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Selmer (Paris) Clarinets

Professional clarinets since 1885  The Series: is the letter in the serial number itself and not the model Series.
 Example: Selmer, Series 10S, #B0478 is a B Series made in 1980.
We have no information on Selmer clarinets made before the L Series

Selmer Paris clarinets in various years through the 1980s had markings similar to "Sole Agents, US & Can Selmer New York  - Elkhart".  Clarinets with markings similar to these can be identified as clarinets exported to the United States.  European and Canadian Selmer clarinets had no markings.

old Selmer Paris PDF on the Factory

A fantastic writeup on the beginning of Selmer Paris from Don Makrill 
http://www.donmack.com/pages/the-selmer-paris-story

The Bb Boehm system clarinet was first introduced in the Selmer catalogue in 1910
per the Selmer "Clarinets: The essentials" (click here) catalog circa 2010Click here for more detailed information below

Harmony and Metal clarinets were serialized separately until at least 1930. By the N series all their instruments are serialed together.  Later Metal clarinets had and adjustable barrel with a highly grooved section, earlier models where not adjustable.
Date Soprano Harmony Metal
1/1/19 (14) 1000    
1/1/20 (15) 2000    
1/1/21 (16) 3000    
1/1/22 (17) 4000 300  
1/1/23 (18) 5000 (300)  
1/1/24 (19) 6000  Old Emblem 65xx    
1/1/25 (20) 7000    
1/1/26 (21) 8000    
1/1/27 (22) 9000 1000  
1/1/28 (23) K1000    
1/1/29 (24) K2000 2000  
1/1/30 (25) K3500  (K3000)    
1/1/31 (26) K5000  (K4200)    
1/1/27 K5600    
1/1/28 K7000   1000
1/1/29 K8400   sn1906 courtesy of Junkdude.com
Pic # 1
Pic # 2
Pic # 3
Pic # 4
Pic # 6
Pic # 7
1/1/30 K9800 900 2000
1/1/31 L1000 Later Metal clarinets had an adjustable barrel with a highly grooved section, earlier models where not adjustable. --> Bb 23xx & A 29xx with adjustable barrel
Pic # 1
Pic # 2
Pic # 3
Pic # 4
Pic # 5
1/1/32 L2100   3000
1/1/33 L3250    
1/1/34 L4300   4000
1/1/35 L5500    
1/1/36 L6600   5000

RI - Radio Improved started around K7000
BT - Balanced Tone started around L5000

The modern Selmer emblem starts in 1926, somewhere around K4500. There  was also an earlier emblem, up to somewhere in the 4000's, that has a  winged globe over the H SELMER A PARIS oval. I have heard that the  winged-globe emblem indicates the era when Henri Selmer himself still  tested and finished the clarinets but that's purely anecdotal, there's  no reason to assume it's true, but he was primarily a clarinet player and i'm sure he tested many of the clarinets produced in his factory - why not?  Wouldn't you !!

The RI model begins around K7000, the BT around L5000.  The articulated G# was not particular to the M-series, it appears in  some horns of every model up to even the 10S.

K Foster

Year of make Serial number Emblems (click on pic to see larger view)
1885 to 1926

1904 - clarinet launched at the Saint Louis / USA Exhibition

no records

1910 Catalog - click the pictures for full screen

 

1/1/1927 #400

1928 Ads - click on picture for full screen

150x Pic1  Pic2  Pic3 Pic4 Pic5 Pic6

1/1/1929 #3070 sn#531x
1/1/1931 #9999  
  Emblem change.  The old emblem, pictured right was similar to the Buffet Logo in that H. Selmer is on the top arch, Paris on the lower arch both in an oval.  And an emblem of HS is below the oval similar to the BC for Buffet-Crampon.  Also above is a music lyre
The import/bell emblem was also changed as below in the K series.  The two bells here show that the US Import stamp was done separately from the Selmer logo as they are both in different positions - notice the space or lack thereof from the Selmer Paris wreath logo between the two.

L Series: Old Selmer Emblem is Buffet-like (many makers had Buffet-like emblems)
  • Transition during the L series
  • The saxophone emblem was changed in circa 1926.  The Clarinet emblem was changed in the 1930s
  •  
  •  
12/1/1931 L1000  
1932 L2100  
1933 L3250
1934 L4300  
1935 L5500
Manufacturing Pic - click for full page


 
1936 L6600

Catalog Pictures - click on each page for full screen

 
1937 L7750  
1938

L8800

 
1939 L9900  
M Series  
2/1/39 M1000

 

1940

M2400

 
1944 M3400  
1945

Selmer 55

1945 only (?)

