Henri Selmer Paris

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This article is about the Paris firm. For the American firm, see Conn-Selmer.
Henri SELMER sax Paris
Industry Musical instruments
Founded 1885
Founder Henri Selmer
Headquarters Paris, France
Area served
Key people
Patrick Selmer
Products Woodwind instruments: saxophones, clarinets and mouthpieces
Website www.selmer.fr

Henri SELMER Paris company is a French-based international family-owned enterprise, manufacturer of musical instruments based at Mantes-la-Ville near Paris, France. Founded in 1885, it is known for its high-quality woodwind and brass instruments, especially saxophones, clarinets and trumpets.

The SELMER Paris brand has been used by many well-known saxophonists such as Marcel Mule, Claude Delangle, Frederick Hemke, Charlie Parker,[1] John Coltrane, Paul Desmond, Herschel Evans, Zoot Sims,[2] Michael Brecker, Sonny Rollins and Coleman Hawkins. Among famous Selmer Clarinet players is Benny Goodman in his early career.




  • 1885 : Creation of the Selmer Paris company: Henri Selmer begins manufacturing reeds and mouthpieces.
  • From 1898, with the help, Henri Selmer starts manufacturing clarinets and settles his workshop at 4, place Dancourt, Paris. The same year his younger brother, Alexandre (b. 1864), joins the Boston Symphony Orchestra as a clarinetist, remaining until 1901.


