Silkstone Whistles are hand crafted with loving care by me, Paul Hayward, at my workshop in Silkstone Common, Yorkshire, England.
I have tried to produce whistles that not only sound good but are also easy to play. In my view, the great thing about the whistle is that you should be able to concentrate on playing the music rather than playing the instrument. If you want something that's a real challenge to get a note out of, there are plenty of other musical instruments to choose from. A few of them are even as versatile as a whistle.
One of beauties of whistles is that they open up music to people who enjoy playing but don't want to pay lots of money for an instrument, and then spend years learning to play it properly. With a moderate amount of practice and dedication, most people can make good music on a whistle, and some can sound terrific!
The virtues of the whistle as a bona fide musical instrument have become more widely recognised in the wake of Titanic and Riverdance, once people realised that the haunting, ethereal music was produced by a whistle rather than a flute. The whistle is not a cheap substitute for conventional orchestral instruments. It has a sound all of its own, and can do things that nothing else can.
As you can see from the photo, I collect whistles and flutes as well as making them. In fact I have 'Whistle Obsessive Acquisition Disorder' (WhOA) quite badly. (For more on this, and possible remedies, see the Chiff & Fipple website listed below under 'Where to Go for More'.)
Many of my whistles are made from uPVC, a safe, durable material with no real vices. The PVC is certified for use in contact with drinking water, and the paint is safe for use on children's toys. The fipple plug in the end of the mouthpiece is turned from a material used to make food processing equipment. This means that, if frustration sets in really badly, you can chew the instrument with little fear of poisoning yourself.
For those who prefer a metal whistle, I make tuneable Soprano-D and C whistles in aluminium alloy, and also an alloy Low-D. Most of my soprano whistles are relatively loud, which is fine if you get on with the neighbours and don't work shifts. For those who prefer something quieter, I can now offer a narrow-bore version of the tuneable alloy soprano-D whistle.
One problem with metal is that it tends to attract condensation, especially when cold, so the windway blocks and the tone suffers. This has been overcome by using an acetal fipple plug and a PVC or acetal mouthpiece top, so Silkstone alloy whistles are no more prone to windway blockage than plastic ones. Chewing them is not recommended, unless you're on very good terms with your dentist.
The 'Ace' whistles are made from acetal co-polymer, and have the general appearance and characteristics of a blackwood whistle but without the maintenance problems.
The windway of all Silkstone whistles is curved to discourage the build-up of moisture. Except on the Low-D, the windway tapers in height towards the blade, which produces a sweeter upper register. (Perversely, the Low-D sounds better with a parallel windway.)
Since PVC, aluminium and acetal are not on the endangered list, and also need little or no maintenance, I am happier using these materials rather than the rare, non-renewable hardwoods sometimes favoured for wind instruments.
Because they are hand made, no two whistles are exactly the same. All PVC Silkstone whistles are individually initialled and numbered on the back. Since my engraving skills are less than perfect, alloy whistles are numbered with a label.
All whistles are supplied with a Certificate giving the whistle number and the date. I keep a record of every whistle I make, and am delighted to hear how customers are getting on with them. (So far, so good...)
Soprano-D is the most popular pitch of whistle for traditional Irish music in the keys of D and G. I also make PVC soprano-C and B-flat whistles. The soprano PVC whistles are now available in tuneable and non-tuneable versions. There is also a tuneable Low-A PVC whistle, which I intend to follow with a similar design in G.
An addition to the low whistle range is a tuneable PVC Low-D. The tuning slide is incorporated into the wall thickness of the tube, rather than having an external sleeve like the others. The PVC low-Ds have a similar sound to the alloy ones, but perhaps a little 'softer'.
There are two standard colours for the PVC whistles - metallic British Racing Green, and pearlescent red. The BRG has the more 'metallic' appearance - the pearlescent effect of the red is quite subtle. The whistles have three coats of paint, followed by two coats of clear lacquer, giving a gloss finish. Please state your colour preference when ordering.
