Yanigisawa S6 Soprano (1978)

The Story

In the mid-1980s I was playing in a local cabaret band in the UK called ‘White Satin’. It wasn’t the sort of band I play in now – disco and pop with two girl singers. My pal Alan Jones played drums, but it was about the only time I strayed away from playing with the musicians (Tim, George, Colin, Kenny, Squirel) I’ve hang around with before and after. Not that they weren’t good folks.

In any case I was earning reasonable money as a semi-professional musician, so I decide to splash out on a soprano. I bought this from Michael White‘s saxophone shop in Ealing. It was just round the corner from Chiswick, where I worked for 23 years (with the great yawn of commuting 100 miles a day). It was always fun to go and see the second hand instruments there and I have bought a couple over the years. Michael is also very well stocked with accessories –  a good place to buy mouthpieces (including C Melody models for instance). I strongly recommend giving him a visit.

The Instrument

This is a Yanigisawa S6 – the best soprano I’ve ever played. It was made in Japan in 1978 according to the serial number, which is 10786643. Yanis before 1980 carry the date in the 3rd and 4th number according to the excellent article on saxpics. Apparently Yanigisawa was formed in 1893 and started making saxophones in 1954. In 1969 it made the first ever soprano in Japan. My instrument is special because 1978 was the first year in which it put its own name on the bell (as you can see in my pictures).

This is a good weight, has excellent modern balanced action, a high F# key. The ‘pinky’ cluster is flat under the left little finger. The thumb and octave key rests are in a dark burgundy colour, which is a bit odd at first because of the colour, but it was copying Selmer of course in the use of plastic. I guess they were designed to be more easily replaced the metal. In any case I’ve never had to have the horn either repadded or repaired, although as an occasional soprano player it only gets played on a couple of numbers on gigs. As usual I’ve added a video clip from my saxachronic chamber so you can hear what it sounds like.

The Player

The sound is round and modern and the instrument much easier to blow than the (more) vintage small saxes in my collection. I used a Bobby Dukoff metal 6 mouthpiece with a Rico Royal 1 1/2 reed in the clip, by the way. As always keeping the soprano in tune is a challenge, especially as you move from lower to upper registered. The Yani helps me more than the others, although I’d have to do a lot of practice to get it easily right. One difficulty is that I always have to play loud to get over the electric instruments in the bands I play with. I’d advise getting a more closed ebonite mouthpiece to anyone lucky enough to play with quieter bands than mine.


  • Make – Yanigisawa
  • Model – S6 straight Bb soprano
  • Serial Number – 10786643
  • Date of Manufacture – 1978
  • Place of Manufacture – Japan
  • Finish – Gold lacquer
  • Weight – 2lbs 5oz
  • Sound – Loud, mellow and modern
  • Ease of Blowing – Open and unconstricted
  • Ease of Fingering – Very well balanced and with solid resistence

More about Yanigisawa saxophones can be found currently on the Web from saxpics on the link above.
Do you own a Yanigisawa soprano? How does it compare with other makes?Please let me know by commenting on this post.

2 Responses

  1. i have a vito/yanigisawa soprano, s6.tone is great great shape made 1976 in japan.its named a vito but its all yanigisawa.people dont realize the quality of these horns, they are great…

    • Gregory
      Thanks for the comment. I’m pleased your Vito is a Yani. Sopranos are hard to make, because the tolerances in spacing are much less. I think you should always pay more for smaller instruments, or at least be careful to try a few out first. My s6 is a great horn, although I used to play a lot better than I do now!

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