Historical Henri SELMER Paris instruments

Les instruments historiques Henri SELMER Paris
From model 22 to Tribute to Bird collection via the Mark VI, from the metal clarinet to Series 10S via the Centered Tone, but also from the guitar to the flügelhorn via the trumpet, discover some historical Henri SELMER Paris instruments.

The Louisiana Purchase Exposition (1904) brought together more than sixty nations that came to exhibit their latest technology and creations in various fields. Alexandre Selmer, then clarinettist with the Philadelphia Orchestra, displayed the very first SELMER clarinets, manufactured in France by his brother Henri. These met with great success and the Saint Louis authorities awarded them a gold medal. This was the beginning of a long story...

Exposition Saint-Louis


1922: "Series 22" and "Model 22" saxophones

Henri SELMER Paris presents his first saxophone on December 31, 1921: the Series 1922, which will become the Model 22. New improvements are made to the manufacturing process, notably the tonehole drawing, a technique later taken up by manufacturers worldwide. Encouraged by the warm welcome received by this alto saxophone, the company Henri SELMER Paris decided to carry out the manufacture of the straight soprano si♭, the curved soprano, the soprano in C and the tenor saxophones in si♭ and in C, the latter being better known under the name of 'C Melody'.

Modèle 2022


1923: 'C melody' tenor saxophone

The 'C Melody' tenor saxophone was very popular at the beginning of the twenties. Being tuned to the key of C necessarily avoids the task of transcription when playing with a piano. But despite its nice sound and ease of playing, it never really found its own place in the range. Coleman Hawkins started his own career with  'C Melody', but one of its most famous users was undoubtedly Frankie Trumbauer (1901-1956), of whom even Benny Carter himself was an ardent admirer. The chorus he played on the theme Singing the Blues, with Bix Beiderbecke is one of the classics in this specific repertoire.

C melody


1926: 'Model 26' saxophone

The production of the Model 26, stamped with the new SELMER Paris logo (registered trademark) spreads from 1926 to 1928. On this new model, the neck is modified, with a new name plate. The neck key also gets a new shape, later called 'Wishbone' as a nickname.

Modèle 26


1928: 'Model 28' saxophone

There are very few 'Model 28' saxophones in existence. They are contemporaries of models released the same year which themselves did not bear a name, continuing until 1931. In 1929, an alto was released with a larger bore than that of 'Model 28', and was named by the Americans 'New Largebore'.

Modèle 28


1930: 'Cigar cutter' saxophone

This instrument, bearing the number 1297, is in a way the symbol of the integration of the Adolphe Sax company within Selmer since it bears the inscription "Adolphe Sax made by H. Selmer", but it is above all a Selmer model: the 'Cigar Cutter'. The 'Cigar Cutter' was manufactured from 1930 to 1934. So called by the Americans because of its octave key in the shape of a cigar cutter, it is also characterized by its V-shaped guard and the clamping tenon of the jar in nickel silver, thicker and cut in the mass. This model is part of the 'Super Sax Selmer' marked 'SSS'.

Cigar Cutter


1932: Selmer-Maccaferri guitar

In 1932, SELMER began building guitars in association with luthier Mario Maccafferi. Highly innovative in terms of acoustics and ergonomics, these guitars acquired iconic status thanks to guitarist Django Reinhardt. Produced until 1952, these guitars are still highly prized by collectors today and remain intimately linked to gypsy jazz.

Guitares SELMER


1934: 'Radio Improved' saxophone

'Radio improved' saxophones have been specially designed at the period of growing acitvity for radio broadcast and recording. They have been produced in rather small quantities. As the 'Cigar Cutter', the 'Radio Improved' models belong to the 'Selmer Super Sax' family, bearing the 'SSS' engraving.
Radio Improved


1935: Metal B♭ and A clarinets, Boëhm system

Selmer began a great turning point in the history of his clarinets by adopting the Boëhm ring mechanism and making a metal clarinet.

Clarinette métal


1936: 'Balanced Action' saxophone

The 'Balanced Action' is the basic prototype of the modern saxophone and the majority of the changes built into it have been kept to this day. The keywork was entirely redesigned. The low B and B♭ keys were moved to the right side of the bell, allowing for easier operation of the keywork. The origin of the name 'Balanced Action' lies in its balanced keywork and distribution of weight. Coleman Hawkins chose to play on this model at the end of the Thirties.

