MK Whistles

MK Whistles have been crafting professional level aluminium low D whistles for over two decades. Browse our range of MK Whistles including the MK Kelpie low D whistle and ever-popular MK Pro low D whistle in a range of colours. Boasting exceptional sound and design qualities, these whistles look fantastic in their sleek satin finish.

About MK Whistles

Founded by Misha Somerville in 2000, MK Whistles was built out of a workshop in Loch Ness, Scotland. These tuneable, aluminium whistles are recognised for their innovative design and sound. Through years of continuous development, MK whistles are now loved and played across the world, and recognised as one of the great tin whistle brands. The MK Pro Low D Whistle amongst the most popular low D whistles available, with the MK Kelpie Low D Whistle a great budget alternative.

Meet the Maker: Misha Somerville

The MK whistle was first conceived by Misha as a teenager in the Himalayan mountains. One of a small select group of musicians who were granted an audience with the Dalai Lama, the treacherous route back through the mountains led to an almost fatal accident on the Trans-Himalayan highway. There was no loss of life, but all the travellers possessions were lost to the River Indus. It was on the return from this journey that the seed of an idea was planted. 

‘If the story of the tin whistle is about going your own way, the story of the MK whistle is about finding your passions in life and following them – living your life on your terms’

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An Interview With Misha Somerville

How did you get into making whistles?

First of all I’d like to take a moment to appreciate the great diversity of whistles that are now available.  There are so many makers using different approaches, designs and materials which makes it a really interesting space to be in.   I first started making whistles because I kept losing them! A series of accidental events, which could be considered unfortunate by some measures, conspired to create the perfect conditions to inspire the MK endeavour. I lost whistles often enough, through events you couldn’t predict, impounded in airports, in a bus that was washed down a river in the Himalayans, or stolen – all kinds of different scenarios. The real difficulty was getting good replacements.   In fact I started making whistles at a time when it was really difficult to get good quality whistles to play at all – it was acceptable, even for reputable whistles, to have crippling tuning issues for example – to an extent you wouldn’t find on other instruments. One day I got two whistles from the same maker to try – they were in the same key but one was ten or twelve millimeters (half an inch) longer than the other and horribly out of tune.  Of course accidents happen but in any case these events all turned out to jolt me into action.  It wasn’t for some time that I appreciated how difficult it is to make something to a consistently excellent standard. Like it’s one thing to make ten musical instruments and one is fantastic, but to make ten fantastic instruments from ten, or one hundred out of a hundred excellent – that takes a much deeper understanding and mastery of the process. 

What makes MK whistles unique?

Often the difference between instrument making and designing is lost. Making could be thought of as taking an existing design and then reproducing that – like a cook following a recipe – whereas designing is the process of creating the blueprint or like a chef creating a recipe. A great maker might not be a great designer and/or vice versa.  There are parallels in other fields – some people are music composers, others don’t compose but will recite music brilliantly or cover a band.  In instrument making it is quite common to use blueprints, even from several hundred years ago.  One reason for this is that the actual process of trying out ideas takes so long! The other is that if someone learns from another maker they will often adopt their blueprints and processes.  Rightly or wrongly I decided to work from the ground up – looking at both designing and making – self teaching through a process of trial and error, and then working with our team to develop those ideas and processes. Looking back I do realise it would have been far easier to take a shortcut, but I think the results working from this way are more authentic and exciting. Additionally, through all the successes and failures of the development process, we have also honed a system of turning ideas into reality – skills which we can take forward.  Of course any musical instrument makers are seeking consistently brilliant quality, but beyond that I think MK whistles are really a celebration of diversity – offering something new, different and hopefully fresh and inspiring to the world.

Given that the Low Whistle is a relatively new instrument, how do you see it developing in the next ten years?

I guess the ‘low whistle’ as it’s termed now is new in a way, reimagined I guess you could say, although actually it’s history reaches back through time many millenia and it has many forms around the world.  The beauty is how it has remained so non conformist – I mean you won’t find whistles in orchestras very often!  …or many music schools, and yet in many places it is one of the strongest bearers of authentic local culture.  Technique is rarely formalised like on many other instruments, and whistle players are people who go their own way – cultural explorers, travelling troubadours and vagabonds, street dwellers or mountain shepherds.  Part of this is down to the character of the instrument itself – it’s compact and portable, affordable, humble and robust – it will keep going when the strings will snap, reeds will crack, pads or drum skins will dry up.  Most importantly though, it’s existence at the grass roots level, in an unformalised way, gives it a freedom unseen with other instruments – there no ‘monitoring bodies’ like societies or associations to say what is proper and what is not   …the equivalent in the whistle world might be a flock of sheep a shepard plays to!     As an instrument creator this is very freeing.   It can be very easy to see instruments as fixed objects but actually they are evolving like people are through generations and time and like music itself is.  The fact whistles are so free from constraints currently means we have great freedom to experiment and innovate.  Hopefully we can do that justice in the coming decades.  We certainly have some interesting ideas formulating in the workshop at the moment – some might fly, some might not, but that’s absolutely fine.  

Who works for you – what is your team like?

As time has gone by I have valued working with people more and more.  All the mk team inspire me in different ways and I’m constantly learning.  For example we have Ewen, who first arrived as a work experience student and is never afraid to roll his sleeves up and get stuck in, quite the opposite of what is constantly trumpeted about ‘millenials’.  Many of the jobs in the workshop do actually require hard work – I mean this work involves shaping metal – anyone who has ever tried cutting or filing metal might have a good idea of what it’s like lol. Ewen studied Maths but, like me, is finding a greater sense of fulfillment actually applying learning both in the workshop, in the studio and with his band Lapwyng.  Some other valuable team members include Carolyn, who brought with her the thoroughness of a museum archivist where she previously worked, and deals with posting out orders around the world – a job which requires incredible patience and tenacity.  Ronnie has a long history in engineering and quality assurance stretching back to the shipyards of Glasgow which he has a story or two about.  After many years working on my own it’s a great pleasure to work as part of a team.  I also appreciate the great customers we have.  It’s a great pleasure to send whistles out to people around the world who are so appreciative and value the hard but rewarding work we do.