Category Archives: What People Say

Letters from Alaska About our Whistles

I received this letter from Vance Whelpy  after he got his new Low G whistle.

Dear Rod,
I got my Low G Whistle today and it rocks.  You make a very wonderful
product and well worth the $39.95. I only wish I had gotten it on eBay so
more people could have read a positive feedback from me. It plays very
smooth and your tuning slide is simple and effective. I picked it up at the
post office before going to the Dr and I played all the way from Eagle River
to the Drs in Anchorage.
My wife was driving and enjoyed it very much.
Your Whistle played fantastic and I like the fact I can take it apart and clean
 it. I also like the cleaning stick, all of the information and fingering chart
you included with it . It’s a fun instrument.

I have an aluminum Dixon D whistle which is my favorite whistle…this
whistle might have replaced it. 
It’s nice playing tunes I play in G on a D whistle and transpose them on to
the G whistle starting with my bottom right hand. Nice mellow tone. I like
 playing tunes in C as well. It’s just a great all round whistle and I love it.

Yours Truly,
Vance Whelpy
Eagle River, Alaska

PS it’s 1:00AM here and I am still playing

I received this letter from Vance  about a week later.

 Dear Rod,
I bought a Low G whistle from you and I am very happy with it.  But I am
happy with something else you gave me for free.  Polishing out a bore with
a Shotgun mop.  It also works on cheap wooden flutes from Pakistan.  I used
it with good results on a small cocus wood flute in F sold on eBay.
 I could only get the top three notes to play and looked in the bore and saw
 wood  bits hanging from the drilled holes and it looked rough.  I cleaned out
 the bore and oiled it and I got the 4 top holes to play.
I remembered the mop trick and got out my drill and started polishing.
I was able to get it buffed smooth.  I oiled it again and assembled the flute
and it played  like a charm. 

Thanks for the tip and I thought I would pass this on.

A happy Whistler and Flautist.
Yours truly,
Vance Whelpy

What People Say for Spring and Summer ’09

This section of What People Say! will be available for additions. If you have non commercial information you would like to share with other whistlers just send me an email.

 

Dear Skye,

Thank you for the lovely note about your whistle. I really appreciate you letting us know that you have received your Low G and your comments on the whistle. Thank you so much as your note really made my day. Rod Brewer, The WhistleSmith

Hi Rod,

I just opened the low G whistle this morning and played for 5 minutes before work. Beautiful! I love it! Makes me want to replace my high D with one of yours, and save up for a low D, too.

And the thumb ring is great. Don’t know how much traditional music I’ll ever learn in this lifetime, but this beautiful sound is perfect for a lot of what I do, and a nice change from the silver flute.

You have a fan 🙂 Skye

This is a very nice letter with good information on the thumb ring. Thanks Crystal!

Hi Rod,

The Ultra Bb arrived safely and quickly became my favorite whistle! The first thing I thought when I saw the mouthpiece was, “This thing

is a work of genious!” And it is. I have 3 other whistles, different brands and different keys, and they’re all hard to clean and not

nearly as comfortable to play. I also love the thumb rings. I use one for each hand, and I never realized how tense I got playing all holes

open, until I didn’t have to worry about it anymore. Whistling is the great joy I always thought it could be, thanks to your wonderful

whistle! Thank you, and feel free to publish this if you like.

Crystal

The following post comes from Beryl Branin, who is building a blog with news and music to download.

Hi Folks .

I’m still a’whistlin’ and having a great time — thank you. Just thought you might be interested in reading the March post I’ve put on my blog.

Gura mile maith, Beryl Branin

http://www.grammbo.typepad.com/grammbosramblings/ > grams blog banner

Dear Beryl,

My wife Nadiene and I are very impressed with your blog and the time you have taken to let us know you like your whistles. I will post your email on the WhistleSmith blog so others can read your note in “What people say”

Your email has certainly made our day while we have been cooped up with three days of very bad winter weather. Thanks again for your note, Rod Brewer, The WhistleSmith

What People said November of ’08

I received this note from Mark Hanson and thought you might like to hear about the work he is doing with his Low D whistle.

Hi thought you might want to hear your whistles in action . My album named The Lonely Traveler on I-tunes is live and features use of your low d whistle through out the album. Hope you like it. Mark Hanson [ aka Mark Perry ] God Bless

I must apologize to Jason Hoopes for misplacing his letter and not getting it posted until now.

Rod,

I wanted to take a moment to tell you how amazing this Low D whistle has been. I have had the opportunity to play it in warm weather, and cold now, and the tone has never been anything but perfect, warm and as airy as can be. I’ve put this lovely thing through it’s paces, and whether performing a slow piece or a speedy jig on the upper pitches, the whistle performs as it should. The tuning slide is such a delight, making it easier than ever to achieve just the sound I need for whichever piece I happen to be playing.

Numerous times I’ve had neighbors stop by my window or front lawn to listen to the melodies that comes from this enchanting whistle, and although I have much to learn yet, the ease of playing even such a large whistle just boggles the mind.

I want to commend you on the craftsmanship that goes into these beauties, for if every whistle is as meticulous as this one then you have most certainly the finest traditional workshop in America.

Sincerely Jason L. Hoopes

Founder, Think Design Studies

What Folks are Saying in September ’08

I have quite a few questions and some comments and feedback for the past couple of months that I find very interesting. First off is a very nice note from a gentleman that liked his new Low F whistle. This is the response every WhistleSmith likes to receive.

Dear Sir,

I have received your Flute via UPS. This morning. I was able to play Concierto de Aranjuez by Rodrigo, Malaguena, O Danny Boy, and the beautiful tune Rose of Tralee.

I am more a singer ( light Tenor ) than a flutist but I love the sound of the Tin Whistle, I guess genes inherited through my grand mother Rose O’Neil.

Never the less to tell you, Your Flute is not Good. * It is excellent* you are truly and artisan and I take my hat unto you. The instrument has a mellow sound that is haunting. It has two full octaves, you can not go wrong with it.

Have you considered making them out of hardwood or metal using the same concept? A very innovative design. I only wish it will have a 7th hole to add a lower note.

But, of course then it will not be an Irish whistle. It will be a sophisticated recorder.

