Build a quiet ''whisper-chanter''

NOTE: 6 additional photos and a sound sample of this instrument are available. Click here for information.
Often, when first learning a tune & getting the fingering down, I'd find 
myself "playing" the tune on a pencil. Came up with this very simple and 
very quiet "whisper-chanter" that's one-up on the pencil in that it has 
sound - a rather important aspect of music. Two "modes" or levels of 
sound in fact: 
a) By placing the mouthpiece (fipple) end not between the 
lips, but rather against the lower (pursed) lip thereby blowing at the 
whistle-hole opening, a quiet but distinct, airy musical note is heard. 
Certainly loud/good enough for practicing fingerings etc. (Excellent by 
the way for late night noodling).
b) If a bit more volume is desired, simply toot into the device like 
you'd blow into a normal tin-whistle. Stay in the low range & although 
the tone isn't spectacular, it does work as intended. I prefer 
"whisper-mode" (mode a) because here all the graces, even a grip from 
high "A", sound true.

What it is is a modified cheap tin-whistle. The $3 or $4 model made by
Cooperman & sold widely * is perfect for this conversion. Other brands are
just as easily converted, but may require some tinkering to properly pitch.

Here's how to modify the Cooperman tin-whistle:

- To the far end of the tin-whistle, solder (or glue) a 1 & 3/4" long piece
of tubing (of a diameter that just telescopes over the end of the tin-
whistle) (telescope it 1/4", so you've effectively added 1 & 1/2" to the
length of the tin-whistle). Plastic tubing (felt-tip pen barrel  etc.) (glued
on) will even work nicely. The idea is to lengthen the instrument to create
the low (little-finger) note. Hobby-store brass tubing is ideal, but you
should be able to scrounge up something around the house --- I use 45/70
Trap-door Springfield rifle cartridges (these are demonstrated at the 
fort where I work) with the primer end sawn off.

- Drill the 1/8" diameter little-finger hole (in-line with the other holes)
1 & 1/16" from the center of the lowest existing tin-whistle hole.

- The thumb hole on the back side (also 1/8" in diameter) is located 1/2"
"upwhistle" (towards the mouthpiece)  from the centerline of the highest
existing tin-whistle hole. Where the hole is drilled through the whistle's
"soldering line/ridge" be careful to remove any stray bits of metal on the
inside caused by your drilling.

- Two of the existing tin-whistle's holes have to be enlarged to correct for
pitch. Rather than just drilling a bigger round hole, I try to use the drill-
bit as a sort of crude metal router to elongate the holes "upwhistle"
(alternately, a small rat-tail file does this nicely). The first hole to be
enlarged is the 3rd top hole from the mouthpiece end. First enlarge this hole
to 3/16" then bear sidewards with the drill in an "upwhistle & a bit to the
left" direction (as viewed looking at whistle vertically, with mouthpiece
up). Do this 'til the resultant elipse is 1/4" long by 3/16" wide. (Bearing
a bit to the left of center compensates some for the rotation of the drill &
ends up drilling a more properly aligned elipse).  The last hole that needs
enlarging is the 5th top hole from the mouthpiece end. In the same manner as
above, enlarge this hole til the resultant elipse measures 1/4" by just a
hair over 1/4."

The 7th note of the resultant scale is way sharp for pipes. If this is a
bother, you can flatten with a piece of tape positioned over the upwhistle
part of the hole.

Please let me know if you make one of these. A bunch of us up here use these
silly little things on a daily basis for learning tunes, practicing ornaments
etc. Needless to say their use is in a very informal & "non-performing"
manner -- whenever a real practice-chanter is either unavailable
innapropriate or unhandy. 

Dennis Havlena - W8MI
Mackinac Straits

Cooperman "D" tinwhistles are available by mail from:
     Jas Townsend & Son, Inc.              Amazon Drygoods
     133 North First Street                2218 E. 11th Street
     P.O. Box 415                          Davenport, Iowa 52803
     Pierceton, Indiana 46562

     Or from the "horses-mouth" -- Cooperman Fife & Drum Co.
                                   P.O. Box 276
                                   Centerbrook, Connecticut 06409

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