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PostPosted: Sun Apr 19, 2020 1:39 pm 
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Can anyone explain to me why the cost appears so high on a well made wood/brass(High D whistle) or other metal whistle? Any recommendations on a good High D ?


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PostPosted: Sun Apr 19, 2020 2:41 pm 
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To your first question:
1) Higher costs for whistles will usually reflect the effort of the custom hand work by the maker, in custom designing and making the mouthpiece, tuning slide and tube, the three main parts of the whistle.
2) As well, and thankfully, in most (if not all) of the makers of high D whistles costing more than about $30, the level of quality control coming out of the tool shed, is very high. The time taken for careful application of tools and testing to make a precise mouthpiece is critical for each whistle to play the way it's intended. Somebody has to spend time doing that. The tubes have to be precisely cut, the fingerholes precise, everything smoothed and cleaned. Some whistles will be made from a very standard size of pipe, but many makers resize the tubes according to what key the whistle is in, and that takes time and effort for precision and quality control. Out of that jumbled equation comes something called "REPUTATION" for quality consistency and customer service, and if the quality control is high, the level of after-sales customer service can radically drop for not being a need!
3) There are other cost considerations, local to the maker, such as variable materials costs they don't want to have to worry about varying in their product cost all the time, cost of living they must consider, costs of production (employees, tools, land lease, upgrades) and profit is needed in some degree, to build enough in the bank to pay for tool replacements, upgrades and R&D on whistle making ideas. You'll notice that the top whistle makers tend to keep upgrading their designs and are regularly reviewed. At some point the maker arrives at a price that allows them to manufacture with confidence and continuity while still keeping the price reasonable. If the price is unreasonably high, barter with them. Haggle. That's your right to press them on the issue.

To your second question:
1) Impossible, really. If you want a quality whistle and your price range is minimum $25, there are 100 options (?), with so many tonal and responsiveness differences, you have to know what your individual preferences are. For sessions? Only recording? Practicing only? Sweet voiced or very powerful? Deep rich tone? High chirpy tone? Takes a lot of air or just a little? I can't recommend a high D with all those unknowns, so I can only say I've seen reviews and playing of these more than acceptable whistles: Killarney, Tony Dixon, Goldfinch, Alba, Goldie, Burke, a used Chieftain Thunderbird (Kerry isn't producing high D whistles at the moment), the Walton Little Black D or Guinness model, the Mellow D whistle, Reyburn, Hermit Hill, Milligan, McManus, Humphrey, Feadog Pro, Syn, Setanta, Oak, Oz, Chris Wall, Parks, Tilbury, Timothy Potter, Elf Song, Thornton. Personally I don't like the conical whistles by Clarke or Shaw but that's just me. The Clarke Sweet Tone model sells well enough near the bottom of the price range and has a well-designed mouthpiece. Also check out the high D whistle by Eric The Flutemaker, which has very good design and quality control from Eric is his calling card.


Last edited by RoberTunes on Sun Apr 19, 2020 6:13 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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PostPosted: Sun Apr 19, 2020 3:14 pm 
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i agree with RoberTunes' post. You'd think these things would be simple. But they aren't. Whistles that are made wholey by machine will be the least expensive, but may or may not be satisfying in the long run. Tweaking these less expensive whistles yourself or having it done for you will improve them a bit. But what you are paying for when you get a hand made whistle is the time and the skill of the maker to not only churn out something that looks like a whistle, but fine tune it to their satisfaction. The voicing and tuning of an instrument is the alchemy here.


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PostPosted: Sun Apr 19, 2020 9:29 pm 
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The Wood vs metal question also has a materials component. Quality wood suitable for whistle building is fairly costly. And, requires seasoning and a selection process that finds some wood cuts have defects, knots, or grain issues forcing the builder to abandon a purchased piece of wood. Wooden whistles may develop issues later (cracks or checking) which may require attention or repair--the builder most add the possibility of a future repair to the cost. Wood is also a tab bit finicky to work with when compared to metal. Consider that a metal whistle builder buys tubing, with the bore already present. Wood needs to be drilled and reamed, a process that occasionally leaves the builder with an unusable piece of expensive wood. All of this adds to the cost of a wooden whistle.

A quality wooden instrument is a joy to play and can be a real treasure.

Realize, that the tonal qualities differ greatly between most wooden whistles and common metal tubed whistles. Both are beautiful to the ear and fun to play, but, they can be very different in the sound they create.


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PostPosted: Mon Apr 20, 2020 3:09 am 
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I think the cost factor has been explained well enough in the above posts.
What you are looking for in your whistle will determine which you choose.
Some that I have are better than others, but my present favourite is a Tony Dixon tunable aluminium.

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PostPosted: Mon Apr 20, 2020 7:59 am 
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busterbill wrote:
i agree with RoberTunes' post. You'd think these things would be simple. But they aren't. Whistles that are made wholey by machine will be the least expensive, but may or may not be satisfying in the long run. Tweaking these less expensive whistles yourself or having it done for you will improve them a bit. But what you are paying for when you get a hand made whistle is the time and the skill of the maker to not only churn out something that looks like a whistle, but fine tune it to their satisfaction. The voicing and tuning of an instrument is the alchemy here.


Yes I agree with both of you busterbill. Rober Tunes is also correct. I have tried to alter a few and it has been disasterous. I am just trying adjust my spending and when I saw $185 for one of these it just caught me off guard. Thanks for the input.


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PostPosted: Mon Apr 20, 2020 4:50 pm 
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Just a few more thoughts from someone who has made a few whistles (not from wood though):
Even with some experience, I still need one or two hours making a whistle. And sometimes I just mess up and the whistle will never play properly (when for instance making a mistake while drilling the holes or making the mouthpiece). And considering the rule of thumb (at least in Germany) that you have to make about 40€ an hour when self-employed or you won't be self-employed for long (it's not sustainable when earning less) -- a hand-made whistle at around 100€ would still be cheap. And I work with aluminium, so I basically drill holes and cut a few tubes (and do the finish, which takes almost a half hour in itself).
Add to that the manufacturing of a wooden tube (plus seasoning the wood) -- you still won't get rich when charging about 200-250€ for a wooden whistle.
I made two whistles from stainless steel and that is so hard that cutting the windway took about a half hour. That might be the reason that you don't see many steel whistles out there. They would just be too expensive.


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PostPosted: Mon Apr 20, 2020 5:26 pm 
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scottie wrote:
Can anyone explain to me why the cost appears so high on a well made wood/brass High D whistle?


"Well made" suggests time that a craftsman has put into the making, and the specification of "wood" suggests the expensive and rare types of exotic hardwood I see people use like African Blackwood and Ebony. Those parameters suggest, indeed, an expensive whistle.

scottie wrote:
...or other metal whistle?


That's pretty open-ended, I'm not sure what you mean exactly. Clarke is a metal whistle that costs a few dollars. Killarney is a metal whistle that costs under $100. Indeed there are other metal High D whistles that cost in the hundreds of dollars.

scottie wrote:
Any recommendations on a good High D ?


Naturally it depends on your definition of "good". You appear to be focusing on expensive handcrafted wood whistles.

I define "good" not by price or building-time or materials but by musical performance.

The finest High D whistles I've ever played have been vintage Generations and Feadogs, costing around $10. I've yet to play an expensive silver-and-ebony whistle that I thought was a decent player.

Now with Low D whistles it's a different story, in that the finest ones I've played indeed cost around $300-$350. They're made out of aluminium. As with High D whistles, I've yet to play a wooden Low D that I thought was a good player.

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1945 Starck Highland pipes
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PostPosted: Mon Apr 20, 2020 6:30 pm 
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I like some of the cheaper whistles I own quite a lot. Two of my sweetest playing D whistles are Generations. A vintage one from the 80s that I got for 50 cent at a flea market and a modern day one that did cost 10€. There was an interesting thread on FB the other day where Jerry Freeman explained the differences in the modern ones which come from 4 different molds. Some are better, some are not so good. I got one of the good ones through a happy accident. And my modern day Generation in C is as good as my old one (which wasn't vintage, when I got it BTW -- the Generation C was the very first whistle I got when I was 12). But some of the Feadógs, especially the "pro" version, are also very nice players. The Feadóg C is also nice. And the Oak and Acorn I have (no idea which company actually makes those btw) are quite good, too.
That being said. Some of my best whistles are quite expensive. Like two Carbony whistles (one I got used for a very good price however) -- the "quiet" model and the "lead tone" session model (which really does not play like a normal "session" whistle at all). But what I like about those is that they more or less play like a good traditional (cheap) whistle but with flawless (equal temp.) tuning (and perfectly in tune cross fingered C nat with oxxooo) and superior material.
Besides, compared to other instruments, whistles are cheap, even a Goldie for 300 bucks. I used to play guitar (mostly electric) and the amplifier alone set me back 1,000 DM (that was before the Euro, would be around 500€ now, I guess). And even a medium quality acoustic guitar is way more expensive than an expensive whistle. Granted, they are also more complicated to make by hand. I wouldn't even know how much a good hand-made guitar would cost nowadays. Back in the day, my dad paid 1,000 DM for his "Oetter" guitar, I think. Still going strong btw.
I made an experiment and tried to replicate the typical Generation sound on a Bb whistle, I made myself. And I think I pretty much succeeded. I couldn't tell them apart, if I just listened to them on a recording. I simply copied the window size and windway length and roughly the geometry of the labium, the tube diameter was also roughly the same. So basically, a whistle maker could easily make a whistle from more expensive materials that plays more or less with the same sound but improved playing characteristics of a good "traditional" (plastic head and brass tube) whistle. I dare say, the one I made myself plays better, with less tendency to break notes, which even the good Generations have to a certain extent. It seems to me there are just not many makers, who try to make a whistle like that. With maybe some exceptions like Sindt or Gary Humphrey. Or David O'Brien, who made a whistle set with C/D brass bodies and one head, I think made from delrin but I'm not sure. An excellent player. I don't know, if he makes those anymore however.


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PostPosted: Mon Apr 20, 2020 7:09 pm 
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I am beginning to think (after playing whistle for a long time) that maybe whistle satisfaction is mostly the result of picking one and sticking with it long enough to understand its quirks and how it plays. My wife has purchased any number of (high D) whistles for me as gifts, from some well-known names; O'Brien, Schultz, and many others that I can't remember. There has not been a single one that I like better than the Generations I bought in the 1970's off the shelf, without trying them first. It's possible that I was extraordinarily fortunate in all the ones I bought, but seems more likely that I have played them long enough that I am very comfortable with them and know how to get the sounds and pitches that I want from them, the other side of the coin being that I haven't spent enough time with my gifted whistles to appreciate them fully.

I am teaching one of my grandsons to play now. I bought him a new Generation D, sight-unseen off of the internet. Sure enough, it plays just fine (to me), if maybe with not quite the sweetness of my favorite 1976 one - but it will serve him perfectly well until he gets a lot better, maybe even forever, after he gets used to it.

So that's my advice to Scottie - pick any modestly-priced high D and practice, practice, practice until you know it well. If you are having problems making good sounds from it, get a lesson or at least have an experienced player play it.

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PostPosted: Mon Apr 20, 2020 10:24 pm 
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It is true for me, that whistles I struggled with and gave up on as poor instruments in the begging of my journey, now seem to play much better, with years of practice and playing behind me.


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PostPosted: Tue Apr 21, 2020 3:01 am 
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Some of the cheap whistles I have, still suck. No matter how long I play. Starting on one of those can end a musical journey very quickly.


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PostPosted: Tue Apr 21, 2020 4:28 am 
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Quote:
Some of the cheap whistles I have, still suck. No matter how long I play. Starting on one of those can end a musical journey very quickly.


The same can easily be said about some of the designer type whistles I have come across over the years. Abominable doesn't begin to describe it. And that at twenty to forty times the price of one of the cheap ones.

Problem with a lot of whistles is, it's not really fully predictable what you'll be getting when you buy blind, even from one whistle to the next made by the same maker (although in fairness, some makers are fairly consistent). You need to assess each whistle individually. Price is no guarantee of anything.

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PostPosted: Tue Apr 21, 2020 7:26 am 
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"Designer whistles" that's a good name. I call them "boutique whistles". Either way, they seem to be aimed at buyers interested in exotic materials and handcrafted appearance.

For sure I'm not anti-wood! With my Highland pipes and Irish-style flutes I prefer wood both because polypenco is heavy and retains moisture. I was spoiled by the wonderfully lightweight boxwood flute I played for many years, and the lightweight set of vintage Highland pipes I played (the TARDIS pipes).

But with Low Whistles I've just not come across a wood one that I think plays as well as the best alloy ones, and with High Whistles I've not come across a wood one that plays as well as the cheap plastic-top brass-tubing ones.

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1945 Starck Highland pipes
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PostPosted: Tue Apr 21, 2020 8:07 am 
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I agree to what Mr.Gumby wrote. And it is definitely quit a bit more annoying to spend a lot of money and then be disappointed when the whistle arrives. I think it is quite strange however that there seem to be makers out there selling whistles for a lot of money that don't even play as good as a 10€ Generation. Why make whistles then in the 1st place? Can't say I came across one of those however. The more expensive ones I have are Carbony (great) a whistle from Chuck Tilbury (also very good), my David O'Brien set was used and not that expensive and is also very nice. The Carbony "quiet" model wasn't love at first sight as it needs just as much breath control as a Generation or Feadóg but after a few days I did like it quite a bit. Also, my Parks "Ghost" is excellent. So for me most buys were no disappointment at all. And interestingly enough -- some whistles I tested in the store sounded much different back home. I tried the "Session Killer" Thunderbird "mezzo" D in the store and it sounded fine (loud yes, but not deafening), so I bought it -- it was much louder when I played it in my living room (smaller than the store of course). But it is just fine in a small concert hall with some amplified singers and an accordion. Not a really good practice whistle however.
I never tried any wooden whistles and some people don't seem to like the "session" whistles in general. And it seems to me, many expensive (wooden) whistles are of the "session" type with a loud and stiff 2nd octave.


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