Brass Ensemble. It consists of the forces 414.01, and often includes Percussion and/or Tympani. In addition, there are often doublings in the Trumpet section - Piccolo and Flugelhorn being the most common. While this instrumentation has come to be common, it is still not "Standard" as many Brass Dectets use very different forces, most often with more Horns than PJBE.

String Instrumentation Codes

Following many of the titles in our String Ensemble catalog, you will see a set of four numbers enclosed in square brackets, as in this example:

Vance's Dance [0220]
Item: 32599

These numbers tell you how many of each instrument are in the ensemble. The first number stands for Violin, the second for Viola, the third for Cello, and the fourth for Double Bass. Thus, this string quartet is for 2 Violas and 2 Cellos, rather than the usual 2110. Titles with no bracketed numbers are assumed to use "Standard Instrumentation." The following is considered to be Standard Instrumentation:

  • String Duo - Viola & Viola - [1100]
  • String Trio - Violin, Viola, Cello - [1110]
  • String Quartet - 2 Violins, Viola, Cello - [2110]
  • String Quintet - 2 Violins, Viola, Cello, Bass - [2111]

Orchestra & Band Instrumentation Codes

Following some titles in our Orchestra & Band catalogs, you will see a numeric code enclosed in square brackets, as in these examples:

 Order QtyDescriptionPrice
Symphony No 1 in C, op 21
[2,2,2,2-2,2,0,0, tymp, 44322]
Wind Band Overture
[2+1,1,3+ac+bc,2,SATB-2+2,4,3+1,1, tymp, percussion, double bass]
Hines Pond Fantasy (DePaolo)
[2d1+1,1,2+1,1-2,2(+2),3,0, perc, tymp, 44322, Eb clarinet, SAATB saxes, trombone solo]

The bracketed numbers tell you the precise instrumentation of the ensemble. The system used above is standard in the orchestra music field. The first set of numbers (before the dash) represent the Woodwinds. The set of numbers after the dash represent the Brass. Percussion is abbreviated following the brass. Strings are represented with a series of five digits representing the quantity of each part (first violin, second violin, viola, cello, bass). Other Required and Solo parts follow the strings:

Woodwinds—Brass,   Percussion,   Strings,   Other

Principal auxilary instruments (piccolo, english horn, bass clarinet, contrabassoon, wagner tuba, cornet & euphonium) are linked to their respective instruments with either a "d" if the same player doubles the auxiliary instrument, or a "+" if an extra player is required. Instruments shown in parenthesis are optional and may be omitted.

Example 1 - Beethoven:

[2,2,2,2-2,2,0,0, tymp, 44322]

The Beethoven example is typical of much Classical and early Romantic fare. In this case, the winds are all doubled (2 flutes, 2 oboes, 2 clarinets and 2 bassoons), and there are two each horns and trumpets. There is no low brass. There is tympani. Strings are a standard 44322 configuration (4 first violin, 4 second violin, 3 viola, 2 cello, 2 bass). Sometimes strings are simply listed as "str," which means 44322 strings.

Example 2 - Jones: (concert band/wind ensemble example)

[2+1,1,3+ac+bc,2,SAATB-2+2,4,3+1,1, tymp, percussion, double bass]

The second example is common for a concert band or wind ensemble piece. This ficticious work is for 2 flutes (plus piccolo), 1 oboe, 3 clarinets plus alto and bass clarinets, 2 bassoons, 5 saxes (soprano, 2 altos, tenor & bari), 2 trumpets (plus 2 cornets), 3 trombones, euphonium, tuba, tympani, percussion and double bass. Note the inclusion of the saxes after bassoon for this band work. Note also that the separate euphonium part is attached to trombone with a plus sign. For orchestral music, saxes are at the end (see Saxophones below. It is highly typical of band sets to have multiple copies of parts, especially flute, clarinet, sax, trumpet, trombone & percussion. Multiples, if any, are not shown in this system. The numbers represent only distinct parts, not the number of copies of a part.

Example 3 - MacKenzie: (a fictional work, by the way).

[2d1+1,1,2+1,1-2,2(+2),3,0, perc, tymp, 66432, Eb clarinet, SAATB saxes, trombone solo]

In the third example, we have a rather extreme use of the system. It is an orchestral work for piccolo, 2 flutes (1 of whom doubles on piccolo), 1 oboe, 2 clarinets plus an additional bass clarinet, 1 bassoon, 2 horns, 2 trumpets (plus an optional 2 cornets), 3 trombones, no tuba, percussion, tympani, 6 first violins, 6 second violins, 4 violas, 3 cellos, 2 double basses, Eb clarinet (as an additional chair, not doubled), 5 saxes (soprano, 2 alto, tenor & baritone) & a trombone soloist.

