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Saxophones Couesnon C Melody

Dave Mac

Honest, I'm Trying
Home is Aberdeen Scotland
a couple of years ago I picked-up this Couesnon from eBay. It has been kept in my attic whilst I have been working abroad, but now I'd like to get it put into working order. I think it was made in 1900. I can't find any website giving info on Couesnon horns - can any of you guys give me any info?

Have attached a couple of pics. There is also a serial number (I think) 571.



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An old French manufacturer. Some info here:


And there are some pics as well, if you navigate through the photo gallery.
Later Couesnon's (especially the Monopole conservatory model) were highly thought of, but like many other makes, they disappeared into the maw of B&H, never to be seen again.

From what's said on the second link above, it looks like a 1900 Armee model from 1925, possibly high pitch, which would be a problem if you want to play with others on it. Nb, saxpics model names are often the creation of the author, so don't attach too much significance to the 1900 designation.
Thinking some more, why do you think this is a C Melody? If it's a high pitch tenor, it would be noticably shorter than a normal tenor. But not as short as a C Melody at low or high pitch. Would be worth checking exactly what you have before spending a lot of cash on it.
The reason I think it's a C Melody is that when I play a "C" on it - it's a "C" on my piano. I can't get many notes out of it but the ones I can get out of it are in tune with Concert.

As a matter of interest, when I bought it on eBay, it was advertised as a Tenor .... but when it arrived it was noticeably smaller than my Walstein Tenor (and larger than my Yam Alto).

I can't find any website giving info on Couesnon horns - can any of you guys give me any info?

Get ready for information overload!

The number in the "Grenade" often referred to as the pineapple is generally thought to be the year of manufacture. This is the number in the circle at the bottom of the engraving of the bell. Hence the thought it was made in 1925

The stylised initials in your engraving are likely to be GT - Gautrot- Triebert

The company still exists, but very different from the manufacturer it used to be - http://www.pgm-couesnon.com/historique.html

And now the bit you can ignore if you like. I wish I could attribute it to the source I found it from, but can't give the reference:

Pierre Louis Gautrot (Mirecourt 1882) became proprietor of GUICHARD. He had been already working for Guichard as his associate beginning in 1835. Gautrot was involved in the 1845 litigation against Adolphe Sax.

The company of over 200 employees claimed to be the most important manufacturer of musical instruments in Europe.

The firm employed 208 workers (over 40% of the brass instrument workforce in Paris). In the same year the company patented improvements to the horn, trumpet, and brass valves.

He was the first European manufacturer to use mass production techniques for instruments. Gautrot took advantage of the industrial revolution and added steam power to his plant.

He had depots in London and by 1856 also in Madrid, Naples, and New York.

Gautrot had a plant in Château-Thierry as well, employed over 300 workers in Paris, and was producing 20,000 band and stringed instruments annually. The company had a band consisting of thirty-six workers in 1857 (many companies had such bands in the 19th century) by then had a workshop producing string instruments in Mirecourt and one producing woodwind instruments in La Couture Boussey.

Producing extremely desirable instruments, the company exported 70% of its instruments in 1860.

Gautrot was employing 700 workers and by 1867, four plants were producing approximately 47,000 musical instruments a year (24,000 of them valved brass instruments)!

The company patented the "système equitonique" (compensating valve system) in France and a year later in England. It used valves with dual windways to act as a compensating system for intonation. After litigation involving Adolphe Sax from 1856 to 1859 for alleged violation of Sax’s patents, Gautrot was ordered to pay 500,000 francs in damages, and also ordered to mark his instruments with Sax’ name. Gautrot ignored the order and Sax appealed his case in the courts until 1867. The final outcome was not specified.

The company employed over 600 workers in Paris and Château-Thierry.

Gautrot bought Triebert

Amédée August COUESNON became the director of the firm and owner in 1883. Among the many expositions at which Gautrot was represented were the Paris Expositions in 1844, 1845, 1849, 1855, 1863, 1867, 1878, Toulouse in 1845, and London in 1851, 1855, 1862, and 1882. Early in the 19th century, great changes in the method of manufacturing musical instruments took place in France. Several concepts of the Industrial Revolution (which had its roots in England) were incorporated into the manufacturing process. One major change took brass instrument manufacture out of the atelier into the factory, thus allowing for mass production and lower prices. Gautrot was one of the principals using this new-found technique.

Under the personal direction of Amedee Couesnon for 48 years, the company won many medals and awards for quality production and technical innovation.

Couesnon had expanded to eleven factories and more than 1000 workers, meeting the needs of many performing groups and military bands. During this time the products were highly sought after and were played by many of the virtuosos at the time. Although they made virtually any musical instrument, during the 1930s they began catering to "Fanfare bands" (marching brass bands very popular at the time), and gradually became almost the only supplier of marching brass instruments in France. At this same time, prior to the war, the Couesnon trumpet factory in Paris was located right next door to the F. Besson trumpet factory, where the premiere trumpets prior to World War II were made. Curiously, the Couesnon trumpets of the time look virtually identical to the F. Besson models.

