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Price, Skill and Sound
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Author:  pancelticpiper [ Tue Sep 12, 2017 6:43 am ]
Post subject:  Re: Price, Skill and Sound

Pondoro wrote:
I know I am playing a cheap instrument. I know I am a complete beginner...

There's an old tried-and-true custom of beginners having their instruments picked out for them by experienced players.

The reason is because otherwise the beginner is in your situation- no way of knowing what ill sounds are due to the inexperience of the player, and which are due to the instrument.

That's the advantage of starting out with a Freeman whistle- you know for a fact that the voicing is exactly how Jerry wants a whistle to be voiced. He takes the randomness out of it.

Pondoro wrote:
...practice eventually making a cheap whistle sound better...

With whistles, due to their fixed tone-production mechanism, no amount of practice is going to change a whistle's built-in characteristics.

Each note, when blown into tune, has a certain volume and timbre the player can't change.

What does change is intonation- a player with a good ear can blow a whistle into tune even if it was built with a faulty scale.

Pondoro wrote:
...ponying up the money for a better whistle...

In my 40-odd year experience, I've not seen a positive correlation between how good a whistle plays with how much it costs.

There seems to be a general tendency of expensive fancy wood whistles not playing to my liking.

My favourite high whistles are my vintage Generations and Feadogs which all cost under $10 each. I've not played their equal at any price.

But then again I'm a product of my generation (no pun intended) when the only D whistles available were Generations and everybody played them, from the star players to the beginners. You played the best one you could find. The very best old Generations, in my opinion, have never been equalled (but IMHO Sindts and Killarneys are very close).

I've done hundreds of studio gigs. Every one has been done on my c1980 Feadog D and my c1980 Generation C.

I never found a good Generation Bb and for that key I use a Freeman.

Author:  colomon [ Wed Sep 13, 2017 10:00 am ]
Post subject:  Re: Price, Skill and Sound

pancelticpiper wrote:
With whistles, due to their fixed tone-production mechanism, no amount of practice is going to change a whistle's built-in characteristics.

Maybe so, but for sure practice can change your approach to playing that instrument, which can make a huge difference. I know it was probably five years of whistle playing before I had the breath control to make a Generation-style whistle sound good. (In the early years I got by because I played whistles with a higher back pressure that could compromise enough with my bassoon player instincts to get me up and running.)

Author:  Adrian W. [ Sun Sep 17, 2017 8:01 am ]
Post subject:  Re: Price, Skill and Sound

My first whistle I bought at a historic site; rolled tin replica of an old whistle. Not very good, and I got nowhere with it. I thought it was defective until a friend picked it up and played a respectable scale on it. So I tried again, and soon walked into a music store and bought the first blue-top Generation I picked out of the jar. It's not a carefully selected 'good' Gen, or an old one, just bog standard. Did the standard tweaking of the windway, blue tack etc, but nothing else.

After a while, I convinced myself I 'needed' a better whistle, that Gen (and all the other cheapies I bought around the same time) was holding me back. So I got a Sindt (first of three in different keys), a Humphrey, and came into an Impempe..... all 'better' whistles for sure. And I do love them. But when I do pick up that old Gen from time to time, now that I am a better player, it is a great little whistle and really does anything and more I need it to do. My daughter fairly recently bought a couple of brass Gens in D and Bb. Off the shelf, minimal tweaking, and they are also great whistles. All of my cheapies have magically turned into pretty good whistles over time.... just played a couple of tunes on that replica whistle I used to think was defective: works just fine. They are all fine, except the Clarke Sweetones and Megs which I should just destroy or give to someone I don't like. Never played a Freeman, but I'm sure they are worth paying a little more for one that has been done over. So I'm in the camp that says it's more about the player than the price of the whistle. You do get something special with a whistle from one of the good makers... I guess; you can't have mine, I'm keeping them.... but with time and practice, that ten dollar whistle somehow gets better and better.

Author:  tomcat [ Mon Sep 18, 2017 1:12 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Price, Skill and Sound

Hmmmm, love all the comments. I will only add you should find a whistle that can become your voice. When I started, I was bored easily. So I went from whistle to whistle and from key to key for the sake of variety. I remember reading back then that this was a poor way to learn. I'm sure that is right. It is a poor way to learn, but for me, it was a great way to have fun....And I was playing more for fun than for learning.

There is no right or wrong way to go about it . . . if your budget allows a variety of whistles, go for em. My budget was modest so I used this forum as a way to purchase and sell, purchase and sell until I found the whistles I felt like I could not part with. The first whistle I fell in love with was a Busman out of Tulipwood. Love at first toot. After several years, I now have a whistle I love in each key. Doesn't mean I still wouldn't like a new whistle or two (or twenty), but I have what I need to play in my environments. My voice has full expression - in whatever key is needed. What fun!

We live in a great time to play whistle. Their are quality craftsmen who have poured years of trial and error, money, sweat and tears into mastering their work. We also have a forum, like this, where experienced musicians are willing to offer their opinions and advice to those of us who are tinkering with learning. What a great combo!

I gave up a long time ago trying to play a certain way, or copying a style of someone else. The basics are very helpful in teaching one what the whistle can do - but the fun starts when things start to click and you discover your own voice. Finding the right whistle(s) is part of that process. The whistle can be a vastly expressive instrument sensitive to nuance of breath, and touch and emotion. In my book, this makes it the perfect instrument for pure enjoyment . . . may your adventure continue both as you find your voice and whistle.

Author:  ytliek [ Mon Sep 18, 2017 2:16 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Price, Skill and Sound

I agree with keeping the whistling fun.

