Upgrade whistle purchase?

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LynnB
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Upgrade whistle purchase?

Post by LynnB »

So I’ve been playing off and on for a few years a now, just for fun, no interest in really playing with others or anything like that. Pretty much all the whistles I play regularly are tweaked Freemans, in a couple different keys. I’m especially partial to my Mellow Dog set and my tweaked Bb. I do have two Susatos (a low G and D) but I don’t really like the Susato tone at all, and I find the low D difficult even with pipers grip. I also have a Parks in C and some untweaked Clarks I don’t use much. I don’t particularly need a new whistle, but when has that made anyone with WhOAD stop? I’m just curious what you guys would consider an “upgrade” from what I have now? I’ve been looking at Killarney and Lir (though I’ve read about a lot of people having CS issues with the latter and that’s mostly scared me off.)

What brands/makers are considered mid-range vs. high end? Which ones would provide a different experience compared to what I have now? I plan to eventually get a MK low whistle, but I’m trying to slow down the spending since I just went on a Native American Flute spree, so probably putting that off until Christmas. I’d like to limit myself to around the $100-$150 USD range for an “upgraded” D or C whistle. What would you consider the least shrill and suitable for home playing where a quieter whistle is welcome?

I’m sure there is probably a thread devoted to this but I’m having trouble finding one.
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RoberTunes
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Re: Upgrade whistle purchase?

Post by RoberTunes »

Seems you are ready to transition to the mid-price high quality musical instruments,
with rewarding tone, full playability throughout the range and correct intonation, like
1) Killarney
2) Alba
3) Kerry Optima Cobre
4) Kerry Optima
5) Tony Dixon aluminum
6) Humphrey
7) Shearwater
8 ) Chris Wall
9) Bracker (not currently in production as of spring 2022)

Lots of YouTube demonstrations of those whistles available. That list provides quite a variety of tones.
bigsciota
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Re: Upgrade whistle purchase?

Post by bigsciota »

Whistles are somewhat different than many other instruments, the idea that "you get what you pay for" doesn't hold nearly as true. The better way to think about whistles is that each one is different, and you have to find the one that works for you. There is no high-end whistle that works for everyone, and there are plenty of inexpensive whistles that a lot of very, very good players play. In fact, the "cheapies" like Generation and Feadog have a significant number of admirers, who play just as well or better on a $15 whistle as they would on a $500 one.

The question is, why do you feel the need to "upgrade?" What property does your Mellow Dog not have that you are looking for in a whistle? For example, you've tried Susatos. People are often drawn to them because of their volume, they're louder than just about any other whistle on the market. Some people really like Killarneys for being nimble and not taking a lot of air, some people like Burkes for their tone and because they're a bit more forgiving for people who tend to overblow other whistles. You mention "shrillness," but to be honest the Mellow Dogs don't strike me as a particularly shrill whistle. Killarney might be a good bet, they've definitely got a sweeter upper octave and are about in the middle volume-wise. Cary Parks makes whistles with a sort of mute that you can twist on and off, so if you're worried about practicing at home perhaps that could be useful. I've never played one so I can't recommend it but you can search this forum and find some threads about his whistles.

If you're just looking for something vaguely "better," I think you're going to be disappointed. Freeman's tweaked whistles are very good, and you're not going to find an objectively "better" whistle out there. Yes, some people like certain ones better, but mostly that's personal preference. And to be honest, I'd be pretty wary of advice from anyone who suggests otherwise. There are a lot of people who think you can buy your way into sounding better on the whistle. I've been in a lot of sessions with players with expensive whistles that sound awful, and heard a lot of "cheap" Generations and Feadogs sound wonderful.
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Re: Upgrade whistle purchase?

Post by fatmac »

Shearwater & Tony Dixon, good quality, not too loud, nice tone, (aluminium whistles). :thumbsup:
Keith.
Trying to do justice to my various musical instruments.
LynnB
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Re: Upgrade whistle purchase?