The thumb ring is quite an addition as it is the mouth piece, a wonderful concept.. It remind me a bit of the Native American Flute.

Thank you again, Godspeed…

Luis Alberto

 

Another person who purchased a whistle inquired about obtaining beeswax that I had mentioned for several uses on whistles. Beeswax candles are available in almost every candle shop. Rubbing beeswax on the slide joint of your whistle will make it tighten up, but is easy to remove if necessary by warming the joint with hot water. Rubbing beeswax on the inside edges of the whistle mouthpiece will make it stick in place, but allows fine adjustment if you need to align the mouthpiece. Again the top cap of the mouthpiece
can be easily moved by warming with hot water if necessary.

Burt’s Bees makes a chapstick type product for chapped lips from beeswax and this is very good for a very tight joint that you need to slip easily, but the joint is too tight to use beeswax. When applying beeswax to the whistle joint, rub the wax on the male part of the fitting and spin the fitting together to distribute the wax evenly. If the fit is too tight, remove a little of the beeswax . Try the fit of the joint until it has a good firm fit, but is not jammed or over tight. I really like using beeswax for
joints and you seldom have to replace it. “O” rings are technically fine, but they tend to break at the wrong time and the right size is often hard to find.

Oh yes! you can share you candle with all your whistling friends as it takes very little wax to do the job. One small candle will last a lifetime if you don’t share!

I inform buyers from other countries by Email that the USPS shipping charge to Canada and especially Europe is high, but as low as can be afforded to insure delivery and tracking of the package. I also warn buyers that the Brokerage fees charged are not included for them to get their whistle. Brokerage fees to Canada are very high and are charged by the individual items in the package. The VAT to the United Kingdom is another charge that is expensive. WhistleSmith is not responsible for these charges and can
only tell buyers they should be prepared to pay them to get delivery of their items. So much for free trade…

A lady in Florida wrote to remind me of shipping costs here in the States.

” Please remind you customers that you will ship two whistles at a time for the same rate. I forgot to order the thumbring for my Low D on my first purchase from your website. Thank for shipping everything in one package on my second order. When you are retired and on a budget, everything helps out. By the way, I really love my new Low F, very nice sound.”

Will you be selling your whistles on ebay this next year!

I recently shipped two Low D whistles that were purchased on ebay to Tasmania and another pair to the Czech Republic. We will be running the ebay store and Buy It Now auctions for another year. The category for WhistleSmith products is Musical Instruments/Woodwinds/Whistles. Prices for all items is uniform here on the website and with those for sale on ebay. Many customers find their way to this website from ebay and it is always good to shop online where you are most comfortable. If you have special requests
for your order, it is best to order here on the website and to use the 1-800-675-4206 toll free line to discuss your purchase.

I hope you will read the news on Proto 1, the new slide flute that can be played with just the use of your head. This will allow thousands of folks with disabilitiessto play a musical instrument for the first time.

All for now, but please keep writing so I can post your comments, questions and information.

What People Say and Play !

I recently had a question that I think is so tantalizing scientific that it must be shared.

“Why does my whistle get wet when I practice, but not when I play in church?”


I can remember having to play my battered old trumpet in front of the congregation when I was a kid. I could barely wet my lips because my mouth was so dry! Playing at home is comfortable and lots of things might make you salivate, like an anticipation of lunch. In church or in front of a group, plain old stage fright will make you so dry you have no saliva left at all. So…probably church is the best place to play a whistle.

I received this note from a very nice lady in Vancouver, Canada who took the time to send me a special card. I couldn’t wait to add it to What People Say! because what she says is so special.

“My husband gave me one of your low D whistles last year for my birthday. I just wanted you to know what a nice whistle I think it is. I love its voice and play it nearly every day.” T. Cannon

Several folks e-mailed and wanted to know why all the whistles and flutes cost $39.95and the Low D costs $69.95?

Well………It’s bigger, fancier, comes in colors , weighs more, plays lower and has more parts. Oh, I forgot! Its the hardest whistle to make.

It’s always interesting to hear what kind of music people are playing on the whistle.

Dear Mr. Brewer, I have a low G whistle that was a present from a friend and I use it to play New Orleans style jazz. When my buddy that plays clarinet got the flu and couldn’t play, I filled in on the whistle and it was just great! I am working on more tunes and after seeing the special of Woody Allen playing his clarinet on tour in Europe, I think I might have found what I want to do, at least for a while. I will be ordering an A in a few days to fill in the gaps in my whistle collection. S. Boyd

What People Say This Fall!

On a recent trip to Nova Scotia and Cape Breton Island, Nadiene and I had a chance to try out the new Trans Canada highway and it is really terrific. The leaves had turned bright red and gold and the view down the St John River to Fredericton was just spectacular. We made a nice five day trip through New Brunswick and on down to Sydney for the Gaelic Festival. The Chieftains opened up the festivities on the first night and absolutely brought the house down! A rolling festival of performers was available for the
entire week and performances were scheduled at different towns each day. If you are not familiar with Cape Breton, it is famous for its music and especially for fiddling. We drove the Cabot Trail for a full day and got to see the highlands and mountain bluffs that are just incredible as they drop off into the Atlantic.

Here is a picture of Nadiene in front of the giant 55 ton fiddle at the Sydney Concert hall in Cape Breton, Nova Scotia.

big fiddle 2

I love to play the whistle in interesting places, just to hear the natural variety of sounds that are around us everyplace we go. When I mention about playing in the wind and out in the cold, there is a good reason to be concerned that the whistle you play can be trusted to perform under adverse conditions. If you are in a parade and the wind comes up, is your whistle going to cut out and leave with the first strong breeze? If you are playing for a group and the room is air conditioned, is your whistle going
to go flat? If you are asked to play Amazing Grace at a serious ceremony or a civil function and the wind comes up…is your performance going to be less than amazing?

Here is a very nice e-mail from S. Bartels that makes an excellent point on playing whistles in the cold that I had not considered.

“It’s a pleasure when I play your Low-D whistle during services (with a microphone). I always get compliments and questions on what a wonderful instrument that it is. People like the sound and it’s never too cold to play it. Metal whistles can’t be played cleanly in an unheated church in winter.”

When I checked with my friend Ken Roy and told him about this e-mail, he laughed and said he had forgotten the unheated churches in the winter when he was in the military and stationed in Europe.

