Yanagisawa 6 & 7 Series

Vital Stats

SN-6 Eb Sopranino (F#) Introduced: 1972.  Discontinued: appx. 1980.
S-6 Straight Bb Soprano Introduced: 1968. Discontinued: appx. 1990.
(According to these three histories, the S-6 straight Bb soprano was introduced in 1969.)
A-6 Eb Alto Introduced: August 1970.  Discontinued: appx. 1980.
T-6 Bb Tenor Introduced: appx. 1970.  Discontinued: appx. 1980.
B-6 Eb Baritone (low A) Introduced: March 1967.  Discontinued: appx. 1990.
Available Finishes: Silver plate, lacquer, lacquer with nickel-plated keywork.

Brief Model Notes

The SN-600 vs. SN-6 confused the heck outta me. Let me talk through it.

I eventually found a 1980’s catalog listing the SN-600 and SN-800 (the 600 is on the left). It’s a big enough pic to see that the keyed range on both the 600 and 800 are to altissimo E and neither have an altissimo F# key. I even counted tone holes for the upper stack. There are four above the B key and no front altissimo F. If you compare that to the 6 on the SN-9930, which has a keyed range to altissimo G, you can only conclude that the horn pictured in the catalog as an SN-600 has a range to altissimo E.

That’s not the end of it, though.

The really, really easy way to tell if you have an A-5 or T-5 pro model, rather than an A-4 or a T-4 “intermediate” model, is to see if you have an altissimo F#. Altissimo F# = 5 Series. So, one might conclude that the 6 Series, a professional line, all have altissimo F# keys. They don’t. The B-6 baritone doesn’t. “Well,” you could say, “Baritones generally don’t have altissimo F#. Bari players don’t use that key much and the bari isn’t very common, anyway. Most manufacturers use their older-style horns until they get lotsa orders for a new model bari.” That’s a good point, but the B-6 is Yani’s first bari. I could also argue that the market for sopraninos is even smaller than the market for baris. That’s easily seen by just looking at my stash of Yani bari and sopranino pics. I have probably 5 to 10 times more baris than sopraninos.

So, let’s look at some documentation.

The Barnes & Mullins article says that the first sopranino was introduced in June 1972 as model “SN-6,” with a keyed range to altissimo E. The Conn-Selmer website goes a step further and says that the first SN-6 sopranino was sold to Sonny Rollins in 1972, but doesn’t comment on the keyed range. Yanagisawa’s website and others say it’s 1968 with model SN-600, with keyed range to altissimo E. Riojasax says that the SN-600, with keyed range to altissimo E, was released in December 1968 and the SN-6 was released in June 1972.

So, my current opinion, based on agreement from most of my source material, is that the SN-600 is a sopranino with a keyed range to altissimo E. The SN-6, if I can ever find one, probably has a keyed range to altissimo F# or it has some small change to a bit of keywork, like the A-600.

Wrapping up the model name and introduction date stuff, I want to mention that I couldn’t find a release date for the T-6 tenor. My opinion is that it was probably released around the same time as the alto, give or take a few months.

You’ll notice, in the above pics, I didn’t include an A-6, but the A-600, instead. There’s a reason for that: I have yet to find halfway decent photos of a horn that’s actually stamped “A-6.” Until I actually find pics, the A-600 is close enough.

This horn is probably an A-6, but the serial number is close enough to the 800/880 series that I can’t be sure unless it had the “A-6” stamp by the serial number and I can’t see the serial number.

I’ve seen a number of people selling horns that look like this. When people are questioned about it, they say that they looked up the serial number and “it fits” with the A-6. They don’t have a stamp by the serial number that says “A-6.” They just assume it’s a 6. Which is fine and dandy until you see the A-4, which was stenciled as the “Dorado 500,” amongst other names. The A-4 was produced until at least 1975, and I think it could have been produced all the way up to the introduction of the A-800/A-80, which was between 1977 and 1980, depending on your source material.

