John Sindt D PennyWhistle
Review by Dale Wisely
John Sindt: His name has been appearing more frequently here in the Chiff & Fipple as positive reviews from Tinwhistle Collective members have been coming in....along with the news that Mary Bergin (Feadoga Stain) is playing John's whistles. Now, for those of you who have been around awhile, you'll understand the significance of this. No whistler on the planet is more admired and respected than Mary...and Mary is fairly well known for her conservatism about whistles. Mary has always played Generations. Yes, Generations, and she has resisted many efforts to encourage her to switch over to whistles made by craftsmen. So, that she favors John's whistle is major news.
John Sindt whistle. Thanks to: Bill & Mike, loyal C&F Subscribers.
So, recently, I contacted John and he was kind enough to send me a whistle for review. It's a brass D. I'm more likely, by the way, to be sending John money rather than send his whistle back. It's a fascinating instrument, and is something really different in approach to whistle making. It manages to be traditional and innovative at the same time. Significantly, this whistle offers the best of both of the major domains of tinwhistles: The inexpensive lines (Generation, Walton's, Clarke, Feadog, etc.) and the quality, hand-crafted line (Copeland, Overton, Sweet, etc...).
Now, to understand this point, it might be helpful to reflect a little on the essence of the difference between the inexpensive and the expensive whistles, apart from the cost. Although, admittedly, I have gotten more interested in the last year in the expensive whistles, I continue to believe that the inexpensive whistles have an indispensable place. Not only are they inexpensive....allowing the tinwhistle to truly be The People's Instrument (through which we will all rise up and overthrow the tyrants)... but they tend to have a sound which is different than the expensive instruments. While the expensive instruments are sweeter and purer in sound, the inexpensive whistles are rougher, folkier, less polished. And, for folk music, I think this is an important sound. This sound is a little inebriated. It's a pub sound, I think. So, anyway, my view of the Sindt whistle is that is a high-quality, enhanced version of the inexpensive whistles. It is more in the tradition of Walton's,
Generation, and Clarke than that of Copeland, Abell, etc. Here's another way of saying this: To my eyes and ears, the Sindt might be the product of someone picking up a good, say, Soodlum whistle and saying...how can I preserve the essence and sound of this kind of instrument, but make more durable and more reliable? Ok, I've beat this point to death and I'm not even sure there is a point here anyway.
Anyway: Here's the Sindt: The shaft is an ordinary brass cylindrical shaft, not very different from what you'd see on a brass Generation or Feadog. In fact, I thought maybe it WAS a Feadog shaft, but I checked with John and he does machine his own shaft, so to speak. I think the tubing John uses is a touch thicker than is typical, but I'm not sure. Then there's the mouthpiece...and that is what is special about this whistle. The mouthpiece is made of black plastic, I'm thinking it's the same plastic that Copeland uses for his fipple plugs. The part of the mouthpiece that actually goes in your mouth is this plastic. This extends down as far as the fipple window--and in fact the top side of the fipple window is the bottom edge of this plastic piece. Now, to complicate matters, there is some brass in the plastic mouthpiece, but I'm at a loss to think of how to explain this here. How about this: think of the top part of the mouthpiece consisting of three concentric layers. The outside is plastic; then there's a thin layer of brass, then the center fipple plug is plastic.. Just know that it is a quality piece of work. The windway is curved.
The bottom of the mouthpiece is brass. It's very carefully and precisely machined with sharp edges and very clean lines. Because of the substantial brass, the tuning slide is more substantial than dealing with the all-plastic mouthpieces of, say, Generation.
So, Ok, how does this whistle play and sound? A couple of outstanding features. One is the air requirement/volume ratio. You blow in it, you meet some resistance, you get a really nice volume, and you can play a long time on one breath. It's also near perfect in that easy-to-flip-up-to-the-next-octave-but-not-TOO-easy department. The tone is purer than most of the inexpensive whistles, but retains a bit of the charm of the sound of the inexpensive whistles. There's very little air audible in the tone. Another outstanding feature is the higher ranges.
Without compromising (at least to my ears) on the low end, the high end is outrageously good. Easy to play, doesn't strain, doesn't scream at you like so many whistles when you play in the upper ranges. I'd say this: If playing in the upper ranges is important to you musically, this whistle is a must-have. The other thing I note is that it's a smooth whistle to play. Transitions are easy, fingering is easy.
Let's see, any downside? I don't think the whistle will be sold for its looks. It's not ugly, it has professional look, but it's just rather functional looking as opposed to ornate. The volume is solid, but there are certainly louder whistles. That's about all I can come up with that might be disadvantages.
UPDATE: Although the difference is fairly subtle on my Sindt, some whistler's note tuning problems in the D-whistle's C-natural note. Also note: Mike Copeland speaks positively about the Sindt whistles in the Copeland Chiff & Fipple Interview.
John Sindt deserves to do well and I bet he will.
Update 2005: John's current keys & prices: E $90, Eb $90, D $90, C# $95, C $95, B $100, Bb $100, (Low) A $100.
16 Second Ave
Nyack, NY 10960
NEW Email as of Feb 2005: email@example.com
Read John Sindt: The Chiff & Fipple Interview