Why didn't the C-Melody saxophone become more popular?

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    Default Why didn't the C-Melody saxophone become more popular?

    I still don't really understand this .... Something about how other saxes fit into the orchestra better, in a more uniform way ... and the C-Melody ended up being the odd sax out? Is that how it went?

    It's a loss, imo. They can be great horns. I just picked up, in a trade, a Buescher C-Melody from the 1920's, in matte silver, a real museum piece with the original pads. The horn and the pads are in such a new condition that the pads are all sealing really well and the whole horn plays brilliantly up and down. It has that snappy new feel to the keys. With my tenor mouthpieces, it's a gorgeous sounding horn. Like a little tenor. It doesn't quite have the fullness and big sound of my Mark VI tenor, but it is undeniably a better sounding horn. That's discouraging, I paid an enormous amount of money for my VI, mostly I guess for it's playing characteristics (which are out of this world). Don't get me wrong, the VI sounds great. Beautiful vintage sound with amazing flexibility, but the Buescher is just stellar in sound. It also has an incredibly even scale up and down (like my old Conn new wonder had), with no issues anywhere. As far as I can tell, at least so far, it's also very much in tune with my tenor mps. Maybe not all of them .....

    As for the value of the Buescher, I'm not really sure what it is because I traded for it. A low digit VI that looked like this, with original pads, that played well on those pads and sounded great would cost $12 - $15K.

    Is the Selmer a six to seven times better horn than the Buescher ???........ Uh, ..... no. Is it even a better horn than this 20's C-Melody? I don't know ... time will tell, I guess. I'm anxious to use this Buescher in my garage band, where I can say goodbye to transposing.


    Turtle
    1956 Selmer Mark VI tenor / Dukoff Hollywood 6* mp / Alexander NY reeds

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    Default Re: Why didn't the C-Melody saxophone become more popular?

    Quote Originally Posted by TurtleJimmy View Post
    I still don't really understand this .... Something about how other saxes fit into the orchestra better, in a more uniform way ... and the C-Melody ended up being the odd sax out? Is that how it went?
    Maybe the question in the thread title should be, "Why did the C melody saxophone fall out of favor after having been popular?" It was indeed a successful horn during the "saxophone craze" that peaked in the 1920s, then peetered out when the Depression hit. There was a complete, established family of Bb/Eb saxophones, whereas the C/F line was incomplete. Only a handful of F "mezzo-sopranos" (actually, F altos in the C/F line) were ever made. There was no F baritone, as far as I know. C sopranos were used in the '20s, but of course they were very, very close to the Bb sopranos. The horns outside the Bb/Eb family were redundant, and therefore became dispensable when economic constraints on the different types of saxes that could be manufactured and purchased tightened greatly. Maybe the C melody catered more to hobbyists than to professionals, and the hobbyists stopped buying.

    It's a loss, imo. They can be great horns. I just picked up, in a trade, a Buescher C-Melody from the 1920's, in matte silver, a real museum piece with the original pads. The horn and the pads are in such a new condition that the pads are all sealing really well and the whole horn plays brilliantly up and down. It has that snappy new feel to the keys. With my tenor mouthpieces, it's a gorgeous sounding horn. Like a little tenor.
    It is a tenor -- a C tenor. It's the tenor of the C/F family of saxophones. But its sound is gently sweetened with some alto nectar.

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    Default Re: Why didn't the C-Melody saxophone become more popular?

    Quote Originally Posted by LostConn View Post
    Maybe the question in the thread title should be, "Why did the C melody saxophone fall out of favor after having been popular?" It was indeed a successful horn during the "saxophone craze" that peaked in the 1920s, then peetered out when the Depression hit. There was a complete, established family of Bb/Eb saxophones, whereas the C/F line was incomplete. Only a handful of F "mezzo-sopranos" (actually, F altos in the C/F line) were ever made. There was no F baritone, as far as I know. C sopranos were used in the '20s, but of course they were very, very close to the Bb sopranos. The horns outside the Bb/Eb family were redundant, and therefore became dispensable when economic constraints on the different types of saxes that could be manufactured and purchased tightened greatly. Maybe the C melody catered more to hobbyists than to professionals, and the hobbyists stopped buying.



