The Rob Greenway Shaw/Clarke Fipple Modification
(This would make a darn good name for a band, wouldn't it?)
Shaw tinwhistles are a bit more expensive than most "cheap" whistles (about $20 for a D), but there are some interesting features to these. They look much like Clarkes, with a conical wood-plug mouthpiece construction. But, they are better made and more durable than Clarkes. They also come in a nice variety of keys from Eb down to Low D. The controversy about them is that they have a distinctively breathy sound...(which some people like and some don't. I have a Low A and I love it) and they require a lot of air. I had heard of people modifying the fipple to change the breathy sound and the amount of air required. Rob Greenway graciously e-mailed to tell me how he does this.
I reasoned that the sound of the Shaw was so breathy because the windway wasn't thin enough vertically. In flute playing, your mouth needs to form a narrow little slit -- the further apart your lips are, the more breathy your sound will be. I figured this would be true of whistle architecture as well. So I squished the metal over the windway down till it touched the block, then opened the windway just barely back up by running the a letter opener down it. Then I just adjusted the blade so it was in the center of the windway, and made it as flat as I could with the letter opener. It took about five or so minutes of tinkering, but it worked. There's no reason it wouldn't work on a Clarke as well, I guess.
I remember reading somewhere that some of the older players would use a red-hot hacksaw blade to char the block of a Clarke whistle inside the windway, which evidently strengthened the tone. I haven't tried this, but I'm intrigued -- it seems like a much more manly solution.
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