Yanagisawa Instrument Models
Before 1980 the 3rd and 4th digit of the serial number represents the year of manufacture.
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The Yanagisawa Wind Instrument Company has been manufacturing and repairing wind instruments in Japan since 1893.
The years of American occupation following the second world war also brought with it American music i.e. Jazz and Be Bop. This was the introduction of the saxophone to Japan. As brass wind instrument manufacturers and repairers, the Yanagisawa Company were often asked to do repairs on saxophones by the musicians based in the Tokyo area. This soon led to modifying and improving some of the saxophones that came through their workshops.
After much deliberation the Yanagisawa Company looked into the possibility of manufacturing their own saxophone. In 1954 they launched their first model, the T3 tenor saxophone. This first model was was silver plated and engraved with the design of a castle. Incidentally, this first model was said to have been bought by an American soldier at the Komaki music store in Tokyo. In 1956 this model was soon followed by the A-3 alto saxophone.
For the next ten years the company to produce alto and tenor saxophones but did not produce any new models. However, as the company motto "Yanagisawa pursues technology" suggests they were by no means dormant. The company, endeavouring to become a saxophone specialist , remodelled the existing 2 saxophones and plans were on the drawing board to produce a full range of saxophones for the domestic market.
In June 1965 the remodelled alto was released as the A-5, closely followed by the T-5 tenor saxophone in February 1966. Not prepared to sit on their laurels, modifications were carried to both models and they were both launched as the A-4 and T-4 in April of that same year.
March 1967 saw the introduction of the first baritone made in Japan. The B-6 attracted a great deal of attention and acclaim. Their long awaited ambition was realised in March 1969 when the S-6 soprano was released. (The first soprano saxophone to be made in Japan)
The company continued their policy of upgrading and superceded the A-4 by bringing out the A-6 alto saxophone in August 1970. By this time, the Yanagisawa Company had proved to themselves to be the leading innovators of saxophones on their domestic market, but the world stage was still waiting.
In February 1972,Yanagisawa developed their first solid silver alto saxophone.
In June 1972, they released the SN-6, the world's first sopranino saxophone with high E key. This first ever made Yanagisawa sopranino is now in the hands of Sonny Rollins.
With the saxophone line fulfilled, the company gained the fully fledged reputation of being the saxophone specialist manufacturer to accommodate all saxophone artists. Saxophonists, whatever their ability and whatever make of saxophone, were always welcome at the Yanagisawa factory to have their instrument looked at, overhauled or customised at very little or no charge. Many of the top Japanese saxophonists as well as international touring musicians called at the factory with their instruments. The skilled technicians listened very carefully to their points of view. A common complaint was of the mediocrity of commercially available mouthpieces. Always obliging in their quest to satisfy the needs of musicians the challenge was inviting. In December 1973 the Yanagisawa Company started production of their hand-made metal and hard rubber mouthpieces. These mouthpieces are held in high acclaim by musicians all over the world and the demand is increasing every year.
Up to this period the Yanagisawa Company had been manufacturing instruments for other well known saxophone companies who had their names engraved on them. Examples of this were the Selmer Pennsylvania, Conn Continental and saxophones under the Martin brand name. To this day I am still reminded by musicians of the similarities to the older saxophones.
In 1978 the Yanagisawa proudly began engraved their own name on the bell.
The models No.800 sopranos were completed and added to the range in July 1978.
In 1979 they finally succeeded in making their first curved soprano, one of the most difficult instruments to make, through Yanagisawa's well seasoned technology. The academic people and famed artist of both Japan and overseas, who had advised on its making, highly appraised the instrument. The whole range was upgraded in 1980 with the introduction of the superior series 880 models and the improved series 500 altos and tenors. With the introduction of the world's first inter-changeable crook soprano, the S-880 soprano was launched in June 1985.
The popularity and acceptance of Yanagisawa as a major name in quality saxophone production during this period gave the company more confidence to strive forward for their goal of perfection. With the introduction of the -900 and -990 series in baritone and soprano saxophones, the quest was on to prove to the world that another major innovation was due. The S-990 detachable neck soprano was the worlds first saxophone to have a high G key.
The success achieved here eventually saw the introduction of the -900 and -990 series alto and tenor saxophones in September 1992. Now the sceptics, who claimed that only the baritones and sopranos were very good, started taking the altos and tenors very seriously indeed. During the reign of the 900 series , further improvements were quietly taking place and eased the way for the most important introduction of any new series - Today's saxophones the -901, -902, -991 and -992.
Today's models went through the most major of any upgrade on any manufactured saxophone today. A complete re-tooling was carried out to facilitate the re-positioning of the tone holes and taper for the ultimate in pitch and action.
When talking to anybody from the Yanagisawa Company as to what they think is the most important priority in a saxophone, the answer is always "The sound". When you talk to most saxophonists and you ask them the same question the answer again is "The sound". So many musicians play on very old saxophones because they have "that sound". Unfortunately, many musicians have to compensate for the inadequacies of the tuning and older actions of these saxophones in order to get "that sound". That is the sound that we love to hear on some of our favourite albums.
There are so many theories as to why brass today should be so different to brass of yesterday, but really no one knows. Not accepting the general consensus that it could not be done, Yanagisawa began experimenting with different metals and alloys to achieve a sound close to the sound of the older saxophones. Having narrowed the field down to bronze, they built prototypes with different grades of bronze before deciding on which one would be the most acceptable sound. This was the birth of the -992 series. The -992 series, with its comfortable fast action, precision tuning and "that sound", was launched in November 1998.
Following the enormous success of the -992 series which was based on the deluxe -991 series, it was decided to introduce a more affordable range of bronze saxophones based on the -901 series. The S-902 bronze straight soprano was introduced in 2000 as an introduction. Production began on the alto, tenor and baritone models in January 2001.1