The Symphony Slide Flute has picked up quite a few friends along the way this summer. Originally, I recommended Vaseline and a drop of olive oil for lubrication. After consulting with users, I have modified the polyslide slightly and now recommend only a few drops of olive oil. This works very well and makes the slide faster for playing. When the slide flutes were originally designed, they were intended for beginners and a bit of drag was thought to be necessary to give a solid feel to the action of the slide.
More professionals have tried this instruments now and the faster slide action is necessary to make it practical for more complex music. Getting feedback and making adjustments go hand and hand to get an instrument that satisfies more applications.

Another request I feel was unique was from a lady who wanted a set of whistles that individually played the scale. She would have each person play a single note (much like playing the bells in a group) and the eight persons would play a full scale. Instead of making a single note custom whistle, I shipped eight symphony slide flutes with a movable washer to set the pitch on each flute. The big advantage in using the slide flute is being able to set the individual flutes to play any note you wish. Using this set
up, you can set the whistles to play in any key that you wish. I think this is a fascinating concept on playing the whistle for beginning young people and folks that wish to perform in a professional and unique way without having to read music. I hope to give you all an update on this project and how well it works in the near future.

An inquiry about ordering a dog whistle brought up the fact that the Crisis Whistle also makes a great dog whistle. I used a simple set of long and short whistles for our dogs that was unique to each dog. Rugby the Shar-Pei would only come in if I blew a Long low-short High-Long low blast. That was his call and he always came because he knew I meant business when I blew that particular call.

Ripley, the cocker spaniel only responded to three short quick whistle blasts at the high pitch and that was his unique come home call. There has been some very good feedback on the dog whistle and I will be offering an updated version shortly that is pitched a bit lower than the original Crisis Whistle. This should be a versatile whistle that will work under a wide variety of situations and will come with some informational instructions on using the whistle to train your dog.

Feed back on the new Ultra High D, C & Bb has been very good and the whistles have been well received. A second generation run of 250 whistles on this pattern in just about finished. Making inventory is the current priority so shipping time can stay on schedule. Comments have ranged from Very Nice Whistle! to Fantastic! Not everyone sends e-mail or feedback, but the folks that do let you know if you really got it right.

I receive a lot of phone calls on Friday afternoons about whistles. Most are folks are calling to make a decision on which key whistle they should start with. I recommend a Low A or Low G to let them develop the necessary technique and breath control to play the whistle clearly with good definition. A larger whistle gives the player a more stable whistle that plays in a sound range similar to the human voice. This keeps your dog calm and your cat from leaving home while you practice. If you are married, a low
whistle will be appreciated every time you practice and you may get compliments on the piece you are playing without asking “How’s that sound this time?”

Here are a few of the comments I received recently.

My Low D arrived yesterday and it is just great! My wife says to tell you that it is a big improvement over the “Feadog Thing”! She says that “Low and Slow is the way to Go!” My dog is napping in the evening again and there is peace in the valley. Thanks for a great whistle that does everything you said it would. Paul, New Jersey

Played my whistle all summer while camping with the family and drew quite a crowd around the campfire. The old songs like Liza Jane and Wabash Cannon Ball were big applause getters and I was surprised by how many children know these songs today. If you play Acres of Clams, everyone knows they have heard the tune, but no one ever knows the name of the song. If you play the whistle, the first song the women ask for is Danny Boy and of course, I close all my “concerts” with Good Night Ladies. Love my A Traveler
and so do a lot of listeners. Thomas, Virginia

I used my flute head on my Low D at a Centennial event and several parades this summer so I would look authentic. It worked out perfectly for these events and performed under two days of bad weather when the wind was a real problem. I played around the campfire at night for a group of reenacters and everyone was impressed with my flute skills! Not one person noticed I was playing an auto flute and one listener even said it was a very fine instrument and had I had it long? I told them it was an heirloom that I
had recently acquired (which is partly true, as I intend to keep it for a long time).Thanks for great instrument and post this on the web if you like so others can read it. Sue, Maryland

I am doing a project for school. I am using your Website as part of my report on whistles. I would like to know if you can get really rich making whistles. Thanks Jamie, California

I answered this one by saying that I thought it was possible to get rich by doing anything, but if I get fabulously rich from making whistles, I will become a Philanthropist (which was my first choice anyway).

I think the following Squirrel Mail just shows how WhistleSmith has improved International relations with our neighbors in Canada.

The D whistle arrived a couple of days ago, but I was very busy with family matters and just got down to giving it a go. Nice tone and it plays quickly with a good clear sound. Volume is plenty. I believe I could raise New Foundland in the morning from my kitchen door. Thanks for a good trade. Michael, Nova Scotia

Comments and Questions from some Wicked Good Web Customers

bear the price web

The following comments are just some of the many made about the WhistleSmith Low D.

I was reluctant to purchase your whistles because they seemed too cheap to be comparable to other whistles on the web. However, I could not find anyone that stated their Low D was suitable or could even be played by someone with small sized hands. As you know, I purchased a Low D in maroon, about a two months ago, and I want you to know that the whistle has worked out wonderfully. I can play this whistle without straining my hands and it is comfortable even after playing it for a long time. My friends have listened
to your whistle and have been surprised and complimentary on both the sound and volume that it produces. I am a better and happier player now that I am not left out of playing the low whistle.

Many thanks, Mary C. NY

The following comments are just some of the many made about the WhistleSmith Ultra D, C and Bb.

This is a well made and designed whistle. The whistle plays best when I play it aggressively and with assurance. I would say this is a technical whistle in that you have many fractional adjustment available to set the whistle up for the way you play. At first I thought that would be a nuisance, but the setup and adjustment is really simple after I read the instructions. When all else fails, you should read the instructions! Anyway, I am very satisfied with my purchase and will be buying again . J. Williams, CA.

I bought the Ultra D for my husband and it wasn’t what he wanted. However, I really like it and have decided he can buy his own whistle and I will keep this one. The volume is impressive and I love the tone. I think this whistle is perfect for me! Jane B.