Post by LynnB »

bigsciota wrote: Tue Jun 21, 2022 2:47 pm The question is, why do you feel the need to "upgrade?" What property does your Mellow Dog not have that you are looking for in a whistle? For example, you've tried Susatos. People are often drawn to them because of their volume, they're louder than just about any other whistle on the market. Some people really like Killarneys for being nimble and not taking a lot of air, some people like Burkes for their tone and because they're a bit more forgiving for people who tend to overblow other whistles. You mention "shrillness," but to be honest the Mellow Dogs don't strike me as a particularly shrill whistle. Killarney might be a good bet, they've definitely got a sweeter upper octave and are about in the middle volume-wise. Cary Parks makes whistles with a sort of mute that you can twist on and off, so if you're worried about practicing at home perhaps that could be useful. I've never played one so I can't recommend it but you can search this forum and find some threads about his whistles.

If you're just looking for something vaguely "better," I think you're going to be disappointed. Freeman's tweaked whistles are very good, and you're not going to find an objectively "better" whistle out there. Yes, some people like certain ones better, but mostly that's personal preference. And to be honest, I'd be pretty wary of advice from anyone who suggests otherwise. There are a lot of people who think you can buy your way into sounding better on the whistle. I've been in a lot of sessions with players with expensive whistles that sound awful, and heard a lot of "cheap" Generations and Feadogs sound wonderful.
I mean I don't NEED to upgrade but when has that ever stopped a collector? :) I guess I'm just wondering what would be a different enough "flavor" from what I have now to make for an interesting purchase. I don't really have an issue with overblowing, and the more I hear about Killarney the more I'm leaning in that direction. I don't find the Mellow Dogs shrill, that's why I like them. So I guess I prefer a sweeter tone. I do kind of struggle with the higher octaves. I have the breath control to hit them, I've played woodwinds since I was a kid. I just kind of hate how unpredictable they can get in the higher range and I feel self-conscious because my house is not very soundproof and I don't want to annoy the neighbors. But that's more of a me thing, if I'd just force myself to play more tunes with higher notes, I'm sure I'd find them less onerous. But a whistle with a sweeter upper octave sounds ideal.

You've stumbled upon what my concern was - that the Freeman whistles are so solid that I won't find much difference. But I wouldn't mind trying some others just for fun! I got one of the first batch of Parks whistles in C and I do admire the ingenuity of it, but I have to admit I don't play it much because I prefer the tone I get from the Mellow Dogs.

Also, thanks to the others that replied. I know I should probably get at least one Dixon since those seem so popular. And I hadn't heard of Shearwater, so I'll be looking into that.
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RoberTunes
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Re: Upgrade whistle purchase?

Post by RoberTunes »

LynnB wrote: Wed Jun 22, 2022 4:44 pm a) I mean I don't NEED to upgrade but when has that ever stopped a collector? :)
b) I guess I'm just wondering what would be a different enough "flavor" from what I have now to make for an interesting purchase.
c) I don't really have an issue with overblowing, and the more I hear about Killarney the more I'm leaning in that direction. I don't find the Mellow Dogs shrill, that's why I like them. So I guess I prefer a sweeter tone.
d) I just kind of hate how unpredictable they can get in the higher range and I feel self-conscious because my house is not very soundproof
e) But I wouldn't mind trying some others just for fun! I got one of the first batch of Parks whistles in C and I do admire the ingenuity of it, but I have to admit I don't play it much because I prefer the tone I get from the Mellow Dogs.
I know I should probably get at least one Dixon since those seem so popular. And I hadn't heard of Shearwater, so I'll be looking into that.
a) You don't owe explanations to anyone, but the fact you've got the answers figured out in detail; follow your bliss at full throttle!
b) There is a wide variety of tones and playability in whistles, and matching upper octave tone and playability isn't that hard once you're in the range of "quality" performance and know what you want. If the whistle gives you good and consistent tones right up into the third octave (so many do!), the musical imagination remains free to explore, I've found. I abandon instruments that fight against me in that regard.
c) important point about the difference in air requirement between first, second and third octave. Killarney's are famous for making the upper range easily available, sounding great and at a relatively low level of air volume requirement, so that you don't get out of breath, you can work on long musical phrases and ornaments with ease. Lots of reviews point that out. Quite a few other brands aren't so far off that mark, and some brands present tone, playability and air requirement problems to a large degree. It's obvious that the cheapo brands aren't designed to work as serious musical instruments, hence the secondary market of "tweekers", which radically escalates the financial cost of dealing with the original toy-quality widget. A delivery driver with a family to support doesn't try to build a new Mercedes out of a 1975 rusted Volkswagon bug, but weekend backyard wanna-be mechanics with yards full of rusted metal do. Priorities!
d) A lot of whistles sound like two different whistles, when you compare their first octave with the second octave and third. YouTube reviewers serve a great purpose, to reveal that. Sometimes that's an attractive feature, sometimes not. Depends, but at least, you want the notes in that range to not be breaking apart, getting raspy, taking a lot of wasted breath, etc..
e) Fun is always under-rated. WHOAD is related to it, I've heard. Mellow Dogs maintain a smooth and relatively continuous tone throughout the full range. Shearwater has a nice particular tone, and here is a great demo of several Shearwater keys that compare Shearwater to some other models, so you can see what's going on there:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=reEBskc ... o&index=54
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Mr.Gumby
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Re: Upgrade whistle purchase?

