Selmer 9* with voicing hole

April 23, 2015

Dear Mr. Friedland,

I am following the auction of a series 9* on ebay. It appears to be in excellent condition, having been completely overhauled and reconditioned (according to the seller who has an excellent ebay feedback record). One aspect of this clarinet that leaves me with some doubt. A small “voicing hole” at some time was drilled in the bell of the clarinet. Could you advise me as to the purpose of a “voicing hole” such as the one in this clarinet, and how effective is it to achieve its purpose. Another concern I have is the effect of this “voicing hole” has on the resale value of the clarinet.

Thank you for your fine discussion group. You comments have guided me over the years.


Dear JT
Concerning the 9* clarinet you are considering , as a Selmer user and clinician for many years, I might suggest that you think twice about the purchase. Although advertised as a big bore clarinet, the 9 was just a wee bit bigger than the 9*, which was talked about being a smaller bore. In experience, neither seemed to be an outstanding instrument, either in the Selmer lineup or in “the business”
That is not to say that you may be considering a great horn, but only to give you my impression.

The “voicing hole” opens a new doorThis was done on many different instruments of all makes, and it served several purposes, (supposedly). Perhaps to open up the low e or the throat b. These clarinets were  heavier than those of today, many of which have either eliminated the bell or narrowed it considerably. The bell ring was much heavier than those of today, and there was another problem as well.If you are a player who holds the clarinet between your knees, that act usually lowers the pitch ever so slightly. On an already flat note, it becomes noticable. The voicing hole was just like a hole in the ground or, one supposes, the head.It does absolutely nothing, regardless of any claims of which you may hear..

The 9 and 9* were superceded by the Centered Tone, even a bit wider than the 9 or 9* bores, but still, not really a big bored clarinet. The CTs are considered better instruments

Stay well


Decisions, Decisions, and Ridenours response

April 21, 2015


“Thanks for the recommendation.

For the record I once owned a Selmer series 9. It is a large bore clarinet and both it and the center tone are quite sharp in the right hand low register to the rest of the horn. I would avoid it if for no other reason than the tuning is not adequate to modern standards.
Otherwise, being completely unbiased on this matter, there is, in my opinion, no better clarinet to do “gigging” with than the 576 Lyrique. and, it won’t crack.”  tom

Hi Mr. Friedland,

Thank you for your wonderful blog, which is seems truly an amazing work of love!

I’m a 58 year old musician/teacher in CT. Saxophone and flute are my major “gigging” instruments. I’ve only played clarinet a little over the years. I really want to get into playing it more seriously, and the focus would be on traditional jazz and some show playing.

I now really would like to get a pro instrument ( I currently have a Buffet E11, and a Yamaha student model I play with my students with B45 mouthpieces). As you can imagine, at my age, I’d prefer to only have to make this purchase one time, haha!

I have a chance to get a Selmer Series 9, my repairman has two used ones in his shop. I’m intrigued by the CenterTone, and some have said the R13 is the safest bet.

If you had just one chance to buy just one, and were going to do the type of playing I’m doing, what would you get ( or target)?

Any suggestions or guidance would be welcome!

Thanks so much,


Dear CC:

Thank you.

First and foremost, there are no “safe bets” in any clarinet purchase.

And, there are really no “great buys”. You have only the commentaries of many people, the majority of whom simply don’t know either. They may have made a good purchase and like the instrument. Someone else may find it awful.

No offense, but any instrument being sold by a repairperson is subject to scrutiny because it , having been repaired, calls into question both the horn and the technician. These are not idle comments or those reflecting  anything save for 80  years  doing all of these things, repeatedly. I love the clarinet, love playing them, love , even more, trying them, and best of all,buying  them. It  has been a life crammed full with purchases of every horn available at a particular time.

Not only that, but any clarinet you may try, may feel terrific on one day and fairly gruesome the next.

Why? You may ask.

“the nature of the beast”We are a virtual hotbed of a can of  enormous worms, all wrapped up into complicated neurotic tendencies, changeable in nano seconds. The human condition is highly complex. Just ask me and I will reply, endlessly.

All of the above can be called variables.  In obtaining another clarinet, it is advisable to eliminate all possible variables. You mention several brands of instrument, some of which have good reputations, some, not so good .

You are going to be “giggimg” and doing shows on saxophone and clarinet and flute.

Clarinet are prone to variables, depending upon the  material of which they are made, they vary considerably when being warmed up, ready to play.

This variance is due to the ambient temperature outside of the hall, in your, car, taken out of the car and being subject to the heat of your air column, which should be high enough for you to breathe, hopefully. Cold wood hates hot breath.

And you will not be able to get the low notes of the horn high enough , until after the first intermission, while the leader glares at you, mercilessly.

Think about an instrument that is more stable than any other clarinet. better than Buffet, Selmer, Rossy, anything.

After warming up, you would prefer an instrument that tunes well, note to note, and can achieve any interval far simpler than any other. That instrument is rare among all clarinets, save for only one.

Think about the most elusive quality of all, the sound of the instrument. We think of colors like dark, light, crystal, perhaps even charteuse or fuschia. Preference amongst us , is usually called dark. a hopelessly indefinable, not connected to any color at all.Ask ten players to define dark. I know.

Eyes will roll around in the head , people will look at their watches or for any out of this important question. There is one.

Do you play out of doors? Parades? perhaps, a circus, outdoor shows? Will your clarinet stand up to the pressures of being played upon loudly, unremittingly, and endlessly? Will it stay in adjustment? Or, will the barrel become frozen to the first joint? There is really only one new instrument that can deliver these kinds of statistics, one, and only one. That instrument is made from natural hard rubber, and can be purchased for a fraction of the price of any other.

They are designed by arguably, the finest designer of clarinets ,  William Thomas Ridenour.

Tom is in Dallas, call him, speak with him, and find out my true real clarinet.

You may not have to practice as much.( or, you may lose weight, or not)

stay well, sherman