The alloy whistles have a 'brushed' finish, but are not coated with anything because I was worried about a lacquer wearing or chipping off, which would leave the whistle looking a mess. Suggestions for maintaining the finish, or not as you choose, are given below.
Alloy whistles are currently available in soprano-D, soprano D-Plus (see below for an explanation), soprano-C and Low-D. I can also make a narrow-bore sop-D for those wanting a quiet whistle.
Please note that whistles with an external tuning sleeve are tuneable mainly downwards - i.e. you can flatten the pitch, but not sharpen it much. The idea of the 'tuneability' is simply so you can compensate for any slight sharpening of the pitch as the whistle warms up (or if you live somewhere warmer than Yorkshire - Alaska, for instance).
One final caveat - some customers have reported that the sop-D whistles can misbehave at the top end (top C and C#) if you're in the habit of leaving your finger over the bottom hole (hole #6). There is no problem if you use the recommended (standard) whistle fingering, but it's something to bear in mind if old habits die hard.
D-Plus Seven-Hole Whistles
The alloy soprano D-Plus has a longer barrel than a standard D, and a seventh hole for the fourth finger of your right hand. If you ignore the extra hole, it plays exactly like a standard D whistle. However, covering the hole extends the range down to C-natural in both registers. It is quite easy to half-hole for C#.
The bottom hole is offset slightly to suit average-sized hands. This is bound to be something of a compromise, but after extensive market research (myself and Sue) I reckon that the offset should be OK for most people. It can easily be altered on request. You may find the hole a bit of a stretch if you have very small hands - it has to be fairly low down the whistle to avoid weakening the bottom D.
I've played the D-Plus whistle quite a lot recently and cannot see any drawback compared with a standard D whistle, and it is useful to have the extended range. It is also easier to perform ornamentation between the second register D and C/C#, since there is no need to go from one register to another.
Silkstone 'Ace' whistles are bored and turned from solid acetal copolymer, and are fitted with alloy rings and a thin-walled brass tuning slide. Acetal is an extremely stable and durable polymer which, I humbly suggest, offers the benefits of exotic hardwoods but without the drawbacks.
The one pictured is a soprano D-Plus version - see above for an explanation of this 7-hole version. The D-Plus is in four sections, so you can rotate the bottom section with the seventh hole to suit your right-hand little finger. There is also a standard soprano-D version which is in three sections. The Ace whistles have a brass tuning slide which runs in a machined acetal socket - I think this is better than brass-on-brass which can easily seize up.
The sound quality is similar to my other whistles - moderately loud, and quite sweet and pure in the upper register. Compared with the PVC and alloy whistles, the sound is, dare I say, a little 'woodier'.
I know that some people feel strongly that nothing can substitute for blackwood, boxwood or other rare timbers, but personally I beg to differ. I suspect that if I made a blackwood whistle to exactly the same design, it would be virtually impossible to tell the difference in sound quality - and if there were any slight differences, opinions would vary on which was 'better'.
Anyway, the advantages of acetal are that it can be washed, played in a thunderstorm (if you really want), it does not need drying out after use, it requires no oiling or maintenance, it is temperature-stable and it will not crack or split due to changes in humidity. I won't say it's indestructible because if you hit it hard enough it is bound to break, but hopefully people won't do this.
Unfortunately the Ace whistles take a long time to make, and are therefore expensive. But they are beautiful!
These are a new addition (see announcement near top of page), and for the moment are available in PVC in the keys of D, C and G.
The following is the suggested fingering for the Soprano-D whistles:-
Notes above D" can be reached by determined over-blowing, but may attract complaints from animal welfare organisations.
Where alternative fingerings are given, it is up to you which you use. There is no 'correct' way, and there are undoubtedly other variations which are not shown. Experiment and do what suits you best - that's what the whistle's all about.
Incidentally, as the whistle warms up the pitch will sharpen slightly. This is normal, and stems from the fact that air velocity increases with temperature. Non-tuneable whistles are tuned to be a few cents flat when cold, so should be in pitch when you've played for a few minutes.
Prices within the European Union
[Top of Page]