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 Selmer Series 9 Basses
Author: kilo 
Date:   2019-12-09 21:04

Although it's late afternoon in my playing career I've decided that I'd like to play on something other than my Yamaha 221 and step up to a "professional" horn — without spending $10,000 or more. My idea is to find an old Selmer Low Eb bass and have it brought up to acceptable playing condition. My technician is a bass clarinet player and I trust his work on old instruments.

I'm looking at a Series 9 which is currently in "playable" condition — I know it will need an overhaul. While I've heard a lot of good things about the earlier line of Selmer basses I'm not familiar with the Series 9 basses at all (although
I've long coveted the idea of getting a Series 9 soprano).

Does anyone have personal experience playing or repairing these basses? Are there unique characteristics to the sound and response? Assuming we were able to bring it up to concert band performance standards would it actually be an "upgrade" compared to the Yamaha I'm playing now?

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 Re: Selmer Series 9 Basses
Author: Hank Lehrer 
Date:   2019-12-09 21:57

Hi Kilo,

My backup bass, which I use for outdoor gigs and pit work, is a Selmer Series 9 Model 32 (articulated C#/G# and alternate LH Eb). I got it several years ago from a nearby university and it plays just great; actually, many of the pads are originals. The intonation is superb and the tone quality is all you might desire. Not as good as my main bass which is a Selmer Privilege but it is everything one would want in a step-up bass.

I doubt if you are going to find a Series 9 that goes to low C but any of these older Selmer's will play rings around your Yamaha 221 (nice instrument but it's most suitable for younger players and/or school programs).

Happy hunting,


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 Re: Selmer Series 9 Basses
Author: kilo 
Date:   2019-12-09 22:15

Thank you, Hank, that's very encouraging.

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 Re: Selmer Series 9 Basses
Author: Ed 
Date:   2019-12-09 23:36

Good plan I love those old Selmers.

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 Re: Selmer Series 9 Basses
Author: DougR 
Date:   2019-12-10 04:49

I've had a Series 9 bass for probably 25 years; it's a terrific instrument and good lord, what a sound. I used to take it to Jimmy Yan, who did bass clarinet work for most of the top NYC pros, and he'd always beam when I opened the case, and say, "Ahh, wonderful instrument!" (Maybe he said that to everyone, but somehow I don't think so.)

I managed to get hold of a Selmer Privilege, so that's my main bass now, and it's not really comparable to the Series 9; but if I didn't need notes below low Eb, I wouldn't hesitate to use the Series 9 on a high-profile gig. The sound is rich and robust, and it'll do anything you need it to do.

(I know that the late Bob Tricarico, one of the first-call recording and film scoring players in LA, used a Series 9 bass; his came up for sale a few years ago.)

You might check above the thumb rest for filled cracks; that tenon ring is kept tight by a set screw, and if it loosens enough the socket will crack when the horn is put together. (the instrument is perfectly playable, assuming the crack is professionally dealt with; might save you some money on the purchase price, though.)

I've seen a couple of them on *that* auction site recently, after a few years of not seeing them at all. Good luck with the purchase, if you decide to do it!

Post Edited (2019-12-10 18:57)

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 Re: Selmer Series 9 Basses
Author: clarnibass 
Date:   2019-12-13 09:48

I've played a couple of them. They are very good in general and feel somewhat "outdated" which often isn't an issue. Sound is excellent, although I prefer the current ones a little better (most subjective difference). Intonation is decent but better on most current models. Same for ergonomics. Mechanical design is significantly better on the current model and also some older models (compared with Series 9). Especially dealing with springiness of linkages and long hinges (not that the Privilege is perfect). There are also some evenness issues that are improved now. Still a good bass clarinet.

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 Re: Selmer Series 9 Basses
Author: JEG 2017
Date:   2019-12-17 19:12

I own a 1971 Selmer Model 33 that I bought new. Of all the 33s that I've tried mine is the most resonant with great dynamic range and a full focused sound. Also, I've had few, if any, issues with the keys going out of adjustment.

Having tried newer Selmers and a Buffet some years ago I realize that the ergonomics of the older instruments are not as good but I'm so accustomed to mine that for me it's not a problem.

After an overhaul in 2006 and substantial work on intonation issues I don't have a problem playing in tune beyond the usual adjustments that one needs to make on a bass clarinet.

And as long as I'm alive the horn is not for sale.

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 Re: Selmer Series 9 Basses
Author: Max S-D 
Date:   2019-12-17 23:52

When did Selmer start labeling bass clarinets "Model 33"? It seems like a designation that applied to a pretty wide variety of designs, superficially at least.

I have a 1981 instrument that is a Model 33 and my understanding was that the Low-C Selmer I played in college, a 'Mazzeo Model' bass, was also a Model 33, though the repair tech that always worked on it for me mentioned to me recently that it potentially predated the Model 33. Is that correct? Does anyone know what years Selmer would have made this instrument? I don't know if I'll ever have the chance to compare it to my own instrument, but I remember absolutely loving that instrument.