    It is a tenor -- a C tenor. It's the tenor of the C/F family of saxophones. But its sound is gently sweetened with some alto nectar.

    Aha! So it IS a tenor.

    For some reason that makes me really happy. But, that makes sense because it sounds like a tenor. It looks like a tenor. It walks and quacks like a tenor .... In fact it looks absolutely identical to my old Conn New Wonder tenor, just scaled down, and with a few different details, like the neck brace. Almost all the other details (split bell keys, wire key guards, etc.) are exactly the same .... Is it possible this Buescher was made by Conn, as a stencil?


    Turtle
    1956 Selmer Mark VI tenor / Dukoff Hollywood 6* mp / Alexander NY reeds

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    Default Re: Why didn't the C-Melody saxophone become more popular?

    During its heyday in the 1920s, the C-melody was sold without resonators. The idea was that a person could play the vocal part of sheet music while accompanying a pianist. Not having resonators supposedly kept it quiet enough for that use. I've seen it argued that is one reason C-melodies gained a bad reputation....the sound was weak and muffled, and people came to believe it was an inherent part of the C-melody. Since they hadn't been incorporated into bands by that time, makes sense that they stopped being produced.

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    Default Re: Why didn't the C-Melody saxophone become more popular?

    They lack the guts of a tenor and the sweetness of an alto. An indistinct voice, so to speak.

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    Default Re: Why didn't the C-Melody saxophone become more popular?

    Quote Originally Posted by Grumps View Post
    They lack the guts of a tenor and the sweetness of an alto. An indistinct voice, so to speak.
    My friend Ryan who works at Cannonball says that a C-Melody is just a tenor that hasn't yet gone through puberty.

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    Default Re: Why didn't the C-Melody saxophone become more popular?

    Quote Originally Posted by Saxaatu View Post
    During its heyday in the 1920s, the C-melody was sold without resonators. The idea was that a person could play the vocal part of sheet music while accompanying a pianist. Not having resonators supposedly kept it quiet enough for that use. I've seen it argued that is one reason C-melodies gained a bad reputation....the sound was weak and muffled, and people came to believe it was an inherent part of the C-melody. Since they hadn't been incorporated into bands by that time, makes sense that they stopped being produced.


    No resonators??? That explains why this C-tenor is so quiet. No, they're not there. These are the original pads and there's, like a small button, but not really a full sized resonator. It plays, just normally without pushing it, about 3/4 of the volume of my VI (or really, any tenor I've owned). That was one of the surprises when I played it with my tenor mps for the first time ..... My first thought was, here's a horn that I can play with anything .... piano, acoustic guitar, or anything at a low volume. It's just not very loud. When you push it hard, yeah, it gets loud, but not like a Bb tenor.

    When you say, no resonators, do you mean nothing at all ..... no little metal button but just all pad?

    Weak and muffled .... no, not even close. With my modern Bb tenor mps, it is vibrant and lively, as much as the ungodly expensive VI. Maybe it was the crap mouthpieces that gave it that rep, back in the day (the 1920's). This one came with an original Buescher C HR mp .... also looking brand new and it sounds like S*** ..... stuffy, tubby and just about as awful as any mouthpiece I've ever tried on any horn. Seriously, hard to believe it could be that bad. The best Bb tenor mp so far on the C-Melody is Philtone's Mosaic. With that on there, the sound is big and rich, beginning to rival the bigness of the Bb tenor. But, it's still at 3/4 volume with Phil's mp on there.


    Turtle
    1956 Selmer Mark VI tenor / Dukoff Hollywood 6* mp / Alexander NY reeds

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    Default Re: Why didn't the C-Melody saxophone become more popular?

