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 Post subject: On Learning: Part One
PostPosted: Sun Dec 17, 2017 1:17 pm 
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If I hear one more person tell me that playing the whistle is the easiest instrument to learn I may just have to turn my whistle into a lethal weapon. I've noticed a few other novices on here that seem to have the same questions as me and I'll assume many before me have as well. I know a lot of you have probably been playing for so long that starting out might seem like a faded memory, so here is my experience thus far to re-kindle the horror. I've given most of my info in other posts, so I apologize in advance for a little repetition. First off I'll set the stage a bit. This year for my birthday (I'm 46) my buddy bought me a Waltons D whistle and told me that I had learn Wild Rover for next time we met. Within the week I started practicing every day and although I had no idea what I was doing, I stuck with it and after a couple of weeks of squeaking out terrible sounds; the notes eventually began to link and I could hash together a handful of out-of-tune tunes. The first tune that actually worked for me was Fields of Athenry and I now have a small handful of tunes that I have memorized at this point. I still don't really read music but I intend on learning. One of my early difficulties included learning how to learn. I really had no idea what I was doing (and still barely do) so I would do things like run into my shop, flick on the lights and play the songs that I know, warts and all one time through; kill the lights and leave. It was my gorilla tactic and makes no sense to anyone but me. At less than three months in I'm having a blast. My quiver is slowly growing with a Dixon Trad D, Oak C and Freeman Mellow Dog D/C on it's way. I've also started stashing whistles in different places and vehicles so I can always play. Think "Who's afraid of Virginia Wolf" but instead of hiding booze bottles everywhere, I stash whistles. I still have a long way to go but this forum has been very helpful and supportive.

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PostPosted: Sun Dec 17, 2017 1:39 pm 
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Learning technique and learning the music are two different skills. The mechanics of making each note are pretty simple on a whistle in comparison to a violin or any other melody instrument, really. You can get a long way towards mastery in a month or so. However, that doesn't mean you're making music. You still need to learn the music, and that takes the same time on whistle as any other instrument.

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PostPosted: Sun Dec 17, 2017 2:27 pm 
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s1m0n wrote:
Learning technique and learning the music are two different skills. The mechanics of making each note are pretty simple on a whistle in comparison to a violin or any other melody instrument, really. You can get a long way towards mastery in a month or so. However, that doesn't mean you're making music. You still need to learn the music, and that takes the same time on whistle as any other instrument.


Thanks Simon, I wasn't actually posting this thread with a particular question in mind, yet you have still managed to answer one. Haha. Thanks for that. "Learning the music" does seem like a daunting task at this stage. My friend who bought me my initial whistle has been awesome in encouraging me at continuing to give me tasks to learn. He is a musician and wants to jam with me at some point, so his positive reenforcement may be self serving but I don't mind.


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PostPosted: Sun Dec 17, 2017 2:48 pm 
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s1m0n wrote:
However, that doesn't mean you're making music.

Of course it does! Perhaps not with great artistry or as well as you might with (months and years of) further appropriate help and practice, but of course you're making music!

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PostPosted: Sun Dec 17, 2017 2:54 pm 
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Peter Duggan wrote:
s1m0n wrote:
However, that doesn't mean you're making music.

Of course it does! Perhaps not with great artistry or as well as you might with (months and years of) further appropriate help and practice, but of course you're making music!


Objection sustained!

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And now there was no doubt that the trees were really moving - moving in and out through one another as if in a complicated country dance. ('And I suppose,' thought Lucy, 'when trees dance, it must be a very, very country dance indeed.')

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PostPosted: Sun Dec 17, 2017 4:35 pm 
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Polara Pat wrote:
If I hear one more person tell me that playing the whistle is the easiest instrument to learn I may just have to turn my whistle into a lethal weapon.


I hope no one here was saying that! There's no such thing as "easy" music or an "easy" instrument to play. Even knocking two blocks of wood together (the claves) requires considerable dexterity, sense of rhythm & time and a good ear for the music being played.

