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Selmer full Boehm A

Discussion in 'A, C and D Clarinets' started by Adagio, Aug 8, 2008.

  1. At a local shop there is a used Selmer full Boehm A clarinet for sale for $1200; it has a crack in the bell but the joints and barrel seem fine.

    I thought about getting it, but was reluctant because it wasn't a Bb and I wasn't sure just how hard it is to find music for an A clarinet. I also was hesitating because I wouldn't want to be transposing all the time.

    Since this category in the forum has remained empty, perhaps that's an indicator of the lack of popularity of the A?
  2. bpimentel

    bpimentel Broadway Doubler List Owner Distinguished Member

    No, the A clarinet is very much alive and well (the full-Boehm system a little less so, though it has its fans).

    Orchestral clarinetists play both B-flat and A clarinets as a matter of routine, more often than not walking onto the stage carrying both. Plus there are some core pieces of clarinet repertoire--the Mozart Concerto, the Nielsen Concerto, and the Stravinsky "Three Pieces," just to name a few, all of which call for clarinet in A. (Stravinsky actually uses both A and B-flat in the same unaccompanied piece.)

    The A clarinet IS decidedly unpopular in wind band music and jazz, though.

    Last edited: Aug 8, 2008
  3. Gandalfe

    Gandalfe Admin and all around good guy. Staff Member Administrator

    Suzy and I have a nice A clarinet that we've never used. We play in jazz combos, big bands, and concert bands. But I gifted them to her anticipating a sub gig with a local orchestra that never happened. They only need two or three clarinets on average and then they all have at least a Bb and A clarinet.

    That said, more experienced players than I would say that if you have one, it can make some tough charts (think 5 or 6 sharps or flats and the like) a lot easier. I expect the pros will chime in with other advantages.
  4. pete

    pete Brassica Oleracea Staff Member Administrator

    If you're playing orchestral music -- particularly "real" orchestras, not your community band (especially if it's a "band" rather than "orchestra") -- you're probably going to eventually want an A clarinet.

    1. I'd recommend having a woodwind tech go over ther horn before you buy it. If there's one crack, there may be more or something else may need to be fixed/replaced.
    2. Knowing it's a full Boehm generally points to "pro", but that doesn't indicate the model, nor condition. That means we don't have any way of being able to tell how old it is or if it's worth the $1200 you mention (a new Selmer Recital A clarinet is $4300). If you can, provide some pics.

    For me, I've never had a need for an A clarinet.

    SOTSDO Old King Log Staff Member CE/Moderator

    Unless you already have a clarinet "duty slot" in a community orchestra that plays "serious" music (i.e., not high school arrangements), I would not spend a plugged nickel on a A clarinet, regardless of the condition. If the community group plays challenging repertory (think manuscript parts as a good rule of thumb), it might be worth the trouble, but even if you do get a good horn and get it fixed up right, you will use it no more than perhaps 10% of the time.

    Move up to a college program or a municipal orchestra and the likelihood of using it climbs to perhaps 30%. But, the rest of the time you will be tooling along on a Bb horn, plain and simple.

    When I was playing in several community orchestras when I first moved down here in the early 1990's, I used the A horn for perhaps fifteen performances all told, this being over nine year's time. Not worth carrying it around, especially since I had a "full Boehm" Bb clarinet in the same double case.

    (Oddly enough, the lead clarinet part for Gershwin's Rhapsody In Blue (as orchestrated by ol' Ferd Grofe) has virtually the entire part in Bb. But, there is one brief section (twenty bars tops) that's played on the A clarinet, even though the part never goes below low G and thus would not need an A clarinet. (It may be that the Clarinet II part dips down below low E on the soprano horn; however, I know that the bass part stays well within range.))

    A "full Boehm" horn is likely to have been better cared for than a "bog standard" soprano clarinet, simply because that's the sort of instrument that normally would only have been purchased by a professional. However, when older people retire and the horn goes into the closet since no one in the family plays any longer, it may well end up cracked like the eBay example under consideration.