    Quote Originally Posted by saxoclese View Post
    My friend Ryan who works at Cannonball says that a C-Melody is just a tenor that hasn't yet gone through puberty.


    LOL

    And this one's a little shy to boot .... It just needs some encouragement ("You are a relevant saxophone.") and the right modern Bb mp.

    And, maybe some resonators.


    Turtle
    1956 Selmer Mark VI tenor / Dukoff Hollywood 6* mp / Alexander NY reeds

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    Default Re: Why didn't the C-Melody saxophone become more popular?

    Quote Originally Posted by Grumps View Post
    They lack the guts of a tenor and the sweetness of an alto. An indistinct voice, so to speak.

    The sweetness of an alto?????

    Hmmmmmmmmm. I'm in the Dr. G camp ... While I don't go so far as to say that "Tenor is all that matters" (mostly because G says it often enough that I don't feel a need), I wouldn't put "sweet" and "alto" in the same sentence, unless you're talking about alto flutes.

    No. My joy here is palpable in finding out that this great sounding little beast is a TENOR (and not an alto with a weight problem).


    Turtle
    1956 Selmer Mark VI tenor / Dukoff Hollywood 6* mp / Alexander NY reeds

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    Default Re: Why didn't the C-Melody saxophone become more popular?

    I heard that the big turning point for the C melody was in the sheet music.

    The critter was designed to be played over the shoulder of Aunt Bee, while she played the upright in the parlor, peeking at her sheet music.

    Back in them days people made their own music or they did not get much. Phonographs and radios began to take over, and fewer folk sat in the parlor playing the guitar or piano, with a C melody, singing together.

    In addition, there was plenty of ready made music out there for Bb and Eb instruments to play in the town bands, marching and concert. Not so much for a C tenor voice. So without the parlor sheet music, which died out at the same time as the C melody, there was no where to go.

    Consequently, with the jazz age of the 20s dead, the Great Depression on, radio programs in the parlor all the rage, and no music for the beasts in the local bands, the C melody stopped being made.

    Anyway, that is one of the ways that the story is told. Sounds plausible to me.

    [wiki:The late-19th century saw a massive explosion of parlor music, with ownership of, and skill at playing the piano becoming de rigueur for the middle-class family. In the late-19th century, if a middle-class family wanted to hear a popular new song or piece, they would buy the sheet music and then perform the song or piece in an amateur fashion in their home. But in the early 20th century the phonograph and recorded music grew greatly in importance. This, joined by the growth in popularity of radio broadcasting from the 1920s on, lessened the importance of the sheet music publishers. The record industry eventually replaced the sheet music publishers as the music industry's largest force.]

    [http://parlorsongs.com/insearch/tinp...npanalley.php:
    After the American Civil War, over 25,000 new pianos a year were sold in America and by 1887, over 500,000 youths were studying piano. As a result, the demand for sheet music grew rapidly and more and more publishers began to enter the market. During the last fifteen years of the 19th century, New York began to emerge as the center of popular music publishing. Mainly, this happened because New York was becoming an important center for the musical and performing arts. As such, much of the talent was there and that was where one could immediately see trends and changes in musical style. During this period, a new generation of music publishers emerged who added energy and impetus to the music industry.]

