The Questions People Ask a Whistlemaker
Misha Somerville answers questions often asked about an unusual and incredible profession.
Some simple procedures can help keep your mk whistle playing well:
Generally whistles are one of the most robust musical instruments in existence. If you were going to be stuck on a desert island the instrument you would want to have is a whistle! The strings on a guitar or violin would snap, the reed and pads on a saxophone or clarinet would perish and a piano would eventually seize up! Whistles are instruments that can withstand the tundra, desert and rainforest as well as a fierce pub session. This all being said, some basic care goes a long way...
Lubricating the tuning slide is perhaps the most important part of looking after a tunable whistle. For this, we'd recommend tuning slide or cork grease, which are readily available online or in music shops. If you have any trouble getting a hold of some, please contact us.
Keeping tunable whistles together protects the slide instrument and prevents the brass tuning slide from distorting if one piece is dropped. It is also possible to store the instrument in two parts, being careful not to drop it (maybe you will be able to tell how realistic this is!).
Our tuning slides on Bass C, Low D, Eb, E, F, F# and G are made of brass. It's a good idea to apply some cork grease every so often to the slide to keep it sliding smoothly (check online or at your local band instrument supplies shop for cork grease). Please check the blog for info relating to unsticking a seized tuning slide or feel free to get in touch.
Our tuning slides on A and above use hemp. The hemp can be rewound or replaced to adjust the tension of the slide.
It is amazingly easy to forget to clean a whistle and then wonder why it's not sounding quite right. After playing, there is always condensed moisture in the bore and airway of the whistle. If left, this inevitably leaves a residue that eventually affects the playing qualities of the instrument. By far the best way to clean the bore is with a cleaning mop. Cleaning mops for woodwind instruments are often available at music shops. We also offer a modular cleaning mop, made specifically for this purpose. This features a modular/extendable handle suitable for tunable and non-tunable whistles of different keys.
The airway should also be cleaned periodically, dependant on how often you play it. You can do this either by pushing folded newspaper through it after having played the whistle for a spell, or we also offer tapered felt pull-throughs as part of our cleaning kit which are designed specifically for this purpose. Cleaning the airway can give the instrument a new lease of life.
The outside of the instrument can be cleaned with a cloth or tissue and some meths or alcohol-based cleaner. Our cleaning kit includes 'Wistol' a cleaning and sterilising solution made especially for this. It's best to avoid using household chemical cleaners.