I received my Bb whistle I purchased from your website and it arrived in first class condition. When you told me that I could get my Low D completely refurbished for $10. and postage, I couldn’t believe it! I had this whistle for a couple of years before it was damaged. (Ray laid it on a hot ceramic stove top by accident) . The whistle you sent me is just a great player and I am really surprised and pleased. Thanks so MUCH!. Ray T., Fla.

I was very happy with the Low D whistle I purchased from you on ebay about a year ago. When you mentioned on the phone that there was a substantial improvement in volume on the low end and that I could upgrade the whistle for a small fee, ($10. and postage) for a new whistle head, I was impressed. The whistle came back home yesterday looking like brand new and I really am impressed. This whistle is a whole new ball game! Great sound and lots of volume. I liked my original whistle but, this one makes my day! Thanks!
Ben Waters, PA

The set of seven whistles came today and the matching color and striping make them look terrific. I have played them all for a brief period and they are more than I expected. The Bb with the wide mouthpiece is exceptional for a smaller bore whistle and has a lot more volume than I had expected. The low F is my unexpected favorite of them all and is very even through two octaves. Will email you an update after I have put them through their paces… All for now, J. Bell

Your package and packaging are first class. The whistle plays beautifully and is well tuned. It is an easy play in both octaves and is simple to clean and setup. I recommend that anyone receiving this whistle read the instructions as they are clearly written and make playing very simple. I will be purchasing again, Thank you. May Baily

I was wondering if the increased cost in shipping would be affecting the amount WhistleSmith products cost and if you will be raising prices this fall? I am saving up for a couple of more low whistles and thought I would ask. Please don’t think I’m trying to get a scoop, I just need to keep my budget straight. Dave C.

The cost of WhistleSmith Wicked Good Whistles will remain the same for the foreseeable future. This was made possible by making the entire line of whistles modular. That means more uniformity in production with less setups and machining time going to waste when making parts. By getting this part of the production worked out, I can now spend more time tuning and assembling whistles and less time on making a lot of different parts for each style whistle. You get a better whistle for your money and I save a lot
of time making the parts.

Wicked Good March Info & Italian One Man Band

Fife and Flute Tuning notes

polyplug master

I recently spent the entire afternoon trying to recreate how you could put a little D fife completely out of tune. A customer in Connecticut had called and said he had a problem with his fife with the tuning. The instrument had played perfectly when he had received it, but after cleaning, the fife was completely out of tune and was not cooperating on going back into tune at all! I consider these instruments to be bullet proof and they just never have problems. I thought it wasn’t worth the cost of postage to
and from the shop just to tune the fife, so I said I could figure out what was going on and I would call him back with an answer.

 

Once before, I had a fife sent back because it lost tuning ability, but after checking it out and cleaning, the instrument had played perfectly and I had returned it to the owner with a clean bill of health. I didn’t hear from him again, so I calculated that perhaps something was in the airway and cleaning had corrected the problem.

So I pulled out a brand new fife, played it against the tuning program and a key board to verify it was in tune. I took the fife apart and pushed out the poly plugs, made sure it was entirely clean and put it back together. The fife played fine and the tuning was dead on. Since you can change the tuning buy moving the tone body and the mouthpiece slide, I tried moving the instrument in and out of tune by moving them. When I put the pieces back on the index marks, the fife went back into tune!

Then it occurred to me that the poly plugs move. So what if the primary plug was pushed too far away from the sound hole? I always have set this plug as close to the sound hole as possible just like a fipple plug is set on a whistle. When the plug was moved up and away from the sound hole, the fife went completely out of tune and no amount of persuasion could make it go into tune.

Then it occurred to me that regular fifes use these plugs for all of their tuning…too much head variable and that was the problem! I had simply never set the plugs differently on the fifes or flutes when I assembled them and when I checked my plans, I had instructed people to assemble them that way too.

I called the gentleman back and explained what was going on and he was in tune in less than a minute.

The diagram of the fife also pertains to flutes made on this plan and is included with your instrument when you receive it. Be sure to read all the instructions to make your start on the auto fife is a good playing experience.

Comments on Kids

I have had a reoccurring experience in the shop when children visit with their parents and decide they would like to play a whistle. The parents immediately ask “How much do they cost?” as if this were really a consideration. This is followed by some inquiry about “How much noise do they make?”

In an age where everything has a volume and it is generally turned up to the max, why do parents immediately ask about the noise level? You can literally see the child shrink when they hear the question and they begin to abandon ship immediately. The words noise and music don’t go together in the same sentence when you speak to a child.

I generally have an extra whistle or two in the shop, so I offer to have the child take a whistle home and report back in a week or so on how many different sounds they have figured out. Once they have played the whistle and gotten all the sound effects out of their system, they usually come back for a lesson on fingering and playing music on the whistle. If playing the whistle is a problem at home, the acoustically perfect barn is open on Thursday nights, and they are welcome to come out for extra tutoring and
a chance to play with other whistlers.

When my boys were home, they sang, played instruments and spent untold hours playing all kinds of music. In the basement, we had an upright piano that Nadiene played and I would tune up the tenor banjo for impromptu concerts in the evening. On the weekends at camp, we had a bedspring for a grill with a big fire in the evenings and every one on the campground would drop by to sing songs and hear the banjo and guitar. I made sure that no one ever said “What’s that noise? are you trying to sing?”

If you tell someone enough times that their music is noise, they will believe you and never try to be a singer, a player or know the joy of music. Many people start their musical career when they retire. This is the first time many folks have had to try their hand at playing an instrument after spending years just making a living and raising a family. I think the whistle is the best instrument available for the beginning musician and there is nothing as exciting as a new whistle player laying down some notes.

Whistle Comments for March

Dozens of people this past year have mentioned that “I used to play the sax (or some other instrument), but I think I’d like to try playing the whistle.” I think there is a huge return to things that are a bit simpler and more familiar.

One lady told me that whistle playing was addictive and second only to the excitement of adding whistles to her collection. Apparently she searched for new and unusual keys and types of whistles and had given up clothes and shoe collecting entirely. Anyway, she was having a very good time and was whistle shopping for souvenirs to take home for her friends and family.