  • 1900 : Henri wins his first Bronze Medal in the Paris Exhibition.
  • 1904 : The Selmer Paris clarinets are presented for the first time at the International Saint Louis Fair (USA), where Henri wins a Gold Medal. At this period, Alexandre Selmer, Henri's brother, has been first clarinetist in the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra for two years. From 1903, he plays the clarinets his brother is manufacturing in France. This will strongly contribute to the development of their sales in the US.
  • 1905 : Paul Lefèvre and his son Henri, who had been working for Maison Robert (a clarinet manufacturer), join Henri Selmer's team. Henri takes over the Barbier Company (a flute manufacturer, rue du faubourg Saint Denis, in Paris). The following year, Alexandre officially establishes himself in New York USA, where he starts selling the Selmer Paris clarinets. This first structure will later become the H&A Selmer (USA) company.
  • 1909 : Alexandre Selmer joins the New York Philharmonic Orchestra as first clarinetist. There, he has the opportunity to play under the conductor Gustav Mahler.
  • 1910 : Maurice Lefèvre, Paul Lefèvre’s second son, joins the Selmer Paris team. Alexandre, after having opened his first shop in the United States, decides to return to France, entrusting the management to one of his students, George Bundy.
  • 1919 : Opening of a new factory in Mantes whose technical direction is headed by Maurice and Henri Lefèvre, both son-in-laws of Henri Selmer. Other saxophone manufacturers, like Dolnet and Evette-Scheaffer, are already established in this city.
  • 1922 : 31 December 1922, the first Selmer saxophone is finished : a “Series 22” alto. The “Series” 22 makes way for the “Model 22”. The whole family is offered, including the “C Melody” tenor saxophone. Selmer then counts 50 instrument makers who manufacture 30 saxophones per month.
  • 1923-24 : Extension of Mantes factory. Three new workshops are constructed: one for reeds, two for saxophones. The workshop at Place Dancourt is reserved for welcoming musicians.
  • 1926 : A new logotype "Henri Selmer Paris" is adopted : the laurel wreath replaces the lyre. Engraved on all Selmer Paris instruments, this original logo is still used today as the seal of authenticity for the original "Henri Selmer Paris". Saxophone “Model 26” comes out. Around 136 workmen work at Selmer.
  • 1927 : Metal clarinet comes out. Grand prize at the International Exhibition of Geneva, for the production as a whole. George Bundy buys the store from the Selmers, changing the name to H. & A. Selmer, Inc. There was no remaining financial connection between the Selmers, in Paris, and Selmer in America. Bundy was appointed the sole distributor for Selmer Paris instruments in the United States.
  • 1928 : Creation of the company "H.Selmer & Co", in S.A.R.L. form. “Model 28” comes out. Creation of Selmer–Canada.
  • 1929 : Purchase of the almost bankrupt workshops of Edouard Sax. Creation of Selmer-London. Presentation of a special model of saxophone (no. 9909) with 12 amethysts for the Barcelona International Exposition.
  • 1930 : Manpower rises to 175 people who manufacture 300 instruments per month. Release of the saxophone “Cigar Cutter”. Grand Prize at the Exhibition of Liege.
  • 1931 : Acquisition of “Millereau”, a brass manufacturer.
  • 1932 : Selmer branches out into guitar manufacture in partnership with stringed-instrument maker Mario Maccaferri. They run a workshop where the "Selmer - Maccaferri", guitars are made that were immortalized by Django Reinhardt.[3]
  • 1933 : Release of the "Armstrong" trumpet model later known as "Balanced", and of the model Harry James.
  • 1934 : release of the "Radio Improved" saxophone.
  • 1936 : Selmer Paris revolutionizes the saxophone with a new model which will be called “Balanced Action”. France encounters social troubles and the factory is occupied.
  • 1941 : Disappearance of Henri Selmer. Maurice Selmer becomes president of the Selmer company. Release of Saxophone N° 30 000.
  • 1946 : By the end of the war, manpower had fallen to 80 people, but from 1946 the production went up to 250 instruments per month.
  • 1948 : Release of the "Super Action" saxophone
  • 1950 : The production rises to 650 instruments per month.
  • 1951 : Release of the Soloist mouthpiece.
  • 1952 : Production of the Selmer-Maccaferri guitars is stopped. In United States, a new promotional campaign accompanies the release of the Super Action.
  • 1953 : Death of Alexandre Selmer. Jacques Selmer, youngest son of Maurice selmer, incorporates the company. The third generation of Selmers, Jean, George and Jacques, are in place.
  • 1954 : An exceptional season, with the release of three legendary models: “Mark VI” range of saxophones, developed with Marcel Mule, the “Centered Tone” B-flat clarinet, and the “K-modified” trumpet. The same year, Selmer also starts to market the “Clavioline” (Constant Martin).
  • 1958 : Transformation of the company from S.A.R.L. to a Public company. 370 employees manufacture 1000 instruments per month.
  • 1960 : Release of the B-flat and A clarinets model “Series 9” and “Series 9*”
  • 1961 : Henri Lefèvre is named President.
  • 1962 : Release of the "Deville" brand for brass. The "Bolero" and "Largo" trombone models, developed with Gabriel Masson, are also put on the market the same year. Saxophone n° 100 000 is produced (June 28, 1962).
  • 1963 : Exclusive distribution rights obtained in France for "Vincent Bach" (U.S.A.) brass.
  • 1964 : Release of a microphone especially intended for the amplification of woodwinds (saxophone, clarinet and flute)
  • 1965 : Installation of a new head office, rue de la Fontaine au Roi in Paris' 11th district. Selmer Paris takes over exclusive distribution of "Premier Percussion" instruments in France.
  • 1966 : Production of Series 10, alongside series 9 and 9* clarinets
  • 1968 : Death of Henri Lefèvre. Georges Selmer is named President. Release of the trumpet model “Radial 2”.
  • 1971 : Release of the clarinets B-flat and A “Series 10” model in the USA
  • 1974 : Release of the "Mark VII" saxophone model developed with the assistance of Michel Nouaux, and ending of the “Mark VI” production.
  • 1975 : Release of the Marchi system clarinets, in collaboration of Joseph Marchi.
  • 1977 : Release of the clarinet model "10S" and the trumpet “Series700”. Brigitte Selmer, daughter of George Selmer, enters the company the following year.
  • 1981 : Release of the "Super Action" model. The Myrha street factory is closed and brass manufacturing transferred to Mantes. The following year, Jerome Selmer, son of Jacques, starts at the company.
  • 1983 : In collaboration with the instrument maker Ernest Ferron, Selmer launches Variospec, an impedance variator.
  • 1984 : Release of the "Recital" clarinet, developed with the assistance of Guy Dangain.
  • 1986 : Launch of the alto and tenor “Super Action 80 Series II” saxophones
  • 1990 : Release of the "Series 1100" and "Series 1200" tenor trombones.
  • 1993 : Launch of the B-flat clarinet “Prologue” and “10S II”. The "Super Action 80 Series III" soprano is presented at the 10th International Saxophone Congress in Pesaro, Italy. Saxophone n° 500 000 comes out of the Selmer Paris workshops on July 19, 1993: it is a "Super Action Series II" alto saxophone, gold plated and engraved. Bill Clinton and his Selmer Paris saxophone enter the White House.
  • 1994 : The bass clarinets evolves: the models “23/II” and “25/II” replace the “23” and “25”.
  • 1995 : Release of the B-flat trumpet, “Chorus/80 J” model. The “Series III” Soprano replaces the “SA 80/Series III”.
  • 1997 : Release of the “Series III” tenor saxophone.
  • 1998 : After Georges and Jacques Selmer's retirement, the baton is passed to the fourth generation: Patrick Selmer as president; Brigitte Dupont-Selmer as vice-president; Jérôme Selmer as general manager. Opening of the new factory (+3,000 m²): the Mantes production site now extends over a 20,000 m² area. Release of the "Signature" clarinet, developed with Jacques Di Donato.
  • 1999 : Release of the "Series III" alto saxophone. Presentation of the “53 M” bassoon, developed with Philippe Hanon. Launch of the Super Session Soprano mouthpieces and the CP100 clarinet mouthpieces.

