Yanagisawa 4 & 40 Series (Dorado 500)

Vital Stats

Introduced: 1965/1966
Discontinued: 1974/5 (possibly as late as 1977/1980)
Available Pitches: Eb alto, Bb tenor.
Available Finishes: Lacquer, lacquer with nickel keywork, silver plate.

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 [1965/1966], the A-4 and T-4 [were] released as entry-level pro model[s] based on the 5-series instruments, similar to how the current 901 models are entry level [professional] versions of the 990 instruments. (Sources HERE and HERE.)

The 4 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 [than on the 5-series,] but shows Selmer influence. It is a non-floating mechanism that appears to be “Selmer-like” but on steroids, as it is quite a bit larger than your standard modern left pinky table. (Source: Ed Svoboda’s original Yanagisawa article.)

From what I can see, most of the 4 series are marked with the model name next to the serial number. That instantly tells you whether the horn you have is a 4-series or 5-series. Interestingly, I’ve come across several A-40s and T-40s that had “A-40” or “T-40” engraved on the bell, but are stamped “A-4,” “T-4,” or just “4” by the serial number.

There were at least four versions of the 4 Series horns:

* Left side bell keys. In other words, looks pretty much like a 3 Series.
* Small “O” bell-to-body brace, right side bell keys.
* Large “O” bell-to-body brace, right side bell keys.
* Stamped bell-to-body brace, right side bell keys. This one looks very much like the bell-to-body brace on the Yamaha 23 series.

It’s possible that the first 4 Series horns have a bore identical to the newest version of the 3 Series horns. This is a similar strategy to what SML used to do: release the old model under a different name. As far as the other 4 Series models, I don’t know. Obviously the bell is different — switching from left side bell keys to right — but it may be that the rest of the body tube is unchanged. I’d have to do a bit more research to conclusively say that the 4 Series really is “the same as” a 5 Series, but just scaled down a little. I also know this semi-contradicts the quote I have above from the Barnes & Mullins website.

Last, but definitely not least, Yanagisawa prototyped a low A alto version of the A-4, making Yanagisawa the fourth manufacturer I know of to make low A altos, behind A. Sax, Selmer, and Cousenon.

Serial Number Information

The 4 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.

Prima Engraving

The horns engraved “Prima” were sold to the Japanese market through Prima Gakki. Horns without the “Prima” engraving were sold through Zen-On. (Source.)

Additional Pictures

Saxpics.com (2 examples)
Saxophone.org (1 example)

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