M6000

Emblem of sn # M70xx
Below- M 61xx.  This shows the large register nut associated with 55s. Also, inside it shows the thread and nut protruding into the bore.  This large nut gave the instrument some significant resistance - not my favorite Selmer by a long shot.

 

1946 M8000  
N Series - Later N series were also known as BT - Balanced Tone - both identifiable by a large domed speaker bush (the body octave hole) with two holes to remove it, and a removeable speaker tube.
10/1/46 N100  
2/1/47 N1000
1948 N2800  
1949 N4900 Enhanced Boehm N54xx
1950 N6600  
1951 N8100  
P Series - Centered Tone series - identifiable by a large hexagonal speaker bush (the body octave hole).  Benny Goodman made these instruments famous.  The Centered Tone bore changed through the years.  Initially it was a cylindrical bore of 15.00mm to 15.10mm.  The barrel was 66mm long and had a slightly wider 15.15 bore. 

After the Q series the bore changed and continued on through the Series 9.  The Q series brought along the change of longer upper and lower joints of approximately 5mm. 
If you click on the brochure for a full page view you will notice the options you had with these clarinets. And another interesting note - the mouthpiece in the picture is a lower emblem mouthpiece - not the oval table (which has a middle body crest emblem - see the Mouthpiece gallery for pictures of these).  So .. one would assume the Ovals came AFTER the introduction of the CTs.

Selmer Centered Tone

I've had the opportunity to play and setup a nice Selmer Centered Tone "A", and respectifully compare it to my Bb variant. The Centered Tone clarinets were pinnacle of Selmer's "Jazz" clarinet. Not that it is a jazz clarinet only, as I believe the entire clarinet section in the Boston Symphony also used them back in the day, but Benny Goodman was used extensively in marketing/sales of this clarinet. And Benny Goodman is known as a jazz player, thus the CT was known as a jazz clarinet.

But there are two versions of the CT. Earlier versions had a cylindrical upper joint, where as later versions had a tapered upper joint which continued on with the Series 9 model.

One can go here for pictures and a quick comparison of a late CT and an early Serie 9 by clicking here

For me, a tapered instrument provides a bit more balance by providing a more consistent backpressure through the entire instrument especially with this "large bore" clarinet. With cylindrical clarinets I feel as though the resistance lessens as one plays down the instrument. With the tapered bore it becomes more consistent and controlled.

The CT also has large toneholes. The large bore and large toneholes allows the player to blow as much as they want with the mouthpiece reed combination really being the point of resistance. In other words, if you need to be as loud as possible, the CT was the clarinet to have especially if you don't have a mic. But of course, on the other end of the spectrum one is able to control the instrument to the finest pianissimos. My CT I actually overblew once in a (practice) concert setting above the trumpets right behind me trying to make sure we were balanced ... oops.

Tonally the CTs are fantastic. Full sounding, and a full deep woody tone. Not as deep sounding as say an Artys but pretty good. The upper register sings clear all the way through altissimo. The large toneholes don't restrict the tone at all and all notes become clear from top to bottom.

Now if one really likes big bore clarinets then one would really like the "A" variant of the CT. This is really one "A" model that would benefit any player. So well controllable across the entire dynamic range with a nice full tone very similar to the Bb. Normally an "A" can, in some words, sound duller to the comparable Bb. But the CT "A" is a joy to play all the time. I certainly recommend one if one can be found. But be careful. the large toneholes require some getting used to as if you have smaller fingers they can be a problem in covering.

LIKES: A real jazz clarinet, the "A" a great combination of flexibility and tonal control.
DISLIKES: keywork is great if not worn out but nothing like modern Selmer keywork.

Standard Boehm CTs normally had nickel plated keywork. 
Enhanced Boehms normally had silver plated keywork.
manufacturing dates of 1952 to 1960

1952 P1200  P1549 - Enhanced Boehm
1953 P4200  
1954 P7400  
Q Series:    
1955 Q1100  
1956 Q4350  
1957 Q7290  
     
R Series:  
1958 R1200 CT R series.  Upper joint top bore of 15.23 and lower bore of 14.85.  So later CTs are Series 9 bores. On series 9s you can also see the large octave nut similar to the CTs.
1959 - Mazzeo system (more information) R6100 Selmer Mazzeo Clarinet Article
Mazzeo Brochure #1
Mazzeo Brochure #2

(click on each small pic for a popup larger view) The Early Centered Tones were cylindrical bore whereas the later one were tapered bore.  The taper being the exact same as the earlier Series 9.  In this example a CT P & Q series having the same bore as an early 9 S series.  The 9's speaker bushing is higher and smaller on the body, and the lower joint was slightly longer.  But both entry and exit bores of both joints were exactly the same.  And a few measured toneholes diameters on the upper joint were exactly the same but on the lower joint the toneholes were smaller on the Series 9.  The P series and 9 are both modified boehms but have the same entry/exit bore dimensions top and bottom joints.

