History Notes: Low A alto saxophones

History Notes : Saxophone alto au La grave
Discover the history of the SELMER low A alto saxophone, a rare instrument that has captured the curiosity and fascination of many enthusiasts...

“Today I would like to answer 2 questions about Selmer low A alto production. Question No 1: when were they made? And question No 2, which has been a very popular question over the past several decades: how many were made?

As I mentioned in another video, the first low A altos are actually a very small number built in the 1920s. This is called the Ladario model. Today we won't talk about those.

Low A viola Mark VI

The first Mark VI low A altos were built right at the very beginning of the Mark VI in the 55,000 serial range. There's just a couple built. A couple more were built at 62,000 and a couple more were built at 92,000. These are to be considered prototypes or test models. The actual production of the Mark VI alto starts at 106,000 and continues up to 238,000.

Roughly half of them, actually 51% of all the Mark VI low altos featured the high F sharp key. The instruments shipped not to the US were almost exclusively with the high F sharp key, about 87% of them, but the instruments shipped to the US, about two thirds did not include the high F sharp key.

After the Mark VI range, there was one known Mark VII built and also one known Super Action 80 built.

Low A viola Mark VII

So let's get to the key number. The low A altos I first searched in the Paris archives - as I mentioned earlier this year I was in Paris and went through other archives at the factory, gained additional information. I've also found a couple low A altos that were not in the archives at all, but I have photos of them. So the total number of low A altos that I have found is 859. So the myth of 200 low A altos being built is purely that, just a myth.

Now where were they shipped? Roughly 600 of them were shipped to the US. So that means about 200 American low A altos have the F sharp key, and 400 don't. About 100 were shipped to Selmer London, for distribution through all the Commonwealth countries. Most of them, I presume, would have remained in the UK, but some would have made their way to Australia and other countries. The rest of the world, including Europe and, well, everywhere else in the world, about 170 were made.

Low Alto Mark VI

There are some rarities amongst the group. If you're looking for a rare version of the rare low A alto, there were 41 made with lacquered body silver plated keys. There were about 90 made silver plated overall. There were only nine made with the full set of trill keys. So that's a really rare. But the rarest is a Mark VI low A high F, black lacquer alto. Only one was built.

So there you have it : 859, plus two that were built after Mark VI, plus three that we know of that were built before Mark VI, for a total number of Selmer Paris low A altos of 864.



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