2000 to the present[edit]

  • 2000 : A limited edition available in three instruments for the year 2000: the Signature clarinet (gold plated), the Series III Alto saxophone and the Chorus 80 J trumpet (sandblast silver-plated).
  • 2001 : Release of the "Reference" tenor saxophones and the "Concept" trumpet and flügelhorn
  • 2002 : Two new models round out the range of clarinets in B-flat and A : the "Odyssee" and the "Artys". New editions of the “Soloist” mouthpieces are released.
  • 2003 : Release of the "Reference" alto saxophone. Launch of the "Pro-Line" range of military band instruments.
  • 2004 : 1904-2004 : a hundred years of Selmer clarinets. Release of a special edition anniversary model: the "Saint Louis" clarinet. Release of the "Privilege" bass clarinet. Opening of the showroom and concert hall at the head office, rue de la Fontaine au Roi. Revival of the Selmer Editions.
  • 2005 : Selmer holds its third "Selmer & Friends" concert at the Olympia music hall to celebrate its 120th anniversary.
  • 2006 : Release of the clarinet "Arthea" model.
  • 2007 : Release of the trumpet "Sigma" model.
  • 2008 : Release of the baritone “Series III” and clarinets B-flat and A "Privilege".
  • 2010 : Selmer Paris celebrates its 125th birthday with a new look saxophone: new lacquer, new engraving, new octave key. Release of the mouthpieces “SD20” and “Spirit”.
  • 2013 : Release of the mouthpiece "Concept".

Selmer UK[edit]

A semi-independent branch of Selmer for the United Kingdom was created in 1928 under the leadership of two brothers, Ben and Lew Davis. They concentrated primarily on licensing, importing and distribution rather than manufacturing, and by 1939 had grown to become the largest company in the British musical instrument industry.

In 1935 Selmer UK began producing sound reinforcement systems under the Selmer name. They expanded their manufacturing facilities by purchasing another P.A. company called RSA in 1946. By 1951 they were manufacturing electric organs and in 1955 they gained the exclusive licensing rights to make Lowrey organs and Leslie organ speakers for the UK. They were also the primary importers and distributors for Höfner guitars, a well-known German guitar company, from the early 1950s through the early 1970s. In 1967, Höfner actually produced a small range of semi-acoustic and acoustic guitars for Selmer UK These were badged with the Selmer logo and most had a Selmer "lyre" tailpiece. Model names were the Astra, Emperor, Diplomat, Triumph and Arizona Jumbo.

