Alto Introduced: June 1965
Tenor Introduced: February 1966
Discontinued: 1976 (appx.)
Available Pitches: Eb alto, Bb tenor
Available Finishes: Silver plate, lacquer, lacquer w/nickel keywork
Brief Model Notes
For the next ten years, the company [continued] 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, endeavoring to become a saxophone specialist, remodeled the existing two saxophones, [the A3 and T3,] and plans were on the drawing board to produce a full range of saxophones for the domestic market. (Source.)
In June 1965, the remodeled [3 Series] alto was released as the A-5, closely followed by the T-5 tenor saxophone in February 1966. (Source.)
The 5 Series represented [Yanagisawa’s] top of the line horns, [similar to] today’s 99x series. These horns were all hand made. The 5 Series of horns have a very centered tone and shows a major amount of influence from the Selmer Mark VI without being a true copy. It has a similar bore as well as many keywork and design elements that evoke the memory of the VI. The left pinky table is of a different design but shows Selmer influence as well. It is a non-floating mechanism that bridges “vintage” and “Selmer”. The [5 Series] horns have light action and an even response throughout …. The right hand palm key placement (specifically high D) is a little lower than it should be and does not hit my hand where I would prefer. These horns evolved over time and, late in the run, they have very similar keywork to the A-6/T-6 series of horns. (Source: Ed Svoboda’s original Yanagisawa article.)
From what I can see, most of the 5 Series are marked with the model name next to the serial number. That instantly tells you whether the horn you have really is a 5 Series. Also note that, while the A-40 and T-40 are 4 Series horns, the A-50 and T-50 are 500 Series horns. This is important to note when you want to sell your horn — or if you’re doing research and you’re trying to figure out Yanagisawa’s odd serial numbers.
Another easy way to distinguish a 4 Series from a 5 Series: altissimo F#. If you have one, it’s a 5 Series.
The 5 Series horns were the first Yanagisawas to be widely stenciled, mostly under the “Dorado 600” or “Whitehall” names. A stencil is a horn made by one manufacturer for another company or storefront. That company or storefront will literally take a stencil of their special engraving pattern, put it on the horn’s bell and start engraving. In Yanagisawa’s case, their stencils do appear to be identical to horns released under their own name. However, note the model number next to the serial number. 5 Series stencils will probably have an “A-5” or “T-5” mark. If the model name isn’t marked, you’re going to have to start comparing features.
Serial Number Information
The 5 Series horns have a six or seven-digit serial number. The form is essentially,
1266123 = December, 1966.
266313 = February, 1966.
Further serial number research can be found in my thread on the Woodwind Forum.
What’s That Extra Number?
Occasionally, you’ll see a three or four digit number stamped above the serial number.
So far, I’ve seen 300, 400, 600, 700, 800, 900, 1000, 1100, and 1200 stamped on 3, 4, and 5 Series horns.
These numbers may be arbitrary, refer to the region/country the horn was sold, or could be a lot number.
Please take a look at these two Japanese articles for more information.