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One of our semi retired directors of the company I work at used to play in a UK band in the sixties, called the Zephyrs. He played tenor and baritone sax. Anyway, he came to see me today and said he'd been cleaning out his shed and came across an old metal clarinet someone gave him forty years ago this year (which happens to be my fortieth birthday - August!). He asked me if I wanted it and I said yes - I hate to see any musical instrument get thrown away.

I'll post pictures when I get it, in case it's unidentifiable or a sought after model. But what are the differences between a metal and 'standard' clarinet, other than material? Why are they not favoured in light of ones in wood, plastic and ebonite (also bakelite years ago, I believe)?
 

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metal clarinets are very nice indeed and I've been trying to buy one for cheap for a very long time but (as yet) never succeeded, congratulations in having been given one, look after it and learn how to play it (I had a go at playing clarinet and found it very difficult, aren't we lucky with the saxophones?:D ).
They were very popular in America in the '20 and '30 much less after that period, they are still produced in Turkey and perhaps in Greece.
Sometimes they finger in the Albert system (more popular among the dixieland players or ethnich clarinet players such as in Kletzmer, East-European, Balcanic and Turkish music) but I'd guess the majority of the American Clarinets are Böhm system.

They were a technological answer to the problem of constructing, using and mantaining a wooden instrument such as a clarinet. In fact , beside the moisture one blows inside the clarinet to be considered an hazard for a wooden instrument integrity, there is always the problem of the marching band under the rain. So this were durable post-industrial revolution born instruments and less likely to have many problems (other than bending...)such as splitting of the wood.

As soon as plastics became more usable and that clarinets in modern music declined (in favor of the saxophone!), they entered the world of the by-gone music instruments, but they are very beautiful and if mantained properly a great player.
 

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milandro said:
metal clarinets are very nice indeed and I've been trying to buy one for cheap for a very long time but (as yet) never succeeded, congratulations in having been given one, look after it and learn how to play it (I had a go at playing clarinet and found it very difficult, aren't we lucky with the saxophones?:D ).
They were very popular in America in the '20 and '30 much less after that period, they are still produced in Turkey and perhaps in Greece.
Sometimes they finger in the Albert system (more popular among the dixieland players or ethnich clarinet players such as in Kletzmer, East-European, Balcanic and Turkish music) but I'd guess the majority of the American Clarinets are Böhm system.

They were a technological answer to the problem of constructing, using and mantaining a wooden instrument such as a clarinet. In fact , beside the moisture one blows inside the clarinet to be considered an hazard for a wooden instrument integrity, there is always the problem of the marching band under the rain. So this were durable post-industrial revolution born instruments and less likely to have many problems (other than bending...)such as splitting of the wood.

As soon as plastics became more usable and that clarinets in modern music declined (in favor of the saxophone!), they entered the world of the by-gone music instruments, but they are very beautiful and if mantained properly a great player.
Well this has been gathering dust for forty years. I've had a go of 'normal' clarinet and adjusting from sax to a clarinet embouchure was pretty easy, just the different fingering to account for. I'll keep you posted.
 

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Most metal clarinets were made as relatively cheap student instruments, and thus aren't very good. There are some very notable exceptions, however. A metal clarinet still sounds like a clarinet, same way a plastic one or a hard rubber one does. So it's not the material that makes the clarinet good or bad - it's the quality of construction. Let us know what you've got when you receive it!
 

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One thing that's been important to me in finding and playing vintage instruments is to have a really good repair tech...especially, one who has a love for old instruments. If you have such a clarinet repair tech in your area I trust that he can do a good job restoring your old metal clarinet and giving it new life.

Lester Young played a metal clarinet for a period of time. See if you can find some of his recordings that feature him on clarinet. It will be a special treat!

Good luck!

Roger
 

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Roger Aldridge said:
One thing that's been important to me in finding and playing vintage instruments is to have a really good repair tech...especially, one who has a love for old instruments. If you have such a clarinet repair tech in your area I trust that he can do a good job restoring your old metal clarinet and giving it new life.