In the below pictures you can see some of the keywork differences between the Centred Tone and Series 9.  This is comparins S06xx and P and R CTs.

CT (Centered Tome) on top, 9 (Seriese 9) on bottom. Same entry/exit bores but the 9 is longer (and the bells are the same length.

You can see the overall length difference.  The upper joints are the same length of CT v 9

You may not be able to tell from the picture but the CTs toneholes on the lower joint are much wider.

P CT top, R CT mid, 9 bottom - keywork variations.

P CT top, R CT mid, 9 bottom.  9 has a higher register vent.

 P CT (top) v R CT (lower) trill key shape differences.

 9 (top) v CT R (bottom)

S Series - 1960 - Series 9 started production (large diameter tone holes with no undercutting) and 9*
1960 S1150
Selmer 9* emblem
1961 S4160  
1962 S7390  
T Series:    
1963

T1400

 
1964 T5800  
     
U Series:    
1965 U1100  
1966 U5700  
     
V Series:   Selmer made some refinements to improve intonation.
1967 V1000  
1968 V4800

v789x Series 10 Bb - Bb & A

1969 V7900  

v822x Series 10 A Bb & A

     
W Series:    
1970 W1700
 
1971 - Series 10 is launched (per Selmer) W5900
 
     
X Series:    
1972 X1500  
1973 X6400  
     
Y Series:    
1974 Y1200  
1975 Y6300

The Marchi mechanism Clarinet - really interesting.  Take a look

 
  Selmer 10G Clarinet
Z Series:    
1976 Z1100  
1977 - model 10 SII is launched Z5200
 
  Selmer 10G
  • "G" stands for Gigliotti, a principal clarinetist in the Philadelphia Symphony
  • Selmer made the 10G as a copy of Anthony Gigliotti's personal Buffet R-13. Though being machine made they were accurate up until a point. Hans Moennig apparently hand tweaked the 10Gs to be more like AGs R13, but only in the serial number range of Z6835 through A1200
  • http://test.woodwind.org/clarinet/BBoard/read.html?f=1&i=199692&t=199692
  • 10S followed the 10G in production
 
A Series:    
1978 A1000  
     
B Series:    
1980 & 1981    
1984 - Recital series launches Selmer A clarinet

Signature SELMER SIGNATURES
Recently I had the opportunity to setup a set of Selmer Signature clarinets, both the Bb and A version of these instruments. They both had wonderful accoustics and playing capabilities. Their projection seems wonderful, and the overall balance from top to the bottom of the clarinet was very smooth and very tonally centered.

The Selmer Signatures are a specially designed clarinet. All the toneholes are raised to increase the total length of each tonehole. The barrel, to alot of modern Selmers have a smaller bore than the upperjoint. This barrel seems to provide a level of centered and resistance to make the clarinet a very balanced instrument preventing the player from "overblowing" in a sense. 

Though to someone like myself that prefers excessive dynamics, ie being able to go from not only very soft pianissimmos but to loud but balanced fortissimmos, the Signature is a bit too reserved to my liking. This in no way means there is a problem with the clarinet in any regards but that it is more of a symphonic or chamber players clarinet. For me, I really enjoy my Leblanc LLs for chamber music as it can mix very well tonally with other select woodwinds and string instruments but then I don't play them often for the same reason.

Other players have commented that the Signatures are "stuffy". But I like the term "reserved". If one prefers a high airflow and/or larger tip mouthpieces they will feel held back by these instruments, or in their term, it seems "stuffy". But in all other scenarios, such as small ensemble playing this instrument is fantastic. This is in no means saying one cannot use it for any setting, but with so many other great clarinets out there this one seems to fit into only certain categories for me.

Tonally the instrument has a very centered tone. The playing balance top to bottom allows for easy emission for very nice control of the tone. On Selmer's website it states "The tone, a right compromise between roundness and presence, is a subtle mixing of sweetness and energy. A wide dynamic range facilitates pianissimo and unsaturated fortissimo, with a perfectly homogenous tone over the various registers ..." Interesting description and sounds fairly correct except for the unsaturated fortissimo. But one can take that a f versus a ff. Fortissimo isn't a problem just that the back pressure increases significantly which can be much easily accomplished on other instruments of other design. I personally do not like so much backpressure as compared to say the Buffet R13.

The keywork is superb silver plate, and smooth as silk motion. When properly set up the intonation on the barrel is fantastic. Though when it comes to intonation this instrument seems to have a limited temperature range. Don't try to use this instrument when the playing environment is cold, such as mid 60s degree fahrenheit. I could not get this instrument within 20 cents of in tune throughout the entire range even with the shorter barrel. When playing this instrument in the 70s and up there was no intonation issues. So if you live in a cold climate and most of your venues are more on the cold side I recommend not using this instrument.

