to laquer or not to laquer

Discussion in 'The Rehearsal Room' started by mictop, Oct 31, 2011.

  1. mictop

    mictop New Member

    Just bought a second hand Yamaha Bass Trombone but the laquer is poor in some places, I was going to have it redone but the guy in the shop adviced not to bother it will alter the tone, another friend advised the same, as we all know we like shiny instruments in brass bands has anybody got any experience / advice on the subject?
  2. P_S_Price

    P_S_Price Member

    Friend of Mine had her Benge stripped of Lacquer and then Silver Plated.

    It still sounds Good
  3. SteveT

    SteveT Member

    I had my King stripped and laquered onto brass rather than gold plate. It sings like a star. Can't find a better more responsive instrument... I have tried many times.... but she is now 36 years old and still out sounds the competition!

    Have the cynics ever had an instrument re-laquered? Just a thought!

    If you send it to Mr Preston... he's the man.
  4. nethers

    nethers Active Member

    Essentially, lacquer is a bit like putting a layer of plastic all around your instrument.

    I read a good article about this that I can no longer find, I will attempt to recall it though the details may be wrong:

    The metal that most brass instruments are made of hovers at around 1mm thick (in fact, I think slightly less) and lacquer usually goes on as a layer about 0.7 mm thick (on the outside, but also on the inside at the bell flair).

    So this adds a LOT of material to the natural make-up of an instrument. It was used originally to remove the need to polish silver plate or brass, entirely for cosmetic appearance.

    A boss at Schilke did an experiment and got three identical trumpets off his production line and got them tested - the pros testing agreed they were as identical as instruments get.

    He then sent one off to be lacquered, another silver-plated and another just polished but left alone otherwise. Again, the pro players had a go - silver plate and regular polish performed much the same, but the lacquered instrument sounded completely different and was nowhere near as resonant the other two.

    One of the big changes between Elkhart-era trombones and their modern Conn equivalents is the type of lacquer used (see here - also good advice on pros/cons of relacquering) and the fact that the old lacquer is considered so much better is big a part of why they are so expensive and desirable.

    My advice - it depends on what's important to you! Any big change to the surface of your instrument WILL affect the sound and response, but there are many different options available.

    If it looks a bit scruffy but plays well, why change? If it looks like a disaster and you're feeling like experimenting, go for it!

    I would be tempted to strip the lacquer and see how it plays, if you don't like it, get a modern lacquer epoxy or similar lacquer applied, if you do like it, leave it au naturale and buy some good polish or go for nitro-cellulose lacquer (which you need a special license to handle, but a few people do it).

    Let us know what you decide, I will be interested to follow.
  5. Aussie Tuba

    Aussie Tuba Member

    proffesionally striped polished and proffesionally done it will still sound Great. The lacquer should only be microns thick so as not to affect the sound and this needs a proffesional touch. choose your proffesional carefully, get advice from those who have had the job done. Your profile does not show where you are. I know a great technition near Brisbane Australia. If your in the UK you will need to ask. There are plenty around but not all are good.
  6. squirrel

    squirrel Member

    Sure, but there's a difference between lacquering a previously unlacqurered instrument, and relacquering one that was previously lacquered. And a Sop is an instrument that does need a bright sound rather than having a warm sound like a lacquered finish. Do you ever see a lacquered Sop? And how many silver plated troms do you see in brass bands?
  7. Aussie Tuba

    Aussie Tuba Member

    i have seen a lacquered sop. modern lacquer is virtually the same as silver plate sound wise because it is applied so thin.

    silver plated troms were popular in the seventies the boosey and hawkes imperial range were plated with a satin finish same as all the rest of their range
  8. nethers

    nethers Active Member

    Did I suggest differently? I think the point of my post was to show that people 'in the know' have written useful articles and that there are consequences to the choice.

    I have a silver plate trombone for jazz work... But sometimes I play the gold. The choice is of course personal.
  9. squirrel

    squirrel Member

    That's fair enough, I felt that the thrust of your post was that there was a difference between plated and lacquered instruments, and relacquring a "classic" instrument, rather than a difference created by relacquering a recent instrument.
  10. squirrel

    squirrel Member

    So are you suggesting that the difference nowadays is purely cosmetic? I've played recent plated and lacquered instruments and the plated ones always seem brighter, and the lacquered ones warmer. Maybe that's because I expect that's the way they'll play?
  11. DMBabe

