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PostPosted: Sun Feb 12, 2017 9:07 am 
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Hi folks,

I'm a long-time musician, and I make my own bamboo transverse flutes. I'd very much like to add a low d with a different sound. I saw the Burke low D played on America's Got Talent, and as embarrassing as it is to admit I watched a few episodes, I liked the sound of that whistle. I have also seen online posts saying less good stuff.

So here's the question- for a low D, what do you folks find to have the most unique sound (1) and very good intonation (2)? The intonation thing is a deal-breaker for me, if it's not precise. Tone is more subjective, but I like that dark sound trending toward uillean pipes. Ultimately a set of pipes is my goal, but the very Celtic sounding lw flutes might hold me over for a while.

Thank you for the help!


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PostPosted: Sun Feb 12, 2017 12:20 pm 
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I've only heard good things about the Reyburn low whistles. I have two myself and absolutely love them.

One of mine is brass and the other is alloy. I thought I'd compare them and keep the one that I preferred. Well, I found the tone color so different between them that I can't bring myself to get rid of either.

I believe Renaldo offers a return privilege if you're not happy. You could check his web site to confirm that.

Panceltic Piper has posted positive remarks re: the Reyburn whistles, you could search this forum to read them.

I'm sure he'll show up here pretty soon...he's a great source of useful information.

Nice guy to boot! :thumbsup:

JD


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PostPosted: Sun Feb 12, 2017 1:51 pm 
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A comment about the Burke Viper: My first low whistle was a Burke brass low D - a long time ago. i played it for years... I ended up selling it to a friend in South Africa, as I had purchased an Overton. I still have my Overton - fine instrument - and purchased an MK, another fine whistle. Different, but cut from a similar cloth as the Overton. However, there was something about the Burke that I missed. And this is where your question concerning 'unique' comes in...

I have had discussions with Mike Burke concerning the air requirements of his early low D whistles. Newer low D Burke Vipers still take a healthy set of lungs, but they are manageable for a smaller guy, like me. I purchased one, and have never been sorry that I did...

Unique? I find that the brass Viper has a quality I have not heard anywhere else. it is not a complex a sound like the Goldie or MK... It mimics a human tenor voice quite well, and I use it often in our band, when I am backing a vocalist - male or female.

I am not making a value judgement, here... Unique is not inherently negative or positive. I have heard excellent things about the Rayburn instrument. I have been hoping to listen to, and talk with, a player of a Reyburn, at one of the festivals in which my band performs, but have not been fortunate enough yet, to come across said player.

Intonation of a Burke low D is about as good as it gets, in my experience.

The best to you.
Byll

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PostPosted: Sun Feb 12, 2017 3:03 pm 
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Thank you for the replies. Indeed, "unique" is a meaninglessly vague term, but I had an exchange with a whistle maker who seemed to take "dark" to mean the opposite of what I meant. What is the term here? I think it has to do with a complex set of ancillary frequencies coloring the sound. My bamboo flutes get a little grit from the irregularities of the bamboo, but that's not what I mean here. It's funny, I teach world music classes and discuss timbre at some length, but there's no orthodoxy on describing these intangible noises we make.

I had indeed kind of come down to Burke or MK, but I'll check Reyburn also. Anyone else want to chime in?

Best wishes.
Stephen


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PostPosted: Mon Feb 13, 2017 10:11 pm 
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foxmusician wrote:
a low D... to have

1) a unique sound... I like that dark sound trending toward uilleann pipes


No two makes of Low D sound alike, so each is unique, properly speaking.

Uilleann pipes sound nasal and bright, like all conical-bore bagpipes, so I'll take that out of the mix.

Reyburn Low Ds have a tone very different from any other Low D I've played, what I call "Native American Flute in a Fog". The tone is foggy yet beefy, louder than it seems.

MK Low Ds are gravelly, dirty, yet somehow there's a strong core to the note.

Burkes have a tone that's on the round/less complex end of things. A very nice tone nevertheless.

My Albas aren't as foggy or gravelly as the Reyburn or MK, but more dirty than the Burke.

foxmusician wrote:

2) very good intonation


Intonation is a complex issue. Pretty much any whistle can be blown into tune by the player.

I want a whistle where everything's in tune on an even breath (well not actually even but a steady progression of pressure increases as you go up the scale).

