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 Post subject: new to whistle
PostPosted: Sun Mar 25, 2018 3:24 pm 
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Joined: Sun Mar 25, 2018 5:40 am
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Hello, and thank you for taking the time to read this.

I'm a semi professional musician playing mostly jazz, primarily on upright and electric bass and also on guitar. I'm a reasonably proficient jazz guitarist. I've been drawn toward irish music for some time now. I have a legit bodhran, not a tourist bodhran, and practice it sincerely. Lately I've been intrigued with the whistle, and I have a couple vague beginner questions

Like a lot of families we had a Walton tin whistle rattling around. I never liked it: it only ever seemed to make piercing and unpleasant noises. But my daughter (13) is playing alto sax and my wife decided she want to learn flute, Boehm flute. So I decided to give the whistle another look while she tootled away. Now I have the Walton, with lots of little kid tooth marks in the mouthpiece, and a Generation and a Feadog, all in D. It's amazing how there can be differences between such simple instruments. The Feadog is probably the worst: it wants to do some kid of reedy gurgle like there's water in the works. The Generation is the best, although honestly I can barely play any of them "for effect:" I can get through tunes in a square and unornamented way.

But so help me I went out and bought a low whistle, and wow I think that is my ax. Such a beautiful sound. It appeals to the bass player in me. The low vibration feels good. it's never shrill. And it's different from a flute. More whistly. Just loving this thing.

I bought a Dixon Low D, made of plastic--the one that comes with an interchangeable flute head. I like the tone of it, although it's very slow. I'm working on two tunes; "the Minstrel Boy," for my father in law, a retired Marine general who is on his way out of this life and wants the tune played at his funeral (not by me, by the Marine band at Arlington cemetery, but I'm still learning it for him), and "The Rolling Wave," because i've always liked that one.

I'm wondering if a better whistle would make a significant difference. I'm not a snob and don't need anything fancy, and yes practice is more important than the instrument, that is always and everywhere true. I'm impressed with the Dixon, that you can get so much fun out of a piece of plastic tube, but somethings are hard--tonguing in the low register produces squeeks, and half holing on the low register is kind of not happening. Is that just a low whistle thing? Or will a better whistle make a difference? I know a lot of great music has been made on $10 Generations, and it's a little silly to look for a better ax when you can barely play, but I'm old enough to have less time for frustration than I used to.


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 Post subject: Re: new to whistle
PostPosted: Sun Mar 25, 2018 5:28 pm 
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Joined: Wed Feb 14, 2018 4:40 pm
Posts: 50
PB+J wrote:
I'm wondering if a better whistle would make a significant difference. I'm not a snob and don't need anything fancy, and yes practice is more important than the instrument, that is always and everywhere true. I'm impressed with the Dixon, that you can get so much fun out of a piece of plastic tube, but somethings are hard--tonguing in the low register produces squeeks, and half holing on the low register is kind of not happening. Is that just a low whistle thing? Or will a better whistle make a difference?

Hello and welcome to the forum! :)
If you like the dixon, I don't see a huge reason to upgrade just yet. Yes, to a certain extent, lower whistles tend to "squeak" more due to either not completely covering the widely spaced holes, or slight over-blowing. Practicing better breath control will help solve the latter, but you probably already figured that out :) . In the case of half-holing, it may help to have a whistle with somewhat larger holes. I never have needed to half-hole with my friend's dixon, so I wouldn't really know how good it is in that regard. :lol:

As far as other whistles go, the possibilities are endless! Some posters here at C&F really like Susato low whistles (more plastic instruments). But of course, there are other higher-end options. For example, Ronaldo Reyburn makes fantastic whistles of all different keys. I'm sure other posters will give more great suggestions.
Cheers!


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 Post subject: Re: new to whistle
PostPosted: Sun Mar 25, 2018 11:46 pm 
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I think the most important thing is what "calls" to you. If that is the low whistle, then go for it. (The flute does that for me).

On high (normal) D whistle, the Killarney is the one that pushes all my buttons: So easy and sweet in the high register.


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 Post subject: Re: new to whistle
PostPosted: Mon Mar 26, 2018 4:54 am 
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Thank you all. I've been eyeballing a killarney whistle for some time now. It's fascinating to go between the low whistle and the standard whistle. I feel like the low whistle is actually pretty good training for the standard whistle. The low whistle is so slow! I've been listening a lot to The Gloaming, and I like how they slow things down.

The Dixon whistle is a nice instrument, meaning it makes nice sounds, I just don't know much about whistles in general, and remember how a bad guitar can frustrate a beginner.

The whistle as a musical instrument is kind of a testament to the resourcefulness and creativity of people in constrained circumstances. It's almost a toy, but irish people managed to find ways to make astonishing music with it.


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 Post subject: Re: new to whistle
PostPosted: Mon Mar 26, 2018 10:45 am 
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It's almost a toy, but irish people managed to find ways to make astonishing music with it.


People played astonishing music on whistles in a lot of places, arguably. They got there by sticking with it and making the best of what they had, rather than go looking for a more expensive instrument.

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 Post subject: Re: new to whistle
PostPosted: Mon Mar 26, 2018 11:22 am 
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PB&J,
So... you like your low D Dixon polymer plastic whistle. I have the low A and Bb Dixon polymers and they have nice warm tones, but are rather soft in volume. They are nice whistles though!
When I got the Bb Susato polymer whistle, it was also a nice mellow velvety tone and nimble to play.. but had substantially more volume than my Dixon.
Rather than buying several more low D whistles to experiment, maybe you'd be into buying a Susato polymer Bb whistle- which is kinda a midpoint key- not so very low and big as a low D, but much less piercing than typical high D whistles. It's a very pleasant whistle, considering you already know you enjoy a plastic low whistle. Perhaps more practical than having several low D whistles around and only playing your favorite one. The Susato polymer C (one step below the standard high D) is very punchy and is fun to play too.
Just a thought!

p.s. Personally, I think life's too short to stick with playing just one whistle if you find it unpleasant to play in some way. Whistles are not priced like concertinas or guitars, after all! Whether you have one whistle or ten- if you don't find it a joy to play on (even as a beginner who often makes squeaky sounds and wrong notes), you'll less likely stick with whistling. I'm all for buying a few more whistles if it'll get you one with a tone that delights you and makes practice time irresistible. :)

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Last edited by Chifmunk on Mon Mar 26, 2018 3:23 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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 Post subject: Re: new to whistle
PostPosted: Mon Mar 26, 2018 2:04 pm 
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Joined: Sun Mar 25, 2018 5:40 am
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Thank you--that's a good thought. I'm doing internet research on whistles and looking for reviews.

I just got an Oak D in the mail and it's significantly better than the Walton, the Faedog, and a little better than the Generation. My daughter agrees. That's the end of my hi whistle research.

I think my heart now belongs to the low whistle. Something about the low and slow appeals to me. In addition to the two tunes above I've added the Kila song Cardinal Knowledge to my "repertoire." I already loved Ronan O'Snodaigh on the Bodhran so now maybe i can approach his brother via the whistle


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