With the growth of skiffle music and the arrival of rock and roll in the mid-1950s, Selmer UK began producing guitar and bass amplifiers. In the early 1960s, despite Selmer's apparent market domination, The Shadows' and The Beatles' endorsement of Vox amplifiers relegated Selmer guitar amplifiers to a distant second place in sales. The management of the company made various luke warm attempts to gain endorsement from aspiring musicians but became increasingly distant from the developments in pop culture from the mid-1960s considering that its role was to support "real" or established professional musicians and not the headliners of the pop industry. This was the beginning of the end for Selmer UK.

By the early 1970s Selmer UK had been purchased by Chicago Musical Instruments, then the parent company of Gibson Guitars, which Selmer was distributing in the UK. By this time Marshall guitar amplifiers had cornered the market, and the Selmer manufacturing facility was an expensive drain on resources. During this period, the Selmer range of Treble & Bass 50 & 100 valve amplifiers appeared to be stylistic relics from pre-1959 and the decision was made to move the manufacturing facility to a disused brush and coconut matting works dating from 1914, based in rural Essex. The factory which purchased from Music and Plastic Industries. This was a disaster, coupled as it was to an uninspiring reworking of the Selmer range of speaker cabinets and the introduction of a poorly designed range of solid state power amplifiers.

After being passed around several other owners, Selmer once again found itself owned by the Gibson Guitar parent company, this time through a holding company called Norlin Music USA. The marketing policy adopted by management involved allowing its distributors to arrange short term loans of Gibson instruments on a trial basis. This was considered an excellent marketing ploy had it been controlled but the reality of the situation was that instrument loans were made freely available to any musician and bands who made a request. The consequences were that these very expensive musical instruments were used, damaged, and returned unsold to the UK warehouse, where attempts were made to repair them with the limited facilities on hand, as the distribution agreement with the manufacturing base in Kalamazoo, Michigan did not allow for the return of defective items. At one time in 1977 there were over one thousand damaged, broken and disassembled Gibson guitars stored in an unheated warehouse in Braintree, Essex.

The factory in Braintree also developed the manufacturing of Lowrey keyboards from KD kits exported from the Chicago manufacturing base of CMI. These instruments were technically advanced but the build quality was poor compared with keyboards which were just beginning to reach the UK and European markets from Japan. To supplement earnings the company took the decision to import a low cost Italian designed organ marketed as a Selmer product which was distributed in large numbers by catalogue sales. Again the return rate, this time due to damage in transit, was significant. In spite of a rebranding as Norlin Music (UK) the management of the company failed to address the key factors preferring to effect a range of cost-cutting measures. In 1976 Norlin Music Inc., faced with mounting debts, began dismantling Selmer UK piece by piece, until the only facility was a repair center for Lowrey organs with a single employee. This shut down in the early 1980s.

Despite being largely unknown in the U.S., Selmer guitar amplifiers from the early 1960s have begun to gain a reputation as vintage collectibles among valve amplifier enthusiasts.

Selmer Guitars[edit]

In 1932 Selmer partnered with the Italian guitarist and luthier Mario Maccaferri to produce a line of acoustic guitars based on Maccaferri's unorthodox design. Although Maccaferri's association with Selmer ended in 1934, the company continued to make several models of this guitar until 1952. The guitar was closely associated with famed jazz guitarist Django Reinhardt. (see also Selmer-Maccaferri Guitar and About Selmer-Maccaferri guitars)

Historical list of Selmer instruments[edit]

Saxophones - Paris[edit]

Clarinets - Paris[edit]