Children who already play some sort of instrument in school like a clarinet, trumpet, trombone, or flute, are looking for a simpler instrument to help them decipher music they are already working on. Some want an instrument that is more to their liking and the whistle really fits this category for many folks. One little girl after picking out her whistle of choice said in a small quiet voice, “You have saved me from the recorder! I just can’t stand to play that thing”

Good and Plenty whistle

I received an email from a whistle buyer in Pennsylvania who lives near Lancaster in the midst of Amish country. Here is an excerpt of his letter with a story and a bit of humor. “I recently was waiting for my wife to do some shopping in a road side furniture store near Lancaster, PA. I got tired of sitting in the car , so I ambled over to where there were some rocking chairs for sale and took my whistle along for company. I bought the Traveler, Low A in October and I carry it on the road while I call on accounts.

There were no customers outside the shop, so I settled in to play a tune or two and probably had been playing a full ten minutes when I noticed I had an audience of two Amish children of about ten. I stopped playing and said hello and they responded that they liked my music and settled in to hear another piece. I had played a couple of my favorite songs when their father showed up and with a nod invited me to play some more.

I played for a bit more and then took a break and showed the two children the whistle and how it played. The father looked the whistle over and asked me if it had a name and I replied it was a WhistleSmith Low A. He smiled and said ” I think you should call it ‘the Good and Plenty!’ because it plays plenty well and good too!” Thought you would enjoy hearing that you have an Amish admirer of your whistle. As you can tell I think this a great whistle to take on the road too.

Italian One Man Band

I recently had a Mr. Di Pantaleo buy a slide flute on the eBay store. We shipped it to Italy and he was very happy with his purchase. It turns out he is a one man band and has added a WhistleSmith slide flute to his repertoire, so we are now in an orchestra in Italy. How cool is that? You can see the one man band in person if you go to www.onemanband.org. Here is a picture from the website with the one man band in action.

one man band

Am I a Right or Left Handed Wicked Good Whistler?

I haven’t changed the instruction sheet that comes with the Mystic Auto Flute since I put the first batch together Everyone apparently read the instructions, picked up the flute and played it without having any trouble understanding the tech sheets.

Then in late January, I got several phone calls and email from folks who could not understand how the mouthpiece worked. Apparently they threw the instructions away with their Christmas tree and had never read them. When I was discussing the problem with one of my lady test players, she began to laugh out loud and then she told me about her experience with the auto flute.

She took her flute along with her during the holidays and during the course of events, several relatives and friends asked if they could try the instrument. She was not carrying the technical sheet so she had to instruct the new player on how the instrument worked.

She explained to me that at first not one of them could play the mouthpiece because they insisted on puckering up and trying to blow into the wrong hole. Apparently a hole is not a hole unless you can see down into it, and the idea of how you blow a flute in ingrained deeply into our mind. You MUST pucker up and blow into a little hole or there can be no flute music! That is the Rule!

She also explained that once one person got the idea and could play the flute, it became a contest to see who could show the next player what they were doing wrong. She concluded her story by telling me to put a sign on the correct hole in the mouthpiece and just say Blow into this Hole!

Good advise is good advise. When you receive your flute or fife, it now comes with this wrap around sheet on the mouthpiece.

blow here for flutes

I don’t think I have published the brand name of any other makers products on these pages before. I’m sure you will excuse Don Simcocks enthusiasm for his new whistle and I did promise him I would post his letter. I am humbled by his praise, what can I say…when a whistler is happy, well, they are happy!

This also proves that the good old US mail does deliver and pretty fast too if you use Global Priority Mail.

Rod,

Cannot believe the speed of arrival of my Traveler! 11 AM on the 9th….that’s quicker than some internal letters take to reach me. Thrilled by tone…really “breathy”, as good as my “Chieftain”, at a fraction of the price!
I am appointing myself your “volunteer publicist” for the UK (and anywhere else!)
Please use this in your “What people think” page!

Best wishes to all your folks, Don Simcock

The email for the past month has been loaded with inquiries about the Low D whistle. Most of the email contains at least one reference such as, “Can people with small hands REALLY play the Low D whistle like you describe it on your website?” And I repeatedly reply “YES” unless you can’t reach 2.3″ or you have arthritis and cannot stretch your hands with a minimal amount of grip to seal the holes.”

It is a fact that the Low D is playable by anyone from ten to a hundred and ten if you can just reach that

2.3″ requirement for your right hand.

You will also notice that I have Low D whistles for all you left handed players now. When you purchase a Low G Auto Flute, Low G whistle or Low D whistle, you will be asked if you want a right or left handed model. This is because these whistles have offset finger holes to make them more comfortable to play.

I have had some absolutely fabulous letters describing where folks hold their hands and fingers when they play the whistle and are they right or left handed? If you play with your right hand on the BOTTOM three holes of the whistle and your LEFT hand on the TOP three holes of the whistle, you are a RIGHT HANDED whistler.

Then there is the letter explaining that “I am left handed, but I play the whistle the regular right handed way. Okay, you are a RIGHT HANDED WHISTLE PLAYER!

The best answer so far has been…I think I play right handed, but my friend says if I was a surfer, I would be “Goofy Footed:” on my surfboard. What does that mean? Will I not be able to play the Low D now that I have found this out?

No, you will be okay because…It is a fact that the Low D is playable by anyone from ten to a hundred and ten if you can just reach that 2.3″ requirement for your right hand.

The Low F is ready to go! I just have to decide a couple of more details before I can post up the description and a finished price. I have a five gallon pail of these cute little critters put together up in the shop and they will be ready to go before the end of the month. I promise.

I played the Low F prototype over the Christmas holiday and I really like this whistle key. The range of this whistle is very nice and I found it to be easy on air and played very economically. Not a big as a Low D and longer than the Low G, it has a very smooth voice. I would guess that the Low F is going to be a perfect practice whistle for a lot of players and I find it an interesting whistle to play. Small bore and low whistle don’t always go together well, but I think this whistle has something going for
it. We will see!

Wicked Weather and Comments to Start Winter…

snow removal

While the snow snows and the wind blows steadily from the North Pole. We Mainers like to touch up the landing strip for the four wheel drive.


Ebay auctions are interesting and you receive a lot of questions about your auction item. I have found that most buyers are concerned that the details of the whistle or flute on auction are clear, factual and truthful. I have probably said that I feel the buyers on eBay are not looking for a cheap instrument, but a good quality instrument with features that are important to them at a reasonable price. So, here are some quotes and answers from eBay buyers and a few from the website as well.