Other than the climate issue everything else on this instrument is spot on. A truly top of the line professional clarinet.

LIKES: keywork, fit/finish, tonal balance throughout the range
DISLIKES: very temperature sensitive, backpressure.

 

Artys SELMER ARTYS
That is my first reaction on playing on a set of Bb and A Selmer Artys clarinets after they were properly setup.

This instrument is truly one of my favorites modern clarinets from Selmer Paris, though they were discountinued a few years ago. At that time they had the Odyssee, Saint Louis, Recital, Signatures and Privilege (did I miss any ?). 6 models of clarinets can certainly get confusing. In the old days there was one or two models available. I do not know why they discontinued the Artys other than it probably did not sell as well as the other models or there was too much of an overlap in characteristics of another model. But they certainly are a wonderful clarinet that should not be overlooked in the used market.

Not only is the craftmanship first class from Selmer Paris but the instrument offers the capabilities that I look for in a clarinet. This Artys clarinet offers a wonderful tone in addition to allowing me to get the instrument to offer some exceptionally well balanced and sounding dynamics. In other words, one could also use this in a jazz situation, in which they would have the ability of playing louder easier than with other clarinets, assuming a moderately open mouthpiece. The tone is very woody and full and resonant throughout the entire range. The only thing lacking is a significant "ring" which can be found in the more famous Buffet R13s. But if you are not after that certain tonal "ring" then this is a perfect clarinet for those looking for more flexibility than symphonic or chamber music.

A description from Selmer states "Today, the Selmer Paris clarinet range is an artistically open offer. In the very heart of this variety, "Artys", expression of the Selmer maturity and modernity, sets the tone. The Bb and A "Artys" clarinets assert themselves as high quality, all-purpose instruments, covering a wide range of playing options. The profound personality of this model is built up from an amazing playability and a deep, resonant tone. The overall sound and tuning qualities are particularly homogeneous through all the registers and shades ; a great flexibility and a remarkable control complete the global acoustic performances."

My lack of descriptive words would say that their own description of the Artys is pretty accurate. From the deep resonant tone to the flexibility and remarkable control. This clarinet is a Selmer Centered Tone with slightly more resistance and control and the tonal flexibility of a Buffet R13, though lacks a significant "ring" of an R13. In other words, it plays more like a Serie 9 but with better overall flexibility and a fuller deeper tone.

After some extensive though minute setup items the Bb simply sang from top to bottom with a consistent backpressure that provides an excellent feedback to the player. The A was also very good though the low A was slightly stuffy. If one slighlty expands the opening on the 3rd tonehole then the slight stuffiness goes away and the tone becomes more powerful and full as with the range of the instrument. Though one has to be careful as the register E is nice and clear, too much expansion can cause the mid-staff E to be unbalanced a bit.

Interesting side note on measurements of these examples:
Bb - 66mm barrel entry/exit bore of 14.54/14.50, 65mm 14.50/14.51
The entry /exit bore of the upper joint was 14.99 / 14.43

The A barrels: 66mm 14.49/14.34 65mm 14.45/14.34
and the upper joint was 15.03 / 14.57

This shows what Selmer has been doing lately, as in restricting air flow via the barrel (for some reason unknown to me).

Interesting item about the construction. The stopper material used for the throat A key and the register key is a synthetic rubber. This rubber is a nice stopping material but very hard to adjust, ie to thin as the register key was just a bit too closed and by thinning the stopping material one is able to open up the register Bb. Most of the clarinets I work on for tonal issues are mostly related to the keywork, pads, etc being too close to the tonehole. Simply thinning the material helps open up the notes tonally and may provide the quick solution. But in this case this rubber material is like an anti-sanding material.

On a negative side, the middle tenon is metal. The cork on metal will slide easily while playing and I found myself constantly realigning the joints. I have never tried synthetic cork in this fashion but this is the same problem I have had on some past clarinets with a metal tenon. I guess my hands move too much.

This is a winner of a clarinet in my book and certainly on the short list for me from Selmer Paris.

LIKES: nearly everything
DISLIKES: Why did they discontinue this model ?
This was a new model in 5/2002 until 2008 when it was discontinued
2009 Selmer Catalog PDF 

Other Serial Number Info:

10G, sn E74xx,  January 1991  (Selmer provided)

 

 

9* - reduced some tone hole diameters and introduced undercutting and a smaller bore.  10 move towards a polycylindrical bore.  10G - work with Anthony Gigliotti to mimic the Buffet design.

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