Note: This system lists Horn before Trumpet. This is standard orchestral nomenclature. Unless otherwise noted, we will use this system for both orchestra and band works (in most band scores, Trumpet precedes Horn, and sometimes Oboe & Bassoon follow Clarinet). Also, it should be noted that Euphonium can be doubled by either Trombone or Tuba. Typically, orchestra scores have the tuba linked to euphonium, but it does happen where Trombone is the principal instead.

Saxophones, when included in orchestral music (they rarely are) will be shown in the "other instrument" location after strings and before the soloist, if any. However for band music, they are commonly present and therefore will be indicated after bassoon as something similar to "SAATB" where S=soprano, A=alto, T=tenor and B=baritone. Letters that are duplicated (as in A in this example) indicate multiple parts.

And finally, here is one more way to visualize the above code sequence:

  • Flute (doubles or with additional Piccolo)
  • Oboe (doubles or with additional English Horn)
  • Clarinet (doubles or with additional Bass Clarinet)
  • Bassoon (doubles or with additional Contrabassoon)
  • Saxophones (band music only, showing SATB voicing)
  • - (dash)
  • Horn (doubles or with additional Wagner Tuba)
  • Trumpet (doubles or with additional Cornet)
  • Trombone (doubles or with additional Euphonium)
  • Tuba (doubles or with additional Euphonium)
  • Percussion
  • Tympani
  • Strings (1st & 2nd Violin, Viola, Cello, Bass)
  • Other Required Parts
  • Soloist(s)
Yamaha YAS 62 Silver Plated Alto Saxophone -

Best care for silver plated saxophone?

  1. Re: Best care for silver plated saxophone?

    Congratulations on your new sax!As far as I know, the silverplated Yamahas do not have lacquer on top of the silver. (I'm going to be buying one of the silverplated YAS-62IIs, and the one I've been looking at is not lacquered.) I have been told to use a silver polishing cloth on it.

    Reply To Post

    1. Re: Best care for silver plated saxophone?

      Im pretty sure that ther 62 has lacquer on it, though i cant be sure.

      Reply To Post

      1. Re: Best care for silver plated saxophone?

        I e-mailed Yamaha about this, since I have the same model. According to them, it does not have laquer on it

        Reply To Post

    2. Re: Best care for silver plated saxophone?

      Go to Ebay and do a Search on Vintage Sax Anti Corrosion Kit.I have a product there that will blow you away.100% money back. Lemme know if you like it.

      Reply To Post

      1. Re: Best care for silver plated saxophone?

        What ever happened to max? If I remember right, he had a couple 50 some posts arguements with Saxman, and a couple others. Did he get banned?

        Reply To Post

        1. Re: Best care for silver plated saxophone?

          Don't forget his rare mark VI's, he had some rare mark VI's. I think mark talke dot him and told him what and idiot he was.

          Reply To Post

      2. Re: Best care for silver plated saxophone?

        Hello, DrvlscoI am no specialist in this area and we just had a link in the sax repair section concerning silver horn's. From my understanding all of the new model silver horn's have a clear coat protection applied. I have the Yani 9930 sterling soprano and they recommend a regular lacquer polishing cloth only. I try to wipe my horn down after every use and swab it out to remove all excessive moisture. I also purchased thru Saxforte the 3m silver anti-tarnish strips. Have no idea how they work but from every thing I have heard they really help fight oxidation. I would have to guess trying to keep in a climate controlled environment would also be a asset. Following these guidelines my soprano still looks perfect. I am very careful using sax stand also knowing Silver is a very soft metal I place a silk cloth over the stand before I place my horn on it. Hope maybe this helped some I am learning by trial and error and just extremely careful. There is a couple of guy's out here that do this for a living so maybe they can shed a little more light on the subject.

        Reply To Post

        1. Re: Best care for silver plated saxophone?

          I use the 3M strips, though those can be bought at various places on line and for significantly less than what saxforte is asking.I think it's good to keep the horn clean from dust as much as possible as dust is actually quite abrasive and silver is quite soft. I use a clean damp cotton rag to gently wipe off the dust and other ickies before I go at it with a polishing rag. And be gentle.Keep the horn in the case with those tarnish strips.

          Reply To Post

      3. Re: Best care for silver plated saxophone?

        It seems I'm the first to reply to this thread in 12 years... I looked up this same question in October 2016 right before I got my brand-new Silver-plated YAS-62iii. I live in SoCal (non-coastal area) and the daily average humidity is 11 percent and we keep the house (internal) temperature at about 72 degrees Fahrenheit year round. First the Silver-plated Yamahas are definitely NOT lacquered. This is very unfortunate and ridiculous in my opinion. The slightest abrasion by "anything" will leave a hair-line scratch(s) on the horn and if makes metal to metal contact it will be a prominent scratch. I used the anti-tarnished strips mentioned in this thread and I don't believe they do a thing. After just 3 months tarnish began showing up, mainly on the neck and around the low-C key. I clean the horn thoroughly after every use and let it sit in the stand for about 2 hours after swabbing to ensure it is completely dry on the inside. Now 8 months old, she shows tarnish more and more. I've cleaned the trash off with the Goddard's Silver Polishing Cloth a few times but it seems this would become a monthly process if I want the horn to stay like-new. I don't believe that is best as it will end up removing the silver at a greatly accelerated rate.

