Selmer Clarinets: Pro Models Compared

23rd March 2022

In this blog, with accompanying video, we check out the main 4 professional Selmer Clarinets. Made in the factory outside Paris, these models offer a beautiful tone and response. In this guide we check out the Recital, Signature, Privilege and Muse models.

The Criteria

Comparing and contrasting models is always quite subjective. Each player has their own preferences and reactions to certain instruments. In the text below we seek to balance fact and opinion in equal measure. Facts alone don’t illuminate a great deal and can be mis-interpreted. Only opinion can leave the reader wanting more detail.

You’ll see we don’t mention bore sizes, this is something we get asked about occasionally but in our opinion it’s only one small facet to how a Clarinet feels/plays. The design and shaping of the bore is much more important and generally gives the Clarinet its playing characteristics and overall tonal leanings. Tone hole positioning, heights and undercutting styles also affect the playability and intonation greatly.

1. Selmer Recital Clarinet

The Recital has been in production since by Selmer since the 1980’s, and of the main 4 professional models now it features the most obvious technical difference. The wooden body is 2mm thicker than any other Selmer Clarinet. As such it has a chunky sound, and also a slightly chunky feel.

Selmer Recital Clarinet

Why would you choose this model? Probably for the thick, deep tone that it produces and the resulting power from that dense wooden body. It really is unlike any other Clarinet from this point of view. It feels (in weight and in response) that you’re holding a solid piece of wood, a tree no less! The instrument really resonates in your hands and gives an incomparable density and roundness to the tone.

  • 2mm thicker body than any other Selmer model
  • Big, rich solid tone with lots of power
  • Supplied with 2 barrels: 62.5mm and 64.5mm
  • C85/120 mouthpiece included
  • PRiSme style hard case

2. Selmer Signature Clarinet

The second ‘oldest’ model here (after the Recital), the Signature has proved it’s worth and subsequent longevity by providing a vibrant tone, rich in colours. Designed in the late 1990’s, and developed alongside Jacques Di Donat, the Signature was the first new Clarinet model introduced by the 4th generation of the Selmer family. Although many people associate Selmer with Saxophones, the first instrument Henri Selmer (the founding Selmer) made was a Clarinet and as such the instrument still has a strong place in the Selmer tradition.

Selmer Signature

The Signature competed with the dominant Buffet models for many years and found a following amongst soloists and players in a wide variety of genres. Unlike the Recital which has a ‘weightier’ feel and sound, the Signature can sit comfortably in a small group, blend into an Orchestra or indeed be used by a jazz soloist with the right mouthpiece. Potentially more versatile than the Recital it looses a little of the density of tone and replaces it with sparkle in the mid-treble areas.

  • Versatile model with rich palette of tonal colours, more flexible than Recital (with less density)
  • Happy in a small group, orchestra or even other genres (jazz etc)
  • Supplied with 2 barrels: 62.5mm and 64.5mm
  • C85/120 mouthpiece included
  • PRiSme style hard case

3. Selmer Privilege Clarinet

In production for just over a decade, the Privilege was the first of the ‘new school’ Selmer clarinet designs that recently led to the Muse (released in late 2021 – more info below). The Privilege name actually first appeared on the Bass Clarinet design, with the Bb and A following on a few years later. This Privilege clarinet looked and felt different from the Recital, Signature and other previous models (Odysee, Prologue, Arthea etc). The key layout and even key sculpting was modernised and the instrument brings back some elegance to what had become a slightly dated looking range.

Selmer Privilege

With the largest bore of the three models mentioned so far it offers a great deal of projection but with a nice balance of richness and brightness in equal measure. The intonation is exceptional throughout the range and the new internal bore shaping and undercutting techniques helped this along. Not only does the Privilege feature some beautiful engraving on certain keys (tastefully done) but the raw ebony is also lightly lacquered and treated to help with crack resistance.

  • First of the new-style Selmer designs with altered key sculpting and positioning
  • Elegant to look at AND to play – impeccable intonation across the range
  • Supplied with 2 barrels: 64.5mm and 65.5mm
  • C85/120 mouthpiece included
  • PRiSme style hard case

4. Selmer Muse Clarinet

The latest arrival from Selmer and it sits right at the top of their Clarinet model range. Before we get to how it plays, let’s talk briefly about the most innovative part of the design. This Muse clarinet features their ‘Evolution’ system which sees the top joint inner dimensions being expanded in the production. This allows for the introduction of a new-generation resin (made of a Biomas) to line the upper half of the top joint. Why? Quite simply to help keep the wood stable for intonation and to avoid cracking.

The Evolution system has been optional on pro model Selmers in recent times but this is the first time they’ve introduced it as standard. “But what about the sound?” I hear you all scream. It’s natural that players have a minor meltdown when the thought of altering the ‘true’ wooden nature of a clarinet. Selmer are of course well aware of this and spent a lot of time (and money) on both perfecting the material, and conducting hundreds of blind test (and audio analysis) to ensure there would be no difference in performance.

So, materials aside, how does the Muse play? Well, thanks to an entirely new bore shape design it is very immediate. It feels more ‘sparkly’ than the Privilege perhaps, not necessarily to the player but to the listener. We’ve done some testing in-store and that’s our feedback having tested it with numerous pro players. The tone is positive and moderately lively, there’s still a classic Selmer richness underneath but it feels more alive perhaps than some of the older models. It also looks resplendent with its mix of silver plate and black chrome plating. It also features a small laser engraved motif on the lower joint.

  • New bore design offers a real vibrancy and immediacy of tone, super easy to play
  • Internal production technique inserts resin into the top half of the upper joint
  • This ensures stability of the wood in any climate
  • Supplied with two barrels: 64mm and 65mm
  • Mix of Gore-Tex, leather and cork pads
  • Supplied with Selmer ‘Echo’ mouthpiece
  • PRiSme style hard case (darker than other models)