My favorite recent feedback on a Low D whistle comes from Australia.

Received my whistle on the 4th. Excellent service, awesome sound. Many thanks.The koalas on the back trees love it too. Beauty mate!

When you get a message like this, you have received feedback that lets you know everything you needed to know. Looks like poetry to me!

Another person in Australia wrote me a short letter about her Low D whistle.

Dear Mr. Brewer, I purchased a Low D from you about a year ago and learned to play it in about a month. Recently, I thought I would like a more professional whistle to play and sold the WhistleSmith and ordered another whistle for a lot more money than I paid for yours. By the way, I sold the Low D and made a slight profit on it, even though it was used to my neighbor. She really likes it and plays everyday.

Anyway, my new whistle arrived after four weeks wait and it was everything I had expected. The finish was beautifully done. The aluminum was a nice weight and overall it was as nice as I had expected. The only problem was that I cannot reach the fingering despite trying every thing I can think of. There is no use buying an expensive whistle that looks great if you cannot play it. I would like to order a new Low D in magenta with the silver stippling you do on some of the custom whistles on your website.

And the letter goes on a some length with some requests on voicing. I shipped her the new whistle the same week she ordered it and she has responded that she is very satisfied.

The same questions about the Low D come in every week. Are the facts about playing the Low D factual? What is a whistle with small hands playing sound like? What if I have large hands and will I be able to play the whistle? What is the distance between holes?

I try to answer these questions as clearly as possible. The email that really raises my ears is the one where you repeatedly get asked if your claims about the whistle are FACTUAL? W e l l . . . yes of course they are or why would you bother to type out a great big list of features if it was just something you made up?

I finally realized where this IS IT FACTUAL? query comes from. It is from all those folks who bought a Low whistle that requires BAGPIPE FINGERING. This is the myth that you can play a whistle with huge holes and a long reach for your fingers by using your BAGPIPE FINGERS. I would guess you get BAGPIPE FINGERS by tying your fingers to the bumper of your neighbors car and stretching them until they fit your new Low whistle.

If you have small hands, BAGPIPE FINGERS are not part of your bag of tricks. (How is that for a neat play on words?)

There are thousands of Low whistles available in new and used condition that require BAGPIPE FINGERING in on-line stores and auctions. They are usually accompanied by the sellers sad tale of a lack of time or patience to play the Low whistle and they are now selling the whistle in excellent condition on auction. If it says the whistle requires BAGPIPE FINGERING, please use your ability to solve puzzles and DON’T BUY IT!

A bagpipe uses a big bag full of wind to play. This steady flow of air makes a bagpipe playable. Unless you have the lungs of Goliath, you cannot make a whistle function in the same manner as a bagpipe. Extended fingering is another way of saying BAGPIPE FINGERING. Avoid the word EXTENDED when reading descriptions of whistles, unless it says EXTENDED WARRANTY. Enough said, I am sure you get the point.

While on the subject of Low whistle, I feel I should mention one more time, that you can not dry out and clean the bore on a NEW whistle too many times. I send out a complete sheet about cleaning and how to adjust your WhistleSmith Low whistle. I also repeatedly tell folks to read the instructions before they play their whistle and auto flutes to get the best results. Please read the instructions and you will have fun with your instruments and will give them the attention they need to break in and play properly.
I will tell anyone that has not played a Low D whistle, that it takes two to three hours to get even moderately good at breath control and fingering the whistle. You should clean and dry the whistle a minimum of every half hour while you are breaking it in. That is a minimum of six times in three hours play…if you follow the instructions, you will have a swell playing whistle.

If you do not read the instructions and break the whistle in properly, it will not respond properly until you take the time to read the instructions and BREAK THE WHISTLE IN PROPERLY!

Several folks who have purchased the new Low A Traveler whistle responded with comments. Three of the remarks made by almost everyone is that the whistle has a nice heft to it and that it is accurately tuned and the octaves are well balance. I played this whistle all summer and on vaction and that really sums it up. No unwanted tricks to playing this whistle and people who got an on the road concert liked the sound of the Traveler.

Several dozen Low G Auto Flutes were sold on eBay auction for Christmas presents. Most folks played the automatic mouthpiece right out of the box with no problems. Six people called on the 1-800 line to find out the mystery of how the flute worked and had a good laugh about how easy it was. If you have a serious problem with anything you receive from the WhistleSmith, please just call and Nadiene or I will give you a hand.

And in closing for this week, an individual inquired if I knew where the name WhistleSmith came from and how did I qualify for that title. Well, I made it up to get a website name and it wasn’t my first choice. I suppose that there might have been a Smith that made whistles and they called him The Whistle Smith to separate his identity from the Smith that made tin stuff and was called The Tin Smith. His cousin who lived down the road was called The Black Smith because he was covered with soot from working
the forge in his Black Smith Shop.

A name is a name and WhistleSmith is just something I made up to describe my new business. Did you happen to notice that my WhistleSmith is one word and the S in Smith is capitalized? I never intended to take anything away from anyone else who is a Smith. However, I noticed that my neighbor who is a Smith calls me The Whistlesmith instead of Brewer since I started the website.

Whistle Kids test a Wicked Good Slide Flute

slide flute players

This fall, I finished up some prototypes of a new slide flute. The flute plays in a lower range than the Mystic Slide Flute that I introduced last season. The reason for developing this new lower slide flute was suggested by players who purchased instruments and wanted a lower slide flute for playing two part harmony.

This new instrument is based on Low G Mystic Auto Flute components and has a very nice mellow sound and plays smoothly right out of the box. The instrument requires no break in period and uses vaseline (petroleum jelly) with the addition of a single drop of Extra Virgin olive oil for the slide lubricant! The poly plug capped slide moves effortlessly and the feel from the heavy fiberglass slide rod makes playing the instrument feel much like the motion of a violin bow. A full write up and pictures will be posted
shortly and a special sale promotion is in the works in March.

The week before Christmas, I had a return visit from Jenna Hallett who is ten and her brother Jordan who is thirteen. Their parents are Greg and Jennifer Hallett from Presque Isle and I got to know Jenna from her mother visiting the screenprint shop to pick up orders for the local hockey team.

