The Best Saxophone in the World? Selmer Mark VI

What’s the best saxophone in the world? In this video I try out a bunch of Selmer Mark VI tenor saxophones in Copenhagen, Denmark where I used to live and work repairing horns.

Maybe it’s the pink lacquered Selmer Mark VI that used to be Dexter Gordon’s back in 1969? It only spent 1 hour in the shop before it was sold…

Dexter Gordon’s 1969 Pink Selmer Mark VI

I sat down and talked with my good friend and legendary saxophonist, Bob Rockwell, about our favorite topic – saxophones at our favorite saxophone shop IK Gottfried in Copenhagen Denmark. He’s had a lot of experience with Selmer Mark VI saxophones and shares his thoughts in the video.

The Selmer Mark VI

Check out the video around 6:06 to hear a few different Selmer Mark VI play tests.

Want to hear what I think IS the BEST saxophone in the world? Check out “The BEST Saxophone in the World… For Me.”

Have you played on a Selmer Mark VI? So you think it’s really is the best saxophone in the world? Let me know in the comments below.

The BetterSax Alto Saxophone

Over the hype of a Mark VI? Then look no further! We are now happy to also recommend the BetterSax Alto Saxophone. It is designed by me, Jay Metcalf, in partnership with Conn Selmer. At only $649, you really can’t get a better instrument at this price point.

My vision for this saxophone is to change the way we think of an entry level instrument. I want people to be able to buy this horn and not have to think they are going to need a step up instrument a few years later. If your budget is around $650 this can be your one and only main instrument no matter what level player you are. This truly is a fantastic horn and I’m excited to finally get it into your hands!

You can purchase the BetterSax Alto exclusively here on

Also be sure to follow BetterSax on Facebook, InstagramLinkedIn, and YouTube to stay up to date with us for news, giveaways, and other saxophone tips and tricks.

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Frank Zona says:

I saw this video some time ago, and now revisiting it. First, how much did that gentleman pay for Dexter Gordon’s pink saxophone (LOL)? Second, you say the magic is in the neck. How does one identify if their MVI has a good neck? I play a 1973 MVI Tenor, I’m the 3rd owner, the first 2 were hobbyists. The horn was a “closet queen” and was not played for over 20 years, so by the time I got it, it was practically brand new. But yes, it’s taken an overhaul and a few more trips to the repair shop to keep it going since I play it a lot. To me, it’s a great horn. BUT, i also have a 1935 B/A one of the first B/As. in many respects it outplays the MVI. How is the B/A better? The action is faster, the LH pinky keys are easier to get to, it has a bigger bottom end and it projects better than the MVI. I’ve not tried modern horns but you’ve got me curios. It’s a great video and was with rewatching. Thanks Jay.

Jay Metcalf says:

I don’t remember how much he paid for that pink Mark VI but they probably had the price too low since it sold in the first hour! I didn’t even get a chance to try it. When you have the chance compare your Mark VI neck to others to see how it affects the horn.

Robin says:

And talking of necks .. I recently acquired a lovely 1920 Martin Handcraft tenor. But not with its original neck. Instead it has a King tenor neck of more or less exactly the same vintage (I can tell because it has a serial number on it). I’m very happy with the setup. But at the back of my mind is a yearning for total saxophone purity, and I’ve been sniffing around for the missing limb. First question: anyone got a 1920 Martin Handcraft neck knocking around the place? Question two: any thoughts on mongrel, pimped horns of this sort? (And question three: is this type of thinking even allowed in the presence of the most hallowed, the one true horn, the mighty Mark VI?)

Jay Metcalf says:

I just made a video about alternate necks check it out here.

