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Mar 9, 2022 - 1:06:44 PM
19 posts since 1/16/2022

Has anyone ever tried removing the nickel plating from a bronze or brass
flathead tone ring, and if so did this process have a negative effect on the sound? Thanks in advance

Mar 9, 2022 - 1:58 PM
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14597 posts since 6/29/2005

It wouldn't have any affect on the sound, regardless of what you may hear/read.

Mar 9, 2022 - 2:15:23 PM

19 posts since 1/16/2022

Thanks ken im glad to hear that

Mar 9, 2022 - 3:34:51 PM

beegee

USA

22964 posts since 7/6/2005

I have an unplated home-made ring that was poorly installed on a ball-bearing rim. It has the ugliest variegated tones of green oxidation and pitting. I would think long and hard about removing plating, despite what the current folklore says about possible improvement in sound

Mar 9, 2022 - 4:11:32 PM

19 posts since 1/16/2022

I was actually more intrested in the aesthetic of the thing rather than tone. I like the idea of polished bronze. So what effect if any does goldplating have?

Mar 9, 2022 - 4:17:54 PM

beegee

USA

22964 posts since 7/6/2005

Plating provides protection against the elements. You never see unplated automobile bumpers.
There is a lot of folk-myth about plating. It has zero effect on tonal quality unless you are a dog or a bat. Once you have raw metal, you have a choice: constant polishing or corrosion. You might consider powder-coating, but that has its own set of problems.

Gold plating does not tarnish nor corrode, until it wears off.....which it is prone to do

Edited by - beegee on 03/09/2022 16:24:40

Mar 9, 2022 - 5:28:45 PM

19 posts since 1/16/2022

Thanks for the insight. I am quite happy to polish on a regular basis as that gives me an excuse to take my banjo apart and put it together again.

Mar 9, 2022 - 5:56:51 PM

14597 posts since 6/29/2005

It will take bronze a very very long time to tarnish to any great extent—it will just get darker over time.

Plating can be removed by a plater—they reverse the poles or something to that effect—I'm not sure of the process, but it can be done, and won't remove any material from the tone ring itself, as an abrasive wheel would.

Mar 9, 2022 - 5:58:54 PM

19 posts since 1/16/2022

Yes I had a flange and some other hardware brass plated before and they assured me it would not damage the base metal when they stripped it.

Mar 9, 2022 - 8:10:50 PM
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4869 posts since 11/20/2004

I buffed the nickel plating from a ring once as an experiment. I had two identical nickel rings. I installed each into the banjo and set it up. I then buffed the plating off one with compound on a cloth wheel. I put it in the same banjo again. Both me and another picker agreed that it sounded better. I have owned several of each and side by side, I give the unplated a slightly sweeter sound. This is all based on nickel plating. I only have one gold ring and have nothing to compare to, as it is not Gibson. Having buffed one, I recommend chemical removal if you can. Much cleaner and leaves no marks.
I spent an afternoon with Eric Sullivan once in a small room of tone rings. Identical rings with different plating gave different tap tones. How much of that you can hear after installing in a banjo, I have no idea.

Keep in mind Bob's advice above. I have seen the green he speaks of as well.

Edited by - lightgauge on 03/09/2022 20:15:20

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Mar 9, 2022 - 8:32:07 PM

19 posts since 1/16/2022

Yea my dad has an antique unplated tonering on his banjo and it does have small green splodges, sounds sweet though. Maybe laquer is the solution

Mar 9, 2022 - 8:50:56 PM
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1331 posts since 11/17/2005

I have an unplated Yates v33 tone ring in my 11.

I've never cleaned it and it looks fine after 8 or 10 years. I really like the look, actually! What do you think?

I've heard people say that gold plating sounds different than nickel or unplated. I find that hard to believe, but that's just my opinion.

You can make very minor changes to a banjo and change the sound drastically. I think it's very hard to tell exactly where sound differences may come from when you change parts.

If I set up a banjo to sound great to my ear, I leave it alone.

Did my ring look different when I first got it? I don't recall mine being highly polished but I don't know how much it's changed. I know that wouldn't take that 11 apart, unless I really needed to. It's truly a great banjo.


 

Edited by - jason999 on 03/09/2022 20:59:08

Mar 10, 2022 - 8:22:50 AM
Players Union Member

Emiel

Austria

10141 posts since 1/22/2003

I don't know what to think, but there are experienced people who think the kind of plating is also a sound factor. Here is Jim Britton saying and showing that walnut and chrome has a special sound:
banjohangout.org/topic/381830

Also Arthur Hatfield has stated here on the BHO that gold plated banjos sound different. I once asked Prucha about that. He said he believed that the plating did not matter.

Edited by - Emiel on 03/10/2022 08:24:53

Mar 10, 2022 - 9:28:31 AM
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14597 posts since 6/29/2005

The plating is very thin—microns in the case of gold plating.

An exhaustive study was done concerning plating and lacquering of brass wind instruments, where the metal is what produces the sound much more so than in banjo tone rings, which are one part of a complex system.

Unplated, plated, and lacquered trumpets of identical make were played by accomplished symphony and jazz musicians, who unanimously agreed that there was no difference in sound between the plated and unplated ones, but that lacquering had a negative affect on the sound.

I think that imagining that plating on a tone ring is going to have an affect on the sound of a banjo is delusional at best.

Mar 10, 2022 - 9:41:11 AM

4228 posts since 3/28/2008

quote:
Originally posted by Emiel

I don't know what to think, but there are experienced people who think the kind of plating is also a sound factor. Here is Jim Britton saying and showing that walnut and chrome has a special sound:
banjohangout.org/topic/381830

Also Arthur Hatfield has stated here on the BHO that gold plated banjos sound different. I once asked Prucha about that. He said he believed that the plating did not matter.


