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 Post subject: Low D, low air
PostPosted: Thu Nov 09, 2017 4:16 pm 
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I usually play flute, but pulled my old chieftain (v1 I think) low D out of the attic the other day as I a had a hankering to play the whistle. Compared to playing flute it takes a lot of air! Is this normal or are there low Ds out there that don’t require huge lungs? If so can anyone recommend one? Thanks in advance.


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 Post subject: Re: Low D, low air
PostPosted: Fri Nov 10, 2017 5:54 am 
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That's a big issue for me too. I also come from many years playing flute, and I want a Low D to have around the same air requirements as a good flute. Of course flutes vary in air-efficiency too, the best ones put out a huge amount of tone with a moderate amount of air.

One thing to keep in mind is that Low Whistles have two different factors concerning air requirements, and oftentimes it's not clear which one people are referring to:

1) the quantity of air that passes through the whistle as you play (what I call "efficiency")

2) the force of air required to sound the whistle (often called "backpressure" or "resistance")

These often go hand in glove; whistles with high resistance often have high efficiency.

For me all whistles seem to have virtually no resistance so #2 isn't something I consider.

For me #1 is very important, because the more efficient a whistle is the longer phrases you can play.

Low Whistles vary tremendously, for example the most efficient whistles can sustain a note in the 2nd octave twice as long as the least efficient.

The most efficient Low D's that have passed through my fingers have been the MK and the Goldie. They're also among the louder Low D's. It's really quite remarkable how an MK can put out such a big tone with so little air.

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


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 Post subject: Re: Low D, low air
PostPosted: Fri Nov 10, 2017 7:36 am 
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pancelticpiper wrote:
One thing to keep in mind is that Low Whistles have two different factors concerning air requirements, and oftentimes it's not clear which one people are referring to:

1) the quantity of air that passes through the whistle as you play (what I call "efficiency")

2) the force of air required to sound the whistle (often called "backpressure" or "resistance")


For me #1 is very important, because the more efficient a whistle is the longer phrases you can play


Thanks for defining the two factors, very helpful. I was talking about number 1 because I can play much longer phrases on my flute than the low D.

Thanks for the comment about the MK. I had it in my head they needed a lot of air. No idea why that was in my head, I must have heard/read someone's opinion someplace.


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 Post subject: Re: Low D, low air
PostPosted: Fri Nov 10, 2017 8:35 am 
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Interesting.
I can play longer phrases on at least two of my Low Ds, than on my flutes.
I've only been playing the flute for 18 months, so I'm sure you both have much better embouchures than me. Whether I have a more air efficient whistle, I don't know. Probably not.

For instance on my low whistle I can play the first part of Scatter the Mud through once and then one or two bars of the repeat (of part one). On my flute I need to take a breath when doing this.
The second part takes more air, though.


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 Post subject: Re: Low D, low air
PostPosted: Sat Nov 11, 2017 3:15 pm 
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karl wrote:
Thanks for the comment about the MK. I had it in my head they needed a lot of air.
Actually, in compare with my first low D ("noname"), MK needs quite a lot of air. But it rewards you by loud playing. My "noname" low D has weak low tones, especially "E" (but "D" beside to MK is weak too).

Comparing to flute, MK requires more air than flute at all, "noname" requires more air only in second octave.

BTW. Pay attention for build quality of MK and good luck with makers if it has some flaws. They're not responding at all :-(.
In these days I still prefer "noname" and MK lays in drawer (it still reminds me the disappointment when I first saw that mouthpiece which is aside instead of centered).


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 Post subject: Re: Low D, low air
PostPosted: Sat Nov 11, 2017 4:14 pm 
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I have no experience with Low D whistles. But I just ordered a Kerry Optima tuneable Low D directly from Kerry Whistles. It will be my first Low D and seems like a bargain at 85 pounds. With shipping to the U.S., brings the total to $135. Can't beat the price for that quality. But I don't know how it blows. Perhaps someone can comment.

