Dear Sir — at the bottom of this e-mail is a copy of your e-mail to L. I am the person wanting to buy the pair of Selmer clarinets he is selling for a friend. I am a 75-year-old and consider myself to know a little bit about Selmers. There is a lot of confusion going on regarding these instruments and it seems to be that the Bb Selmer N8409 was purchased probably in a single case and the key “A” P8301 a few years later so they possibly are not a matched pair. I like the feel of the silver-plated keywork and I would like it confirmed that these two clarinets are silver keyed. I would know in an instant if I saw them but the owner does not trust people enough to courier them to me 450kms away, even though I have assured him I am 100% trustworthy. What does the BT mean in your e-mail please? If these clarinets were silver-keyed then they would both look the same and I am asking that question at the moment. How many years older do you think the Bb clarinet is compared to the clarinet in “A”? I am also wondering if the keywork is standard or has extra keys? Would you be so kind as to help me with these questions please? I would be very grateful and look with anticipation to your reply. Kind regards from NT
Dear N T from New Zealand:
Thank you for your letter about the Selmer Clarinets.
I can tell you with assurance that they are definitely not a “Matched Set”, which is very difficult to define exactly, but one thing for sure is that the numbers are successive usually and these two of which you speak are not, not by by a long way.
The BT is or was called a Balanced Tone, alluding to its supposedly even scale regarding timbre, however this was just a name that was used for advertising as is the case with any designation given to a massed produced instrument. Selmer is a good name and has an excellent reputation, however the Centered Tone Clarinet comes from the 1950-60s and the Balanced Tone from the 30s, very clearly stated in any Selmer catalog and certainly in my many years playing Selmer, and also being a clinician for the company for a number of years. I played a set of “Centered Tone” Clarinets in the 60s and yes, the set was silver plated, but I never really looked at the numbers .
If you have the opportunity to see and play the clarinets you will be able to discern first, if they both play, if they are somewhat equal, and if either one or the other has more than a standard 17 key and 6 ring setup.
I suspect that no one will send you a set of clarinets “on spec” so to speak, so my best advice is to go and see the instruments and to try them.
By and large there is no such thing as a silver-keyed clarinet, as mentioned above. They are always nickel silver keys, which are not silver at all, which are plated with silver, which will last for a long time, unless you have a particular kind of acid in your system, in which case you will wear the keys quite quickly and they need to be carefully wiped after every playing. For some, silver plated keys are a must for either cosmetic or physical reasons relating to so-called comfort. This is entirely a personal issue ,depending upon the owner of the clarinets.