Whistle is no different.

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My quiver is slowly growing with a Dixon Trad D, Oak C and Freeman Mellow Dog D/C on it's way. I've also started stashing whistles in different places and vehicles so I can always play. Think "Who's afraid of Virginia Wolf" but instead of hiding booze bottles everywhere, I stash whistles. I still have a long way to go but this forum has been very helpful and supportive.


WHOAD strikes again!

Be sure to post a picture of your ever growing collection to the board!

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-- WhOAD Survivor No. 11373


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PostPosted: Sun Dec 17, 2017 4:44 pm 
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Quote:
My quiver is slowly growing with a Dixon Trad D, Oak C and Freeman Mellow Dog D/C on it's way. I've also started stashing whistles in different places and vehicles so I can always play. Think "Who's afraid of Virginia Wolf" but instead of hiding booze bottles everywhere, I stash whistles. I still have a long way to go but this forum has been very helpful and supportive.


WHOAD strikes again!

Be sure to post a picture of your ever growing collection to the board![/quote]

I feel like my buddy letting me try his Killarney was a gateway drug to buying more whistles. His Is nickel but I'm curious about the brass.


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PostPosted: Sun Dec 17, 2017 5:27 pm 
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Polara Pat wrote:
I feel like my buddy letting me try his Killarney was a gateway drug to buying more whistles. His Is nickel but I'm curious about the brass.


Well, you can never have just one! Might as well just give in early and often!

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PostPosted: Sun Dec 17, 2017 5:49 pm 
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whistlecollector wrote:
Polara Pat wrote:
I feel like my buddy letting me try his Killarney was a gateway drug to buying more whistles. His Is nickel but I'm curious about the brass.


Well, you can never have just one! Might as well just give in early and often!


I imagine the devil on my shoulder having a name something like Whistle Collector.


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PostPosted: Sun Dec 17, 2017 8:29 pm 
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I'll throw on my $0.02 here, too...

I find learning how to play the whistle to be sort of like learning how to drive. When I was learning that skill, I had two choices: learn how to drive a manual transmission or don't learn how to drive. Sometimes it was so aggravating that I almost threw in the towel...but I persevered, and I'm now one of those manual transmission die-hards. Learning how to play the whistle is frustrating to a lesser degree, but there is only one way I know of to get better and make it seem easier: practice.

I also appreciate Peter's perspective on making music. While I still don't consider myself a musician, I can still play a couple-few tunes on my whistle convincingly enough. That's more than I ever managed to do in three failed attempts at playing the guitar.

And someday I, too, intend to learn how to read music, but I can get by with fingering diagrams in the interim.

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PostPosted: Sun Dec 17, 2017 11:12 pm 
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One nice thing about this music is that you can (more-or-less) easily memorize a 16 bar tune; then another, and another. Pretty soon you have quite a collection.

I figure that every time you double your repertoire, your ability improves one Qualitative Step. 4 - 8 - 16 - 32, etc.


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PostPosted: Sun Dec 17, 2017 11:19 pm 
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I've been playing for a little over seven years now, off and on, and I would consider myself to be an okay player. There is only one session near me (that I'm aware of) and it happens on Thursday nights, which are difficult to make with young children and a schoolteacher for a wife (early bedtimes, early mornings), so I have played alone for most of the time. At this point, I wish I had spent more time drilling rhythm into my head and learning to recover from mistakes and keep up with the tunes.

A video I watched recently spoke of piano players having terrible rhythm, and the guy surmised that it had to do with how much time piano players spend just trying to figure out all the notes, rather than keeping on the beat. I could very much see myself in those remarks. He told of a professional who would get the feel of a song first by simplifying it enough to play on the beat, and then he would go back and fill in all the notes later. So that would be my advice. Don't neglect the rhythm for the sake of getting the ornamentation or the notes. I've heard several YouTube videos where someone gets all the notes, and even the ornamentation, but the tune is nearly unrecognizable because they don't have any sense of the rhythm. Better to go simpler and on beat.