        So, to sum it up - the Silver-plated YAS-62iii plays bright & beautiful, but she will not stay looking like that. If your name is Dave Koz or Mindi Abair then yes, you should have a Silver-plated YAS-62!!!! Otherwise a lacquered, gold-plated horn will be 100 times more easier to maintain its looks.

        UPDATED/EDIT: I put my Hard Rubber Vandoren V16 mouthpiece in my horn case from the very start. It turns out there is sulfur in HR Mpcs... This explains why my new silver horn was tarnishing so fast. Once I pulled the Mouthpiece out and stored it elsewhere, the tarnishing practical stopped! Best FYI I can offer anyone on silver non-lacquered saxophones, took me forever to research/discover that!!!! Cheers!

        Reply To Post

      4. Re: Best care for silver plated saxophone?

        Thanks alot for the advice guys!! I will definately try that! Can't wait till I receive my horn.Take careAdam

        Reply To Post

        1. Re: Best care for silver plated saxophone?

          whatever you do, dont gt it from saxforte, he over charges you by about - 300 fold. And btw, silver doesnt oxidize unless you heat it up really hot, the sulphur in the air is what makes it go. (there are a few others, but sulphur is the main offender.) The strips have some chemical that reacts with the sulphur and absorbs it - I have some hagerties strips - only good on one side, and my sax has looks almost brand new after 2 years, I am sure it would look brand new if I had those strips for the first year.

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          1. Re: Best care for silver plated saxophone?

            "silver doesn't oxidize unless you heat it up really hot"????Apparently my grandmother stored the heirloom chafing dish in the fireplace.

            Reply To Post

            1. Re: Best care for silver plated saxophone?

              Im here in honolulu - got acces to a compYeah you fucking moron, you have to add heat to make silver oxidize, when silver turns black, its from sulphur, not oxygen.

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            2. Re: Best care for silver plated saxophone?

              If this kind of language is going to be tolerated on this forum, I will have to find other things to do with my time.

              Reply To Post

          2. Re: Best care for silver plated saxophone?

            Thanks for the advice saxman!!!

            Reply To Post

          3. Re: Best care for silver plated saxophone?

            WTF? go on ebay and buy a clue saxman.

            Reply To PostYahoo!AIM

            1. Re: Best care for silver plated saxophone?

              LOL, I'm not sure what that was about, but way to stir up a discussion. I'm sure this one will have 600 posts like every other arguement we start.

              Reply To Post

            2. Re: Best care for silver plated saxophone?

              I've heard it's sulfur as well, which makes sense since silver oxide looks significantly different from tarnishI have a question: My (silver) YTS62S tenor is starting to tarnish. It took a little while for me to catch it, I thought my lighting was bad, or that it was just reflecting the brass of my old brass student alto next to it. My tenor is starting to show just a little bit of a bronzy hue, and I want to clean it up ASAP and as gently as I can. Any suggestions?

              Reply To Post

            3. Re: Best care for silver plated saxophone?

              Just go at it with a silver polishing cloth for a couple of hours, and put more thought into where you are storing your intstrument, and i dont really understand how, but those tarnish strip work really well.

              Reply To Post

          4. Re: Best care for silver plated saxophone?

            I got one of those. They're freakin awesome! Mines unlacquered though.

            Reply To Post

            1. Re: Best care for silver plated saxophone?

              hey golferguy just got a quick question- are u letting your unlacquered horn oxidate or are you trying to keep it in that shiny unlacquered horn look? jw.

              Reply To PostAIM

              1. Re: Best care for silver plated saxophone?

                wow...those posts were from a long time ago - hehehe- my bad!

                Reply To PostAIM

                1. Re: Best care for silver plated saxophone?

                  Go to eBay and check out "vintage sax anti corrosion kit".I have a "VCI" (vapor, corrosion, inhibitor) kit you can buy cheap that will keep your horn schweet for two years.

                  Reply To Post

                2. Re: Best care for silver plated saxophone?

                  ahhh crap...well...n/m. Just ignore your brass horn and let it get a patina - then your hands won't stink as bad, and it is fuitle to try and keep the brass shiny any ways.

                  Reply To Post

              2. Re: Best care for silver plated saxophone?

                I've let my horn oxidate. -Obviously it's been a while now, and I really am satisfied with the way it looks now. It's got a nice vintage look now. The unlacquered horns resonate much more than any of the lacquered horns, I love it. You still have to polish it from time to time, because the nice vintage patina can tend to want to turn green sometimes.

                Reply To Post


Now discussing:

I remembered myself in my youth. Satisfied with fingers, now an artificial member. It's nicer this way. True, you had to warm it up a little, otherwise, it felt like you were just a stick. His friends came to his birthday.

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