At the end of World War II, the music business started to change, but Couesnon continued to deal primarily with the special needs and instruments of brass and military bands. The C/Bb trumpet market became dominated by Selmer, Courtois, LeBlanc in France and even the larger American manufacturers. The public continued to associate Couesnon with the brass band; not the orchestral or jazz band. Starting in the 60 's and during the next 20 years, Couesnon tried to expand its share in markets other than fanfare bands. They made a line called "Monopole Conservatoire" higher quality instruments, trying to gain more customers in conservatory (music students). For example, they employed Mr Bernard Soustrot (first prize in the 1976 Maurice André Competition in Paris) to try all the piccolos trumpets made in the workshop and to give his "blessing" to these new instruments. Unfortunately, these efforts proved ultimately ineffective, and their traditional market continued to decrease in popularity to the point that brass bands have almost all disappeared in France. According to Richard Dundas, sixty percent of the production was exported throughout the world with as much thirty percent sold in the United States. However, as sales declined, the profits dwindled and the losses mounted. Factories were sold off and in 1969 the main factory in Château Thierry was badly damaged by fire, destroying the archives. In 1978, the contract with Gretch to import Couesnon instruments to the United States was terminated and new Couesnon instruments have been very rare in the US since that time.

Guichard - as predecessor.
Auguste G.Guichard founded a musical instrument manufacturing company bearing his name in 1827. He also established a factory at Château-Thierry (Aisne), thus moving from a "cottage" to a "factory" industry devoted to the manufacture of brass musical instruments. Pierre-Louis Gautrot joined the firm in 1835. In 1845, the name of the company was changed from Guichard to Gautrot indicating at least a change in management. At the time of change of name, the two artisans were brothers-in-law.

Gautrot - as maker-inventor.
The company names of Gautrot were altered several times during his 39 years as an entrepeneur-maker-inventor allowing for various degrees of influence. Evidently he could work alone or in "tandem." One early invention (1847) by Gautrot involved what was called an "omnitonic" horn which added 12 crooks and quickchange valves to the natural horn. This idea was consolidated into a 3-valve "omnitonic" (1854), and further developed into what may be called a predecessor of the modern double horn (1858). In 1855, the company added woodwind and string instruments to its line of products.

The sarrusophone dates from 1856 when it was patented as a double-reed instrument, though it existed earlier. A mouthpiece with a single beating reed for this instrument was patented by Sax in 1866! Gautrot absorbed or became allied with several other musical instrument makers as time passed. He added Tulou flutes in 1857. Jean-Louis Tulou (1786-1865) was not only a flute-maker, but served as a professor of flute at the Conservatoire in Paris (1829-1856) and was in all probability the last well-known flutist to be against the Boehm flute. The company name became Gautrot aine et cie. in 1870. Though I cannot pinpoint when "et cie. " was not part of the company name, several references do exist. Also, Gautrot Marquet (ca. 1863) and Gautrot, durand et cie. (ca. 1878) were two affiliations noted in passing. During the existence of Gautrot aîne et a cie (1870-1883), one purchase was made which amazed me. Frédéric Triébert Fils (1813-1878) died and left his company, including a factory in Paris, to Mme. C. Dehais who immediately sold it to Felix Paris who later sold it to Gautrot (1881). This is the Triébert company where François Lorée worked / supervised before starting his own (extant) company.

In 1883, Gautrot added the name of Couesnon to his company name, making it Couesnon, Gautrot et cie. Amédée Couesnon was Gautrot's son-in law at the time. Couesnon had an extremely long life, being born in 1850, and dying in 1951.

Couesnon - as successor.
The name of Gautrot was deleted from the company name in 1888, thereby ending the influence of Gautrot. The changes in Couesnon et cie. until its demise well into the, twentieth century (1967) are beyond the scope of this study. Adolphe Sax, born Antoine-Joseph, produced the first saxophone in about 1843: a C bass in the shape of an ophicleide. These "prototype" saxophones made in this curved style are vanishingly rare (there may be only four left, worldwide). The soprano, alto and tenor were traditionally shaped and were produced slightly later.
i know relatively nothing about saxophones (i'm a strings guy). I've actually got the almost exact same sax that you've posted. Can you tell me anything about it? i'm serial #573 from 1923. other than that, from you pictures above, everything seems to be identical. Mine is fairly dirty, but i think it may be tarnished silver? is this sax valuable? thanks for any information you or anyone else can share.
Hi gBurke,
I'm sorry to say that the Couesnon is still sitting up in my attic. I know no more than what the guys told me in the thread replies. It certainly didn't look like tarnished silver to me. I meant to take it to a tech to see if it was worth paying to have it repadded and sprung but never got round to it. Sorry, not much help. Is your one playable?

i'm afraid i might not even know enough to know if it's playable. your photos are the closest to a match that i've seen on any of the websites. i would think the pads surely need to be replaced, but i don't know. i'll try to get some pictures posted tonight. is it a "tenor"? "alto", "soprano"? i'm pretty sure it's "sliver" , if it's plated or what, i don't know. the website listed above sorts the early models into silver and brass categories. it's a cool piece, but i'm not sure i have much use for it. any idea what it'd be worth?
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I restored one some time ago. I bought it from a hoarder for 50 euros. It was in a very rough shape (some braces were loose and it was put together with glue and blobs of solder). And it looked like someone dropped it a few times because a lot of braces and keys were bent. Though cleaning it up wasn't difficult. it was quite a pain to find the right size of pads as the sizes didn't match other brands and types of saxophones. After hours of searching, I managed to find new great pads and springs for about 50 euros.

Was it worth the money and the effort?
Yes. The sax plays great, and sounds good too. And 100 euros for a saxophone is quite a steal because those things are very expensive in working condition.
And it is really cool to show your friends a saxophone that is about a century old!
My saxophone was played in the Dutch army band in Zwolle.

Unfortunately one of the keys bent, and I didn't have the time to repair it the right way. Though I will repair it very soon because we are going to put it to work in our Bigband. It would be a shame to hang it on a wall and not see it being played XD.

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