Tin whistle clogging obnoxiously

Tin whistle clogging obnoxiously

I recently bought my second tin whistle, about two months ago. My first tin whistle that I’ve been playing for the past year is a Clarke D:

http://www.amazon.com/Clarke-CWD-Celtic-Tin-Whistle/dp/B0002I8Y6W/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1426692351&sr=8-1&keywords=tin+whistle+clarke+d

It’s cheap but wonderful, and over the course of the year I learned to play with pretty good tone quality even on higher notes. If it weren’t slightly flat and non-tuneable, I would still be playing it as my primary whistle now.

I then bought the Dixon Trad D in January as my next step up:
http://www.amazon.com/Tony-Dixon-Woodwind-DXTRAD-Traditional/dp/B000VPHC5U/ref=cm_cr_pr_product_top

However, I’ve really had a hard time warming up to it. The higher octave "squeaks" quite easily, particular notes have almost a metallic grating sound (particularly the E in the second octave), and it overall seems more sensitive to the amount of breath. Some issues are surely because I’m still getting used to the whistle, but others are not improving even with practice.

Most significantly, the upper octave kept "catching" and playing both octaves at the same time, if that makes sense. I finally figured out that I had to blow out the clogged spit in order to get back to a more clear sound.

Maybe I was a bit naive to not know to do this, but in an entire year of playing the Clarke D, I NEVER once had a condensation issue. With the new whistle, I have to clear out the mouth piece every two songs!! I tried the trick with the soap and it didn’t seem to change anything.

Perhaps my playing technique has an influence, but I can’t imagine it could be this extremely different than with the other whistle - my technique didn’t change! A fellow tin whistle sessioner has the exact same model and has not experienced these issues.

Is it just because "higher-quality" whistles are more finicky than cheap whistles? Seeing as my friend never experienced these condensation issues, did I get a defective product? Is it because I’m playing wrong? Do I just need to buy a better whistle?

(A lot of you will say yes to this last question… My idea was to buy the cheapest whistle as a beginner, a mid-range whistle now that I’m an intermediate player, and an even nicer one once I improve more. I wasn’t planning on buying multiple at this stage, though I would if need be…).

Overall I like the sound of the whistle - when it cooperates with me - and I find it to be more "mature" in tone than the cheap Clarke D. That said, the clogging issue alone makes me want to go back to my good old whistle, even if it’s flat. I’d like to know if there’s something I can do to overcome these issues, or if they’ll most likely disappear as I get more comfortable with the whistle… or if I just need to suck it up and buy a different one.

Re: Tin whistle clogging obnoxiously

You need to drink more whiskey. This will make your saliva more fluid, and should resolve the problem.

Re: Tin whistle clogging obnoxiously

I’m celiac - can’t drink whiskey or beer (except gluten-free beer, which a) tastes bad and b) is usually not found in bars). Does wine or tequila have the same effect?

Re: Tin whistle clogging obnoxiously

Please try and report back to us how it went. For science.

Re: Tin whistle clogging obnoxiously

I think cider is gluten free, if you like alcoholic apple juice.
But seriously folks,
I’ve wondered if the angle you hold the whistle would make any difference.
It seems pointing the whistle down may allow more saliva to enter the whistle while pointing it straight out may help keep the spit in your mouth, where it belongs.
I don’t have much of a problem with clogging, thanks to the whiskey, but I have noticed my Burke clogs more than any cheap whistle I play.

Re: Tin whistle clogging obnoxiously

I am having this problem with a "tweaked" Generation D whistle I bought recently, but never had it with either the Feadog or Susato whistles I also play. Glad to hear it isn’t just me. I guess I’ll switch from beer to whiskey, tough medicine.

Re: Tin whistle clogging obnoxiously

A trick I learned a long time ago that works fairly well for keeping whistles from getting clogged; take waxed dental floss and run it through the wind way. The wax on the floss will help prevent condensation from building up. It has always worked pretty well for me, although individual results may vary.

