History Notes II #04: C-Melody

History Notes II #04 : Saxophone C-Melody
Today, Douglas Pipher takes us behind the scenes of the production of the C tenor saxophone, better known as "C Melody".

"The C tenor was produced very, very early in production. From what I have been able to observe, the initial Selmer saxophones built were a batch of altos followed by a batch of sopranos, a few more altos, and then a batch of C tenors.

The earliest serial number I've seen is number 788. That is one of the first 40 Selmer saxophones ever built. In the Serie 1922 and the Model 22 models, the C melody was very popular. In fact, it appears that more were built than B-flat tenors. The alto was by far the most production of the Model 22, with roughly 63% of production. The Sopranos was next, followed by the C tenor, and then the B-Flat tenor.

There were at least three production batches in the Serie 1922 range. That's from serial number 750 to the early 1100s. That implies production of 18 serie 1922 models. After that, there were at least 12 production batches of Model 22.

So taking full production up to serial number 5000 - this is where the archives start, and I have better information - it appears that as many as about 150, the actual number I work with is 154, potential C-tenors built. Now, I have only seen a small fraction of these, but it's possible that there are that many out there.

Selmer C-melody saxophone

Sales of the C-tenor continued strong until 1931, but after that, sales basically hit a wall. Between 5,000 and 14,000, there are approximately 60 C-tenors built. That means, up to that point, total production could be up to 200 C-tenors.

After the 15,000 serial range, there were only three more batches of C-tenors built: one at 27,000, one at 46,000, and then a final one at 57,000. Now, the 57,000 batch falls within the range of the Mark VI production, but the C-tenors featured none of the mark VI improvements so they should be considered as Super Action C-tenors, even though they're at 50,000 serial number range.

Selmer Model 26 C-Melody Saxophone

Just to review total potential production. In the pre-archive area, that's up to serial number 5,000, I estimate there's as many as 154 C-tenors built. After 5,000, the archives list another 62, but there's a few blank lines
in some of those batches. So I estimate that in total, the largest potential number of C-tenors could be as high as 234. I expect not all of them were built. So somewhere in the 200-230 range is a good estimate for the total number of some C-10ers built.

Now, how many have survived? Since the vast majority were shipped before World War II and were also mostly shipped to Europe, there's a great opportunity for numbers to have been destroyed during the war. I have photos of 51 of them, and I know of several more that are existing that I don't have photos of. There's close to 60 known examples out there. I'm guessing that 10 or 20 or 30 more could easily come to light over the next several years.

As I've said with other rare models, if anybody knows one, sees one, or owns one, please get in contact with me. Send me some photos. Every photo of every saxophone will help shed a tiny bit more light on the production of this rare model."


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