Interesting Selmer Information from Jerome Selmer

I attended a clinic where the Director General and head of Research and Development of Selmer (Paris) Jerome Selmer gave a historical presentation and graciously and patiently answered questions from the audience of saxophone repairmen (and one Taiwan-based competitor) for nearly two hours.  Some interesting things he mentioned:


– The Mark VI and Reference horns are 66/34 alloy brass (note: common trade name for this alloy is “yellow brass”)
– The S80 is 70/30 alloy brass (note: common trade name for this alloy is “cartridge brass”)
– The S80II and Reference horns share body tubes and bows, but have different necks and bells
– The S80III differs from the S80II in neck and upper body taper (as well as some tonehole placement), bell and bow are the same
– The Jubilee horns have toneholes that are .2mm taller (about .007 inches, or the thickness of an 3×5 index card)
– The bells on most horns (except special editions and baritone/bass) are not hand hammered anymore because the workers kept getting wrist injuries
– Toneholes are made by mounting the body on a mandrel and cutting the hole by CNC machine, but the toneholes are pulled with a mechanical device controlled by a worker
– The body and neck seams used to be brazed, now they are welded
– The necks are straight cones, filled with ice and bent by hand  (I would have expected hydroforming! I was surprised to hear this, and I am kind of blown away it is just a straight cone)
– They may eventually move to machine engraving, and a few S80 horns are already in circulation that have early experiments with machine engraving
– Until the 1970s, none of the knowledge on how to build was written down- it was all in the heads of the workers, and passed on from one generation to the next
– The R&D department is already working on the next Selmer model- and the eventual goal is to have one model of saxophone across the board (like back in the day)
– The R&D department is working on an acoustic reference blueprint of “the Selmer sound”- a waveform they can strive for when designing new horns
– The R&D department has the top technicians in the company and can prototype a new instrument in about 15 days


I also spoke to him afterwards and showed him my original H&A Selmer Bb curved soprano spring set from 1922 (the first year of Selmer saxophone production) which he greatly enjoyed seeing (called it “a treasure”!) and even got the Jerome Selmer seal of approval on an overhaul I had just completed on a beautiful & original 44xxx Selmer Super (Balanced) Action alto, which he is holding in the picture below.



This is the second time I have had the fortune to meet and talk to Jerome Selmer, and as always I was impressed with his patience, kindness, depth of knowledge, and his generosity with his time.