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Re: Tin whistle clogging obnoxiously

Hi. Had same problem with the Dixon trad. This tip fixes it:

http://www.hmtrad.com/catalog/articles/whistle.html

"If your mouthpiecce is still clogging from condensation, try the soap trick— couple of drops of dishwashing liquid in an ounce of water. Dribble this into the windway (or dip the whistle) then blow out the excess. The soap breaks the surface tension of the condensed breath droplets and prevents their clogging the windway. Safe for all whistles, even those with wooden plugs. (Thanks to Dale Wisely’s Chiff & Fipple email newsletter for this tip)."

Really like this whistle other than this problem!

Re: Tin whistle clogging obnoxiously

How often do you need to soap the windway?

Re: Tin whistle clogging obnoxiously

Cat, I have a fixed pitch Dixon High D, one piece black ABS, which I really like. However, like you, I have problems with the stability of the sound of the high octave E. It tends to squeak, like it is trying to get an octave higher again. I have got used to it with careful blowing, but it still catches me sometimes. I have no problems with condensation, etc. What type of Dixon do you use?

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Re: Tin whistle clogging obnoxiously

Quentin: I soap it once every two weeks (but probably only playing for four hours in that period)

Re: Tin whistle clogging obnoxiously

Enough with the tangents and digression, folks.
Let’s get back to the main subject -
this person needs our help.

CatMurphy:
If wine does not affect you adversely, then definitely try brandies or cognac,
you may do better with them. Armagnac is lovely , too.
🙂

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Re: Tin whistle clogging obnoxiously

Piece, Cat may thereby solve her blockage problem by way of acquiring a drink problem.

If so, I would go by way of single malt or a decent blended whisk(e)y. It is a good cultural fit. And then there is the black milk…

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Re: Tin whistle clogging obnoxiously

CatMurphy, Now you understand why I have stuck with my Clarke whistles for years and years. It is inexpensive, it is humble, and so people tend to overlook it, but it does what it needs to, is easy to play, and reliable.

Re: Tin whistle clogging obnoxiously

Madoc:
I was thinking that if wine was no problem for Cat, then a wine-distilled beverage
might be just the thing, such as any of the better brandies.

Cat:
I wanted to mention a method from when I first took up the whistle long ago,
back when tunable whistles were few and very pricey.

Now, you do not want to ruin any decent whistle, but,
FWIW:
With the plastic mouthpiece whistles, you can often loosen the mouthpiece by
immersing it in boiling hot water, and then remove it. You then apply
a bit of petroleum jelly to the whistle shaft where the mouthpiece fits on,
and then slide it back on. The mouthpiece may now be somewhat movable, enabling you
to tune it a bit.

No replacement for a decent tunable whistle, of course, but I
found it helpful on a couple of my old "stick-it-in-your-back-pocket" loaner whistles.

(Although neither the Traditional Music Board Of Health nor, presumably, The Mustard recommends the loaning of whistles even between consenting adults without proper sanitary practices being used before the sharing of whistles. These may include bleaching, soaking in acid, running under a hot flame, and, as needed, sandblasting off accumulated dried porter.)

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Re: Tin whistle clogging obnoxiously

Clogging is a somewhat personal issue. Different materials are prone to clogging more than others. My experience is that delrin clogs more than the plastic used on generations. Metal sometimes even more so. Also, depending on your own body, some people exhale warmer breath than others, which will cause the same whistle to be perfect for one and cloggy for another.
I suspect the Clarke doesn’t clog at all because of the bare wood plug absorbing the condensation. I could be way off base on that. I, too, have a Clarke that has never clogged on me, but is also not in tune enough to use with other players.
Other anti-clog methods that have been used are: dish soap (some say dilute with water, others say use the soap at full strength), doing a hand polish of the windway with toothpaste, the waxed floss method mentioned above and just keeping the mouthpiece warm between tunes.

Re: Tin whistle clogging obnoxiously

Dish soap will help for clogging, many recorder players do it (so it is safe for wood and plastics etc…) but you must dilute it otherwise it will get sticky.

Are you sure it is only condensation? To me it sounds more like overblowing the whistle and a saliva problem. I play a dixon alloy tuneable (same mouth piece I believe) and each time i’m surprised how little air or perhaps I’d better use the word force it uses compared to my other whistles. The problem with whistles, as with recorders is often not, to little air/force but way to much.

Like very often said, it’s all about breath control. I don’t know if you keep playing the clarke in between, but perhaps it would help to put it away for some weeks to really get acustomed to the dixon, they are really nice whistles and perfectly tuned. I wouldn’t buy another one for the time being.