Here’s something else: the A-6s I see being sold don’t have an altissimo F# key. The T-6 has an altissimo F#. The older pro model, the A-5, has an altissimo F#. Even stencils of these have the altissimo F#. I’d assume that the real A-6 also has an altissimo F# key.

If you’ve got an A-6 with “A-6” stamped by the serial number, drop me a line!

As mentioned above, the SN-600 sopranino has a keyed range to altissimo E. This is interesting from two perspectives: the reduced keyed range might contribute to the the fact that these horns are considered to have the best intonation of any sopranino available until that point. Second, the range to altissimo E is interesting because earlier sopraninos — and much earlier baritones and basses, for that matter — had a range to altissimo Eb. In other words, the right-hand speaker key for the altissimo E (and higher) wasn’t there on these vintage horns. It is on the Yani.

Ed pointed out, in his original article, that the S-6 is a really good copy of a Selmer Mark VI. Maybe even a better horn than the Mark VI. While I can’t dispute that one way or another because I haven’t played a Yani S-6, I have played three different Yani-made Vito VSP baritones. These horns look almost exactly like a low A Mark VI horn, but all three were awful horns: poor response, poor tone. That’s one of the reasons I’ve kept away from writing about Yani for a long while: no need for me to write about horns I don’t like!

Yamaha introduced their first professional horns, the 61 Series, internationally in 1971. The Yamaha 61 horns are much more visually different from the Selmer Mark VI than the Yanis, but also play very similarly to the Mark VI — maybe a bit brighter than the VI, even. It’s very possible that the Yani 6 Series and the Yamaha 61 Series contributed to Selmer producing the Mark VII. (Of course, there’s also the interesting part that the Yamaha saxophone division was originally Nikkan Woodwinds, which was part of Yanagisawa.)

New on Jan. 21, 2020:
I have gotten an awful lot of e-mails from folks trying to find out if they have a 6-Series, 500, or 800.  That’s a really, really difficult question to answer when the horn has a serial number that puts the horn from about 1977 to 1982.  Here are some notes:

  • We know that almost definitely, that all 800s and 880s have that Yani “coin,” mentioned above.
  • The B6 baritone had some keywork upgrades around 1977.
  • Yanagisawa stencils from this time are generally 800s, but some could be 6s.  Look for the double-arm on the low C key.  You’ll only see that on the 800.
  • There is really no good way of telling a 500 from a 6 series horn.  The 6 may have a thumbrest that’s more reddish and it has those stainless steel springs.  That’s hard to spot.  It’s possible that all the 500s also have red enamel in the Yani logo on the neck, but that can wear off.

I’ll eventually look into this a bit more.  Yes, I also know that a couple horns in my gallery are in the wrong places.  I’m working on that, too.

The 7 Series

In 1972, Yanagisawa prototyped a sterling silver alto. This is considered by the SAXess website — and I think they’re correct to do so — as the first 7 Series instrument.  However, sterling silver horns weren’t sold until sometime between 1995 and 1999, with the introduction of the 9937 models.  The 9937 was then replaced with the WO37 models in 2014/5.

Serial Number Information

Prior to 1981, the 6 Series horns have a seven or eight-digit serial number. The form is essentially,


7741543 = July, 1974.
12741543 = December, 1974.

Some 1980 serial numbers use this same format (e.g. 1801234, which is January 1980), but some switch to the post 1980 format, which doesn’t have the date “embedded” in the serial number.

For post-1980 serial numbers, check out my thread on the Woodwind Forum.

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. Some/most of these are mis-categorized (my fault) and are really 800s or 880s.
SoundFuga. A sales ‘site, but they have a a lot of older Yanis — and they have good pics.
Wind Bros. Another sales ‘site, but they have a a lot of older Yanis — and they have good pics.
sn 08775442 (1977) lacquer S-6 Vito Stencil from Doctorsax.biz (w/sound samples).
sn 11741954 (1974) lacquer S-6 from Zohndell Johnson @ flickr.
Another Lacquer S-6 from musicinstruments @ flickr.
1970s Lacquer S-6 from John Clark @ flickr.

Pete Hales Written by: