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 Post subject: Do whistles wear out?
PostPosted: Tue May 14, 2019 9:54 am 
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A fellow player mentioned to me the other day that they find whistles wear out after a few years and don't sounds as sharp. Has anyone experienced that? I've only been at it for a few years. So perhaps I just haven't played enough tunes yet. But it doesn't make sense to me.

Sure, wood can eventually warp. And metal may rust. But whistles don't have moving parts. So assuming keep them clean, oiled and safe, I would guess they'd outlast us all.

Or am I missing something?


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PostPosted: Tue May 14, 2019 10:21 am 
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Good grief, what could they be doing to those whistles?!?

For the record, while I suspect it is possible for bits to wear out given enough time (not to mention cracks forming, etc), my main whistles are all at least 16 years old at this point and still play like they are new.

Edited to add: If you look at the picture in my avatar, that's me playing on my wedding day in 2004. (At least, I think that's when it's from?) That whistle was eight years old then (I was not its first owner). I played it in a session two days ago. Still a gem.

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PostPosted: Tue May 14, 2019 10:34 am 
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I have some whistles at least as old as Colomon's. I also have an O'Riordan set from 1987.
I'm sure there are people here with whistles that are even older.

They all play fine, and I haven't noticed any of them degrading. Though the O'Riordan is relatively new to me, it doesn't sound like it's worn out (see video) :D

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6FaYN15-AaY

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PostPosted: Tue May 14, 2019 10:40 am 
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You're blowing a stream of relatively high pressure, warm, wet air at a thin piece of wood. Of course wooden whistles will wear out, as it is also well known that wooden recorders will wear out, or get "tired".

I knew a recorder player who retired wooden instruments after a number of years (10 springs to mind), and they were very wary of second-hand softwood recorders, because they do wear out.

It's not an immediate concern think for most players. These recorders were very, very well played and others that she had lasted much longer.

For metal and plastic fipples (and labiums), I wouldn't expect a hard plastic or a metal labium to wear out in the same way. Obviously they could given time, but a hard plastic or metal is a very different proposition to wood.

btw, Iron rusts, metal whistles are generally made out of brass or aluminium, they don't rust and aluminium oxide is particularly stable.

So, playing a whistle for a couple of years will make it less "sharp"? I wouldn't have thought so. It's too generalised a comment, considering all the potential materials, and two years seems far too short a time-frame for a properly looked after wooden whistle.

Edited to add: Asking professional recorder players, or a recorder forum will probably get better answers.

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PostPosted: Tue May 14, 2019 11:19 am 
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I'm not sure you can really compare recorders and whistles.
Most recorders have blocks made of red cedar (specific gravity .32), which is known for its ability to absorb moisture, among other reasons. As anyone with an old original Clarke (which have a softwood block) can tell you, once a softwood expands and contracts enough from moisture respiration, it will change shape. All of my Clarke whistle blocks have gotten loose over time for that reason.

It's known that recorders will generally need to be re-voiced over time due to the block changing shape.
http://www.lazarsearlymusic.com/Recorde ... r_care.htm
"The second type of hoarseness results from swelling of the cedar block. This problem, indicated by a small, rolling sound, does not disappear with extended playing. Should this occur, the instrument must be returned for revoicing."
and
"It is possible for the instrument to need revoicing during the breaking in process, as the block swells and changes shape."

But whistles are a different animal. They're either plastic, metal or wood. The plastic and metal ones don't even bear discussing.

Wooden whistles are are generally made with hardwoods (with specific gravities between .65 and 1.1, for instance) that, when well maintained, will change considerably less than red cedar with the moisture of playing. And most whistles don't have have a wooden block at all, instead having a block of delrin, or some other relatively inert material.

I played a blackwood Abell for well over a decade. Being my primary instrument in my band, as well as twice-weekly sessions, I would consider it "well played." And it sounded as good the day I traded it as it did the day I bought it. I ended up trading it to a fellow bandmate for his delrin Abell, because I wanted a whistle I could play in the rain and not worry about--though I believe he got the better end of the bargain. It was a sweeter sounding whistle than the delrin version.

