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The Trombone ForumHorns, Gear, and EquipmentInstruments(Moderators: tbone62, slide advantage) Silver Plated Trombones: Why not well accepted?
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Author Topic: Silver Plated Trombones: Why not well accepted?  (Read 12089 times)
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snorsworthy

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« Reply #100 on: Dec 31, 2016, 12:42PM »

Yes. I'd say this thread has scientifically proven that laquer is no bueno...

This is like that other thread that scientifically proved that the Friedman trombone was without a doubt the number one trombone. Then the OP changed slides because the other slide was better.

These crazy threads don't prove anything. The variables that exist with the player outweigh ANY effect that plating or laquer would cause.

Trombonists are in denial...

Wow!!! Someone has a chip on their shoulder, and is prone to put words in the mouth and take everything out of context to get their grudge satisfied, or what? Harrison, stay cool and have fun. Lots of great instruments out there , BUT FEW WHO CAN PLAY THEM WELL.

Hey, Harrison, if you want to make this personal, then put up your audio files of your playing on your website or dropbox and let's hear it. Mine are up!

Steve
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« Reply #101 on: Dec 31, 2016, 12:50PM »

Oooohh!  The gauntlet is thrown down! Amazed
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« Reply #102 on: Dec 31, 2016, 12:50PM »

With all due respect, imo this long winded topic is a bit like contemplating one's own navel.

If you like silver horns, fine. Own one and play it. If you don't, don't.

All the time pontificating could be spent practicing instead.

Again, just my opinion.
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« Reply #103 on: Dec 31, 2016, 12:51PM »

Whoops! I didn't even realize that you had been the OP of that other science thread that backpedaled on its own conclusion. Sorry Steven!

I still think that there can be no conclusive answer on laquer , however.
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« Reply #104 on: Dec 31, 2016, 12:52PM »

now I have received the answer to my question.... some trombonists are in denial about the deadening effects of lacquer. . .

See, now you're just trying to pick a fight. There have been numerous nuanced posts regarding how lacquer might alter sound. No one is "in denial."
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« Reply #105 on: Dec 31, 2016, 12:54PM »

Wow!!! Someone has a chip on their shoulder, and is prone to put words in the mouth and take everything out of context to get their grudge satisfied, or what? Harrison, stay cool and have fun. Lots of great instruments out there , BUT FEW WHO CAN PLAY THEM WELL.

Hey, Harrison, if you want to make this personal, then put up your audio files of your playing on your website or dropbox and let's hear it. Mine are up!

Steve


A tad sensitive?

I didn't interpret his post that way. He just stated his opinion....as you have done. It differs from your opinion, but he didn't attack you. Relax
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« Reply #106 on: Dec 31, 2016, 01:11PM »

A tad sensitive?

I didn't interpret his post that way. He just stated his opinion....as you have done. It differs from your opinion, but he didn't attack you. Relax

Harrison did not realize I was the OP he was sarcastically complaining about, and when he realized it was me, he apologized, so WE'RE GOOD now! NP

And YES, I later found a slide mismatch when I found a 'better' slide match, and I quantified what 'better' meant through scientific measurement and through subjective listener testing.

Steve
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« Reply #107 on: Dec 31, 2016, 01:32PM »

I think that in order to get a useful answer to the original question posed, instead of one based on half-assed notions of how playing expertise and engineering know-how weighs into sweeping statements about long-standing preferences, we need to step far back from the modern trombonists populating this forum to the historical notions of plated and lacquered instruments.

Silver-plating, as a method to preserve the finish and surface integrity of brass instruments, became popular in the second half of the 19th century. This popularity was most prolific in three regions - the British Isles, the United States, and to some degree France. In most cases the rise in use of silver-plated instruments (or to a lesser degree, nickel-plated in the latter part of the century) began the rise of organized demonstration groups: brass bands in the British regions, military bands in the US (especially during and after the Civil War). French military music was in full-swing at the same general time, but their shift to plated instruments was not as wide-spread. I'll focus mainly on the US, since it is the history of instrument making here that influences the industry we know today.

