The c melody saxophone is a variety of saxophone that was produced in the years from 1910 to 1930, but is not seen much now.
While most saxophones are pitched in E-flat or B-flat, the C melody horn can play music that has not been transposed. For instance, a person could play a C melody along with a piano accompanist, and not have to have separate, specially written music. They could simply follow the melody line of the music the pianist was playing.
A person who wants to play a C melody saxophone will probably have to buy a vintage sax that has been restored. A good job of restoration will focus more on the quality of the sound and the working parts than on the brightness of the finish. The C melody sax is about the size of an alto sax, but is designed a little differently.
Saxophones have changed down through the years, with certain details becoming more creatively designed. For this reason, the C melody might seem to be made too simply for someone who is used to modern saxophones. However, they are generally built strong and heavy enough to last a long time and take a lot of abuse.
Picture of Conn C Melody Sax:
The C melody saxophone was a member of Adolphe Sax's original orchestral saxophones. He had a series designed for military bands, as well. It was a popular instrument back in the '20's, being advertised as easy to learn to play. Since there were so many made back then, it is not uncommon to find them in pawn shops today.
There are bands and musicians who are reviving this style of saxophone. However, it is difficult to get the parts you need to renovate a C melody saxophone. The mouthpiece is particularly difficult to find, and they are known to play out of tune. If the engraving is particularly unique, an old one can be a good collector's item.
Watch/Listen to a demonstration of a 1930 Conn C Melody Tenor Saxophone:
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