Brass is an alloy made from a mixture of Copper & Zinc.

Yellow Brass the most common type of brass used for saxophones and contains 70% copper and 30% zinc.


Red Brass or Gunmetal Brass is actually a bronze because it is composed of copper, zinc and the addition of tin. It is commonly referred to as gunmetal because it was originally used to fashion firearms.


A Copper Saxophone:  When we talk about a copper saxophone, we are talking about an alloy than has more copper in the brass mixture.  It can be 80% Copper and 10% zinc.. or as high as 95% copper and 5% zinc. Since Copper is not a strong as the Yellow Brass most copper saxophones only use the copper in the neck tube, main body, bow and bell sections… the keys and braces are all made form Yellow Brass for strength…

The different amounts of coper and zinc or if tin is added all determine the tone of the saxophone. The combination of adding tin to the mixture is not really used much… it does not tend to vibrate very well…..

Once the type of brass is chosen the we have the options of plating… Silver, Gold, Copper etc. all these plating will change the sound of the sax.  It is also important to remember the amount of plating used will alter the sound.

EXAMPLE: It is commonly thought that silver plating on a saxophone will make it brighter… than is not correct… it once again, depends on the amount of plating use… it you put too much silver on  saxophone it will kill the sound and be so dark it will not vibrate or the sound will not carry.

Other things that will alter the sound are: Gold does not stick directly to brass very well
(there have been many improvement recently in this process) so, we generally need to silver plate or copper flash the saxophone before Gold plating it…

Plating as opposed to lacquering a saxophone:
Lacquer is generally believed since it is not a part of the saxophone it may cause the saxophone to have a deader sound.

Plating becomes part of the brass so it will more likely vibrate with the brass.
*Plating doen not fill scratches in the saxophone… all scratches and dents must be removed before plating….

Now, we have not yet talked about the thickness of the brass used… this is yet another variable in the mixture for finding the perfect sound of the saxophone.


We her all the time that a re-lacquered saxophone is not good for the sound…. This is not necessarily true… I had a shop with Bob Malone (the main brass guy for YAMHA in the US) in Los Angeles and I would watch him work with great trumpet players… once the first trumpet player in the Chicago Symphony was in his shop and they would color a bell with black magic marker.. then sand it off to thin the bell for the sound.. they repeated this many times before the artist really got what he wanted in the sound. They made the bell thinner… so, sometimes when  saxophone has been buffed and is thinner….the sound just might be better…

Once again, the most important thing to remember all these things are a “CRAP SHOOT” you will never really know what they will do until you are finished with the making of or plating of instrument…

So, when someone tells you what these things can do as fact… they are generally full of  BS… each of these things have tendencies that can be talked about but no definite this is what it will do can be talked about…

EXAMPLE: In my many years (50 plus) of plating saxophone necks I never really had anyone that did not like the neck more after it was plated… everyone like the plating better… and I can say that has been my experience…… I cannot say plating a neck, will make it play better…