The use of plated instruments at this time was of course not universal within those countries. Instrument manufacturer was not a mass-production effort of standardized assembly and factories as we know it today. Whether or not a particular group was outfitted with plated instruments depended largely on 1) who they were getting their instruments from, and 2) how much they could afford to spend. Some makers made only plated instruments, some makers stuck to the long-standing tradition of unplated brass. Plated instruments typically came from the higher end makers with large markets in central cities. Through most of the 19th century the use of silver-plated instruments was a game of economics. Better funded organizations and individuals who utilized makers of high-repute were more likely to have a plated instrument.

This was a time when modern acoustics as we know it was in its mere infancy. People did not care about decibels or dissipation or doing double-blind tests. They got the instruments they could get from the best maker they could find. This usually meant the best local maker they could find, word-of-mouth recommendations, or simply organizations making bulk orders to outfit an entire band on contract.

Flash forward to around the turn of the 20th century and the landscape of instrument marketing is very different. Large-scale continental manufacturers such as Conn, Pepper, Holton, begin to emerge turning out more brass instruments in this country than were probably imported in the entirety of the previous century. Large-scale operations with in-house plating facilities could turn out instruments at a much more affordable rate than the workshops scattered around the country in past decades. Distribution schemes were improved, transit was becoming much easier, mass communication was on the upswing. The economy was booming. All of these factors influenced the industry. Makers began offering an array of finishes with different levels of silver and gold plating, burnishing, engraving, options that could only be facilitated on the large-scale by factory work. Commercial psychology became more important in the sale of instruments than ever before. Why pay $10 for a sad unplated trombone when for $12 you could have triple-burnished ultra-silver-plating with gold-washed, super-power infused accents? People took the bait.

Not everyone did, not everyone cared. If nobody was buying un-plated instruments, manufacturers wouldn't have always offered it as an option for their brass production. Nevertheless, silver-plating quickly became the dominant finish. This phase lasted for a few decades until the advent of lacquer in the 1930s.


Herein lies the period of question. The big uncertainty. The answers I do not have, but are surely looming out there somewhere. Somehow between ~1930 and ~1950, preferences for finishes in brass instruments (in the United States, mind you) splintered from a near-universals "silver is great" to silver being standard on some instruments, while lacquer became standard on others. By the 1950s trombones, especially those made for symphonic work, band work, and the numerous other 'non-jazz' scenes shifted to the lacquer side of the spectrum. Saxophones seem to have followed the same trend. What is the root of this trend? What happened in the late 1930s and 1940s that changed everything? There haven't been any back-and-forth shifts in the industry since that point, so clearly the continued preference for non-silver trombones is not a strict result of modern evaluation. The answers to the original question posted are answers from that time, not modern ones. Maybe someone here has a better idea of where to look for them? For all the archival searching I have done with 20th century American manufacturers, topics of finishes seem scarce in the documentary evidence.

My only inclination of broad changes in the band instrument world during that time are the rise of student-model instruments, organized large-scale brass instrument instruction in primary education...Could the economics of low-end instrument production had a hand in the matter? If so, wouldn't the same effects have been carried over to all brass instruments, not trombones selectively? If it was a matter of successful marketing, the great-amazing-new-lacquer would have won in more markets. Lacquered instruments were substantially cheaper at their introduction. Somehow, the combination of affordability, aesthetics, aural compromise, and availability of lacquered instruments from US manufacturers in the 1930s-1950s resonated more with trombonists than some other instrumental groups.  Don't know

Threads like this are always interesting as they present a snapshot of contemporary thought across a spectrum of playing types, abilities, and preferences. I imagine if this sort of exchange was readily available from trombonists of the 1940s then the answer to these questions would not remain so elusive.