    DMBabe Supporting Member

    The finish of an instrument maybe made a difference "back in the day" when lacquer was applied with a trowel and was about an inch thick but like has already been said it's so thin now it shouldn't make a difference..... I personally think this colour/finish thing is a load of old mince.... I was trying out some stuff in Packer's the other day and the instrument on the shelf was silver plate.... decided I fancied buying it in lacquer instead so they got one from the stock room, same type, same mouthpiece, same chops = sounded exactly the same. Also tried a antique finish lacquered trumpet (dark coloured), a silver plate and a gold satin finish of another model and they sounded the same as each other too. I think it's more about what the make/bore size and which gob iron you use than what colour it is....... so If you want your lacquered instrument prettied up you go for it. In fact get it finished how the hell you like (bling and swarowski crystals optional)!!! ;)

  12. MoominDave

    MoominDave Well-Known Member

    I could believe that the outside surface of the instrument might change a little the way the feedback gets from the instrument to the ear - on trombone, with the bell section passing by your earhole, you do get some limited amount of aural feedback that way.

    However, I would take some heavyweight convincing that it made any discernable difference to the sound that the audience hears, which is really what's important.

    I have played silver-plated trombones that felt 'warm' and similar that felt 'bright'. Ditto for lacquered trombones. The internal geometry of the tube is the dominant effect here, far outweighing the tiny considerations that changing the material of the instrument brings into play.
    Let's not forget that the pBone is actually a rather nice instrument...
  13. mictop

    mictop New Member

    Thanks for the replies I will have the 'Bone redone (because I like shiny instruments)as DMbabe has said it is my instrument so it will be done of course the next problem is when, St Helens then Christmas then the North West Areas so it looks like it will have to wait till march
  14. fsteers

    fsteers Member

    The talk by Renold Schilke is available here.

    Note that Schilke says that a good lacquer layer is 7 THOUSANDTHS of an inch (0.007" = 0.17 mm) thick, not 0.7 mm, AND that his bells are 14 thousandths of an inch (0.014" = 0.35 mm) thick.

    Quite apart from the question of whether or not conclusions drawn from a single experiment involving trumpets can be validly extended to other instruments of significantly different length, mass, bell diameter, and harmonic range, the flaws in Schilke's testing methodology and logic are so many and so great as to render the entire episode worthless except as an example of a poorly constructed experiment.
  15. GJG

    GJG Well-Known Member

    That's rather a sweeping generalisation, given that Renold Schilke is responsible for designing and producing arguably some of the finest trumpets ever made. However I would agree that his objections to a lacquer finish can't really be applied to larger brass instruments, but then I don't think he was trying to do that. I would also acknowledge that modern methods of applying lacquered finishes probably result in a thinner finish than would have been possible at the time of Schilke's writing, but that's hardly his fault. Also bear in mind that Schilke's method of bell production resulted in bells with a thinner wall than those of other manufacturers, therefore increasing the impact of the lacquer as a percentage of the overall thickness.

    So far as the original poster's request goes, I think it needs to be remembered that many brass players produce sweat which is slightly acidic and is harmful to brass instruments over a period of time. It may well be true that a Lacquer finish will "alter the tone" to one degree or another, but not nearly as much as the holes which will eventually appear at the contact points on an instrument with no protective finish at all ...
  16. WoodenFlugel

    WoodenFlugel Moderator Staff Member

    Although I have a huge amount of respect for Renold Schilke as an instrument designer and engineer, you have to concede that his 'experiment' is fatally flawed. You would never design any experiment to give you a conclusion on just one result, especially on something that is a subjective as how an instrument sounds. I suspect the whole experiment was set up as a means to back up his pre-concevied idea that lacquar coating was a bad thing.

    As for the argument that silver plate makes and instrument sound 'bright' and lacquar makes it sound 'mellow', I don't believe that either. Someone back in this thread suggests that you don't see lacquared sops or silver plated trombones as a way to justify this, which is fine until you notice that most euphs these days are silver plate. Surely the euphonium is an instrument that you don't want to sound bright? This is a dodgy argument - but no more dodgy than any of the psuedo-science already present in this thread - including that of Mr Schilke.

    So what is going on? I suspect that flugels are mostly lacquar as that is how they've usually been made, same with sops and silver plate. This may be backed up that you see roughly half and half of trumpets / cornets being lacquar or silver plate, also trombones with silver plate. The fact is that the individual player, and their mouthpiece will have a much bigger effect than any sort of plating.

    I was talking recently to someone about comparing two different mouthpieces - they were similar in size, but obviously had two different design philosophies behind them. We were trying the two to see which gave the 'better' sound and in the end we both had to concede that although when played back-to-back we could hear a difference, that difference was so small that you would never notice in isolation. Also we both agreed that if you had a blind test between the two mouthpieces even though you could tell the difference between the two, it is s slight that you couldn't tell Mouthpiece A from Mouthpiece B and also if you tried the same test on two different days you may well decide that the 'best' mouthpiece was different on each day, so small was the difference between the two.

