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Finding more information on my bass clarinet

Hello! I'm new to the forum, and wanted to see if I could get some more information about my bass clarinet. I bought it about 2 years ago from my teacher, but she didn't know much about its origins. It's a Selmer (Paris) Low E (not Eb), with a really sweet tone. Serial number 9497.

Does anyone have any idea where I could go to find more information on it? I've found a number of sites that help you get a handle on clarinet serial numbers, but nothing for bass clarinet... and the internet is all but silent on Low E's.

Here is a shot of the horn, in its case:

IMG_2146.JPGIMG_2083.JPG

Any advice that you give would be very much appreciated. Thanks very much for your time!
 
Is there a letter prior to the serial number? The letter denotes the Series and year.

Judging from the imprint and the serial without the letter I'd guess 1930 or before. The metal and harmony clarinets did not coincide with the clarinet numbering until sometime in the 30s.

I couldn't tell from the pix, but does the neck have the pitch pipe mechanism? I've seen earlier basses without...
 

SOTSDO

Old King Log
Staff member
CE/Moderator
My thoughts exactly. It's nickel silver key work, and well worn in the bargain, so that indicates a well used (and, not necessarily abused) horn. I don't see the auxiliary C#/G# mechanism, and the peg mechanism is not of the modern type. (That may be original, or it may be a later repair, in which case see my remarks about the tender mercies shown by students below.) No slide in the neck, from what I can see on the photographs. (Larger scale shots would help.)

There are no obvious signs of the wear and tear that a school horn would have, but photos of the sides and rear of the horn will help with an accurate determination. I am particularly interested in photos of the entire back of the lower joint, the bottom of the back of the upper joint (with the bridge key(s)) and the sides of the lower joint around the large key cups.

(The most likely source for such an instrument is an institute of learning, higher or otherwise, as most basses are sold to high schools and universities. Rare indeed is one owned by a pro or careful amateur that has never seen the attention of a series of bored secondary or university students. Here's hoping that you got lucky.)

The case is most certainly not an original one, as the Selmer horns from this era had hardshell cases rather than soft.

Larger scale photos, including a series from the back side of the horn as enumerated above (always important in evaluating bass clarinets, by the way) will help here a lot.

My guess is a vintage Selmer (Paris) bass clarinet in Bb to low Eb, with the double octave mechanism on the back side and a linkage to the lower joint, produced sometime after the 1940s but well before the 1960s. In that, and assuming good condition (check the center socket for cracking, as well as the two tenons), it's all the bass that anyone outside of a Broadway pit union guy or a jazz maven would need.
 
Wow, thank you both so much for taking the time to give this some attention. Let me try to answer some questions. There is no doubt that my teacher loaned this out to a number of students, and it saw some abuse. My repair man, who is very good (Bob Gross at A&G Repair in Oakland: http://www.agmusic.com/repair.shtml) did some work on it for me. He fixed the curvature of the neck piece, changed the peg mechanism (you were right, SOTSDO!), and replaced some pads. Hopefully the students that my teacher lent the horn out to didn't abuse it too much. Playing B, a half step below middle C (I think) is real stuffy... Oh, and I bought the case myself, as the one it came with was a hard shell, but meant for a low C horn.

In any case, I only have a cell phone camera, but hopefully the resolution is high enough for you to be able to see what you need to see. Once again, thanks so much for your thoughts and opinions. I'm planning on getting it insured - do you have an idea of about how much it's worth, or where I can go to find that information out?

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SOTSDO

Old King Log
Staff member
CE/Moderator
I had a similar problem with my bass (the stuffy B natural below the staff), and it went unaddressed for a long time, to the extent that I just ended up playing the B with the key instead of the middle finger. I had it looked at by a lot of folks, but all concluded that it was just "that way".

Then I took it to the guy I used down in Texas (a pro up in Dallas). He looked at it (didn't see an apparent problem, either), but took the time to take it apart (not a five minute job due to the key work involved), and then the problem became manifest.

What had happened was that the pad surface had received a "half moon cut", where the tone hole edge had worked its way through the pad (probably due to the pressure that the top cushion of the case put on the joint during transport) and sliced the surface about half the way around the perimeter of the tone hole. The resulting "flap" still allowed the tone hole to be sealed just fine, as the remaining surface of the pad sealed up against the seat just fine, so no problems there.

Where the difficulty arose was when the forked fingering was employed. At that time, the flow of the air out of the tone hole would "draw" that flap down partially over the hole, muffling the resultant tone.

When the tone hole was examined with the feeler, it sealed up just fine. Without the air flowing through the hole, the flap would remain up against the filling of the pad, and would not appear to be cut. And, pulling the pad off was more trouble than most technicians would care to take, especially as it appeared to be intact when examined when in place on the horn.

Since that day back in 1996 or so, no more muffled Bs.

As for insurance, see the section on "How Much Is My Horn Worth?"
 
Thanks, I will have my repairman look into that issue - you've inspired me! Even if it's not exactly the "half moon cut" issue, perhaps a deeper probing will reveal that it isn't just "that way".

