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 Thoughts on Selmer Clarinets?
Author: Chris G. 
Date:   2017-12-08 11:43

Hi there,

I'm a long time lurker of this forum, and I finally found the courage to register. I love having a place to find tips and advice on clarinet playing so readily available.

Speaking of advice, I'm in need of some. Christmas has rolled around again, and being in my third year of college I've gotten money together to buy/lease a clarinet of my own. I've set my heart on a Selmer clarinet, mostly because ive used buffets throughout school amd ive always wamted to try them.

The problem is, very few places readily supply Selmers, and no places around where I live offer them. I know I will get around to trying them all out soon, but until then some advice would be great.

So, to all the Selmer clarinet players: what are they like? What are the differences between each of the models (i.e. what kind of tone do they possess?) Are there any to especially look out for, or avoid? Any and all help will be appreciated, thank you!

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 Re: Thoughts on Selmer Clarinets?
Author: JF Clarinet 
Date:   2017-12-09 10:12

Any reason you are looking specifically at Selmer as opposed to other Buffer alternatives? There are other good brands out there like Yamaha and Uebel that may be worth looking into also, especially if you have a hard time finding Selmers to try out. I'm a big believer in that you can find great and terrible instruments among every brand and within a group of the same model. I have played on a few R13's that I love, and many that I hated. I have tried a couple of yamahas that I hated, but I love my Yamaha Eb. Especially if you are looking to get away from buffet, for whatever reason, I would keep your mind open to brands other than just Selmer.

I don't have much input on Selmer's, since I too have had a hard time finding a place to try them out. I've played on my father's from the 50's (not sure what model), but you are probably looking for something new. I have spent a little bit time around 3 or 4 people playing on Selmer Signatures. I haven't tried one myself, so all I know about these are from listening to them. All of them sounded like they were playing with a fair amount of resistance, and were working harder to get sound out than I'm used to seeing, but this could just be due to a more resistant mouthpiece, etc. Their tone was all very similar: a very precise and focused sound that came across very energetic across extremely wide dynamic ranges. There was definitely a lot of ping in their sound, but that again may be due to the rest of their setups. While they all had a very clean and precise sound and great intonation, I personally felt like they lacked a certain sweetness to the tone I've heard many other clarinetists produce. I don't really know how to describe that well, but the tone and difference from note to note came across as aggressive and maybe overly distinct (especially in louder dynamics). This isn't necessarily bad, but it is a different tone than what I've heard from the buffets and leblancs that I'm usually around. I'd definitely try one of these if you can get your hands on it. It seems like an excellent instrument, and the players I know who play on signatures love their instruments.

I'm also a college student, so I'm sure that other people will be able to give you better advice because they have more experience, but I would definitely recommend looking into the signature if you can.

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 Re: Thoughts on Selmer Clarinets?
Author: Agomongo 
Date:   2017-12-12 16:11

The Selmer Presence has been get a lot of praise. So much so that certain Buffet artists have switched to them after not finding a good Buffet after 100 play tests of 100 different ones (note: they tried one Selmer Presence and bought it on the spot.) I know James Ognibene bought the newer model of the RC Prestige and found some good ones after searching awhile. Well he picked up the first pair of Selmer Presence from off the shelf and immediately loved it without trying the other ones. He said they're like the RC Prestige, but cheaper. In other words same amazing quality for a cheaper price. Hopefully I can get some new clarinets soon and get the Selmer Presence.

Buffet has been doing a questionable job lately. Buffet are using lower quality wood for their R13 to push their top line. The Tradition and Divine were flops and good Tosca's are harder to find. The new batch of clarinets they are shipping to the US are swelling, because Buffet didn't account for the humidity and altitude change from being shipped and between America and France. Many Buffet artists are frustrated too. I know Nuccio even called out Buffet at their academy saying, "If you find a good R13 before the cut off just buy it."

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 Re: Thoughts on Selmer Clarinets?
Author: dorjepismo 2017
Date:   2017-12-12 20:12

Wow! If Selmer seems exotic, you have a wonderful journey of unfolding discovery ahead of you! Really too bad you missed ClarinetFest, as they have the whole line sitting there for people to try out. Really, don't buy something that expensive unplayed because you want to try it out! Haven't played Selmers longer than a few minutes, but one of the big players in town plays them at least sometimes--his picture's on a poster as a Selmer artist, anyway. Might be wrong, but I believe he switched to them at some point after I first heard him. Fantastic player, but I sort of liked his sound a little better before. Maybe there are things he can do on Selmers better or more easily, but there used to be a certain elegance that I haven't heard recently. A huge amount depends on what kind of playing you want to do, and how you want to sound doing it.