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 Post subject: Re: Low D, low air
PostPosted: Sat Nov 11, 2017 4:33 pm 
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I've only played a few low d whistles, the ones that I have owned myself. The first was a new Burke Viper Low D that I didn't keep for long. It didn't seem too bad to play, but wasn't a very interesting sound to my ears. The other, I still have, as an O'Riordan. I like its fat flutey sound, but it is not what I'd call efficient, IMHO. I've had several low Fs, Burke, Grinter, O'Riordan and a few others and the wind efficiency seems to get better as you go up the scale.

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 Post subject: Re: Low D, low air
PostPosted: Sat Nov 11, 2017 5:05 pm 
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vonallentx wrote:
I have no experience with Low D whistles. But I just ordered a Kerry Optima tuneable Low D directly from Kerry Whistles. It will be my first Low D and seems like a bargain at 85 pounds. With shipping to the U.S., brings the total to $135. Can't beat the price for that quality. But I don't know how it blows. Perhaps someone can comment.


Sounds like you're in the same boat as me, there have been a few posts on the Kerry Optima on my thread on a good first low D for a not very experienced wind player viewtopic.php?f=1&t=105631 I considered the Optima too and think it looks great, but haven't bought yet as a few have commented on it being very sharp in the 2nd octave. As I'll be playing it in a band and recording (when I get confident enough!), this would be an issue for me.


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 Post subject: Re: Low D, low air
PostPosted: Sun Nov 12, 2017 1:36 am 
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Thanks for the comments. I guess the long and short of it is that a big whistle needs a lot of air.


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 Post subject: Re: Low D, low air
PostPosted: Sun Nov 12, 2017 5:23 am 
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kmarty wrote:
in comparison with my first low D ("noname"), my MK needs quite a lot of air. But it rewards you by loud playing. My "noname" low D has weak low tones, especially "E" (but "D" beside to MK is weak too).


Interesting. I wonder what your "noname" is. But if the low range is feeble then it's no use to me anyhow, regardless of how efficient it is.

Yes indeed IMHO the Bottom D is something which I'd like MK to improve. Perhaps they have, all the MK's I've owned (half a dozen) were made a few years ago. Yes Bottom D on the MK has around the same power as the other notes, but I prefer the bellnote to have extra power, and most Low D's are like that. (The Burke, for example, has an extremely powerful Bottom D, which can be "pushed" much more than the other low notes.)

kmarty wrote:
"noname" requires more air only in second octave.


That addresses something I've noticed when evaluating Low D's, that in general they suck more air in the 2nd octave, and more air as you go higher in the 2nd octave. It's why, when I evaluate air efficiency, I play B in the 2nd octave, which usually takes the most air.

kmarty wrote:
Pay attention for the build quality of the MK... disappointment when I first saw that mouthpiece which is aside instead of centered.


Very interesting. As I said I've owned a half-dozen different tuneable MK Low D's and all have been of the highest quality. The mouthpiece is off-center?? Very strange.

kmarty wrote:
They (MK) are not responding at all :-(.


Yes I've been there, with Misha and with many other makers too.

As I've told here, back in 2007 I was going to spend a couple weeks in Glasgow. I was very interested in purchasing my first MK at that time, and I thought it would be great to be able to visit Misha and purchase (or at least order) a whistle.

I tried to contact him repeatedly in the six months leading up to my trip but I never got any response.

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


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 Post subject: Re: Low D, low air
PostPosted: Sun Nov 12, 2017 5:39 am 
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JoFo wrote:
I can play longer phrases on at least two of my Low Ds, than on my flutes.

I've only been playing the flute for 18 months, so I'm sure you both have much better embouchures than me.


There are three things that come to mind

1) Yes the longer you play flute the more focused your embouchure becomes, generally. Greater focus increases efficiency, increases the ease of production of high notes, allows more powerful low notes, improves tone, improves response, everything. Everything comes from focus.

That's what impressed me most about the MK when I first picked it up: it played much like a flute when the flutist has a very focused air-stream. Compared to the other Low D's I'd tried the 2nd octave was easier, the low octave more powerful, the whistle overall took little air but was louder, switching octaves was more responsive, and the timbre was complex and sophisticated.

