LEBLANC le Rationnel

The french clarinet specialist Leblanc was granted at least two USA patents concerning saxophones. The first, 1840456, in 1932 and the other one, 3136200, in 1964.

Drawings from both the 1840456 and the 3136200 USA patents.
Please note that the indicated notes sound when the corresponding tone hole is open.

Both patents concern the layout of the saxophone's mechanism. When turning to the saxophone market, Leblanc did not hesitate to make daring choices: they didn't, as everyone else did (and does), just copy their competitors' designs, but were inventive enough to come up with their own. Moreover, the Leblanc saxophone is accurately made, meeting standards that, to be honest, are more common in clarinets and flutes than in saxophones. I compiled the drawings on the right from the original patents, stitching as it were separate drawings of right hand and left hand key stacks together and deleting superfluous information, like the palm and most side keys. For clarity, both drawings were coloured.

Although the 1881 Adolphe Sax patent isn't mentioned in any of the Leblanc patents, it is more than obvious that they must have studied it. The general layout of the Leblanc mechanism is too much alike to be a coincidence. As in the Adolphe Sax proposal, the key for Ab–G is operated with the third finger left hand and is an open key. In fact, all keys are open keys and this is a prominent feature of the Leblanc design. And again, as in the Adolphe Sax proposal, the key for A–Ab is in the main row and is linked to the bridge of the right hand key stack and in its turn links to the keys for B–Bb and for C#–C. But other than in the F139884 patent, the conventional fingering is wholly valid too, as it is in the Ad. Sax alto saxophone 40842, almost suggesting that Leblanc might have studied this unique instrument itself. In order to be compatible with convention, a parallel key for G–G# is added at the back of the instrument, which is (indirectly) operated with the little finger left hand and is linked in the usual way to the right hand key stack (not shown in the drawings). As in the Ad. Sax 40842, there are two ways to obtain middle C: both the 'recorder–fingering' (0-2) and the 0-0-0=0-5-0, or 0-0-0=4-0-0 fingerings are applicable. Besides, as a third option, there is a Tc (side-C). Further note that in the newest proposal on the right there is also the P-function for the Bb.

Supplementary to the Adolphe Sax patent and instrument, there is an extra key at the bottom end of the main row, which is located at the inside of the bottom bow. I coloured the key a grayish pink. This key is operated by the second finger right hand, very much like a similar construction on Buescher and Conn saxophones, but with a larger key and consequently an opener sound. The result of such a key layout, both right hand and left hand taken together is that chromatic passages over the entire octave can be played as diatonic but with a 'trill' of the second finger right hand added. Also, the mechanism allows for wholly new patterns of finger movements, especially for tonalities with a lot of flats in them.

The Londeix system for defining fingerings is used.

Leblanc semi-rationnel 221

The saxophone built according to these patents Leblanc called «le Rationnel», 'the Logical'. Both the body and the mechanism of this instrument is made out of solid nickel silver. Not shown in the above drawings, the instrument has palm keys up to high-G, like the Ad. Sax 40842 alto saxophone. These keys are fully interlinked, facilitating trills once more. The instrument, again like the the Ad. Sax 40842 alto and like so many contemporairy german saxophones, also had a separate key for a middle C#-D. And finally there is a third key for the little finger right hand to obtain a 'one-finger low-C#'. This latter mechanism was constructed in such a way that a low-B could be obtained starting from this 'one-finger low-C#' adding only a little finger left hand for the B itself; very convenient indeed!
But the instrument, although once cheaper than a Selmer Mark6, was no commercial succes and most probably more complicated to build than to buy. Leblanc also made a somewhat simpler version, called the 'semi-Rationnel'. This instrument retained the main key stacks of it's full sized brother, but it had palm keys up to high F# only and it had to go without the 'one-finger low-C#' mechanism. The picture shows such a semi-Rationnel. Its mechanism, although functionally equivalent with the proposals in both patents, is yet not entirely similar. An original letter dated september 16th, 1994, from Leblanc to a former owner states that this instrument, serial number 221, was built in 1937. They add that only 122 instruments of this [semi-Rationnel] type were made.

Please note that the peculiar layout of the right hand side plateau [Ta, Tc, middle-D and C3] looks a lot like the side plateau of the Ad. Sax 40842 alto [C3, C6, Ta and middle-D], which again suggests that Leblanc might have studied Sax's instrument itself.