    [wiki:
    By the late 1920s the popularity of C melody saxophones had faded. Sales of all saxophones fell dramatically after the Wall Street Crash of 1929, and the C melody was one of several models[10] (including the mezzo-soprano saxophone) which were dropped from production soon after. However, it is important to note that production ended for purely financial reasons, and not because of any inherent flaw in the design or poor manufacturing standards. C melody saxophones were as good as the reputation of whichever company manufactured them. The basic problem was that the Great Depression which followed immediately after the stock market crash of 1929 caused extremely harsh economic conditions throughout the world, which affected the production of all leisure-related consumer products. This unusually profound recession hit saxophone manufacturers hard, forcing them to reduce the range of musical instruments they produced down to the most popular models, simply in order for those companies to survive.[11] As a result, production of C melody saxophones ended abruptly. By the time the world economy had recovered sufficiently for C melody saxophones to be economically viable again (around 1935) people's leisure time interests had changed and there was no longer a market for them. Additionally, the "Big Band" era had started in the early 1930s and anyone who wanted to learn the saxophone was interested primarily in soprano, alto, tenor or baritone because this would, potentially at least, allow them to play in a Big Band, and Big Bands did not feature C melody saxophones in their instrument line-up. As a result, there was no consumer demand for C melody instruments, so would-be manufacturers had no incentive to resume production. Not surprisingly, instrument manufacturers concentrated instead on making other types which had strong customer demand and were easy to sell e.g. alto and tenor saxophones.]
    Last edited by click; 04-15-2018 at 01:43 PM.

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    Default Re: Why didn't the C-Melody saxophone become more popular?

    A much more important and intriguing question for me has always been:
    Why was the R-flat counter-tenor not a smashing success in the saxophone market, and what really did happen to those three (or was it four) surviving examples from that initial stillborn production run?

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    Default Re: Why didn't the C-Melody saxophone become more popular?

    Quote Originally Posted by click View Post
    I heard that the big turning point for the C melody was in the sheet music.

    The critter was designed to be played over the shoulder of Aunt Bee, while she played the upright in the parlor, peeking at her sheet music.

    Back in them days people made their own music or they did not get much. Phonographs and radios began to take over, and fewer folk sat in the parlor playing the guitar or piano, with a C melody, singing together.

    In addition, there was plenty of ready made music out there for Bb and Eb instruments to play in the town bands, marching and concert. Not so much for a C tenor voice. So without the parlor sheet music, which died out at the same time as the C melody, there was no where to go.

    Consequently, with the jazz age of the 20s dead, the Great Depression on, radio programs in the parlor all the rage, and no music for the beasts in the local bands, the C melody stopped being made.

    Anyway, that is one of the ways that the story is told. Sounds plausible to me.



    That does sound plausible.

    Funny you should mention sheet music because that was the big turning point for me as well, in deciding to try one of these C horns. I hate transposing and I'm not good at it (probably why I hate it) and I want access to Motown sheet music and a lot of other 60's stuff that isn't jazz, and be able to play all the melodies without transposing. Viola! The C horn does that for me.

    The store where I traded for the Buescher also has C-Melody Conn with a tuner neck, roughly the same era (1920's). I'm getting that one too.


    Turtle
    1956 Selmer Mark VI tenor / Dukoff Hollywood 6* mp / Alexander NY reeds

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    Default Re: Why didn't the C-Melody saxophone become more popular?

    Just be sure and play it with a LOT of vibrato!!

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    Default Re: Why didn't the C-Melody saxophone become more popular?

    Dan Higgins and his son Dustin present a wonderful example of the C-Melody being played in the style that was popular when the instrument had a wide following. Color me "old fashioned" but I prefer the C-mel sounding like this rather than being pimped out to sound like a modern rock and roll tenor---something it was never intended to be. It was designed and manufactured with this sound in mind.


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    Last edited by click; 04-13-2018 at 10:05 PM.

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    Default Re: Why didn't the C-Melody saxophone become more popular?

    Quote Originally Posted by saxoclese View Post
    Dan Higgins and his son Dustin present a wonderful example of the C-Melody being played in the style that was popular when the instrument had a wide following. Color me "old fashioned" but I prefer the C-mel sounding like this rather than being pimped out to sound like a modern rock and roll tenor---something it was never intended to be. It was designed and manufactured with this sound in mind.



    Beautiful!!! Yes, that's what this one sounds like .... pretty much. Very pretty. Very quiet. Only, with the Mosaic on there, it's more robust and chunky and edgy and a little louder (not much louder). That looks like a HR mp on there, if he's getting that nice a sound from an original C mp, my hat's off to him.

