Low Whistles

I started making low whistles some years ago, basically because people asked “why don’t you make low whistles?” So I began to experiment, and became very involved in the idea of making a whistle which I hope gets around what I saw as the drawbacks of many of the whistles that I had tried. I saw these drawbacks as being very largely in two areas.

Firstly, blowing pressure. In my opinion, too many whistles suffered from what might be called “ light bottom, hard top” syndrome, in that the lower end of the whistle required little air pressure and delicate blowing if it was not to over blow to the second octave, while at the same time, the upper end of the second octave required a much greater pressure, and consequent lack of delicacy in the tone and volume.

Secondly, I thought  that too many low whistles sounded like recorders rather than whistles, with a sound that was too woody and not “chiffy” enough.

After a long series of experiments with windway and window angles widths and depths, I think I’ve come up with a design that answers the above questions.

For tonal and practical reasons I decided to use aluminium as the basic material for the head and body with delrin ( a type of machinable nylon) as the material of choice for the sleeve and plug on the head. I can also make the sleeve on the head from ebonite in various colours. Have a look here for images of the whistles, and here for a sound file of the low D.

In order to achieve consistency, the core part of the head is made on a CNC mill, which means that my starting point for the voicing of each whistle is identical. The insertion and adjustment of the plug allows me to optimise the voicing of each whistle, and the brass pin holds everything in place.

At the moment the pitches available are low C, D, Eb, and E. The E is more often used for playing in the key of A using G fingering.

It’s not often that I have the opportunity to give an insight into the actual process of making my instruments, but I featured in an Irish television series on Irish instrument makers in the low whistle programme, so click here to have a look.