Brian Cagle says:

About vintage tenor horns, I couldn’t agree with you more. While I’ve never played any vintage Selmers (because of how ridiculously expensive they are, and availability in my area), I do collect and play other vintage horns (SML, King, Conn, etc.) mainly because I love their history. My modern horn, a Selmer SA 80 Series II Jubilee, and my SML Gold Medal are my main horns. Ergonomically, the Selmer is a little easier to play, but the SML has a much better sound. I go back and forth between those two horns and play the others occasionally (maybe so they don’t feel too left out). If you’ve never tried a SML Gold Medal, I highly recommend it. I play one alto and one soprano, a Series II Jubilee and Yamaha 875EX, respectively.

David says:

When I first started college, I was playing on the same Bundy II alto I used in high school. My teacher said I needed to get a professional horn if I wanted to advance. Him being a Selmer guy, he put me in touch with someone who was selling a Mark VII, but also recommended a SA80 series. Unfortunately, the guy had a break in and the horn I was looking at was one of the ones that was taken.

He was selling a number of other horns and invited me down to have a look. After playing on a couple, I selected an old beat-up Mark VI. I continued playing on that horn through the rest of college.

Unfortunately, by the end I was getting burned out. I think part of the problem was I was getting frustrated with how unhelpful I felt my instructor was being. He would always tell me my embouchure was too tight, but would never offer any suggestions on how to FIX it. “Loosen up. You need to loosen up.” Ok, tell me HOW? I also struggled a with intonation throughout the horn. I was BETTER than when I had my Bundy, but it was still pretty inconsistent from note to note. Also, that Mark VI just didn’t want to play well in the bottom end.

So, after college I largely stopped playing. Every now and then I tried to pick it up again, but I just couldn’t work up the will. It also hurt not having anyone to actually play WITH since I left college after 2001/2002.

Fast forward to about two years ago, I decided to try picking things up again. However I’d also been doing research on different instruments and that’s how I discovered my Buescher TH&C.


Intonation problems over most of the range vanished (the high end tends to run sharp, but that’s as much my lingering embouchure tightness as anything). The bottom end just booms right out. And frankly, the Buescher table is FAR more natural (especially that transition between the C# and Bb). Almost all of the problems I had on that Mark VI were gone.

I could only afford to keep one of the horns. I managed to get $4000 for the Selmer, even though it was a factory relacquer with only about 60% intact, and it was due for an overhaul. That covered not only the cost of my TH&C, (about 90-95% original lacquer, virtually new pads, and it still has the snap-in resos and the silver tone ring and name plate) but got me a Buescher Series IV soprano, too.

And that’s what I learned about the Selmer Mark VI: They may have mystique, but they’re SIGNIFICANTLY overvalued. I paid almost half as much for my Buescher and frankly, even when I first got the Selmer and it was in perfect playing condition, the Buescher was by FAR the better-playing horn.

Maybe its keywork and ergonomics are a little old-fashioned in places, but I wouldn’t rade it for the world.

Jay Metcalf says:

I find the Bueschers from that era to be some of the most in tune horns ever made. An easy way to get your embouchure to loosen up is go down in reed strength.

David says:

Your right Jay, the quality of Mark VI’s are all over the place. Selmer had a three tier rating system. I totally lucked into a tier 1 Alto; the guy I got it from played in a studio band for a local TV show that was regionally syndicated around the Midwest. At the time he was going to buy a new alto he could have spent an afternoon around town and got an okay tier 3 horn, or he could have drove up to Elkhart and got a better tier 2 horn. Instead he flew to NYC, the only place you could get a tier 1 horn. Over a weekend he auditioned 20 tier 1’s. He chose the one I have as the best. I had to ask him “why are you selling this horn” ? He said the cast and crew were harassing him about the finish going away on his Mark VI. He got his new Mark VI alto the same way. BTW. I was a junior in H.S. when I got it. It’s hands down the best sax I have ever played. The keys are lightning fast and the tonal quality is consistent throughout it’s range. It’s a great horn. I use a Selmer Soloist C** mouthpiece in solid silver, it has an extremely hard plastic insert. I have chewed up other mouthpieces.



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