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Selmer Reviews (Signature, Artys, Centered Tone)

Discussion in 'Selmer Paris' started by Steve, Jul 14, 2011.

  1. Steve

    Steve Clarinet CE/Moderator Staff Member CE/Moderator

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    I plan on writing reviews of various modern and vintage model Selmers. Other opinions and input are welcome
     
    Last edited: Jul 14, 2011
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  2. Steve

    Steve Clarinet CE/Moderator Staff Member CE/Moderator

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    Selmer 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.
     
    Last edited: Jul 14, 2011
  3. Steve

    Steve Clarinet CE/Moderator Staff Member CE/Moderator

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    SELMER ARTYS

    SELMER ARTYS
    Wow
    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 discountinued 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
     
    Last edited: Jul 14, 2011
  4. Steve

    Steve Clarinet CE/Moderator Staff Member CE/Moderator

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    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, scroll down a bit but it's there.
    http://www.clarinetperfection.com/clsnSelmerParis.htm

    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
     
    Last edited: Jul 15, 2011
  5. SOTSDO

    SOTSDO Old King Log Staff Member CE/Moderator

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    The way to deal with the working of rubber issues...

    ...is to first freeze the rubber, and only then cut or sand it down.

    This is an old time machinist trick, and the few times I have had to use it, it has worked perfectly. Freezing the rubber gets it into a nice rigid state throughout the part, and it works pretty much like hard plastic as long as it is in that state. If it warms up too much through working it, you just chuck it back into the freezer.

    You never know just when a bit of occupational trivia is going to come in handy...
     
  6. Steve

    Steve Clarinet CE/Moderator Staff Member CE/Moderator

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    I just replace it with cork or synthetic sandable cork. At the point of adjustments while playing it, even taking the key off one still has the issue of the pad being frozen/unfrozen cycles along with the rubber.
     
  7. SOTSDO

    SOTSDO Old King Log Staff Member CE/Moderator

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    Oh...

    I didn't see the part about having a pad on it as well. In that case, the rubber was probably used for its 'self adjusting' qualities, rather than sealing the tone hole. No good way around it other than to replace it.

    I had similar problems with my Oehler horn, where the tiny little vent tone holes had fat leather pads that kept the attached rings well above their chimneys. In the end, I had my guy sand down cork pads for each of the three, until the cork was thin enough to allow for proper adjustment of the ring height.
     
  8. Steve

    Steve Clarinet CE/Moderator Staff Member CE/Moderator

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    hmmm ... a tad bit confusing. for example, take the register key. One one end a pad for the vent hole, on the other end (thumb part, on the bottom side) it would have that weird rubber material instead of cork as a stopper. You don't want to put the register key into the freezer as it also has a pad on it.
     
  9. SOTSDO

    SOTSDO Old King Log Staff Member CE/Moderator

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    Nope...

    ...but I thought that the rubber material was used to stop the hole rather than as a bumper. I agree that cork would be a better choice.
     
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