History Notes II #02: C Soprano

History Notes II #02 : Soprano en Ut
The C soprano saxophone is a very rare and little-known instrument. It has its own identity, between the Bb soprano (to which it is closer in terms of range) and the Eb sopranino. Discover the history of its production with Douglas Pipher!

Today, we're going to talk about the production of a very rare type of selmer saxophone, the C Sopranos.

Many people aren't even aware that they were built, but there was a small number built in the 20s and early 30s, and then another batch produced in the 1950s.

Production should really be divided into two areas. One is what I call pre-archive. The existing Selmer archive records start at serial number 5,000. So any instrument built after that, I have a pretty good idea of the total numbers. Anything built before serial number 5,000, I have to estimate the production based on observations of existing models that I've seen.

Based on what I've seen, there appear to have been four small production batches built of C Sopranos. These would all be in the Model 22 range. Typical production batches for small production were six units each. So although I have only seen a handful, they indicate four batches, which suggest a total production of 24 units produced in the pre-archive era.

After serial number 5,000, there are another 30 instruments indicated. So it looks like there is a total of only about 54 C-Sopranos ever built.

Soprano in C SELMER

Why would production have been so small?

If we look at sale dates of the early batches of these C-Sopranos, a pattern becomes apparent very quickly. In the 7,000 serial number production batch, six instruments were produced. We would expect those to be sold in 1927 or 1928, but the sale dates reveal an interesting pattern.
Two were sold in 1927, one in 1936, one in 1944, and one in 1945. So it took 18 years to sell these six instruments.

The next batch in the 8,000 serial range is even more extreme. We would expect these instruments to be sold in 1928, but one was sold in 1945, four were sold in 1951, and one was sold in 1954. So if it takes that long to build the instruments, no new instruments are being built. Now, the sales that happened in the '50s indicate there must have been some small resurgence in interest. So one additional batch was produced in the '50s. These were all sold between 1955 and 1961, and that was it. Just 54 C-Sopranos built.

If we look at where these instruments are shipped, another pattern becomes evident. We have sales information for 22 of the 54 C-Sopranos. One was sold to the US, one to Argentina, and the rest were sold to Europe.

So how many C-Sopranos still exist of the total potential production of 54 units? Well, I have photos of 11 of them, so we know those are still around. If anybody out there knows of, owns, or sees a C-Sopranos, please get in touch with me. Every additional instrument will help bring more light to this most rare of selmer production.


Subscribe to our youtube channel so you don't miss any episodes
Listen to History Notes podcast