Introducing the Toob

So I’ve been working on a project to create a chromatic whistle for roughly six years.  It’s a typically long and protracted process for designing a musical instrument, but like so many of the things I’ve been involved with in the last few years, it might be taking longer than expected but it is actually turning out better than expected.  The instrument, which is likely to be called a ‘Toob’, is based on a new key system which leaves the initial tone hole layout and architecture of the whistle in tact – making it easy for musicians to adopt.  At the moment, it exists as a working prototype (it works, but it looks rubbish!), but there are still a few challenges to be faced in terms of the making and refinement.

Until now I’ve kept the design ‘under my hat’ so-to-speak – this is certainly the ‘traditional’ way of approaching innovation – show somebody your ideas and they will steal them!  But watching the effect that several big companies with this approach are having, and the recent emergence of collaborative working methods like open source, has caused me to think that there’s a huge amount to be gained from throwing the gates open, documenting our progress, and inviting feedback – so we can harness the expertise of the music community to make the best possible musical instrument we can.  It’s an approach which will stand in complete contrast to the ‘romantic’ vision of a instrument maker, shut away, tirelessly working to perfect ‘their’ masterpiece.

In addition to myself, designer Brian Loudon (Loud1design) will be collaborating on the project.  It offers the opportunity for anyone to get involved with the design and testing of a next generation musical instrument.  I for one am excited by what we might come up with.

10 Responses to “Introducing the Toob”
  1. Jan

    hey Misha

    Glad you’re pursuing a “dream” 🙂 Making a chromatic whistle. But aren’t you reinventing the wheel, as recorders have all kinds of designs with keys already, so the knowledge sure is out there?

    No idea, and maybe metal is a completely different ballgame…

    Anyway, good luck mate!

    Jan 🙂

  2. 07.16.2010

    Hi Jan!

    Good to hear from you. Yes undoubtedly there are lots of ideas out there. We’ve been looking through music instrument museums, from Oxford to Berlin to Washington, and we’ll be posting some of our findings on the blog in coming weeks. Some of these ideas have stuck and some haven’t – obviously the thing is to adopt the best of them. In any case we have completely different tools available to us now than they did then. Processes like Rapid Prototyping, Laser Cutting, cnc machining etc etc weren’t available to the 19th century recorder makers but, even so, the new ideas came about as a result of the new technologies available to them.


  3. Jan

    Your completely on top of it!! Great! Good to see such passion.

    Take care


  4. Jay

    Hi Misha. Very exciting to see a quality maker like you working on this. One thing that might be nice if it is practicable would be to have this available as an alternative “tube” to use with one of your existing mouthpieces, for those of us who already own one of your fine whistles. Maybe that would permit a slightly lower price, and hence more availability (in this economy…)
    Personally, as a whistle lover and former Boehm flutist, I can’t wait to try one!

  5. Carlos

    Misha, You’re just amazing. Here you already have an incrediable instrument and now you’re thinking of something better. And when most whistle makers have a design that works for them and they stick to that design for decades. I hope it works for you because you deserve it. Carlos

  6. 07.20.2010

    This looks amazing! I’m primarily a sax player, and this would be a great instrument to play with.

    Brilliant-looking design! I’d love to try one!

    Will they be available in different sizes? Hope so!

    Thanks so much for sharing!


  7. Kieron Concannon

    Hi Misha
    I think the idea of a chromatic whistle is great. Something I’ve been looking for, for a number of years.
    A couple of years ago I saw that Susato featured a ‘very simple lever key’ on a Low D to facilitate those who found it a ‘bit of a stretch’ to cover the last hole – I had wondered whether this design could be used for a chromatic whistle?
    Another thing. I worked on a “protoptype floating head” for low whistles a couple of years ago [this is posh language for bodging up a bit of plumbing tube over the whistle head in my shed btw]. I was working with some Indian musicians and wanted ‘bendability of some semitones’. The principle was very simple. I placed a plastic sleeve over the whistle head [held in place with very light rubber bands]. The plastic sleeve had a ‘raised flat plate’ on the end closest to the players lips. With a slight “push down” of the lip on the plate, the plastic sleeve travelled over the first part of the wind way…which of course would lower the pitch. Sadly, I never had the time to take it any further and actually wasn’t convinced that this was the answer. Its principle attraction being that it was a “one stop shop” solution i.e. one simple fitting that might give all the semitones required with the “bendability factor” I was looking for.
    Anyway, thats my twopenneth.
    Good luck and here’s hoping you’ll be in production soon
    Best regards
    Kieron Concannon

  8. 07.25.2010

    @Jay – it’s certainly a possibility to have one head for both a standard MK and a Toob body. One problem we’d have to overcome is that the tuning slides are matched for each other at the moment. It might however be possible to get round this by sending us the head and then we match the toob tuning slide to this. Perhaps something to think about further into the process…

    @Carlos – thanks very much for the comments. Hopefully we can create something that lives up to the billing!

    @Todd – thanks for the positive comments. I’ve played a bit of sax from time to time (when the neighbours allow it!) so we share similar interests. I’m very much hoping we can take the design forward into different keys (I’d love to see a F or G MK Toob at some point in the future).

    @Kieron – very interesting thoughts about being able to ‘slide’ notes. It’s almost borrowing some characteristics from a trombone or even a whammy bar on an electric guitar in a looser sense. I haven’t as yet had a chance to try out any ideas – certainly a line with lots of potential though…

  9. Wilhelm Matthies

    I would love to see and hear a chromatic whistle.
    I would ask that it could allow for subtle, smooth shifting of pitch. A mouthpiece that could allow for variance between clarity and rough breathiness.
    You may want even to look into the possibility of using a Shakalute mouthpiece on your Toob body
    (look up Shakalute and, allows for pitch variance on the mouthpiece as with a shakahuchie.
    I would encourage the possibility of interchangeable fipples such as using the Shalute, or for people to use existing detachable ones.
    I applaud your attempt at creating a new whistle

  1. [...] Toob has been testing both Brian and myself recently.  There have been sporadic bursts of promise that ...

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