Sliders are for Everyone!

slide flute2.6-tbn.jpgIf you have read the article on Kevin’s Whistle you will remember I have been working on a slide whistle for my nephew Kevin for a three year period of time. This is not only an excellent instrument for folks with missing and broken fingers and limbs, arthiritis, and disabilities, but an instrument that is enjoyable for a variety of musical applications. Most people relagate the slide whistle to a novelty sound effects instrument, but the “Slider” has a long history of musical applications and many compositions have been written for slide whistle.

After playing the prototype whistle for an extended period it became apparent that a flute version would be more appropriate for most applications. The flute is a bit more mellow, has more horizontal length for the attachment of clips and attachment devices, and is easier to hear over other instruments. A snap on clip is available for the whistle that allows you to rivit the clip to a velcro watch band. This allows you to place the whistle on you wrist if necessary to play the instrument. The clip can be modified to attach to a variety of appliances and head braces (harmonica brace works well) for playing using one hand.

Making the original Kevin’s Whistle pointed in the direction of certain musical areas that everyone is familiar with. Hawaiian music, steel guitar arrangements, Traditional and Folk Songs and Country and Western music are easily played.

Finding the highest note in a song and using your thumb as a marker appears to be the key to playing a song quickly. Most people with no experience could play a tune that they could hum outloud in a few minutes. Players that played other instruments, especially wind instruments had no trouble in playing more complex music after a short practice. Most beginning players want to play everything as a slide, but as soon as they discover individual notes are easily played, they begin to make quick progress with figuring out the slide positions. The slide has a good feel in the hand if held between the right thumb and forefinger and moved like a violin bow.

The more you play, the easier the Slide Flute plays. A breakin period of about an hour is required to make everything slide smoothly and there are no problems with jamming of the slide. The poly plug on the slide is very durable, easily replaced if ever necessary and does not absorb moisture so the flute works with no maintenance and comes completely apart for cleaning.

I have modified the mouthpiece slide on the automatic flute design to make it easier to blow and give the flute increased sound and volume. Next, I replaced the original plunger shaft with a fiberglass rod to give more weight and feel to the instrument (just like the bow on a violin). A pin on the end of the plunger was cut to to go completely through the poly plug seal and make it easily replaceable if necessary.

A new version of the Whistlesmith logo with the wording “Slide Flute” underneath has been designed for the instrument. Initially, the instrument will come only in basic black, using the white and natural tan of the body material as accent colors. The white fiberglass rod can be dotted with a marker to show note positions if the player finds it useful and the marks can be removed easily with alcohol if necessary.
pPlayers will find the Slide Flute to be a fun instrument that has a mellow, pleasant sound and can be played with a variety of other instruments. Children can do sound effects with the whistle right out of the box and of course, the second octave is handy for birdcall enthusiasts.