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 Re: Thoughts on Selmer Clarinets?
Author: seabreeze 
Date:   2017-12-12 20:44

The three previous posters have raised some valid points about the Selmers and Buffets. I'd say that the best of today's Buffet Prestige models have a very attractive orchestral sound that is resonant, projecting, vibrant, and well centered, and not a lot of effort to play. But you pay for that in the rather hefty price. The Selmer Signature has a dark, covered sound (Tom Ridenour praised it as "Germanic") but is rather resistant and not as easy to vary in timbre as the Buffet Prestige; it tends to sound just one way rather than offer a rainbow of colors.. The Yamaha CSVR tunes well, is easy to blow, has good key work and consistency, and a strong, rather large tone with good presence but lacks some of the sparkle and sweetness of the Buffet Prestige models. The right barrel (e.g. Chadash or Behn) could add a little more sparkle (and sweetness?) to the sound.
The Selmer Presence does have sparkle and luminosity to the sound. It is concentrated with nice shape and very easy to voice. You have to try several (if you can find a place that stocks them--the big clarinet fests are a possibility) to get one with the best intonation. For vibrancy, the Presence is probably the closest match to a good Buffet Prestige, but the Prestige has more weight and dynamic range to the sound. The Selmer Privilege has a weightier sound than the Presence but lacks the focus and the charm (sweetness) of the less expensive Presence. Considering the current selling price, both the Selmer Presence and the Yamaha CSVR are bargains. Both definitely worth a try. If you have the $$$, by all means consider the Buffet Prestige (both R13 and RC)

My impression of the Uebel Superior from having tried it just once is that the sound is very Germanic and a bit out of the mainstream for most American orchestral players. The wood and keywork are excellent. It is, like a Selmer Recital, a heavy instrument of thick wood. Definitely a choice for players who want to sound that way. I'm looking to try the Uebel Superior II, which promises to be more of a mainstream French/American sounding clarinet. The less expensive models of the Uebels to my ears do not match the quality of the Yamaha CSVR or the Selmer Presence and are not that much cheaper.

Bottom line: You don't have a lot of money but want a very good clarinet, try a
Selmer Presence and compare it with a Yamaha CSVR. Or find a really good well-maintained and refurbished used Buffet R13. (Saxquest has some nice ones for sale with online video demonstrations). Any one of these three options could be something even the best of orchestral players could live with at an expenditure of just around $2800 - $3200.

Post Edited (2017-12-13 01:02)

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 Re: Thoughts on Selmer Clarinets?
Author: Bob Bernardo 
Date:   2017-12-12 22:43

i've tried all of the Selmers and most of the Buffets. The Selmer Signature is very nice. The Recital model is to heavy and dark. I think The principal player with the Chicago Sym is using the Signatures and he sound very good. Steve.

I'm personally upset with Buffet. I think the Yamaha CSVR clarinets blow away pretty much anything Buffet has right now. At one point Yamaha was not a leader in the clarinet world as far as the best horns on the market. They are now. I think they may be the best professional horns on the market. You don't have to try out very many. Maybe 2 or 3. Then play a concert that night. They aren't toys. They are beasts. If you like the Selmers try the larger bore SEVR Yamaha's.

I've said this before. The Yamaha "A" clarinet plays like a Bb, meaning there is so little resistance. It is by far the best A clarinet on the market today. I just got back from a 6 day tour up in upstate California and the horn was amazing.

I did make 2 mouthpiece facing changes this year as a double lip player and on the Buffet's I was at 1.03. Then I went to about 1.05 to 1.06. But I made a huge jump to 1.13 with narrower rails and suddenly the horns opened up. OMG! It became a whole new world. I'm still playing a Steuer 3 1/2 reed most of the time, which is really a Vandoren reed, because the head guy at Vandoren for 40 years, Marc, left and went over to Steuer. The cane is excellent. You get around 7 to 8 reeds per box to play. Even playing with a double lip, 1.13 remains comfortable, once the reeds settle down.

Before Buying the Selmers please play test these 2 Yamaha's.

Designer of - Vintage 1940 Cicero Mouthpieces and the La Vecchia mouthpieces

Yamaha Artist 2015

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 Re: Thoughts on Selmer Clarinets?
Author: seabreeze 
Date:   2017-12-13 06:18

Listen to the Selmer Presence and the Yamaha CSVR side by side:

Scroll down the page a little in each of these links to see the videos. In the first one, the clarinetist (Audrey Denny) plays the Selmer Presence, first a scale and then the opening of a famous Cyril Rose etude. In the second, she plays the Yamaha CSVR, no scale but just right into the same Rose etude. When I play these two models side by side, I get about the same contrast. I hear the Presence as a very concentrated, focused sound with complex overtones. I hear the CSVR as a rounder, broader sound with the lower partials more in evidence. I don't think using the BG Duo ligature on the Presence and the Vandoren Optimum on the CSVR made that much difference. The two clarinets have distinctly different voices on their own.

