A Selmer C* is a C* is a C* – or is it?

A Selmer C* is a C* is a C* – or is it?

Your saxophone mouthpiece is you primary tool to create your sound and performance. So when you have relied on a mouthpiece, like a classic Selmer C* or S90 180 mouthpiece, for a long period of time and then need to replace it, you want to get what you are used to using. You go online or in to the store and order the model that you are used to playing expecting the same performance because a Selmer C* is a C*, right? You put the mouthpiece on your horn, slap on a reed and go to play expecting that it is going to give you a performance close to what you are used to… and then it doesn’t.

You think: “well, these are all hand-made and they will vary so maybe I need to try another one of the same model”. Same thing… the next mouthpiece doesn’t do it either. What’s going on? It’s a Selmer C*, this shouldn’t be THAT different?!

This is a common occurrence with players in our store.

Ralph Morgan, one of the most well respected mouthpiece makers of his time published an article in the Saxophone Journal at the end of 1995 titled “A Meyer is a Meyer is a Meyer” that speaks to this same event. Its a great read for any sax player as Ralph did an excellent job explaining the changes that Meyer went through in it’s history. That article is what inspired me to publish a similar post here about Selmer Paris mouthpieces as they too have gone through a far more recent design change – and most players, teachers, music stores & online facing charts are not even aware of it.

When and Why?

Selmer Paris started adjusting their facing designs in 2012 and completed the project in 2016. They started with alto sax models and finished with tenor sax models. This 4 year re-design was done to coincide with improved manufacturing technology to increase mouthpiece consistency. Selmer moved all models to their new high end CNC manufacturing in order to stabilize consistency and quality. With that manufacturing change, it allowed them to better dial in the new facings.

According to Christophe Grèzes, Mouthpiece Project Manager at Selmer Paris, Selmer was looking to “improve the acoustical response” on all of the models & instruments. These changes were also at time “rolling changes”. There were mouthpieces made with the new tip openings and old facings lengths and even experimental lengths (we saw a late 2015 Selmer S80 tenor mouthpiece with the new 1.90mm tip, but a 27mm facing length that was not part of either the original or final current designs).

Which version do I have?

I get this question plenty and I wish there was a simple answer. Unfortunately, the only ones that I can really ID successfully without measuring the mouthpiece would be the ones with the current imprint designs. All of the mouthpieces that have the models stamped on the SIDE of the mouthpiece with a line underneath the model name (S80, S90, Soloist, etc…) should be current production.

Time for some comparison charts!

Below are comparison charts for all of the applicable models. These measurements are the official published measurements from Selmer for pre-change models and current production models.

Selmer Alto Sax Mouthpiece Facing Comparison Chart
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Alto Sax Changes

In the alto sax, you will see that all of the models went to smaller tip openings but longer facings. This allows the player to obtain the articulation and response from a smaller tip opening, but due to the longer facing, have a mouthpiece that feels more open than the tip opening would typically give.

Overall, we have found customers tenor to enjoy this improvement as it gives a little more flexibility especially in the upper register of the sax without feeling that they are sacrificing overall tone.

Selmer Tenor Sax Mouthpiece Facing Comparison Chart
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Tenor Sax Changes

On the tenors, Selmer had tested using as long as a 27mm facing on all of the models during that “rolling changes” period between 2012 – 2016. However, they finalized their designs by doing the opposite from what they did on alto. On the tenor S80 & Soloist models, they went with bigger tip openings and the shorter facing. However, on the S90, the went smaller on tip openings with the shorter chamber.

Selmer Bari/Bass Sax Mouthpiece Facing Comparison Chart
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Bari Sax Changes

Bari models saw only changes to the tip openings. The S80 models went a hair larger and the S90 models went smaller.

The S80 is a slightly larger chamber than the S90, so larger tip openings help the S80 be a little bigger sound whereas the S90 will be a more focused, controlled tone.

Selmer Soprano/Sopranino Sax Mouthpiece Facing Comparison Chart
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Soprano Sax Changes

Finally on soprano models, the S80 & S90 models went smaller on tip and shorter on facing to give easier control for soprano. However, their popular jazz soprano piece, the Super Session stayed about the same on tip but went to a longer facing to make they feel more open.

The biggest change on soprano however is the introduction of the Concept model soprano mouthpiece. This is definitively one of the best all around soprano mouthpieces made. There are several design elements to this mouthpiece (including the facing design) that help players more naturally and easily play soprano sax. Check it out here if you are interested!

Are they done changing???

Yes & no. These facing charts are accurate since 2016 so they do seem to have stabilized. However, there are certain facing models that I hear might be discontinued on select models simply due to sales numbers. This would be done in order to better streamline production to meet market demands. We saw some of that in the 2016 redesign as you notice several facings marked “discontinued” in my charts. There will likely be more to follow as well.

So there ya have it – if you have experienced an unexpected performance from a new version of a mouthpiece you once “knew”, you weren’t crazy! Or maybe you are, who knows? Until next time!

  • David Kessler

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