However, my original concern still stands - I cannot find any information for this Low E bass clarinet at all. There is no letter before the serial number, so I don't know what model it is. Checking listings that have already sold on Ebay brings no results for a Selmer wooden Low E. All low E bass clarinets I can find are plastic Bundy basses, or horns sold for parts. I'm at a loss as to how to get more information. Pete, one of the admins, recommended that I insure it for the replacement value, ie. the price of a new Selmer Pro bass. That works for me. I'm more interested in getting a general understanding of what I have here. I love how it sounds, so I figure if I want to upgrade to a Low C in the future, it would be nice to know what I have now when researching what I might like.
 

pete

Brassica Oleracea
Staff member
Administrator
Low E.
 

SOTSDO

Old King Log
Staff member
CE/Moderator
If it only extends to low E (rather than low Eb), then you have a truly ancient instrument. I have only seen one Boehm horn to low E, although I have seen many (and have owned a few) Alberts that only extended that low.

If it was made after the 1920s, it would descend to low Eb this to allow a player to handle those pesky A bass clarinet parts…unless maybe it's an A horn…they didn't need that low Eb.
 

TrueTone

College Student who likes wind instruments & music
If it only extends to low E (rather than low Eb), then you have a truly ancient instrument. I have only seen one Boehm horn to low E, although I have seen many (and have owned a few) Alberts that only extended that low.

If it was made after the 1920s, it would descend to low Eb this to allow a player to handle those pesky A bass clarinet parts…unless maybe it's an A horn…they didn't need that low Eb.
I've got a low E Bass, my school's (Somehow not broken to bits, even if the register key mechanism doesn't work well, and the center tenon cork is slightly misaligned from a past repair to it.) , serial #N89xx, can take some pictures of it if you would want to see it, and when I get off of spring break next week I can take photos of another one with mismatched serial numbers (in a lot worse condition than mine is) that's somewhere in the Q Series range.
Both later than the 1920s as you say. (Mine is from 1951 according to clarinetperfection's serial number list.)
Kind of annoying to play with a Clarinet Choir on it though, which is what I do with it, as it doesn't have a low Eb which is basically needed.
 

pete

Brassica Oleracea
Staff member
Administrator
I put together this from ClarinetPerfection.com. Steve is one of our CEs, but we haven't seen him in awhile. He's been busy.

Around sn 9999, which is probably Steve's way of denoting "9xxx," Selmer switched to the standard logo stamp that we all know and love. Around 1930ish, Selmer also stopped using separate serial numbers for metal and harmony clarinets ("harmony" = alto, bass, etc.).

Steve has a few pics of catalogs. He's got a 1910 catalog with both the Bb and A basses, where you can clearly see that the A bass only goes down to low E. Also, the pic of the Bb and A look almost identical, so there'd be no easy way for me to tell you A or Bb just by a pic. It'd have to be in comparison to a modern Bb bass. Fortunately, OP knows his bass is Bb.

If you look at the 1936 catalog, there are two basses, a metal one and a wooden one. They both go to low Eb.

What might be fun is to go through more Selmer catalogs and you might find something that says that the low Eb was an option for an extra $50 or something like that -- or, if you only wanted a low E, the horn was $50 cheaper. IIRC, Selmer charged $50 on Mark VI saxophones for the altissimo F# key.

Opinions: Selmer discontinued A bass clarinets between 1910 and 1936. As far as dating OP's bass, unless he's missing a letter (mis-stamped or something; this happens), I really don't have too much problem with saying that sn 9497 = 1930 or 1931.
 

SOTSDO

Old King Log
Staff member
CE/Moderator
While Selmer discontinued the original Klose/Boehm bass clarinet in A to low E, they reintroduced same in the 1970s or 1980s. I played them at several of the ICS shows during the period (Champaign IL, Richmond VI, Minneapolis MN), and I knew of someone who owned one.

The new version of the Selmer Klose/Boehm bass clarinet in A was keyed to low Eb, and was provided with both the articulated G# key and the Eb/Ab lever, along with the floor peg and the double octave key that was standard for Selmer basses. It just felt like a Bb bass, even though it was pitched a semi-tone lower - I guess on the bass, the key positions are more flexible since your fingerbones don't directly cover most of the standard seven "ring" key locations.

I've not seen one for sale since the advent of the internet, so I imagine that the few that were produced are being carefully hoarded these days by the folks who play in opera orchestras. I do know that the guy who played for the Houston opera house didn't have one (and wished that he did, every time the locals put on a portion of The Ring).

I learned my clarinet playing on my grandfather Wilhelm's Buffet Albert bass in A to low E, and I dearly miss that horn, manual octave keys and all. While the key work was obsolete, it still worked just fine, played in tune, and had a beautiful tone. As the horn was only occasionally used, being an A horn (he used to do amateur opera in Bavaria before the Great War, where he served on the wrong side), it was in near pristine condition when I inherited it as a youth. I did, however, have to transpose from the very first - a bit rough once I got to the more complicated youth stuff.

My dead and gone mother made the error of trading it for a bog standard intermediate soprano in Bb, despite my protests. I think that the teacher that I had for all of three sessions engineered the trade, although I don't know for certain. I do know that I was pissed off mightily about the whole affair.
 

pete

Brassica Oleracea
Staff member
Administrator
While Selmer discontinued the original Klose/Boehm bass clarinet in A to low E, they reintroduced same in the 1970s or 1980s.
I can definitely accept that. I was just basing an opinion on a small range of dates and catalogs. I also think it's not only possible, but very probable, that if someone paid enough to get an A bass, Selmer would have trotted out the old tooling and made one. Buescher and Conn did this if someone wanted a bass sax after WWII, for instance.
 
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