Keep practicing, I’m really sure the problem will pass on.

Re: Tin whistle clogging obnoxiously

Try your dishwashing liquid neat (like whiskey) - a drop on the mouthpiece gently blown through the windway should apply a coating to prevent clogging. Has worked on my whistles and recorders well.

Re: Tin whistle clogging obnoxiously

Hi all, I know this is very late but thanks for all your comments and tips!! It was certainly an enjoyable discussion to read through 🙂

Thought I’d post an update in case anyone comes across this in a search:

It seems that warming up the whistle before playing (covering the whole and blowing a lot) solved most all of my problems. I still have to stop mid-tune sometimes to do that for a bit, but far less often and my whistle is usually drowned out by the other instruments so no one notices anyway.

Getting used to the whistle and simply becoming a better whistle player helped too. I learned from having to blow more carefully on the Dixon, and I do believe that my sound has improved more with practicing than it would have by simply blaming the whistle and buying a different one.

The 2nd octave E is still not ideal but I suppose I’ve gotten used to it and only notice when a) it really grates (blowing carefully usually helps) or b) when I once tried a high-quality whistle that didn’t have this issue (wow that was magic to my ears…).

I do feel I produce more saliva than the average person, sometimes at least… so that may have contributed to the problem. I tried the soap trick a few times but it didn’t seem to make much of a difference, plus I would forget to do it!

My Dixon Trad is still not as reliable as my old Clarke (which was the one without the wooden piece in it - I used to have one of those but breathing into the wood gave me headaches). Unfortunately, my Clarke was flat, and with its shape the "melt the glue" trick would have only allowed me to make it more flat, if anything at all. I keep it handy as a loaner whistle for now, and I definitely market the Clarke as a great beginner whistle to everyone I meet who’s interested in giving it a try.

I tried the higher-end brass Dixon whistle, but found it had pretty much the same problems (scratchy 2nd octave E, sensitive to warm-up) for a lot more money and only a somewhat nicer tone, in my opinion… so I sent it back and I’m still with my trad. I’ve tried another brass whistle or two (I’m kinda hooked on brass…) but haven’t found anything that I liked enough to pay extra money for. In spite of its little downsides, overall I do love my little Dixon trad more than any other whistle I’ve tried! The one I mentioned earlier that I liked took much more effort to blow (to the point where I could feel it in my cheek muscles), and the instrument maker stopped anyway… At this point, I’d rather save up for drones on my pipes 😉 Plus I’ve already found that learning to play better is improving my sound more than buying a nicer whistle would!

I’m also pleased to say that I have not become an alcoholic, although I stuck to wine and not hard liquor - my apologies for not following through with the scientific experiment 😉 I’m sure other guinea pigs will volunteer!

Re: Tin whistle clogging obnoxiously

I’m very keen on my Olivier Bouchard whistle, brass and boxwood best whistle ever and my Michael Burke solid brass. I’m getting a new Bouchard soon, excited . 🙂

Re: Tin whistle clogging obnoxiously

That has been a mostly annoying issue with me, so I’m glad to have run into this discussion, though I must say that I have already tried all the above suggestions. There another one, invented by myself, with unreliable results so far, but if you try it do tell. The method is to chew on cloves a short while before playing (seriously).

I have also observed that there is a psychosomatic effect which is definitely at work. In my best sessions, when I felt at my best, the saliva did not interfere either. Oh how would I like to be able to control that state of mind.

Re: Tin whistle clogging obnoxiously

I clean the fipples of my whistles with toothpaste using a tie-wrap to gently scrub the inside of the windway. Both cleans them and leaves a bit surfactant that reduces the tendency to clog. I tried the "Jet Dry" trick a few times years ago, but that makes for a very unpleasant experience if you ever accidentally suck the air out of the fipple to clear it when clogged. Toothpaste seems to do a great job, a trick I first learned from someone on the C&F board years ago.

Re: Tin whistle clogging obnoxiously

I have a Waltons mellow D brass which is very reliable and cheap. It has less chiff that my new generation, and it seems that less chiff means it’s less likely to squeak. This has been my experience anyway. I highly recommend it.