Did Jim compare those banjos to nickel-plated walnut instruments, or ones with unplated rings? I suspect the walnut has WAY more to do with the sound than the chrome.

Mar 10, 2022 - 11:05:53 AM
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Players Union Member

Emiel

Austria

10141 posts since 1/22/2003

quote:
Originally posted by Ira Gitlin
quote:
Originally posted by Emiel

I don't know what to think, but there are experienced people who think the kind of plating is also a sound factor. Here is Jim Britton saying and showing that walnut and chrome has a special sound:
banjohangout.org/topic/381830

Also Arthur Hatfield has stated here on the BHO that gold plated banjos sound different. I once asked Prucha about that. He said he believed that the plating did not matter.


Did Jim compare those banjos to nickel-plated walnut instruments, or ones with unplated rings? I suspect the walnut has WAY more to do with the sound than the chrome.


You would have to ask Jim… I do suspect that you are right.

Mar 10, 2022 - 11:57:13 AM
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Alex Z

USA

4861 posts since 12/7/2006

We hear with the brain, not with the ears.

If a person says, "This gold-plated ring sounds better," then it does in fact sound better to that person (maybe not to anyone else).  And so that person prefers the gold plated ring and truly gets value out of the fact that it is gold plated.  Whether or not he difference in sound can be captured on an oscilloscope or comparative listening test is irrelevant -- the oscilloscope doesn't have a brain.

In Banjo Newsletter many years ago Sonny Osborne said something along the lines of, "Just knowing it is gold plated will make it sound better."  So why not have it gold plated?

Remember, there is "pre-war Gibson tone" coming out of a banjo made in 1937 with new neck, replaced tone ring, replaced flange, reskinned resonator, new tailpiece, new rim.  "You have to hear it, and then you'll know" is the phrase.  Maybe it should be, "You have to know it, and then you'll hear it."

Mar 10, 2022 - 12:45:02 PM
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14597 posts since 6/29/2005

quote:
Originally posted by Alex Z

We hear with the brain, not with the ears.

If a person says, "This gold-plated ring sounds better," then it does in fact sound better to that person (maybe not to anyone else).  And so that person prefers the gold plated ring and truly gets value out of the fact that it is gold plated.  Whether or not he difference in sound can be captured on an oscilloscope or comparative listening test is irrelevant -- the oscilloscope doesn't have a brain.

In Banjo Newsletter many years ago Sonny Osborne said something along the lines of, "Just knowing it is gold plated will make it sound better."  So why not have it gold plated?

Remember, there is "pre-war Gibson tone" coming out of a banjo made in 1937 with new neck, replaced tone ring, replaced flange, reskinned resonator, new tailpiece, new rim.  "You have to hear it, and then you'll know" is the phrase.  Maybe it should be, "You have to know it, and then you'll hear it."


Absolutely!  It's called "psychoacoustics" and to quote John Calkin of the American Guild of Luthiers:  "Psychoacoustics plays such a large role that it's difficult to discuss tone objectively. ( I think that it's called psychoacoustics because trying to figure out stringed instruments will make you psycho.) We hear what we expect to hear, what we have been taught to hear, what we want to hear, and often what we hope to hear. Many luthiers and musicians alike spend hundreds of hours and thousands of dollars collecting information and recordings and they have come to have a stake in the sanctity of its rightness. They need the vast body of instrument mythology to be correct, and strongly oppose the possibility that it may be bogus."

Edited by - Ken LeVan on 03/10/2022 12:45:54

Mar 10, 2022 - 1:22:56 PM

Alex Z

USA

4861 posts since 12/7/2006

"We hear what we expect to hear, what we have been taught to hear, what we want to hear, and often what we hope to hear."

And this is not delusional -- rather, it is the brain actually processing the sound, so the person actually "hears" that sound.

Vision can work in a similar fashion -- the brain processing and interpreting visual clues -- which is why "eyewitness" accounts are often not as reliable as physical evidence.

Another example:  understanding words is very visual to the brain.  The processing of words occurs in the same areas of the brain as the processing of vision.  This is why talking on the cell phone while driving is dangerous.

"I didn't see that car/pedestrian."  That is correct, you didn't actually "see" it.  The light waves may have entered your eye, but the brain did not process it as seeing something, because the brain was busy processing the words you were listening to in your phone conversation.

Edited by - Alex Z on 03/10/2022 13:24:27

Mar 10, 2022 - 1:27:10 PM

Alex Z

USA

4861 posts since 12/7/2006

As for me, my Prucha has a gold plated tone ring, so I never have to think about or worry about another plating sounding better.  smiley  Saves a lot of time and stress.

Mar 10, 2022 - 2:02:39 PM

14597 posts since 6/29/2005

quote:
Originally posted by Alex Z

"We hear what we expect to hear, what we have been taught to hear, what we want to hear, and often what we hope to hear."

And this is not delusional -- rather, it is the brain actually processing the sound, so the person actually "hears" that sound.

Vision can work in a similar fashion -- the brain processing and interpreting visual clues -- which is why "eyewitness" accounts are often not as reliable as physical evidence.

Another example:  understanding words is very visual to the brain.  The processing of words occurs in the same areas of the brain as the processing of vision.  This is why talking on the cell phone while driving is dangerous.

"I didn't see that car/pedestrian."  That is correct, you didn't actually "see" it.  The light waves may have entered your eye, but the brain did not process it as seeing something, because the brain was busy processing the words you were listening to in your phone conversation.


Right!

This is why when a person posts something on this forum along the lines of  "I'm going to stick my neck out and do something like irreversibly cut my pre-war rim and install a latter-day flathead tone ring, or switch the rim on my banjo" you know they are guaranteed to be happy with the result.

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