The History of the Selmer Brand Saxophone: A Legacy of Excellence in Sound

The Selmer brand is a name synonymous with excellence in the world of saxophones. 

Established in 1885 in France, the Selmer company has a rich history of producing some of the finest saxophones in the world and has played a significant role in the evolution of the saxophone as we know it today.

From its earliest days, the Selmer company was dedicated to producing high-quality musical instruments that were both aesthetically pleasing and capable of producing outstanding sound. 

This dedication to quality has continued to this day and has made the Selmer brand not only one of our favorites but a household name among saxophonists and musicians of all levels.

The Early Years: From Craftsmanship to Innovation

The early years of the Selmer company were marked by a commitment to craftsmanship and attention to detail. 

The company’s founders, Henri and Alexandre Selmer, were both trained as craftsmen, and they brought their expertise to bear in the production of their saxophones.

Fun Fact: Henri and Alexandre Selmer, were both trained as clarinetists before they founded their Selmer Brand. Their expertise and passion for woodwind instruments led them to start the Selmer company, which revolutionized the saxophone industry. 

Henri Selmer was known for performing public demonstrations on both the clarinet and saxophone to showcase the quality of the Selmer instruments.

In the early 20th century, the Selmer company was at the forefront of saxophone innovation. 

The company introduced the “Balanced Action” saxophone, which featured a unique keywork design that improved the instrument’s playability. 

Note: A well-designed keywork system should help your fingers move smoothly and swiftly across your sax. The position of the keys will make playing the sax responsive, allowing you to reach and control all of the keys easily. 

The keywork design should also minimize awkward finger movements and excessive hand and wrist motion, helping you keep proper technique and play and practice for hours on end!

This design was so popular that other Saxophone brands and makers incorporated it into their instruments making the layout an industry standard! 

The Golden Age of Jazz and the Birth of the Mark VI

The mid-20th century was a golden age for jazz music, and the Selmer brand was at the center of it all. 

Many of the greatest jazz musicians of the era, including John Coltrane, Charlie Parker, and Sonny Rollins, favored the company’s saxophones.

In 1954, the Selmer company introduced its most iconic saxophone, the Mark VI. 

This instrument quickly became the standard by which all other saxophones were judged, and it remains one of the most highly sought-after saxophones on the market today. 

The Mark VI 

  • noted for its beautiful sound
  • its responsive keywork
  • elegant design

The Modern Era: Continuing the Tradition of Excellence

Today, the Selmer company continues to build on its excellent reputation, producing saxophones at the forefront of modern saxophone design and technology. 

The company’s saxophones are favored by musicians of all levels, from beginner students to professional performers including: 

Stan Getz

Paul Desmond

Wayne Shorter

Michael Brecker

Cannonball Adderley

Phil Woods

Coleman Hawkins

Hank Mobley

Johnny Hodges

Ben Webster

Lockjaw Davis

Zoot Sims

In recent years, the Selmer company has introduced a number of new and innovative saxophones.

The Selmer Reference Series

The reference series is a line of professional saxophones carefully crafted to an incredibly high standard!

If you are a musician wanting to project to a big crowd while playing a sax that feels as smooth as butter, these instruments hit the mark! 

One of the defining characteristics of the Reference series saxophones is their proprietary bore design, which provides a rich, full-bodied tone with a quick response and excellent projection. 

The saxophones in the Reference series also feature high-quality keywork systems, which are designed to be smooth, responsive, and ergonomic, providing the player with the highest level of control and comfort.

The Reference series saxophones are available in various sizes, including soprano, alto, tenor, and baritone. These instruments go through a test drive! Every single one is played before sold to make sure that it hits all the right notes with the greatest of ease! 

The Selmer Contemporary Series

The Selmer Paris Contemporary series has a focus on the modern saxophone player. We noticed that this line of saxophones has a sleek design and innovative features that set them apart from traditional saxophones. 

This series isn’t meant to be only for professionals. We’ve seen beginner to intermediate players thrive on this model. 

One of the standout features of the Contemporary series saxophones is their ergonomic key design, which provides a comfortable and natural playing experience. 

The saxophones in this series also feature a high-quality mechanism that provides quick, accurate, and responsive key action. Additionally, the Contemporary series saxophones are equipped with a range of innovative features, including adjustable thumb rests, left-hand spatulas, and a unique neck design that enhances the saxophone’s projection and tonal clarity.

Another fun key characteristic of the Contemporary series saxophones is their distinctive aesthetic. These saxophones have a modern, sleek look that is eye-catching and distinctive, and they are available in a range of colors and finishes.

The Selmer Legend Series

The Selmer Paris Legend series is are top-of-the-line saxophones for elite professional players! 

The very best in sound, playability, and craftsmanship, these saxophones are some of the finest instruments available on the market. Imagine an instrument handcrafted in France to the highest standards, and you will imagine the Legend series. 

One of the standout features of the Legend series saxophones is their sound. These instruments are designed to produce a rich and full-bodied tone, with a warm and harmonious sound that is ideal for a wide range of musical styles. 

The Legend series saxophones are also known for their exceptional projection, making them ideal for both solo and ensemble performances.

Another key characteristic of the Legend series saxophones is their playability. These instruments are designed to provide a comfortable and natural playing experience, with an ergonomic key design that is easy to use and responsive to even the lightest touch. 

Additionally, the Legend series saxophones are equipped with various innovative features, including adjustable thumb rests, left-hand spatulas, and a unique neck design that enhances the saxophone’s projection and tonal clarity.


The Selmer brand is a testament to the power of quality and innovation in the world of musical instruments. From its earliest days, the company has been dedicated to producing saxophones that are capable of producing outstanding sound and are built to last. This legacy of excellence continues to this day, and the Selmer brand remains one of the most highly regarded names in the world of saxophones.

We hope this article has been helpful and informative for you in your musical journey. Please let us know if there is anything that we could add or change to make this article a better resource for our readers.
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