I see what Selmer calls a Series 9 Bb Bass clarinet to Low C that is designated No. 33 in this catalog from 1964 (page 18):

That same catalog shows Mazzeo model Bb clarinets, but I don't see any bass clarinets in there. I'm not sure if "No. 33" is just a catalog designation or if these were considered Model 33 instruments. The cases in that catalog look like the one I used in college (textured vinyl-coated wood with leather trim), though I suppose there's nothing saying that the case it had in 2008 was the case it came with originally.

There is also a 1968 catalog on there that includes a Low C bass clarinet but makes no mention of the number 33. I think references to the Mazzeo models are gone by this point, though I might have missed them.

The 1963 catalog on there doesn't appear to have any reference to Low C bass clarinets, but it's also in French so I might have missed something...

Not one of these three catalogs makes any mention of Mazzeo model basses. Of course, there were years in between these catalogs as well.

I am seeing a "Mazzeo Model" bass clarinet for sale at Midwest Musical imports, but that's the only reference to a Mazzeo bass that I'm finding, other than passing references to them existing and a thread from years ago where I shared that I was playing a Mazzeo bass and then neglected to share photos of it.


Anyways, if anyone has any information on that instrument, I'd love to know more, mostly out of idle curiosity. That was one of the instruments that changed my life!

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 Re: Selmer Series 9 Basses
Author: JEG 2017
Date:   2019-12-18 02:04

Max S-D

Your post made me curious - I was in NYSSMA All-State in 1966 and 1967 and I remember picking up a couple of Selmer instrument brochures. I was able to find one a few minutes ago that's dated from 1966. It lists Model 30, 32 and 33 bass clarinets.

Model 30 is what might be considered a standard bass clarinet. Basically the only thing special about it is the low E-flat key.

Model 32, in addition to what the Model 30 has, has the left hand E-flat/A-flat lever and articulated G-Sharp.

Model 33 includes everything the Model 32 has plus range to low C, and is designated as "Special order only."

The brochure lists the Model 30, 32 and 33 as Selmer Series 9 and the photograph of the Model 32 shows the Series 9 logo along with Selmer Paris. My 1971 instrument does not have the Series 9 logo; only the Selmer Paris logo.

I agree with you that the Model 33s were manufactured most likely into the 1980s. I remember trying a Model 37 sometime in the mid 80s and being impressed with the ergonomics, as I mentioned previously, plus the new low note keys, but I liked the sound of my instrument better.

A little more history - I picked up my bass in May of 1971. A friend had special-ordered a Model 33 to include a left-hand low E-flat (not standard at the time) plus articulated long B/C-Sharp keys. Felix Viscuglia of the Boston Symphony, who we both studied with at one time or another, had those extra keys. The music store in Boston where we ordered the instruments notified him that his bass had arrived so we jumped in my car and drove to the dealer, only to discover that the instrument that arrived was a standard bass, serial W49xx. Since he didn't want it the dealer offered it to me and I bought it for $565 plus tax. About three months later I was notified that my bass had come in, serial W19xx. I told them that I had already bought the other bass clarinet. The following year my roommate at the time wound up buying that instrument. It had a different register mechanism but otherwise was not much different than mine.

My first friend's special-order bass finally arrived quite a bit later. After all that I was never as impressed with it as I was with mine, even though his had the special keys that he insisted you couldn't play 'Daphnis' without.

As I mentioned before, I always felt that my Model 33 had the best sound of any I had played. Given the circumstances I described above, it seems to have been a matter of dumb luck.

Incidentally, the brochure I have does not make any mention of Mazzeo bass clarinets. If you think about it, the Selmer Paris basses already had double automatic register keys, so I don't know if a Mazzeo mechanism would have added much, and I don't know if Mazzeo himself had anything like it on his bass clarinet. If I find the other brochure I'll check that.

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 Re: Selmer Series 9 Basses
Author: kilo 
Date:   2019-12-18 13:30

From the page on the Mazzeo bass at Midwest Musical Imports:


This instrument was new in the 1974 and came to us on consignment this year. (...)
The instrument is also rare in that it was one of the first editions to include keys down to a low C with all three keys in alignment on the thumb.

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 Re: Selmer Series 9 Basses
Author: jdbassplayer 
Date:   2019-12-18 16:32

Selmer was definitely making low C bass clarinets before the 60s. My main bass is a 1954 Selmer bass clarinet to low C. It's the same design as the "model 33" except it has unplated nickel keys and a standard teardrop register key. Even though it's not as free blowing, I generally prefer it to the Selmer Privilege I have access too.


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 Re: Selmer Series 9 Basses
Author: kilo 
Date:   2019-12-18 23:05


Selmer was definitely making low C bass clarinets before the 60s.

Were all three of the keys down to low C in alignment as described above or was there a different configuration?

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 Re: Selmer Series 9 Basses
Author: jdbassplayer 
Date:   2019-12-18 23:37

Same configuration as the newer basses with 3 thumb keys in a row. I've compared it to a 1973 Selmer low C bass clarinet and, other than the register key, the keywork is identical.


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 Re: Selmer Series 9 Basses
Author: Max S-D 
Date:   2019-12-19 01:44

I'll have to get down to Santa Cruz sometime to see if I can handle that instrument again and check the serial number on it. Mid-70's would make sense, though the case is a bit puzzling, since it looks like the mid-60's cases in the 1964 catalog. But again, a case is just a case and is not necessarily original.

I wonder how many Mazzeo Model basses are out there.

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