EDIT: Another thought - through the rise of modern symphony orchestras in the US, the Germanic tradition had more influence on trombone development than any other style. Up until the early 1900s, it was common-place for orchestral trombonists to use imported instruments by workshops such as Penzel and other Leipzig-style derivatives. When American manufacturers began copying and developing these designs in the late 1800s, they were probably not inclined to stray far from the standing expectations of the musicians, which would have been an un-plated instrument. The German designed finally became integrated with American manufacturing and alterations around 1930, the same time that lacquered instruments first appeared. It would have been a very easy transition to switch to lacquered instruments that preserved the aesthetic of the Leipzig models, with their contrasting use of nickel-silver, gold/red brass, etc. As the 'classical' component of American music compounded, the preferences of the upper echelon of the trombone surely had significant down-market effects.
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« Reply #108 on: Dec 31, 2016, 02:14PM »

I know that High School Band preferences for instrument finish are different in different parts of the country.  Seems Southern bands like silver plate while other areas do not.

Corps almost universally like silver plate.

If you look at the pictures of Big Bands through the 1940s you will notice that they all seem to be playing lacquered instruments.

I should point out that 100 years ago there was a treatment of bare brass that almost completely eliminated the tarnishing process.  It was called "Chromating" and used a treatment of a Chromium VI compound which modified the brass surface to prevent oxidation.  Chromating of brass is no longer allowed.  The current issue is related to toxicity of the Chromium VI compounds, but there may have been earlier reasons for the ban.  Maybe a restriction on Chromium for the War effort.  For that matter, silver plating may have also gone away for that reason, and once we got out of the "habit" of using silver plate it did not make a comeback.

Note that this is all conjecture on my part but it seems to make some sense.
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« Reply #109 on: Dec 31, 2016, 02:43PM »

Mr. Pillow asks:

Quote
What happened in the late 1930s and 1940s that changed everything?

The beginnings of modern recording happened.

Radio exploded.

So did Hollywood.

The Swing Era was on us.

It was "hot." "Hot" jazz players almost all played relatively heavy brass instruments. Medium weight at the lightest. Armstrong. Teagarden. Dorsey.(Gold plated) Harry James. All of the Basie/Ellington/Goodman/Miller bands, I believe.

Why?

'Cuz that's what worked best overall in their situations.

Duh.

Ditto in the orchestral field.

Maybe silver plate gave a "dated" sound on the wonderful RCA ribbon mikes they all were using to record. A little...hincty. "Tack!!!" instead of "Tock!!!" Maybe they even looked dated. I dunno for sure. But that's what changed then.

Later...

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« Reply #110 on: Dec 31, 2016, 02:50PM »

Bruce Guttman's comment about Chromate coatings was very interesting.... here's a link I found that seems to be a modern version of it...

http://www.aldoaco.com/products/chrome/copper.html

BTW, Bruce, can you (as administrator) fix the title mis-spelling? The instant I first started this topic, I could not fix it! It's funny, however!

Thanks,

Steve
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« Reply #111 on: Dec 31, 2016, 02:56PM »

Perhaps the distinct split in preference for silver vs lacquered between trombones and trumpets of the same time could be seen as a result of the desire for increased sonic separation between the two instrument families. Looking for more sizzle in the high brass, more oomph in the low brass, with a clean aural split between the two. The advent of recording and playback technology made what was previously an acceptable timbre into a muddy mess.

A reasonable line, but it again begs the question, how much timbral experimentation were top players of the time involved in? Other than Miller and his work with Pascucci I have very limited knowledge of how into the equipment game the swing-era trombonists were. Did they work directly with manufacturers, craftsmen, designers? Did they have the ability to play many horns back to back and selectively evaluate them as we can today? One must wonder, did Teagarden have any strong opinions one way or another on lacquer, plating, materials, weights, etc. How did they inform those opinions? Were aesthetics an important part of their decision making process or simply an unconsidered side effect?

All interesting questions. Do tell!


EDIT: Chromic-acid treatment of brass instruments has long been a preservation method used by conservators in the cultural heritage world. When all of the instruments from the Holton Factory Reference Collection were relocated, Vito had them sent to Allied for a standard "bright dip" of chromic acid. It has left them with a very unusual dull-yellow sheen. I do not know to what extent similar processes were used by instrument manufacturers.
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« Reply #112 on: Dec 31, 2016, 03:00PM »

Actually, Tommy Dorsey worked with King.