Jenna is very interested in music and I had suggested she take a whistle home with her and see how she made out with it on a previous visit. We had a short lesson on that visit and I showed her the basics of how the whistle was played, how the fingering chart worked and how to maintain and clean her whistle.

Jenna has been practicing her pennywhistle for about three months and has really improved her playing. When she visits the shop, she brings her whistle along and we spend a bit of time learning some practice repetitions for her to play at home.

I thought it would be a great idea if she and her brother Jordan became testers for the new slide flute. Jenna was excited about the prospect of getting to try out an all new musical instrument and Jordan liked the idea of the slide flute immediately. My exact instructions were for them to see how long it took before they could play a tune on the slide flute, how many wild sounds they could produce and if there was anything that they thought should be changed. Oh yes, I also instructed Jordan to see if the construction
was rugged and let me know if anything broke. I think a brother and sister team will be competitive enough to find any weak spots. I’ll keep you posted on how they made out in another week or so.

Comments on White Whistles and Where the Whistlers are Whistling!

Here is an excerpt from John Hughes long letter on some of his observations on whistle color(especially white instruments) and other interesting whistle observations. I found this letter to have several interesting points and I will add them to the revue on the Low whistles as soon as I can.

“There are several advantages to owning a white instrument.

I find that students keep these instruments cleaner and ready to play, because dirt shows up more readily on a white instrument and it looks either clean and white or it looks dirty. Case closed.
A white instrument plays cooler in summer heat and stays in tune better when exposed to direct sunlight. I make it a point to instruct students to place their instruments out of the sunlight when not playing and to remove them from auto windows when traveling. Leaving any instrument in the direct sun, whether it is plastic or wood is not a good idea and can cause them to warp or even split. Here in the south, you can get a burn from a metal mouthpiece left in the sun and you won’t soon forget that!

You can find a white instrument (even if it is only the mouthpiece that’s white) easier when laid down. Black and dark brown instruments tend to get lost and at best are hard to find. I have searched for hours over the years trying to find lost instruments that were often right beside me. Outdoors events with a fife and drum corps are always a matter of someone losing their fife or drumsticks by laying them down on the ground and leaving them behind. I recommend dipping your drumstick ends in some white paint so they show up!

White instruments never need more than a good cleaning and they look like new. Paint, coatings, polished aluminum and even chrome have issues after being handled a lot. Brass looks okay when everyone polishes, but it looks terrible in a group if even one person prefers to have their instrument have a patina. Patina just means unkept and not polished in a band.
I appreciated the time you spent on the phone with me discussing the Fife & Pail concept. Will get back to you as soon as the Town has a chance to discuss the matter and I believe we will go with the idea because the kids need an activity like this that could be done all year round.”

Several folks have written about where they play their whistle. I would publish their letters complete, but I always ask if it is okay first and that takes a lot of time. If you want something posted during the month, please remember to state that it is okay to publish your letter in its entire form.

A lot of people play their whistle at funerals and wakes. Out of respect for the departed and also because there are not enough pipers around. I often remark that the pipers of our land must be tired out from piping at funerals, never mind all the parades they have to attend. I know that I hear more people say they have heard someone playing the whistle at a funeral than I have ever heard before. If you have not played for a funeral, you better practice outdoors under real conditions before you show up for your
first performance. The wind can make your music go away if you have the wrong whistle in your hands.

At least one person is financing their college by playing whistle at dedications, funerals, and other events. What better incentive to practice than to have your own business that furnishes a wonderful service to the community as well.

Many folks have found the wonders of echoes in playing their whistle. The echo coming back over at lake, the way the whistle sounds coming back from heavy woods over an open field, and the sounds you get in an open alley when it is quiet on a Sunday morning where all mentioned in the past month.

The amount of phone calls discussing various types of music and folks with ideas on whistle music in general has been very interesting. The whistle is being played in every type of music imaginable. Delta Blues, reggae, calypso, traditional, blues, and many more have been mentioned lately.

Many of the calls pertained to ideas that individuals have for new or different variations on the whistle. If you have ideas for an instrument don’t hesitate to call and discuss your idea. The data base information is getting larger every month and an answer to one of your questions may be available. Really secret projects will stay secret…that’s why I’m in Maine on top of a ridge.

MOOSE MASTER

More people than ever are playing their whistles during the Holidays! Some players are in symphony productions, some in stage shows and musicals and the whistle will be played with choirs and caroling on Christmas eve this year according to the folks ordering new whistles on the phone and over the website. I know there have been a lot of whistles ordered in green and red which I think is an indication of what they will be used for. I think this is just great! “The More the Merrier” as the old saying goes.

E-mail Excerpts

Condensed Comments via E-Mail:

A couple of excerpts from a nice letter from Roy Mayhugh were:

“You’ve clearly marked the key of the whistle right on the mouth-piece. That will make picking up the right whistle really easy when I want to play.”

“The fingering charts are going to be really handy in helping me read music. What’s more, they are almost exactly the size of an 8 1/2 by 11 inch piece of notebook paper when folded in half. That means I can put them in my three ring binder folded in half and fold them out on my music stand when I’m using them.”

“Received my Low D whistle this week and I was amazed at the tone. I was really expecting a plastic sounding tone and this instrument sounds very woody just as you described it” – J. Winston

“I am playing the Hi D fife you furnished for our group to try out and it does exactly what you said. I have played it in all kinds of weather and it is bulletproof. This fife is perfect to get our kids to get playing in short order” Thank you, J. Hershel

“When you wrote that your mouthpiece was adjustable and you could “sweeten the top octave” to make the flute play better, I thought Yeh, I bet! I have played my G Auto flute for a week now and all I can say is “How sweet it is!” Thanks, Paul

“I was able to play it straight out of the box. At last I have a Low D which I can finger without my fingers and wrists getting very sore.” – G. Terry

“I thought my Low D whistle had lost it’s voice as it had a loss of volume after about 30 minutes of playing. I read the instructions and dried the bore and gave it a shot of silicon spray. What a difference, the more your play and clean it, the better the volume gets. Your directions on playing the Low D have been Spot On.” – J. Deschesne

“I purchased a Bb fife and have played it for several weeks. I have taken it camping and played around the fire at night several times. No problem! it will play in any kind of weather and the night cold doesn’t bother it at all…” excerpt from long letter from H.C. in Minnesota.

