Csaxophone.com has a great article up about C Melody Saxophones. Actually, it was taken without citation from wikipedia. Shamelessly copied. Shame on you sirs!
The article on Wikipedia isn’t the authoritative narrative of the rise and fall of the C-Melody. In fact, the author(s) of the Wikipedia article say “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.” and continue with this assertion “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”.
I wonder if that is really the reason. If, as they say on Wikipedia, that the instruments “were as good as the reputation of whichever company manufactured them” then, why wouldn’t Pros use them? Wouldn’t it have been a whole lot easier to have a big band that had two C “tenors” and a slightly smaller C “alto” and a slightly larger C “Bari” in the section? I mean, writing for them would have been a lot easier. I would reason that there was something else that prevented the adoption of the C-Melody by Professionals of the day.
Another Wikipedia article says “settling upon instruments alternating between E? and B? rather than those pitched in F and C, for reasons of tone and economy” and “The C soprano saxophone was the only instrument to sound at concert pitch.” More fuel on the fire.
I know people who have C-Melody saxophones. They play crappy I think. Partly because the rest of the saxophone world has advanced in the 80+ years since the hay-day of the C-Melody. The sounds are different. Sort of like comparing a guitar sound and strings to modern guitars. Similar, yes, but different. Or maybe lets use a car analogy….naw.
So what killed the C-Melody then? Was it that companies just didn’t produce quality instruments? Was it (as I suspect) that they sounded crappy even if they were high quality? Was it the Big Band that killed them?