The most in-tune Low D's I've tried have been the Reyburn, Goldie, and Alba. On the ones I have every note from Bottom D to High B is right in tune.

Some whistles get everything right but the Ds, having a sharpish Middle D and/or a flattish Bottom D.

Then you have the tuning relationship between the two octaves. I like them down the middle, where the octaves are with Low Ds by Burke, Susato, Goldie, Alba, Reyburn, and probably several other makes.

MK has the 2nd octave a hair sharp (easily played in tune) and the Kerry Optima sharper still.

The few different old Overtons I've owned had flat 2nd octaves (but easily played in tune).

foxmusician wrote:
The intonation thing is a deal-breaker for me



Me too!

One of the reasons I settled on a Goldie Low D, after owning many others.

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1978 Quinn uilleann pipes
1945 Starck Highland pipes
Goldie Low D whistle


Last edited by pancelticpiper on Tue Feb 14, 2017 7:35 am, edited 1 time in total.

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PostPosted: Tue Feb 14, 2017 3:04 am 
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Aloha Mr. Cook,

Thank you for the nuanced reply. I like the term "foggy."

My issue on intonation: my best bamboo flutes play 2 octave plus a major third pretty damn close. If one is playing quickly, there is less time for adjustment, and I'm going to lose patience.

Here's an example of me playing one of mine played rather rapidly: [url]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yCpOT1qbe2o
[/url]

I'm not quite sure I understand but I think you mean that if you put the flute against a tuner, it's middling in frequency for each pitch? But that's not like an easily corrected anything. I suppose ease of correction might be a factor?

Crud- I think I need to correspond with the makers. I wish they all had the solo flute recording example. Realizing there will be variation, at least it would provide a reference sample. $300+ is not going to break my bank, but I'm not in a position to make mistakes.

Thanks again!
Aloha,
Stephen


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PostPosted: Tue Feb 14, 2017 7:19 am 
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foxmusician wrote:
My issue on intonation: my best bamboo flutes play 2 octave plus a major third pretty damn close.


Now you're bringing in a different issue, the matter of range. In traditional Irish dance music the highest note that regularly occurs is B in the 2nd octave. A relatively small number of tunes go up to C and/or C# in the 2nd octave.

When I talk about a whistle's intonation, I only consider the traditional normal range of Bottom D up to B in the 2nd octave.

foxmusician wrote:
If one is playing quickly, there is less time for adjustment


You put your finger right on it! Exactly so.

If you're playing a reel up to speed you just don't have time to tailor your breath on a note-by-note basis in order to fix an out-of-tune scale. You're relying on the instrument being spot-on, to play spot-on.

And there's another thing, the thing of expression. I want every note to be right in the middle, so that I can vary my breath for expression and not have some of the notes go too flat or too sharp.

foxmusician wrote:
I think you mean that if you put the flute against a tuner, it's middling in frequency for each pitch?



I want 'needle straight up' the entire gamut. My Goldie, my Reyburn, my Alba all do that.

Now, people will chime in about Just Intonation v. Equal Temperament. My whistles are all ET. I need them that way due to doing 'legit' gigs. If I were to need JI (which in 40 years I've not) I could put a bit of tape on the F# hole and another bit of tape on the B hole and Bob's Your Uncle.

BTW more than one of the Burkes I've owned (from High D to Low D and several in between) have had a subtle yet nevertheless odd tuning quirk: B in the low octave is a bit flat, but strangely enough B in the 2nd octave is a bit sharp. This isn't ideal for many contexts, but it is wonderful for playing along with the uilleann pipes. Concert D uilleann chanters usually have this exact quirk.

foxmusician wrote:
I think I need to correspond with the makers.


I wish you the best of luck with that.

I prefer, whenever possible, to pick up whistles used. There's really nothing to go wrong or wear out or get out of adjustment with alloy whistles- a friend threw his, in a fit of disgust, down a flight of concrete stairs and his Overton Low D was undamaged.

Two other advantages: you get the whistle right away, and if you don't like it you can resell it for what you paid for it, a free rental in effect. That is, if you didn't overpay for it in the first place.

foxmusician wrote:
I wish they all had the solo flute recording example.


Listening to recordings, in my opinion, is almost useless. You need to get the whistle in your hands to know what it does.

What was a real eyeopener was doing some YouTube comparisons of various Low Ds. In person each had a distinctive unique tone. In the videos they all sounded more or less alike.