I also wish I had thought to take videos of myself in the earlier stages of my development. The first video I have is over a year and a half after I first began learning. It would be nice to have a video of my first attempts.

Whistles are one of the easiest instruments to pick up and play, but the speed, flow, technique all take years and years of consistent (and quality) practice to master. I'm going to really start focusing on keeping in time with some recordings, and even playing along with a metronome. After that, I'd like to work on being able to vary my playing to make tunes more interesting. I always have a few variations that I consistently play each time, rather than changing it up constantly like the better players seem to be able to do.

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PostPosted: Mon Dec 18, 2017 10:05 am 
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AngelicBeaver wrote:
I wish I had spent more time drilling rhythm into my head and learning to recover from mistakes and keep up with the tunes.

I agree completely with the drilling in rhythm while keeping the tune simple and accurate. I've noticed too many players on various forums in a hurry for whistle speed and loudness, so fast in fact to loose the rhythm of tune completely. Fingering speed means nothing if the tune isn't recognizable.


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PostPosted: Mon Dec 18, 2017 11:00 am 
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I'm seeing a lot of fairly similar responses which makes me feel like I'm on the right track. If I knew even one person in my town that played the whistle, then I would probably...annoy the crap out of them. So it looks like you folks are my only hope. So sorry. Alright, put in the time, learn the rhythm and keep it simple. I started trying figure out ornamentation for a little while just to know the mechanics of it but I've almost completely eliminated them in my wee repertoire until my skill and confidence improve.

Another trend that I have noticed with a lot of new players is that they get to a certain stage and then either seem to burn out or reach maximum learning saturation or at least their learning curve hits a bit of a wall. I'm hoping that doesn't happen to me since I'm a mega keener.


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PostPosted: Mon Dec 18, 2017 11:27 am 
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Polara Pat wrote:
I'm seeing a lot of fairly similar responses which makes me feel like I'm on the right track. If I knew even one person in my town that played the whistle, then I would probably...annoy the crap out of them. So it looks like you folks are my only hope. So sorry. Alright, put in the time, learn the rhythm and keep it simple. I started trying figure out ornamentation for a little while just to know the mechanics of it but I've almost completely eliminated them in my wee repertoire until my skill and confidence improve.

Another trend that I have noticed with new players is that they get too a certain stage and then either seem to burn out or reach maximum learning saturation or at least their learning curve hits a bit of a wall. I'm hoping that doesn't happen to me since I'm a mega keener.


I think that the improvements are very rapid, initially, as you learn how to cover holes and move your fingers, but the curve definitely begins to level off once you get beyond the basics. I'd say I'm hundred times better than I was on day one, four times as good as I was at a month, and two to three times as good as I was at a year. I'm better than I was in 2014, but not miles better. The farther you advance, the harder you have to work for far less noticeable gains.

If you're doing it right, you rough out your skill set in the first year or so, and then it comes down to details and speed and execution. Getting your rhythm a bit better. Getting your ornamentation a little more precise. Gaining speed without sacrificing accuracy. Learning how to be intentional about your breathing and using it skillfully. Figuring out how to go beyond simple regurgitation and recitation of tunes but imbuing them with new life in your own interpretation. It's what separates the pros from the enthusiasts.

You sprint to maybe 50% of your potential, then stroll to 65%, then shuffle to 75%, then crawl to 80%, then drag yourself to 85%, then spend the rest of your life inching toward 90%.

If you are interested in pestering a real whistle player, there are several excellent teachers who offer Skype lessons. A friend of mine in San Antonio is learning flute from Kevin Crawford of Lunasa fame via Skype, so geography needn't be a hard barrier (although money might be).

P.S. - As an amateur whistle player myself, I reserve the right to be completely wrong about all of the above. These are just my personal feelings and observations on the topic. There are others on this forum with far more experience and skill than I have accumulated over the last few years.

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