Balanced Action


1948: 'Super Action' saxophone

This saxophone, also known by the name 'Super Balanced', is to some extent a transitional instrument falling between the 'Balanced Action' and 'Mark VI'.

In contrast to 'Balanced Action', it featured a removable bow, which allowed for much easier maintenance. The body and bow were fitted together with the help of a collar maintained by two screws, while the bell remained welded on the bow. The principal development related to the ergonomics of the keywork, which was rearranged to enhance playing comfort.

Super Action


1954: 'Mark VI' saxophone

'Mark VI' drew its name from its position as sixth model since the production of the first saxophone in 1922. The inscription 'Mark VI' can be found in several places on the saxophone; usually on the ring, sometimes on the bell and even on the body of the instrument. 'Mark VI' celebrated the 50th anniversary of the Gold Medal won in 1904 at the Saint Louis Exhibition in Missouri. From 1951, Marcel Mule himself became passionately involved in the creation and development of the new Selmer saxophone.

The production of 'Mark VI', a truly legendary instrument, continued for more than twenty years. It was distinguished notably by a new design of the octave key spatula and the left- and right-hand plastic thumb rests. Compared to the 'Balanced Action', the return to a smaller bore meant an improvement in the flexibility of playing while still preserving good projection.The flexibility of this instrument rapidly attracted lots of great saxophonists such as John Coltrane, Stan Getz and Sonny Rollins. The keywork delivered an exceptional comfort by removing many playing constraints. On the new neck key, the 'S' of Selmer could be found engraved on a blue background. For the first time, 'Mark VI' was fitted with the option of the extra octave vent key, known as the harmonic key, used to facilitate the blowing of overtones. A limited production alto featuring a low A also appeared under the label 'Mark VI', which had fans such as Ornette Coleman.

Mark VI


1954: 'Centered Tone' B♭ and A clarinets

Benny Goodman's favourite clarinet is recognizable by the shape of its 12th key.

Clarinette centered tone


1954: 'K-Modified' B♭ trumpet

Louis Armstrong was one of the best ambassadors of the SELMER Paris Trumpets. One model even bore his name, engraved on the bell. The K-modified trumpet retains the improvements of the Balanced (with the piston block shifted forward) and incorporates a modification of the socket.



1960: 'Series 9' et 'Series 9*' B♭ and A clarinets

'Series 9' corresponded to symphonic music while 'Series 9*' was more suited to jazz and variety music.

Serie 9


1967 : Maurice André Piccolo trumpet

In 1967, SELMER developed the piccolo trumpet with 4 valves in close collaboration with Maurice André. This model laid the foundations of the modern piccolo trumpet and became the reference on the market. Maurice André also made a major contribution to the development of the instrument's repertoire.

Maurice André


1968: 'Radial 2' trumpet

The B-flat and C 'Radial 2' trumpets of large average bore were called this because, for ergonomic reasons, the first and third valves precisely formed an angle of 2° with the vertical - the same angle followed by the fingers in the movement of closing. Later adopted on other models, this type of valve was used on the E /D and D/C trumpets designed with Maurice André during the sixties.

Trompette SELMER

1971: 'Series 10' B♭ and A clarinets

The 'Series 10' clarinets have new barrel, body and bell proportions and a different bore to meet the expectations of clarinettists in major contemporary orchestras.

Serie 10


1974: 'Mark VII' alto and tenor saxophones

It would take three years of development to turn the page after twenty years of the 'Mark VI'. Michel Nouaux, a soloist with the French Republican Guard, took part in this challenge. The Mark VII’s improvements included a new octave key mechanism and a functional placement of the spatula group for the left-hand little finger, allowing for more flexible passage over the whole of the plate. The keywork was broadened to improve the handling of the instrument. The body to bell ring changed to a ring anchored at three points. And there was the return to the use of a plastic booster on the pads.

However, only the alto and tenor saxophones saw the light of day; the soprano and baritone 'Mark VII' prototypes started during this period were used instead as a basis for the 'Super Action 80' versions.