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Richard Cook
1978 Quinn uilleann pipes
1945 Starck Highland pipes
Goldie Low D whistle


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PostPosted: Tue Feb 14, 2017 7:47 am 
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Byll wrote:
I have had discussions with Mike Burke concerning the air requirements of his early low D whistles.


Very interesting.

Nice to hear that he's cognizant of that issue and is addressing it.

I will say that I've owned Burkes from high D to low D and every one has had a noticeably larger appetite for air than most whistles of the same key I've tried, so it's not confined to his Low Ds.

And it applies to all the Burkes I've come across whenever made, though it's true that I don't have a Burke made recently. I think 2013 is my most recent.

Byll wrote:
...mimics a human tenor voice



Sorry I had to laugh at that, laugh because it's sort of a standing joke in my family.

My son's trombone teacher would often say, with grave seriousness, that the trombone was unique in being the closest tone to the human voice.

My son and I would suppress a smile, because both of us have heard over the years, by players of just about every instrument, that their chosen instrument was "the closest thing to the human voice".

It's very often said of the uilleann pipes. And the violin. And the viola. And the flute. And the clarinet. Of course each by players and/or aficionados of that particular instrument.

We joked that percussionists probably regard the timpani that way.

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1978 Quinn uilleann pipes
1945 Starck Highland pipes
Goldie Low D whistle


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PostPosted: Tue Feb 14, 2017 8:56 am 
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pancelticpiper wrote:
Byll wrote:
...mimics a human tenor voice
Sorry I had to laugh at that, laugh because it's sort of a standing joke in my family.

My son's trombone teacher would often say, with grave seriousness, that the trombone was unique in being the closest tone to the human voice.

My son and I would suppress a smile, because both of us have heard over the years, by players of just about every instrument, that their chosen instrument was "the closest thing to the human voice".

It's very often said of the uilleann pipes. And the violin. And the viola. And the flute. And the clarinet. Of course each by players and/or aficionados of that particular instrument.
As I understand it, people have been saying that about the favoured instrument-of-the-day for centuries.

pancelticpiper wrote:
We joked that percussionists probably regard the timpani that way.
:lol:


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PostPosted: Wed Feb 15, 2017 1:56 am 
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We need a like button on here. Ok, I'm getting a better handle on how you folks describe tone. If you really want a chuckle about the human voice comparison, though, ask them to say which kind of human voice. Here's a Laotian ensemble- https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8MbxazeMw2E

Anyway, I digress. Thanks for the advice- I'll stew on this a while and ask further when the fog settles.


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PostPosted: Wed Feb 15, 2017 7:01 am 
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I have to add that I in no way intended to mock or make light of Byll's assessment.

It was just that that particular statement brings a smile to me, due to my son's old teacher often saying that, and players of an amazingly wide spectrum of instruments saying that.

There's hardly a thing written about the uilleann pipes that doesn't go there.

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1978 Quinn uilleann pipes
1945 Starck Highland pipes
Goldie Low D whistle


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PostPosted: Wed Feb 15, 2017 9:29 am 
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Hard to find "most unique," because "unique" means "one of a kind"...

How is something most "one of a kind?"

..Joe

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PostPosted: Thu Feb 16, 2017 6:15 am 
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Joe Gerardi wrote:
Hard to find "most unique"


Yes, I didn't want to go there, the Grammar Police thing.

But since you brought it up, yes, there are many words in English that are absolute, that don't take shades or degrees.

Like "decimated" which means reduced by one-tenth. Yet I hear "totally decimated" all the time, which has no meaning. If something is reduced by half, or three-quarters, or disappears altogether, it ain't decimated.

Also "nude". You can't be partially nude, and "totally nude" is redundant.

I think of Princess Bride: "your friend is mostly dead..."

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1978 Quinn uilleann pipes
1945 Starck Highland pipes
Goldie Low D whistle


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PostPosted: Thu Feb 16, 2017 6:46 am 
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I take your point pancelticpiper, but byll was drawing a comparison between the tone of a specific type of whistle and specific style of human voice.


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PostPosted: Thu Feb 16, 2017 7:03 am 
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Well, were one impolitic, one could also bandy about words like "irrelevant," "obtuse," and "disingenuous." But the replies on this thread have been quite helpful, so I will not do so.


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