In fact, the only whistle I can think of that might 'wear out' over time would be a Clarke original, for the very reasons I stated above. Even Dave Shaw (which makes a similar style whistle) uses a hardwood block.

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PostPosted: Tue May 14, 2019 3:52 pm 
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I am still playing the same whistles I bought new in 1975. On my traveling whistle that I almost always carry with me, a piece on the edge of the plastic mouth piece cracked and finally fell off a few years ago. It still plays fine, just feels a little different in my lips now.

I have two Clarke Originals that are older than that by a few years; they still both play fine, though I don't play them near as much as my Generations.

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PostPosted: Tue May 14, 2019 5:05 pm 
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joeryan wrote:
A fellow player mentioned to me the other day that they find whistles wear out after a few years and don't sound as sharp. Has anyone experienced that?

What I've experienced is that I've worn out and am not anywhere near as sharp as when I bought my first whistles in the 1970s. Can't say that the whistles have changed much tho...

Best wishes.

Steve

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PostPosted: Tue May 14, 2019 6:38 pm 
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L. E. McCullough's favorite whistle Bluezette died at age 24, in 1999. Search for that name and his and you will get to the story. Also a casual cleaning works well normally, but after some time a fine mulm-like deposit is not removed by the casual cleaning and a more thorough (non-abrasive) can restore playability. That is my experience.


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PostPosted: Tue May 14, 2019 7:39 pm 
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One way whistles can wear out, literally, is around the finger holes. I've seen some (very) old brass whistles with kind of odd shaped finger holes. A combination of thin metal, skin oils and abrasion over a century or so of more or less constant use can cause a whistle to wear out that way.

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PostPosted: Thu May 16, 2019 8:47 am 
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I have my great-grandfather's whistle. He fought in the Boer War so the whistle is probably late 19th c.

I still play it.

I'm really hating photobucket, but there's a photo of it there:

https://s75.photobucket.com/user/bob864/media/Whistle/CopyofDSCN0872.jpg.html?sort=3&o=2


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PostPosted: Thu May 16, 2019 10:10 am 
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highland-piper wrote:
I have my great-grandfather's whistle. He fought in the Boer War so the whistle is probably late 19th c.

I still play it.

I'm really hating photobucket, but there's a photo of it there:

https://s75.photobucket.com/user/bob864/media/Whistle/CopyofDSCN0872.jpg.html?sort=3&o=2


Those old whistles often sound sweet. And you've got some history to go with!

What's the significance of the huge orange ribbon?

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PostPosted: Thu May 16, 2019 12:39 pm 
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I have a high G whistle from around 1900. Plays just fine.


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PostPosted: Fri May 17, 2019 9:15 am 
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whistlecollector wrote:

Those old whistles often sound sweet. And you've got some history to go with!

What's the significance of the huge orange ribbon?


When my Dad had the whistle he used it as a decoration in the house since he didn't play. My Great Grandfather was a protestant Irishman, so orange ribbon.

Several years ago I got the whistle and started using it as a whistle, so no more ribbon. It is very sweet and quiet. It takes so little air that I have to stop playing to exhale because my lungs have exhausted the oxygen...

The only problem with it is the fipple is lead. I put a piece of tape on it.


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PostPosted: Fri May 17, 2019 11:18 am 
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highland-piper wrote:
whistlecollector wrote:
What's the significance of the huge orange ribbon?


My Great Grandfather was a protestant Irishman, so orange ribbon.

The only problem with it is the fipple is lead. I put a piece of tape on it.


Ah, the Old Orange Flute...

I use a couple coats of clear nail polish on mine.

eskin wrote:
I have a high G whistle from around 1900. Plays just fine.


Indeed!

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PostPosted: Sun Jun 16, 2019 12:58 pm 
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Steve Bliven wrote:
joeryan wrote:
A fellow player mentioned to me the other day that they find whistles wear out after a few years and don't sound as sharp. Has anyone experienced that?

What I've experienced is that I've worn out and am not anywhere near as sharp as when I bought my first whistles in the 1970s. Can't say that the whistles have changed much tho...

Best wishes.

Steve


Amen, brother Steve!

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