The Clarinet from Heck

I recently had a heck of a personal growth moment with an early 1940s Selmer B-flat soprano clarinet with a low E-flat key. This is only the second one I’ve seen in my work life, and it gave me a run for my money.

It belongs to Maurice Saylor, who is a player and an accomplished composer. He gave me a CD of his modern works called “Hunting for the Snark: An Angony in Eight Fits” for winds, percussion, bass accordian, harmonica and choral voices. I am hoping to commission him to write a little something that Yolanda and I can play together in a small chamber group. It’s not easy to find something that includes flute and trumpet.

The Snark Ensemble

The Snark Ensemble

Back to the feisty clarinet. It started out as a typical repair, which quickly turned into something between a challenge and a nightmare. The G# key is articulated with the key located in the center tenon, engineered like a balanced action G# on a sax. It has a spring that lifts the key and a spring on the lever that closes it. The second spring was broken so I had to pull the post out of the body, but in the process the post went AWOL, flying across the room amidst Mahler’s Second Symphony. Three hours later, I recovered the post and managed to replace the spring, glue the post back into the body and finish the job, but not without some more BUMPS along the way.

Selmer middle tenon with G# tone hole

Middle tenon with G# tone hole and low E-flat key


In the end, I had a happy customer and I learned a thing or two.

Note to self:  Don’t get cocky. Anything can happen!

About randyjmueller

Sr. Instrument Repair technician
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