I know that Miller used matched sets of tenor trombones (Bach 6's).  Were all Miller's woodwinds Holton?
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« Reply #113 on: Dec 31, 2016, 03:06PM »

Holton's woodwind production was never highly regarded, I can't imagine any top ensemble would have anything to do with them. Pascucci didn't enter the Leblanc world until after Miller had passed.
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« Reply #114 on: Dec 31, 2016, 03:35PM »

My 1892 Conn Worcester Eb tuba has that [chromate] coating.  Considering its age, it doesn't tarnish.  Also, it's not shiny.

I know Pascucci worked as a repairman in the USAAF and his association with Miller probably dates from that period.
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« Reply #115 on: Dec 31, 2016, 03:57PM »

Because lacquer has a low modulus of elasticity.  This means that if a piece of lacquer is bent (say by a mechanical wave passing through it) it does not return quickly, or at all if the displacement is significant, to is original configuration.  The net effect is that the wave is damped rapidly as it passes through the lacquer.

One could just say that lacquer is a dissipative rather than elastic material.
Here is what I'm reading. You can tell me if I misconstrue anything. You are saying that metal is more elastic than lacquer, therefore it causes the sound emanating from the trombone to be more resonant. The problem with this statement is that you haven't established that elastic materials, when used in the walls of the instrument, cause the sound generated from the air column to be more resonant. It may be that the elasticity takes away from the sound of the air column. I'm not seeing any evidence one way or the other.  The lacquer may dampen the sound, but as I said, this may be simply because it adds mass. Duct tape is very elastic, yet it seems to also dampen sound. This idea that metal makes the air column more vibrant seems to be assumed a lot, but never proven.
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« Reply #116 on: Dec 31, 2016, 04:54PM »

Herein lies the period of question. The big uncertainty. The answers I do not have, but are surely looming out there somewhere. Somehow between ~1930 and ~1950, preferences for finishes in brass instruments (in the United States, mind you) splintered from a near-universals "silver is great" to silver being standard on some instruments, while lacquer became standard on others. By the 1950s trombones, especially those made for symphonic work, band work, and the numerous other 'non-jazz' scenes shifted to the lacquer side of the spectrum. Saxophones seem to have followed the same trend. What is the root of this trend? What happened in the late 1930s and 1940s that changed everything?

Don't leave school band programs out of that picture.  Looks to me like they appeared in the late '20s.  I don't know at what point this led to any more defined niche of student instrument, but by that time, they would have been lacquered, no?  About the same time, adult bands died - around the turn of the century there were thousands of US bands, but that fell apart as technology etc. changes gave rise to modern popular music.

Once lacquer is part of the picture of a sort of well defined student instrument, a silver plate option might be expected to increase in cost as a "pro" option.

I'm not sure whether I agree that saxophones went the way of lacquer, any more than other made-of-brass instruments.  Flutes sure never got going with lacquer.
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« Reply #117 on: Jan 01, 2017, 04:17AM »

With all due respect, imo this long winded topic is a bit like contemplating one's own navel.

If you like silver horns, fine. Own one and play it. If you don't, don't.

All the time pontificating could be spent practicing instead.

Again, just my opinion.
Greg...   You just said something I was thinking !!!
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« Reply #118 on: Jan 01, 2017, 04:58AM »

Bruce, you are correct about marching bands preferring certain finishes on their horns.  I am a road rep for a music store in east Texas where there are 2 main styles of marchIng bands, military and drum corps.  The military bands want lacquer and the corps bands want silver.  They want to match from trumpets down to sousaphones.   I even had one band order silver plated saxes.   
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« Reply #119 on: Jan 01, 2017, 05:12AM »

Original question.....
Well, the world is a strange quirky place... but fashion and cost usually lurk behind much of the material world...so...
Lacquering of brass instruments came in around 20's/30's... new thing... looked nice... you could see the different metals.. and it was CHEAP !!! Lacquer became popular...especially on student instruments... when people up-graded they would stick with what they knew... or what was cheaper. Silver on a trumpet was and is, not such a big price hike as on a trombone. Or it is all simply random, which is just as likely. Does it matter ? Seems to for some....
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