Mark VII


1975: 'Series 10' B♭ and A clarinets, Marchi system

A descending instrument at low E♭, to which the inventor of the Marchi system (Joseph Marchi) added a mechanism that allows the clarinettist to open or not the only hole that is drilled in addition to those on the classical clarinet and which is located on the barrel of the instrument



1977: B♭ and C trumpets 'Serie 700'

Available in 6 models, the 'Series 700' is the result of research to make the instrument lighter while continuing to improve its technical capabilities. This series was designed in collaboration with Pierre Thibault.

Trompette 700


1977: 'Series 10S' B♭ and A clarinets

The '10S series', which appeared in the catalogue in 1977, is the culmination of a long period of research into the acoustic quality of the professional clarinet.

Clarinette 10s

1981: 'Super Action 80' alto and tenor saxophones

The 'Super Action 80' marks a change of direction compared to the 'Mark VII': the keying is redefined with, in particular, smaller and more collected keys than on the 'Mark VII', at the request of the musicians. In fact, with the 'Super Action 80', Selmer gets closer to the ergonomics of the 'Mark VI' while maintaining the acoustic progress made on the 'Mark VII'. Modifications on the side of the neck and the bow, as well as the return to metal resonators, allow for a more timbral sound.

Super Action 80


2000: Limited series for the year 2000

To celebrate 2000, Henri SELMER Paris has released a limited series of three instruments: the 'Signature' B♭ clarinet (gold-plated), the 'Series III' alto saxophone (brushed silver and solid silver neck), and the 'Chorus 80J' trumpet (brushed silver).

700 copies of the special alto were produced for the entire world market. Each copy has its own edition number, in addition to its traditional serial number.

Série limitée


2001: 'Concept' trumpet and flügelhorn

Concet trompette et bugle


2004 : "Saint-Louis" Clarinet

To commemorate the 100th anniversary of the clarinets’ presentation at the Saint Louis World Fair and its first gold medal, Henri SELMER Paris released the ‘Saint Louis’ clarinet. This ‘Saint Louis’ Anniversary model embodies the 100 years of technical expertise and experience in manufacturing achieved by SELMER house, and is the successful outcome of unceasing dialogue and communication with artists.

Clarinette Saint-Louis


2005, 2006, 2007: Tribute to Bird

Between 2005 and 2007, Henri SELMER Paris created each year a 'Collector' version of a saxophone in tribute to Charlie Parker, alias 'Bird'. Two other versions will follow in 2009 and 2012. The best SELMER Paris craftsmen engravers created an original engraving around the poetic theme of the bird, declined on five continents. Thus, the aesthetics of the instrument echoes its exceptional acoustics.

The year 2005 saw the birth of the 'Hummingbird' model, an alto Reference decorated with hummingbirds from the Americas, followed in 2006 by the 'Kookaburra', emblematic of Australia. In 2007, the 'Flamingo' represented the African continent.

Tribute to bird


2007: 'Sigma' trumpet

Marked by the prestigious imprint of the greatest artistic collaborations, Henri SELMER Paris made an excellent synthesis of the great historical stages of his instrument making by presenting the 'Sigma' trumpet. Born from the meeting of various generations of testers, the development of this B♭ trumpet is in keeping with the great tradition of the orchestra, while at the same time initiating a wind of renaissance in the world of trumpet playing.

Trompette Sigma

2009 and 2012: Tribute to Bird

In line with previous editions, in 2009 the 'Tribute to Bird' collection celebrates the European continent with the 'Firebird' Collector. In 2012, the 'Dragon Bird' is the last edition of this unique collection. It symbolizes the Asian continent.



Henri SELMER Paris tradition

If Henri SELMER Paris instruments remain a reference for musicians from all over the world, it is because the company has taken care to preserve a traditional and unique craftsmanship, which has been handed down from generation to generation in the workshops in Mantes-la-Ville.

"Without getting tired, always do better" was the motto displayed by Henri Selmer. Since his first gold medal clarinet at the Universal Exhibition in Saint Louis (USA), the founder has left his mark on a culture of permanent research in favour of the musician. Henri SELMER Paris integrates this approach on a daily basis in its workshops, in search of perfection for its instruments, from an acoustic, ergonomic and aesthetic point of view.

Douglas PipherWant to buy one of these vintage instruments? Take a look at our ReWIND service, offering second-hand woodwind and brass - and former exhibition models - for sale.


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