If you've arrived here, you probably want to own the best saxophone ever made. Read on...
The Mark VI was introduced by Selmer Paris in 1954 (over 56
years ago as of 2010) and produced through 1973 (over 37 years ago as of 2010). For the 19 years it was produced and for at least the subsequent 13 years (and arguably the next eleven years too), no saxophone
could equal it. So, quite a mystique developed about the superiority of the vaunted Mark VI. And that high opinion is held with an almost religious fervor today.
OK, please sit down.... Not all Mark VIs are great saxophones. (You can re-read this last sentence as many times as it takes to let it fully sink in.)
This is a truth I learned only late in life. Fact is, the manufacturing tolerances Selmer were able to maintain in those days were awful. The result is a huge amount of individual instrument variation from
sax to sax. And that explains my personal Mark VI, which is a very good sax, but certainly not a great sax.
How to buy one:
To summarize, there are great Mark VIs and lousy Mark VIs and
everything in between. Nothing short of playing one will tell you for sure.... not the serial number (mine is from the primo range), not the condition, and probably not the claims of sellers.
First, look for a sax which plays well, with good intonation, tone and power from top to bottom. Many of these instruments have weak spots.
Second, make sure that the minimum 37 to 56 year old sax is in good
mechanical working condition. After so many years, rod ends, pivot rods and pads all need close inspection for wear and deterioration. Pads may be dried out. Look for corrosion of the
metal too. Make sure all the adjustment screws and parts are actually there. Check to see that parts are original. Over time and multiple owners, many atrocities can take place to an otherwise good horn.
Third, beware of poorly re-lacquered instruments. This is one of the common problems with any old sax. Theoretically, removing the lacquer, rebuffing the horn and re-applying lacquer will not
damage a saxophone. Practically though, only an experienced few can successfully perform this work without over buffing the horn and removing too much metal. Look out for engraving which
looks "light" or which fades out. This is a sure sign of overbuffing. Look for inconsistencies in the shine of the metal which can also point to a re-lacquer job.
Fourth, pay attention to the finish. While only a cosmetic factor, the condition of the finish will provide clues as to how the sax was treated over its life.
THEN, if you're satisfied with all of the above, reach for your wallet and you will often discover that you can have a great brand new Selmer Paris Serie III or Référence 54 (alto and tenor) or 36
(tenor only) saxophone for less money... perhaps much less money.
I wish you all the best in your quest.
If I can be of service providing what I consider to be the best
Selmer Paris saxophones ever produced, please call Mathew at (864) 449-4444, or write info
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Selmer (Paris) Tenor saxophones
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Selmer (Paris) Alto saxophones
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Selmer (Paris) Soprano saxophones