    All is not lost, however. If the instrument is a Series 9 or Series 10, you should be able to purchase a new bell for it directly from Selmer. That's the approach that I'd take if I had to make it whole. I don't know about Centered Tone or Balanced Tone instruments, but it would be worth your while to try and see if they have any parts lying about that would be suitable.

    I've bought a number of second or third hand "full Boehm" instruments off of eBay, and in each case the horn has been perfectly maintained.
    Last edited: Aug 9, 2008
  6. Thank you, everyone, for the replies.

    With renewed interest I went back and examined the clarinet in detail. Although it is a Selmer, it is difficult to tell the model because there is so much wear; the gold writing is almost worn completely off and the wood seems to have "swollen" to make the writing and the serial numbers indistinct.

    At this point I discovered that the barrel, the upper joint, and the lower joint all had different serial numbers. They were hard to read, but were certainly all different.

    Also, there was some poorly repaired damage around several of the tenon rings. What was surprising were the number of dings and scratches on the body, as if it had not been carried in a case, but rather disassembled and carried around in a backpack. The mechanism and pads seemed to be in good condition, however. I did not get an opportunity to play it.

    So, I'll have to pass on this one and wait for a better example.
  7. Tammi

    Tammi Private woodwind instructor

    I think you made a wise decision.

    Even though it is a Selmer and full boehm, there are better examples out there that can be obtained for less. Keep looking.

    I got a matched set of Selmer full boehms last year from my Husband. It was only $1500 for the pair in the original double pouchette case.

    The hard part is finding a tech that has experience setting one up correctly.
  8. Steve

    Steve Clarinet CE/Moderator Staff Member CE/Moderator

    and that is odd isn't it. A sax is far more complicated to setup, though a clarinet is far more tempermental when there's a slight leak.

    FBs are fairly simple though, and each maker has a slightly different mechanism, though proper voicing is more of a concern with the FBs.

    I have a Buffet FB which I love playing, though rarely do. I've used it mostly when I've hurt a finger or something and then use one hand for all keys.
  9. pete

    pete Brassica Oleracea Staff Member Administrator

    For what it's worth, and I'm not a repair tech, I always found that my clarinets were very sensitive to adjustments. Overtightening a screw could cause problems.

    As a point of curiosity, I have a bunch of Torx screwdrivers that are "set" to a specific weight so you can't tighten beyond that. Are there screwdrivers and such like that for clarinets, etc.?
  10. Steve

    Steve Clarinet CE/Moderator Staff Member CE/Moderator

    I have some torque wrenches. Though I use them for other purposes. in general, pivot screws need to be tight enough to properly allow the key to move back and forth (or up and down) fairly easily which also includes the tension of the spring. But one should not allow the spring to force the movement to overcome over tightening of a screw/mechanism. This setup is more by feel and experience than a "particular setting"

    the torque wrenches/screw drivers are primarily for my bicycles ......
  11. SOTSDO

    SOTSDO Old King Log Staff Member CE/Moderator

    I've had far more problems with bass clarinet and saxophone adjustment issues than I ever have with my "full Boehm" clarinets. For that matter, I've had far more problems with the "big keys" (on the lower half of the lower joint) on clarinets than I ever have had with any of the "complicated" mechanisms of the "full Boehm" keys.

    And, your average "full Boehm" looks simple compared to your average student oboe. We don't hear anything about how hard it is to keep an oboe in regulation, do we?
  12. Steve

    Steve Clarinet CE/Moderator Staff Member CE/Moderator

    oboes are a pain !!! :)
  13. SOTSDO

    SOTSDO Old King Log Staff Member CE/Moderator

    One data point in a vast universe...

    My oboe and english horn playing girl friend was always faunching about keeping everything in regulation. I just told her to be more careful with the things.
  14. Interesting conversations.
    I have one with serial # P1040. not a boehm.

    It came with the double case (a bit beat-up) with blue interior.
    I'm a bit uncomfortable putting both clarinets in it however.
    The case will not close on it's own when I put my Bb (Serial [HASHTAG]#T0120[/HASHTAG]) in and it requires a squeeze to close. They are not a set.

