Impact of Different Finishes on Musical Instrument Sound: Exploring Tonal Variations

Impact of Different Finishes on Musical Instrument Sound: Exploring Tonal Variations


With more than two decades of digging deep into crafting musical instruments and a fulfilling 7-year journey steering Victory Musical Instruments, I've soaked up a ton about how finishes affect sound. Now, let me get real – I used to be a systems engineer (Microsoft, Dell, HP, US Army) with a geeky love for science and tech. Back in 2008, I started mysaxtalk, a hangout for sax players from 100+ countries. It's from these talks that I learned heaps about what musicians dig.

Nope, I'm not some genius like Sheldon Cooper, but let me tell you – I've got a fiery passion for physics. For over 30 years, I've been diving into books on architecture, physics, and sound. I dreamt of crafting chapels that echoed with the most breathtaking sound. While I didn't end up as an architect, life had something different in store for me. I got the privilege to channel all this knowledge into the world of musical instrument design.

The type of lacquer used on a musical instrument can indeed impact its sound characteristics. Heavier lacquers can potentially dampen vibrations and alter the instrument's tonal qualities, while lighter or thinner lacquers may allow for more resonance and a brighter sound. The specific impact can vary based on the instrument type, construction, and the player's preferences.

At Victory Musical Instruments, we've got a range of 10 instrument finishes: Gold Lacquer, Gold Plated, Silver Plated, Brown Gold Lacquer, Unlacquered (that natural vibe), Satin Antique Dark, Brushed (Matte) Silver, Orange Lacquer, Black Nickel, and Matte Black. These might sound all fancy, but it's not just about the bling. Besides the materials, taper, pads, and resonators, each of these finishes plays a crucial role in shaping the unique sound of your sax.

So, yeah, when it comes to making instruments, the little stuff matters big time. We're diving deep into the whole finish thing here. How these coats change up saxophones, trumpets, and trombones is like a treasure hunt. Using what I've learned making instruments and looking at what others have found; we're going to see how these finishes shake up the sound scene.

The Art of Sound Reflection: A Journey through Finishes

  1. Lacquered Finish - Balancing Resonance and Focus:
    A lacquered finish can affect the way sound waves interact with the instrument's surface. Heavier or thicker lacquers can dampen vibrations, reducing the resonance of the instrument. This can lead to a somewhat darker and more focused sound, with less emphasis on overtone richness.
  1. Plated Finish - Unveiling Warmth and Brilliance:
    Plating, such as gold or silver, can alter the way vibrations travel through the instrument. Gold plating, being denser, might slightly reduce the instrument's overall resonance, resulting in a warmer and mellower tone. Silver plating, with its thinner layer, tends to promote more vibrational freedom and can contribute to a brighter and more lively sound.
  1. Natural or Unlacquered - Embracing Vibrational Freedom:
    Some instruments are left with a natural wood or metal finish. In this case, the material's natural properties play a significant role in sound reflection. The natural finish allows the instrument to vibrate more freely, often resulting in a more resonant and open sound.
  1. Matte Finish - Robustness Beyond Brightness:
    A matte finish, which lacks the reflective properties of a glossy finish, can contribute to a slightly different sound quality. It might lead to a less "bright" sound with less emphasis on high-frequency overtones. A matte finish might provide a more even distribution of overtones and harmonics, resulting in a fuller and more complex sound that some musicians find appealing for certain genres or playing styles.
  1. Hand-Rubbed Oil Finish:
    This type of finish can provide a very thin layer that allows the instrument to vibrate more freely. It often produces a warm and natural sound with a good balance of tonal characteristics.


In the world of crafting musical instruments, the finish isn't just about looks. It's like adding the final brushstroke to a masterpiece – it shapes the soul of the instrument's sound. As we've explored how different finishes impact saxophones, trumpets, and trombones, it's clear that crafting the perfect instrument is a mix of science, art, and my own journey. Whether you're drawn to the warmth of gold plating or the lively feel of a natural finish, each choice adds a unique voice to the world of music.

This blog is a reflection of my personal experience, shaped by years of experimenting and learning in the realm of musical instruments. At the same time, I deeply value the perspectives of fellow musicians. Your insights, opinions, and experiences contribute to the vibrant tapestry of musical discourse. Feel free to share this blog with your fellow musicians and join in the conversation!

Don't forget to check out our web catalog and explore the remarkable array of finishes that Victory Musical Instruments has to offer. Discover the possibilities at Your journey to finding the perfect sound is just a click away.