I became interested in metal clarinets in the spring of 2007. A friend of mine has one that she purchased at a flee market many years ago, and she brought it in to the school where we teach. It is an old “Victory” that is in bad but playable condition. It was possible to get out enough notes to realize that it has a very nice tone. I then proceeded to purchase metal clarinets of my own. The first purchase was a Cleveland made by H. N. White in the late 1950s. I also have a Holton, a Laube, a Bettoney Silva-Bet, and most recently, a King Silver Sonic. All of these instruments have been re-padded, cleaned up, and polished, and are in excellent playing condition. I also have a Silver King and an old Selmer that need a lot of work before they will play.
When I tell other clarinet players about my metal clarinets, almost all of them expect that the metal clarinets will sound thin or tinny or “metallic,” or worse yet -- like a saxophone! However, once they hear the metal clarinet being played, their reactions are of total surprise. If you listen to the recordings on the Metal Clarinet Test page, you may or may not tell a difference between the instruments, and you may or may not like my tone, but if you didn't know ahead of time that two of them were made of metal, would you have ever suspected it?
I have played several jazz gigs on the Cleveland and the Silva-Bet. The biggest challenge of the instruments is playing them in tune. I had enough flexibility on those gigs to work with the intonation problems of the instruments. I have played a few rehearsals for classical gigs on them too, but I have not yet performed any classical gigs on them. I need to get a little more comfortable with the intonation before taking that step.
A brief history of metal clarinets
The Metal Clarinet Test
My thoughts and opinions on metal clarinets
The advantages of metal clarinets
More info and pictures of the Silva-Bet used in the recordings
More info and pictures of the Cleveland used in the recordings