    The slightly rambling point I'm making here is that there may well be a difference in sound, but it is so small, so descrete that you honestly can't tell the difference.
  17. fsteers

    fsteers Member

    To the contrary, while Schilke created fine--perhaps even great--instruments, instrumental design expertise does not necessarily equate to expertise in constructing a valid experimental methodology and and executing a valid test. My criticism of his "research" and "conclusions" is based on specific, elementary, fundamental flaws in the design and execution of the test regimen and in the logic he employs to support his conclusion. To wit:

    A) Schilke's "research" (such as it was), was on trumpets. Characteristic trumpet sound has a range of very high harmonic content, including some clipped square waves (the brassy sound). Trombone, baritone, euphonium, and tuba sound does not include those harmonics over most of their range (if at all), so while it is possible that lacquer could dampen the high harmonics in a trumpet sound, it is debatable whether or not it would have a significant, discernible, effect on the sound of other instruments.

    B) Schilke drew his conclusions based on a single experiment involving am extremely small sample size (three trumpets and an extremely limited pool of players). While the results may be suggestive, they are by no means conclusive.

    C) Schilke's testing--by his own admission--was not blind (much less double-blind), so nowhere in the design of his "experiment" does he account for observer bias (Observer X expects something to make a difference or is predisposed toward a given outcome, therefore Observer X "observes" a difference.) This is such an elementary and fundamental methodological error that it renders the entire exercise essentially worthless, except as an anecdotal datum. (For an interesting and entertaining example of observer bias that illustrates the critical importance of double-blind testing to eliminate observer bias, see Chilling Trumpets: Does It Have An Acoustic Effect?, a paper presented at the 146th meeting of the Acoustical Society of America.)

    D) The failure to eliminate, or at least reduce, the possibility of observer bias is particularly telling because Schilke does NOT actually claim that the lacquered instrument played differently; rather, he claims that:

    Quite apart from the possibility of observer bias, there are any number of factors other than the lacquer that may have contributed to the apparent change in the playing characteristics of the lacquered instrument, including, but not limited to, the test conditions, weather, time of year, and individual performance variation from test to test.

    The matter of performance variation deserves particular attention in light of

    E) Schilke claims that the lacquered instrument:

    Even granting the possibility of impaired tonal quality, how does one account for the apparent change in the overall [/i]pitch[/i]of the instrument, given that, by Schilke's reckoning, the lacquer would have added no more than .014" to the length of the trumpet, and reduced the inner diameter of the bell by no more than .007", neither of which, singly or in combination, change the length of the wind column enough to change the length of the standing wave enough to discernably affect the pitch of the instrument?

    The simplest and most obvious explanation (Occam's Razor) is bias-induced performance variation on the part of the testers.

    So it's not only entirely possible, but I suspect highly probable, that Schilke's findings simply reflect the testers' biases: they heard what they wanted and expected to hear.

    F) Schilke's conclusions are derived from the purely aural impressions of the testers. At no point in the linked paper, or in any of his correspondence with interested parties that I've come across, does he claim to have performed comparative spectrum analysis of the sound of the test instruments that might show the effect of the respective finishes on the sound. Consequently, he present no objective data to support his claims, only the subjective opinion of his testers.

    G) The list of logical fallacies is too long to enumerate. To cite but one particularly egregious example, Schilke claims that:

    Here Schilke falls into question-begging (Schilke has not demonstrated that lacquer does have an effect, much less the affect he claimed, therefore to claim that it is "bound to affect the playing quality" is simply to assert as true that which was to be demonstrated) and cum hoc ergo propter hoc reasoning, based on causal oversimplification (assumed that there is one, simple cause of an outcome when in reality it may have been caused by a number of only jointly sufficient causes), i.e., "because the lacquered instrument seemed to play differently, it the difference must have been due ONLY to the lacquer.

    In short, Schilke's test was fundamentally flawed in both conception and execution, so while the conclusion itself (lacquer has an effect on the sound of an instrument) may be valid, and while his methodology may provide valuable guidance for constructing a valid test, from a scientific point of view, his results are simply anecdotal: it is a data point in the debate, but it is not in any way conclusive.

  18. squirrel

    squirrel Member

    Quite possible, hence my comment "maybe they played that way because I expected them to". Lacquered instruments tend to *feel* warmer, I wonder if that has a bearing?

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