  • no model name, often called "Brèveté" (1900s, 10s and 20s)
  • no model name, often called "Déposé" (1930s, 40s and 50s) These are often differentiated by the letter at the beginning of the serial number and referred to as "K-series", "L-series", "M-series" or "N-series". A "Déposé" from the N-series will have characteristics very different from those of one from the K-series. The Breveté mark and the Déposé mark were never meant to describe or label the clarinet; they are just French terms meaning, roughly, "certified" and "registered", respectively.
  • Radio Improved or RI (ca. 1931-1934) the K series of serial numbers after K7000
  • Balanced Tone or BT (ca. 1935-1953) the L, M and N series (both with and without the *BT* emblem on the top and bottom joint)
  • Master Model (metal clarinet) (1927-ca.1939)
  • 55 (ca. 1939)One year only
  • Centered Tone (ca. 1954-1960) large bore clarinets.
  • Series 9 (1960s, 70s and 80s) large bore clarinets.
  • Series 9* (1960s) with undercut tone holes and reducing bore diameter.
  • Series 10 (1970s - cylindrical bore)
  • Series 10G (1970s and 80s {and 90s?}) Designed by Anthony Gigliotti. In the December 1999 issue of The Clarinet, Gigliotti wrote: "The first time I went to the Buffet Crampon factory in France was in 1953 and I remember trying 55 Bb clarinets. After selecting the two best ones I then spent countless hours with Hans Moennig tuning and voicing them until I could finally try them in the orchestra. My reason for becoming involved with the Selmer Company was to make it possible for a student or professional to buy an instrument that didn't need all that work and it has resulted in the series 10G which was based on my Moennigized Buffet which I played for 27 years."
  • Series 10S (1970s and 80s {and 90s?})
  • Series 10S II (1970s and 80s {and 90s?}) Smaller bore than 10S.
  • Recital (1980s-20**)
  • Odyssée
  • Arthea
  • Prologue I and II
  • St. Louis
  • Signature
  • Artys
  • Privilège

Selmer Paris sold less-expensive clarinets under the names Barbier, Bundy (Paris) and Raymond until ca. 1935, after which they focused exclusively on professional clarinets.

Note: Selmer Paris harmony clarinets (sizes other than B♭ and A soprano clarinet) are mostly called by their model number rather than a name, but there are, for example, RI bass clarinets and Series 9 alto and bass clarinets.


  • (need list)
  • Maltiao
  • Guitar with a special seven strings. Selmer decided to make a guitar for chamber music.$950.00-any price.
  • X8J
  • Series 666 - Selmer's best guitar in production
  • Signet series ended in 1970 (rare) especially 12 strings.

They are usually custom made guitars for professionals. Their cost are depending on wood and upgrades like tuners, frets, size, etc...

Brass Instruments[edit]


  • Armstrong/Balanced (1933)
  • K-Modified (1954
  • Deville (1962)
  • Radial 2˚ (1968)
  • Series 700 (1977)
  • Chorus
  • Concept
  • Sigma


  • Special
  • K-Modified
  • Bolero (1962)
  • Largo (1962)

Other instruments[edit]

  • Piano accordion
  • Invicta
  • Invicta lugano
  • English Horn (Cor Anglais)- Selmer Paris

See also[edit]


  1. ^ (French) Tercinet, Alain (1998) Parker's Mood, p. 25. Editions Parenthèses At Google Books. Retrieved 14 June 2013.
  2. ^ Balliett, Whitney (2006) American Musicians II: Seventy-One Portraits in Jazz, p. 344. Univ. Press of Mississippi At Google Books. Retrieved 14 June 2013.
  3. ^ Dregni, Michael (2004) Django: The Life and Music of a Gypsy Legend, p. 109. Oxford University Press At Google Books. Retrieved 14 June 2013.
  4. ^ Christensen, Tom (June 2001). "Selmer Reference 54 and 36 Tenor Saxophones". JazzTimes. Retrieved 7 January 2014. 
  5. ^ "Référence 36". saxforte.com. Retrieved 7 January 2014. 

External links[edit]