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The Selmer Modele 26

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Selmer says that the s/n range for the Modele 26 is 4451 to 11950, which is from 1926 to 1929. They go on to say that the s/n range for the Selmer Super Series is 11951 to 18700, which is from 1930 to 1933.

Now, the first few horns in the Selmer Super Series ("SSS" for short) -- at least, according to the Selmer serial number charts -- were called the "New Largebore" model, and were marketed as such by Selmer -- not according to just me, but several other folks I've spoken with.

The horn people generally associate with the SSS is the horn that has earned the moniker, "Cigar Cutter", because of the octave key mechanism. However, this SSS model was only available from about 13600 to 17000.

Reading up my old Saxophone Journal magazines, I see that Dr. Paul Cohen, in his "Vintage Saxophone Revisited" column, mentions that the 26 was called the "Largebore" and was marketed as such, and reasons that this is so because the 26 has a larger bore than the 22.

(The existence of the New Largebore model is also championed by former Selmer employee, Ralph Morgan, on the SOTW Archive Board.)

However, there's an SOTW thread that was started regarding the horns that Selmer says were produced in the late Modele 26 reign. The upthrust is that the keywork looks different than early 26's.

Well, that got me wondering if the last few 26's were significantly different than the first. Turns out, that if you track the alto design throughout the years, there are some definite differences:

  • From s/n 4451 to 7500 (1926 to mid 1927), the Modele 26 was the standard Modele 26 that everyone knows and loves: bigger bore than the 22, different keywork, etc.
  • From s/n 7500 to around 9000 (mid 1927 to mid 1928) -- possibly slightly longer -- Selmer introduced the rarely seen Modele 28. This was a horn that had additional and modified keywork: a G# trill key, an altissimo D# trill key, an odd-looking Eb vent (essentially an extra key on top of the low D key), a redesigned G# cluster and a front altissimo F. (The other odd thing about the 28, specifically, is that it didn't have a lyre holder. Perhaps Selmer was trying to position this horn as a "classical music" horn and felt the lyre holder was unnecessary.)

    This keywork is probably a license of the pateneted "Evette & Schaeffer System" from Buffet

    While horns engraved "Modele 28" are uncommon, Selmer also had a few horns engraved "Modele 26" that had generally the same keywork as the 28. "Generally", because the D# trill was sometimes not included on all the 26's that had this keywork. Possibly these horns were an attempt to get around Buffet's patent.

    Finally, some "straight" 26's were still available during this time, but were transitioning to the next style ...

  • Also around s/n 7500 Selmer introduced -- but only in limited quantities at that time and produced in large quantities after s/n 9000 -- a redesigned horn. It's got the front altissimo F, a redesigned G# cluster and a button chromatic F#.
  • Around s/n 9000, the "Modele 26" engraving/stamp is dropped, the G# cluster is again tweaked (roller added to low Bb), and a "bridge" between the low B and Bb keys is added. I'd call these the first New Largebore horns because combining these changes with the other tweaks means that this horn is SIGNIFICANTLY different from the horns produced from 4451 to 7500.

    Now, what's the difference between the this horn and the "Cigar Cutter"? A whole lot, which I won't go into detail here (see my page on the Supers), but you're talking a different octave key mechanism, keyguards, engraving, neck receiver, etc., etc.

    HOWEVER, a couple of notes: there are a couple of "transitional" horns that I've seen that lack some features (like this 996x horn that doesn't have the low B/Bb "bridge") or have additional features (like this 1285x horn that has a fork-D# trill vent). If the New Largebore also has a different bore, which I think likely -- and I'm supported by some sax techs (see below) -- the 996x horn is probably a New Largebore with odd keywork and the 1285x horn is a New Largebore with some factory custom work.

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(Again, note that changes in tenor design were behind alto design by a bit and other pitches changed even more gradually.)

So, my working theory:

A. The Selmer Super Series was really introduced around s/n 9000, when the 26 changed to the "Largebore" design and the Selmer model breakdown on their official serial number chart is wrong.

Or

B. Selmer introduced a model called the "Largebore" or "New Largebore" around s/n 9000 (with some "prerelease" horns available earlier). The Selmer Super Series wasn't really introduced until the "Cigar Cutter" around s/n 13600 -- indeed, altos weren't engraved "SSS" until the Cigar Cutter and tenors weren't engraved "SSS" until even later, around s/n 17000 -- and the Selmer model breakdown on their official serial number chart is wrong.

I rather like B and think that's the most accurate explanation.

Here are some comments from frequent contributor, SAXTEK:

"... First there's the Modele 22, and then the Modele 26, which look the same except for the early 22's with no side Bb tone hole. The next Selmer was called the 'New Largebore', according to former Selmer employee Ralph Morgan. This horn really looked like the Modele 26, with the same octave mechanism, but it was a drastically different saxophone with a completely different bore. You need a micrometer to see the difference, but since the bore really defines the saxophone, this was a really new horn.

"The 26's and the [New] Largebores both had the characteristic Selmer sound, and the small bore 22's and 26's were plenty loud enough, but the [New] Largebore could be described as the start of the modern Selmer. The [New] Largebore still lacked the Super's beautiful, sculptured neck receiver that held the neck screw and the lyre screw. The [New] Largebore's lyre holder was a separate piece, like on the Modele 26. The bridge piece was like the bridge on the Cigar Cutter that followed later. They generally didn't have a wishbone shaped back guard like on the 'Supers'. The first alto I ever played was my father's New Largebore, and I'd like to get it back today. I suspect that there was little difference from the Cigar Cutter as far as playing characteristics."1

Footnotes & References

  1. Many thanks to SAXTEK, for his comments on Selmers in his correspondance with me and his posts on the SOTW Forum. He just asks that you get a tech from www.napbirt.org. My additions to his quotes are in [brackets]

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