Lester Young played a metal clarinet for a period of time. See if you can find some of his recordings that feature him on clarinet. It will be a special treat!

Good luck!

Roger
I read some time ago, believe it was here (at the SOTW), that very many instrument repairers wouldn´t like to attend to the metal clarinets. Maybe so, maybe only in America(?).
I think if it is a quality instrument and possible to overhaul without too much effort, it´s worth it. But if it´s been sitting for 40 years there might be some difficulties.

regards
 

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stevesklar said:
metal clarinets are fun.
...and great outdoor instruments.

(I have a genuine Swiss Army horn and it sounds like a, well, a clarinet)
 

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One of the finest clarinets ever made was metal--a double-wall solid silver instrument manufactured by William S. Haynes, more famous for flutes. But a great number of metal clarinets are just plain awful--as Fred said--and would be better off as lamp stands (which many are). There are decent ones, to be sure, but the years may not have been kind to many exemplars, especially ones sitting in disuse for 40 years. If yours is of the student-model persuasion, you may not find it worthwhile to restore, if you count the fact that even in perfect nick the instrument would fetch considerably less than the cost of putting it in reasonable condition.

Things to watch out for are legion: crumbling, desiccated or moth-eaten pads, sluggish and/or bent keys, or play in the mechanism. Dents in the body, rusted or broken springs. For starters. Often the steels and/or pivot screws on old instruments that have not been maintained (found 'cleaning out his shed' does not sound hopeful) are frozen tight in the posts, even if the keys still rotate on them. In short--watch out, and think long and hard before committing money, as these can end up being almost as costly as a Nigerian e-mail scam, and about as fruitful.

OTOH, if it is a decent instrument in less-than-hopeless shape you might consider sinking some bucks into it--but only if you love it. Don't expect to get anything back on a sale, unless it is something special (rare).

Toby
 

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a great deal of information on these clarinets can be found here
http://www.silver-clarinet.com/
with some evaluations for some well known brand and pointers to how difficult can be the re-hauling of each brand.
 

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Should you decide to have your metal clarinet repadded, the standard pad option for these clarinets is leather pads. Just thought you'd want to know.
 

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Fred said:
... the standard pad option for these clarinets is leather pads.
At the top end perhaps, but all the bog standard ones I've seen have had bladder pads. Actually a guy padded one for me a while back - he couldn't get any of the pads in stock to fit, so did it all in cork!
 

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Roger Aldridge said:
One thing that's been important to me in finding and playing vintage instruments is to have a really good repair tech...especially, one who has a love for old instruments. If you have such a clarinet repair tech in your area I trust that he can do a good job restoring your old metal clarinet and giving it new life.

Lester Young played a metal clarinet for a period of time. See if you can find some of his recordings that feature him on clarinet. It will be a special treat!

Good luck!

Roger
I agree 100% about having a good repair tech. Don't expect to get a vintage instrument in playing condition. A little TLC from a good repair person can really go a long way.

Prez played a SilverKing, made by the same company that made the Super 20 saxophone. They say he was offered a brand new Buffet from the marketing folks, but he turned it down, preferring to keep his SilverKing. I was lucky enough to pick up one on eBay awhile back, and it is a great little horn. Really great projection, I suppose from the silver body.
 

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Discussion Starter #18
Well, finally got this metal clarinet ten minutes ago. The case is a bit dirty, the catches are rusty but working (hey, it's been in a garden shed for forty years!). The sax itself is not rusty, it could do with a damn good polish of course and from my brief once over, the action seems okay, all but one of the pads are intact (so this one key doesn't reach the tonehole). It says made in france, with a serial number on each part but no name.

I'll get my old teacher to check it out. I know if it's not a 'name' clarinet it wouldn't be worth it in many people's opinion but he does me bargain prices on servicing etc. As an example, I took one of my student's Blessing clarinets to him and it was 'pretty mullered' in his opion but it only cost £40 ($78) for repair. A service on my saxes only costs £15 ($30) and when I had my alto serviced, rods stripped and cleaned etc. it was only £90 ($175).
 
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