“The Hi-D fife I purchased came today and I have played all afternoon. It is hard to believe how easy it is to play. I thought it would be shrill, but it is not and I really like the sound.” Thanks, Franco, Spain

Questions on fingering, warranty, construction, keys & more!

I had a first time whistle buyer drop in the other day and it was obvious that he had spent a lot of time reading about whistles on line. Here is some of what we talked about.

“If they don’t cost a penny and their not made of tin…Why are whistles called that any more? My reply was that they should just be called whistles, plain and simple. The whistle is so common to so many kinds of music world wide today that the old terminology just doesn’t fit. There are probably more people playing whistle in Africa than there are people in all of Ireland and Scotland combined. The music is not the same, but that only shows the wonderful versatility of the whistle and the variety
of music it can be used for. That is why I call my whistles “Wicked Good Whistles”.

What’s the deal with small hands fingering? Is that something just for kids or am I not understanding that part of how a whistle is made?”

I replied that on small whistles in the higher keys that small hands fingering was not important. Everyone can reach the holes on a D, C, or Bb whistle without any strain. When you get down to the low whistles, it is common to have holes that are too large and too much reach in the fingering to be comfortable. If your hands are stiffer than they used to be and the carpal tunnel seems a little on the longer side, and you have a touch of arthritis in a joint…then small hands fingering is a must. I also pointed
out that I had started on my whistle making because my Granddaughter Marilyn was so disappointed when she received her first two low whistles and could not play them. You have to see the look of satisfaction when someone with very small hands and reach plays that big low whistle for the first time.

“There are so many keys, how do I pick out a whistle to start?” I had been discussing the same subject with a friend the night before and this is the conclusion that we had come to. High keys and small size are the only whistles for jigs and really fast music. That’s the reason that Irish music is almost always written in the key of D. It stands to reason that a large low whistle is going to play slower and is more suitable for ballads and waltzes etc. If you are not going to play Irish or fast
music and instead wish to play Traditional, Country and Western, John Denver, Blues, Ragtime (you get the idea!) then start out on a Low G or even a Low D and play away. A man that is almost seven foot tall is going to dislike playing a tiny little whistle with his fingers jammed together. There is no reason not to start out playing a whistle that fits your style and taste in music.

“Your whistles have no metal, wood or glue in the mouthpiece and most have none of those materials in the entire whistle, How come? Well, I am very leery of wooden plugs in the mouthpiece of a whistle , because many types of wood are toxic. A lot of people are allergic to walnuts for instance, and any contact with walnut oil or the nut itself can cause an extreme allergic reaction that can be fatal. Many exotic woods like coca bola and teak, that are fine for furniture, should not be put in your
mouth. A lot of whistle players chew on the mouthpiece and I heartily recommend not doing that for health reasons. Ten years ago I got an incredible reaction to a piece of butternut wood doing a small furniture project and almost ended up in the hospital. There is no reason to use treated woods in a whistle other than aesthetics as it has absolutely no bearing on the sound of the whistle at all.

If you chew on a mouthpiece made of preserved wood or wear it down and expose particles of wood, you are going to be open to an allergic reaction or worse. Wood is treated with plastic to make it machinable, wear resistant, and water prooft. It is basically a process to preserve wood that is unique in appearance to be made into writing pens and novelties on a wood lathe and not produced specifically for whistles. One of the most prized woods for pens is spalted wood. Spalting is caused by decay and mold
in the wood and is not recommended by anyone for consumption or contact in your mouth or digestive system.

Likewise metal residue in a whistle is harmful and chewing on a metal mouthpiece will absolutely ruin your tooth enamel over a short period of time. I do use a copper connector in a couple of models of whistles as slides, but you are not in contact with those in any manner because the slide is inside the body of the whistle and not in your mouth or hands.

“I know there is a good answer for this , but why do you use the Bristol white and tan kind of pipe in these whistles” There a several reasons, the first being that the material is a very high tech material and the quality control for this type of pipe is very good. It is made to carry both hot and cold potable(drinking) water and is extremely strong. It has a wonderful finish right from the factory and the inside bore is better than anything you would ever bore out of solid rod or wood. It has
properties like stretch, memory, and elastisity that can be used to good advantage in making whistles. It machines with regular wood working tools like bandsaws, routers, drills, and shaping machinery and there is practically no dust residue in the workplace. Because this type of plastic material is heavy, it does not float in the air like wood dust and can be collected on a static metal plate instead of off the floor. I make all the parts for the whistles and flutes from four sizes of piping and I don’t buy
any connectors from a supplier. As long as I have pipe in my inventory I will never run out of the pieces to produce or repair any model whistle I have or will make in the future. A whistle made from this type pipe is virtually unbreakable, plays outdoors when a metal instrument would freeze up, and contrary to some published information, always stays very white. Those people that would try to convince you that it ages and looks like old ivory after a period of time… just have a dirty whistle that needs a good
washing. I have used Bristol pipe for stakes outdoors in my garden that have been there for six or seven years and they are still bright white so that should be proof of the finish on the material.

“What kind of warranty do you give for your whistles?” I personally, don’t think a warranty is any good at all if you cannot talk to the person who is going to fix your problem and explain what you need. I am not a vendor, a distributor or even a good salesman. I listen well and it is my pleasure to make a customer happy. When someone takes the time to call or e-mail it means they have enough interest to spend a bit of time and get a proper answer to their inquiry. All the instruments that are
presently available and including future designs will be modular. Every instrument can be easily repaired, updated, and refurbished to brand new condition. I can send a replacement piece for your whistle or flute to correct any problem you might have on the same day you call. I’m never out of parts and it pays to check on updates available for a specific model and key of whistle(like a new style mouthpiece), because I will always be making changes to improve either the instruments or they way they are constructed.
If anyone has a damaged whistle, they need only to send it with round trip postage and I will refurbish it, check the tuning and replace parts if needed for as long as they own the whistle. There is a $10. flat charge to make the whistle like new.There is a restock charge of 25% on custom made whistles and flutes and returns are limited to seven days. Return shipping is the responsibility of the buyer.