Author:  Chifmunk [ Mon Sep 18, 2017 3:37 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Price, Skill and Sound

For a beginner D whistle, I highly recommend either Freeman-tweaked (especially his Blackbirds!) or Dixon brass 'Trad'. Both are very easy to play in tune and both have lovely tones. For a beginner it's important to have a whistle you can trust and that is a pleasure to play.

Author:  thx712517 [ Mon Sep 18, 2017 4:00 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Price, Skill and Sound

Perhaps off topic, but does circular breathing make an appearance in whistle playing? It seems some players just go on and on endlessly whereas I simply do not.

Author:  benhall.1 [ Tue Sep 19, 2017 12:06 am ]
Post subject:  Re: Price, Skill and Sound

thx712517 wrote:
Perhaps off topic, but does circular breathing make an appearance in whistle playing? It seems some players just go on and on endlessly whereas I simply do not.

It is done:

Hatao is a member here:


However, I personally have never come across, IRL, anyone using circular breathing. What most players do is choose where they breathe very carefully. The trick is to make it appear that there are no gaps. It's a bit like the trick of some of the best banjo players, some of whom manage to convey an impression of playing legato, when that is clearly impossible.

Author:  Tor [ Tue Sep 19, 2017 5:04 am ]
Post subject:  Re: Price, Skill and Sound

Great playing by Hatao, but I was running out of air watching it! :) Especially the flute section, for some reason.

Author:  pancelticpiper [ Tue Sep 19, 2017 6:41 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Price, Skill and Sound

I just happened to toot a bit on my c1980 Generation C just now... wow... I do forget, if I don't play it for a while, just how sublime it is.

The low octave is big, full, and round yet the 2nd octave is incredibly sweet and easy. I've not seen any whistle at any price equal it.

The timbre is complex, yet sweet and clear.

My c1980 Feadog D isn't as good as that Generation C. Its low range is softer that I would like. But still it out-played quite famous and expensive D's I tested side-by-side with it, the Feadog's timbre having that extra something the various new whistles lacked.

Author:  busterbill [ Sat Oct 28, 2017 9:13 am ]
Post subject:  Re: Price, Skill and Sound

I have a few Sweetones lying around the house I bought for my kids in the 90s, and one tweaked. I enjoy them a a quick pick up whistle, but they seem to like a light touch air pressure wise. I've also sat in a session where a good player honked on one admirably, but playing a whistle at full volume in tune is actually a skill you learn. (though it is true that some whistles are so out of tune they are impossible to play well.) I'd recommend a Killarny if you can afford them. Or go with a tweaked instrument by Jerry Freedman. They will play like whistles and can stand up to your learning to blow. Since the question was about price, here's my 2 cents: If you decide you hate the whistle and want to resell you can usually get half your money back, which isn't bad for a used anything. You are playing a $10 whistle. If you buy a $75 Killarney and decide you're done after a year and find someone to buy it for $40-50 bucks you are only out $25 for a year's experiment. I have both the brass and nickel bodies and like them both. Are they the best whistles in the world? Probably not, but I've heard them played by great players and they sound good. When we are beginning we seem to think we have to blow hard, which isn't always the case. This will improve with practice. I don't know where you are but if you don't have a teacher around and your internet connection is good, I have enjoyed the Online Academy of Irish Music. They give you a certain number of lessons for free, then it's $20 a month for all the lessons you can devour. I subscribed to augment my concertina lessons, and, even though I have played whistle and flute for 30 years, I will dig into the flute and whistle sections to learn new tunes.

Author:  nicx66 [ Sat Oct 28, 2017 3:42 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Price, Skill and Sound probably a hohner, preferred instrument for kwela

Author:  hoopy mike [ Wed Nov 01, 2017 7:01 am ]
Post subject:  Re: Price, Skill and Sound

Just to clarify, I don't regard Jerry Freeman's Blackbird / Bluebird whistles as "tweaked" whistles, but maybe others could comment. I think "tweaking" is defined as modifying off the peg mass-produced whistles whereas the Bluebird and Blackbird are somewhere between a mass-produced and a hand-made whistle (and are priced accordingly). I understand that Jerry checks them out before shipping them, whereas cheaper mass-produced whistles might not get that level of quality assurance.

On the intonation question, the intonation is fixed to a large extent by the spacing of the holes on the tube (although players can bend notes in or out of tune using breath control). It's inconceivable that the intonation of mass-produced whistles would vary greatly from whistle to whistle due to the consistent manufacturning process. However, tone is much more defined by the plastic whistle head, which could exhibit a greater degree of variability (and is where tweaking comes in). It seems much more likely that a "hand-made" brand of whistle would have potentially much greater variable intonation from whistle to whistle, due to the lower-tech manufacturing process, but possibly a sweeter voice with the additional care and attention to detail.

For what it's worth, I have a Freeman Bleuebird and a Blackbird, neither of which I like that much, but are playable and have good intonation generally. One of them has an unwanted undertone when I play a high D unless I vent the first fingerhole - something none of my other whistles do. I also find them less reliable / stable in the second octave. I prefer my Dixon trad, particularly after I've played around with a few different heads, but I've also enjoyed playing a Feadog, a whole bunch of Generation whistles, the much-maligned Clarke whistles (Sweetone) and other brands.

Author:  Tommy [ Wed Nov 01, 2017 8:03 am ]
Post subject:  Re: Price, Skill and Sound

Tony Dixon whistles have excellent pop/response smooth playing and in your price range. :thumbsup:

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