    When you say, "pimped out to sound like a modern rock and roll tenor", are you referring to resonators? Or, mouthpiece selection? Could you elaborate on that?


    Turtle
    1956 Selmer Mark VI tenor / Dukoff Hollywood 6* mp / Alexander NY reeds

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    Default Re: Why didn't the C-Melody saxophone become more popular?

    Quote Originally Posted by TurtleJimmy View Post
    Beautiful!!! Yes, that's what this one sounds like .... pretty much. Very pretty. Very quiet. Only, with the Mosaic on there, it's more robust and chunky and edgy and a little louder (not much louder). That looks like a HR mp on there, if he's getting that nice a sound from an original C mp, my hat's off to him.

    When you say, "pimped out to sound like a modern rock and roll tenor", are you referring to resonators? Or, mouthpiece selection? Could you elaborate on that?


    Turtle
    All of the above.

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    Default Re: Why didn't the C-Melody saxophone become more popular?

    Quote Originally Posted by TurtleJimmy View Post

    When you say, no resonators, do you mean nothing at all ..... no little metal button but just all pad?

    Weak and muffled .... no, not even close.


    Turtle
    I had a closet silver Holton C-melody that had the original white pads. Just pads, no rivets. You could tell those white pads had been gorgeous when brand new. (Ultimately, I passed it on rather than restore it). That's good to know about the mouthpiece. I also suspect the people who were drawn to a parlor saxophone were probably less musically inclined than folks who now grow up playing the sax in various bands.

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    Default Re: Why didn't the C-Melody saxophone become more popular?

    Quote Originally Posted by saxoclese View Post
    Dan Higgins and his son Dustin present a wonderful example of the C-Melody being played in the style that was popular when the instrument had a wide following. Color me "old fashioned" but I prefer the C-mel sounding like this rather than being pimped out to sound like a modern rock and roll tenor---something it was never intended to be. It was designed and manufactured with this sound in mind.

    I came across these videos several years ago and loved them from the very beginning.

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    Default Re: Why didn't the C-Melody saxophone become more popular?

    Quote Originally Posted by TurtleJimmy View Post
    No resonators??? That explains why this C-tenor is so quiet.
    No, it doesn't really.

    People tend to think that if they pimp their C-Mel with reso pads, the horn is gonna grow cojones.

    It won't.

    Just tellin' you so you aren't disappointed if you spend the $ to repad with resos (ANY kinda resos, really).

    The deadness of the tone of a C-mel isn't because they had rivet pads. It's because their specification is weird. The proportions of the neck and body takes away the 'aliveness' which one typically associates with the 'saxophone sound'. Thus descriptors like 'muffled', 'stuffy', etc.
    The proportions are of a 'stretched Alto', as opposed to more of a 'compressed Tenor'. I agree that sonically, this may have been intentional (although perhaps it wasn't).

    A player can throw on resos and go with a bright mouthpiece, and massage it towards a more familiar 'saxy' liveliness...with some moderate sorta success. But that's about all.

    Quote Originally Posted by LostConn View Post
    Maybe the question in the thread title should be, "Why did the C melody saxophone fall out of favor after having been popular?" It was indeed a successful horn during the "saxophone craze" that peaked in the 1920s....
    Yup. Remember we are talking pre-Radio Craze, pre-Television. This was when folks got together and entertained themselves with piano and singing.
    You gotta look at the C-Mel in that context.


    Quote Originally Posted by click View Post
    I heard that the big turning point for the C melody was in the sheet music.
    The critter was designed to be played over the shoulder of Aunt Bee, while she played the upright in the parlor, peeking at her sheet music.
    Yup.

    I know, I know....it would then be sequitir to note: "BUT SATB's were all around in that context, too !"...which is true.
    But they weren't invented/marketed for that particular use.
    Go for the Old-Skool, homies. www.2ndending.com

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