Post by Mr.Gumby »

It's obvious that the cheapo brands aren't designed to work as serious musical instruments, hence the secondary market of "tweekers", which radically escalates the financial cost of dealing with the original toy-quality widget.
Words are cheap. The great music played on these whistles renders your comments laughable. :poke:

Re-read Bigsciota's post above.

LynnB wrote:I do kind of struggle with the higher octaves. I have the breath control to hit them, I've played woodwinds since I was a kid. I just kind of hate how unpredictable they can get in the higher range and I feel self-conscious because my house is not very soundproof and I don't want to annoy the neighbors. But that's more of a me thing, if I'd just force myself to play more tunes with higher notes, I'm sure I'd find them less onerous. But a whistle with a sweeter upper octave sounds ideal.
Consider you may be throwing too much air at them. Whistles, at least the high ones, quite often need a much lighter touch than other woodwinds. A lot of problems, raspiness, shrillness, some intonation issues etc., often quoted on these forums, have a direct relation to breathcontrol. Your 'unpredictable' comment is some indication, correctly fingers (holes covered properly) and blown correctly there's none of that.
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RoberTunes
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Re: Upgrade whistle purchase?

Post by RoberTunes »

If whistle players have any interest in sailing into the high octaves and expect full tonal consistency, intonation to maintain its integrity and
playability to remain under full control, consider the sopranino recorders, which go up into the high frequency range, are very well
designed, are made by highly reliable manufacturers, have VERY low purchase prices, and are all chromatic, so every note on the scale
is available.
The need for smooth and reliable tone, with comfortable demand on air volume when playing, makes the sopranino recorders a very
attractive option for that range. The high pitch makes them sound a little more like balanced-tone whistles and less like the
alto/soprano recorder tone. Whistles have quite a variety of tones anyway, so this is an option to consider.
I've got a Yamaha and find it a fine instrument. Lowest note is F, but the instrument is fully chromatic, so the key is up to me.
Other manufacturers are out there. Have a look around and expand the musical palette! :thumbsup:
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Re: Upgrade whistle purchase?

Post by Narzog »

The cheapies arent worse whistles (as long as its not a dud), but generally whistle makers have designed whistles to offer something different than what the cheap ones offer (usually). Somethign that plays differently. Otherwise nobody would buy them and would all just play Gens. A whistle that plays how you want wont truly make breath control or anything any better, but it will still be easier to play because you arent fighting it. This has been my case. I could learn to play my cheapies in tune. but My Burkes Reyburns and MK's all blow in tune how I want them to, so it just comes natural. I dont need to learn to blow them in tune. Obviously my breath control has still improved a lot from when I started playing. All I'm saying is preference does help to play better. you can learn to play any instrument better. But good musicians get good and get an instrument they like. So nothing wrong with trying more whistles ot find what you like the most.

If you've wanted to try a killarney I'd go for it. Maybe try to pick up a used one if you want to save some money. Used you can re sell for minimal or no loss too. I got my first used MK because I knew they were popular and felt like I need to try all the best low D's before I can really know which one I like the most. And my plan was to probobly just re sell it for what I got it. but I really like it and have no plans to sell. I still need to find a used Goldie but they sell too fast I can never buy one lol... But my logic is you cant truly know what whistle you like the most is without playing them all. So especially big name ones you want to try are worth it.
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