    I have a stupid question that I'm embarrassed to post as a thread.
    Can I use any old Bb barrel on an A clarinet? With my 5JB I'm a bit flat.
    Last edited: Apr 4, 2012
  15. Steve

    Steve Clarinet CE/Moderator Staff Member CE/Moderator

    Try it and see how it works is the general answer. But there are alot of Bb/A combos where the barrel bore is different. Of course, symphony players have been known to swap mpc/barrel when switching between A/Bb so it also can work.

    I've never really have tracked what can and can't work with A and Bb. I've fallen prey to using a Legere on the mpcs so having to swap mpc/barrel isn't needed. Plus add to it is that I may mix makers ... Buffet Bb and Leblanc A.
  16. Thanks Steve.
    With my T0120 Bb I use an old B&H barrel that's a little shorter then the Selmer barrel that came with the horn to bring up the pitch. Neither fits the P1040 A clarinet.(they're too big)
    It would have been very convenient if they did fit.(and were in tune)
    I'll go through my junky barrels (mostly B&H) to see if I can get any fits that are the right length for the A Selmer.
  17. Steve

    Steve Clarinet CE/Moderator Staff Member CE/Moderator

    I should mention that I use a Selmer A barrel with my Selmer CT Bb
    correct bore and all. But I'm not sure on the vintage of A barrel it is .. the rings are black nickel on the A barrel.

    When I get a chance I'll check it out a set of Buffets.

    The Leblanc LL vintage set I just checked has the same tapered bore on both the Bb & A barrels. Yes, Leblanc (and german and other clarinets) had reverse tapered bores before Moennig made it famous on the Buffets.

    The more modern Selmers though use a really small bore barrel opening to a larger bore upper joint. So modern Selmer barrels won't work well with vintage Selmers (unless they get bored out).

    here's a couple writeups I did on a modern Selmer Signature and Artys sets and mention the barrels and dimensions
  18. Steve

    Steve Clarinet CE/Moderator Staff Member CE/Moderator

    on the intermediate level
    Buffet E-11, Bb & As Shreibers are slightly different.

    Bb and A's have the same entry bore.

    But 2 A's barrels were cylindrical whereas the Bb was reverse tapered.
    Of course that does not say the Bb barrel wouldn't be better on the As, or vice versa. They at least have the same entry bore.
  19. SOTSDO

    SOTSDO Old King Log Staff Member CE/Moderator

    Back when I still played orchestral stuff...

    ...I always used my A barrel on both my A and Bb Series 9 horns, and without any troubles at all. As noted above, the barrel/mouthpiece combination makes for an easier swap during typical horn changes.

    And, I found that my Bb clarinet played "smoother" with the A barrel. For some reason, jumps up to the upper registers always had a "catch" to them that I had to deal with through lip and breath control. With the A barrel, the catch disappeared.

    These days, I pull the A horn out maybe twice a year to run through a practice session. It still works fine, but it's just so much dead weight in the double case these days. I've taken to using my Bb Series 10 full Boehm from Puerto Rico instead, but then I run into space problems with the case. So, I carry the extras in my baritone case - a nuisance when you need something in a hurry.
  20. I have to second Terry's comment.

    Pulling out the mpc everytime I go from one instrument to another is time-consuming and requires recalibration of the reed. I can circumvent this going from one Bb to another Bb generally by doing the barrel switch, but that can't be done from Bb to C. (I haven't tried Bb to A since I don't own any A horn)

    I find it amusing that an A barrel would work with a Bb without wreaking havoc on the chromatic pitch. To me, it would be a very... 'interesting' proposition, to make a set of clarinets that use the same barrel length.

    One supporting evidence that I've come across about variation in barrel length would be Yamaha made short barrels for CSG series by lengthening the top joint, which was done without impacting the throat tonehole placements. Shouldn't the impact on the overall acoustic be negligible if the tonehole positions remain the same?
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