Neither is "better." Both are strongly in the classical mainstream. It all depends on what players prefer and need in their typical performance situation.

The Selmer Presence:

The Yamaha CSVR:

Post Edited (2017-12-13 07:34)

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 Re: Thoughts on Selmer Clarinets?
Author: seabreeze 
Date:   2017-12-13 06:49


I agree with much of what you have said but question the opinion that the Buffet Tradition is simply a "flop." Not very long ago Richie Hawley, Mark Nuccio, and Jonathan Gunn were all playing Traditions. Are you sure that they have renounced that model? I'll be attending Jonathan Gunn's recital at the University of Texas, Austin on March 7, and hope to hear him on the Tradition at that time. I really haven't had a chance to hear many good pro players on that model. On May 4, Nuccio will be playing the Mozart Concerto with the Houston Symphony, and I plan to catch that too. Not sure if he will use a basset clarinet or the regular one, but again, I will try to find out if he's playing a Tradition for that.

Post Edited (2017-12-13 07:32)

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 Re: Thoughts on Selmer Clarinets?
Author: Agomongo 
Date:   2017-12-13 07:12


I'll actually be attending get concert too. I actually study at UH and from my colleagues who study with him he's still playing Tosca's or was it R13... Anyhow, he does own close to 10 clarinets.

Post Edited (2017-12-13 07:13)

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 Re: Thoughts on Selmer Clarinets?
Author: fromsfca 2017
Date:   2017-12-13 07:22

+1 on the CSVR.

It’s my go to clarinet for section and show work. Blends well and plays ridiculously well in tune.

I have played a number of Selmers and think highly of the keyword. My favorite was a Centered Tone, s series, the later bore, I only play one Selmer now, my series 9 bass.

I have not played the recent models....and would recommend a 10g as the price/value is quite good.

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 Re: Thoughts on Selmer Clarinets?
Author: nellsonic 
Date:   2017-12-13 10:21

The idea that we can get much (any?) truly useful information about how an instrument is going to work for us by listening to youtube videos is iffy at best. It's a little like deciding how comfortable and well fitting a shoe is going to be by looking at pictures of it on someone else's foot. It's not that there's no information there - it's just not the right information to be making any kind of purchasing decision from.

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 Re: Thoughts on Selmer Clarinets?
Author: seabreeze 
Date:   2017-12-13 11:28


I agree that you must hear and compare the clarinets in person and play them yourself before deciding to buy. Each of us sounds different from others playing the same instrument, and some players may find that neither model works well for them. But I think this video does faithfully represent the general difference in tone quality between the Presence and the CSVR. By now I've tried both several times and listened to others play them for comparison. Some players sound brighter on both instruments or darker on both than the clarinetist in the video. But still the general difference comes through. I've noticed that those who sound naturally too bright often mellow out on the CSVR. Conversely, those who play naturally on the dull side often play with more sparkle on the Presence. In any case, the video will have served its purpose, for me, if it at least attracts a player's interest enough to go try both instruments.

Post Edited (2017-12-13 19:30)

Reply To Message
 Re: Thoughts on Selmer Clarinets?
Author: Ed Palanker 
Date:   2017-12-13 17:51

I bought a Selmer Signiture about 12-15 years ago. I was fortunate to be at a shop in Delaware, the owner since retired, that stocked both Buffets and Selmers. When I took a student there to help him choose a Buffet I tried some Selmers, fell in love with the one I own, and bought it on the spot. It's just about matching the player with the instrument.


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 Re: Thoughts on Selmer Clarinets?
Author: tommo84 
Date:   2017-12-13 20:10

The real problem of buffet today is the price, not the quality per se IMHO.

I have changed recently from a CSG to a Tradition.
build an quality wise they were really close. Bu the Tradition allows me more flexibility and easiness of playing and a little more volume.

The mechanics on the Tradition is spot on, perfectly adjusted.

I chosed my Tradition between other high ends Buffet clarinets and there were also some gems of Rc Prestige and Tosca. Maybe the fact that I bought it in a known shop in Paris helps, since I think that the "good ones" are chosen directly at the factory by the Paris's shops....

but trust me that the Tradition is selling very well, at least in Europe.

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