Compared to that, when I picked up other Low D's it was like a flute when the flutist has a less-than-great embouchure.

2) Flutes vary. It might be that you have an inherently inefficient flute. They exist, I've played plenty. With flutes as with whistles, I want an efficient instrument.

3) There are Low D's which take very little air but don't perform to what I consider to be an acceptable level. To be heard with others you have to have a certain level of volume in the low notes.

That's the trick with making Low D's, getting the low octave loud enough so that you can be heard, but yet having the high notes in the 2nd octave not be too loud. Flutes, when played by good players, have the volume of the two octaves much more even than it's probably possible to achieve on a Low D whistle.

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


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 Post subject: Re: Low D, low air
PostPosted: Sun Nov 12, 2017 5:49 am 
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CornishFiddler wrote:
I considered the Optima too and think it looks great, but haven't bought yet as a few have commented on it being very sharp in the 2nd octave.


Yes that was me. Keep in mind that my review was of a single Optima, the one that went on a C&F tour.

The MK has a sharpish 2nd octave too, but it's not difficult to blow it so that the 2 octaves are in line. You have to blow the low octave very strongly and back off on the blowing of the 2nd octave. Years of playing MK's got me very used to doing this.

The Optima that was on tour was sharper yet, so that to blow the octaves in tune I had to blow the low octave notes to the very verge of breaking (and not having optimal tone-quality) and underblow the 2nd octave notes to the very verge of them falling down to the low octave. It was just barely possible to do.

Thing is, when I first started playing the Optima out of the box I was very impressed- great tuning, great tone, and so forth. I don't have Perfect Pitch, though, and when I checked myself against an electronic tuner I saw that I was playing sharp in the 2nd octave. I then worked on blowing the whistle so that the 2 octaves were both at the same pitch, and I discovered that that was quite difficult for me to do. I've not encountered another Low D with a 2nd octave that sharp.

That's not to say that somebody, with practice, couldn't get used to it and play it in tune. But when you're underblowing the 2nd octave notes to the verge of falling fulltime, you don't have any room on the underside of notes to bend the notes expressively. Likewise since I had to overblow the whole low octave to the verge of breaking fulltime there was no room on the upper side of the notes to "push" them for emphasis. I think it's ideal for the octaves to be in the middle, giving you room on the upper side and underside of all the notes in both octaves.

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


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 Post subject: Re: Low D, low air
PostPosted: Sun Nov 12, 2017 9:55 am 
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CornishFiddler wrote:
Sounds like you're in the same boat as me, there have been a few posts on the Kerry Optima on my thread on a good first low D for a not very experienced wind player viewtopic.php?f=1&t=105631 I considered the Optima too and think it looks great, but haven't bought yet as a few have commented on it being very sharp in the 2nd octave. As I'll be playing it in a band and recording (when I get confident enough!), this would be an issue for me.


I just checked out some YouTube clips of the Alba Low D. It sounds great and only costs 125 pounds. I'll consider that next if the Kerry Optima isn't ... I can't resist ... optimal.

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Current kit: Oak D; Freeman Blackbird D; Dixon Trad Nickel D; McManus African Blackwood D; Kerry Optima tuneable Low D


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 Post subject: Re: Low D, low air
PostPosted: Mon Nov 13, 2017 3:32 am 
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I've played a number of low Ds.

To me, the LowD's by Reyburn require the least amount of air but give plenty of volume.

I call them "forever fipples" because you can play so long in between breaths.

Here is a link to my review of one of the Reyburn Low Ds that was on tour:

viewtopic.php?f=1&t=93321&p=1117267&hilit=forever#p1117267

Edited to add: 5 out 8 bullet points in that review were devoted to breath, backpressure, flow, and sound volume.

I bought one.


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 Post subject: Re: Low D, low air
PostPosted: Mon Nov 13, 2017 6:42 am 
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I've owned and played a few different Reyburn Low D's.

One was very efficient, amongst the most efficient Low D's I have (MK and Goldie).

A couple others were amongst the least efficient (similar to a Burke).

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


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