Metal Clarinets

Sources of Information about Metal Clarinets

Kyle Coughlin's site has three excellent articles by him:
A brief history of metal clarinets
Suggestions for buying a metal clarinet
The metal clarinet listening test

There is a new forum dedicated to metal clarinets:

Most student model metal clarinets are junk. They are most useful made into table lamps. BUT there are some metal clarinets that are treasures! When in doubt, write to us using the form at the bottom of Phil's For Sale page.

If you write to us, here is where to find information that we will need to answer about value:

If we ask you to send pictures, we will need one over-all picture like this, and then clear close-ups of the keys and all logo marks or engravings. (Use the macro/flower setting on your camera.) If you want to see how to take pictures, view the page for the Noblet!

Send detailed pictures of the horn AND any spot that has relevant engraving on it. Take pictures of the top side of the horn and bottom side of the horn— to allow us to compare the keywork. Also take a picture of the inside of the bell. Try to get the color correct so we can see the type of metal used. And attempt to get a close-up picture of representative tone holes where the ring keys are. Usually the tone hole quality is a good way to differentiate between student horns, intermediate, or pro. 

Pedro R says: “I have a metal Greville— a Noblet stencil, and it is a nice piece.”

Cool YouTube John Jorgenson plays a metal clarinet made by Cavalier, live from the MIM Music Theater in Phoenix, Arizona. This is not a brand or model that I would single out to recommend, but this video shows that one can make good music on just about any clarinet.

Note in these two 1930 ads from Metronome Magazine that the Pedler Premiere metal clarinet is an Albert system, and the Penzel Mueller ad shows a Boehm system clarinet!

Here is 2012  information courtesy of Jim Lande:

February 2012 eBay auctions for Metal Clarinets

Previous survey

Total auctions for Bb metal clarinets where there was one or more bid: 68 (much fewer than previous years)
Of these, about ¾ were made in the U.S.
The average shipping price was $14.

9 were pro models, with prices ranging between $207 for a Bettoney Silva Bet to $1237 for a low pitch Conn Wonder double walled Albert system with gold plated keys. (The latter is an extremely unusual item.)

45 auctions were for restorable student models. The average price for these was $59 – slightly lower than previous surveys. The price, including shipping was between $30 and $50 for a third of these auctions. 7 auctions went for more than $100. The highest price was $203 for a Whitehall with a brass body and silver plated keys. Some Whitehalls were made in the U.S. but I don’t know by whom. Several companies offered brass body/silver key student models, but they are much less common than clarinets with silver plated bodies.

An additional 6 auctions were for student model metal clarinets that were sold as restored instruments or that were described as playing well. The average price for these was $158.

People paid an average of $24 for student model metal clarinets that were damaged, missing keys, etc.

A Pedler Premier student model albert system model sold for $442. This is not the highly sought after pro Pedler albert model.

Thanks Jim! And here is information from Jim's 2004 survey of eBay auctions:

Results from the February 2004 survey of metal clarinet prices on eBay

175 auctions closed in February, compared with 152 last year. (However, 12 on leap day)

146 auctions received bids.
$99 was the average bid high bid – however this includes both student and pro models, restored models and damaged models, etc.

105 auctions were for complete, un-restored Bb student models.
$65 average price for these, compared with $61 last year
$51 median price, compared with $46 last year

$54 Std deviation, compared with $35 last year (more very high and very low prices)

6 Restored student Bb auctions
$134 average high bid for these

9 student models appeared to be missing barrels
$37 average high bid for these. (Don’t make this mistake!)

12 pro models (7% of sample), 11 with bids
$374 average for the 11 with bids
final bids ranged from $147 to $768

70% of the listed instruments were made in the U.S.
17% were made in France

35% maker not known
14% Cundy Bettoney
13% Conn
5% H.N. White

most common models: Conn Cavalier and Cundy Bettoney Three Star

The same link above also has a link to the 2003 survey.

Not all metal clarinets were junk! There are some that are collectable and valuable. The reason metal clarinets have gotten a reputation for sounding terrible is because of the soft reeds and cheap mouthpieces that people used to play them. A jazz player, playing a soft reed, will sound like a geriatric nanny goat whether he is playing a metal clarinet or one made of wood or plastic. The silver clarinet shown on the front page of this site is a Hager Artist, made in Grand Rapids. (That's not a common brand. I would be glad to sell it cheaply to a collector! The reason I've kept it is because we lived in Grand Rapids for three happy years, while I taught at what was then Grand Rapids Baptist College. Now it is Cornerstone University.)

When I played in the Hutchinson (Kansas) City Band as a high school and college student, I sat next to Harry Dietz, who had played his silver Penzel Mueller clarinet there for at least 60 years. By the time I joined, he was almost 90 years old and sounded terrible, but still had amazing technique for that age. Once he asked me to take his horn to Wichita to get it repadded. When Gary was done with it, he had me play it, saying it was the best metal clarinet he had ever played. It had a double walled construction. They are extremely rare, selling for over $2,000 today, and judging from Harry's, worth every penny.

Triebert double-walled is pictured to the right.

See for more information about collectable metal clarinets.

Penzel Mueller Clari-Met shown below.