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PostPosted: Tue Apr 10, 2018 12:47 pm 
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I've been practicing hard on the whistle, especially the low whistle, and have come a log way in a short time, but of course have a long way to go.

I've got five inexpensive whistles and noticed significant differences between whistles in tone and playability. I have two Generations and one is unpleasant to play and the other sounds good, while the one Oak whistle I have plays well but the tone isn't as nice as the good Generation, etc etc. Some have a good first octave and a nasty second octave. Some clog up and get watery sounding quickly. Some are more in tune across the range than others.

I'm an experienced musician and build my own guitars and so I know two things: 1, a good player can sound good on just about any instrument, and 2, things that nag you about an instrument will keep nagging you even if you learn to play around them

So I'm wondering if it's worth it to buy an expensive whistle made by a small producer, someone who pays more attention to detail and produces a more consistent product. Like just buy a "good"whistle and stick with it. Or alternatively lots of good music is made of cheap whistles, so just be the guy who tries every Feadog in the store seeking the one good one that came off the line.

I'm just looking for opinions on spending up $200 for say a Milligan whistle, or a goldie, or 100 US or so for a Killarney. I understand different people like different things, but in general is spending the considerable extra dough for "good" whistle worth it?


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PostPosted: Tue Apr 10, 2018 1:11 pm 
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PB+J wrote:
I'm just looking for opinions on spending up $200 for say a Milligan whistle, or a goldie, or 100 US or so for a Killarney. I understand different people like different things, but in general is spending the considerable extra dough for "good" whistle worth it?


Yes and no. You are absolutely right that a good musician can make just about any instrument sound good, so from that general point, the extra money might not be worth it. On the other hand, however, I really prefer my hand-made, custom instruments since the ones I have mold well with my playing preferences. In my case, yes. Paying the extra money has been worth it to me since it gave me an instrument that played seamlessly with the sound I hear in my head. However, of course, it really depends on what you want out of the whistle.

In all honesty, though, prior to playing more professionally, I would have prefered to spend less. For example, I didn't really see the point in buying, say, an Abell whistle for $550 when I could buy a Milligan for $185. Not that the Abell isn't great for the money you pay, nor that a Milligan is the same as an Abell, but all the benefits I wanted from the Abell (volume, amazing tone, etc) were also offered with the Milligan, so at that point, it did come down to the price :lol:
Cheers!


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PostPosted: Tue Apr 10, 2018 1:43 pm 
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You will frequently hear that a good musician will make a mediocre instrument sound good. It's true, but have you noticed that the good musicians rarely play on mediocre instruments...there's a reason! While they can make them sound good, it's damn hard work. :shock:

I want my music playing to be fun. Ergo, I want to play on good instruments. If I played fiddle I sure wouldn't need to be playing on a Strad, but I wouldn't be using a cheap eBay instrument either.

My whistles are either Milligan's or Reyburns. But I do have some Freeman tweaked whistles that I like pretty well too.

Once you've played a really nice whistle, you'll not want to go back to something you have to struggle with to get a decent sound or response out of.

But as BigBpiper pointed out, you don't have to spend a great deal of money to get a really nice playing whistle.

Also, many makers and shops will take the instrument back if it doesn't suit, so you're really not even risking anything.

JD


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PostPosted: Tue Apr 10, 2018 1:50 pm 
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This is a classic question dating back to the earliest days of C&F, and to date, there's no clear consensus!
Here's my take: a good whistle is a good whistle. The price has nothing to do with it. My favored whistle was $10, for instance, although I've owned plenty of more expensive ones over the years. I also find quite a lot of the more expensive whistles to lack the qualities I most value, especially a sweet and easy to reach second octave and moderate volume. (When you see 'session bore' or 'session volume,' run the other way!) The Killarney is a very good whistle that delivers predictable quality and nice playing characteristics. If I were you, I'd go for that. It'll give you a good baseline from which you can judge other whistles, cheap and expensive alike.


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PostPosted: Tue Apr 10, 2018 2:24 pm 
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Problem with this sort of thread is that there is the automatic assumption a cheap whistle is by definition mediocre and will only sound good when hard work is put into playing it while every expensive whistle is pampered with great attention to detail and therefore the better player. Reality is different, if my experience is anything to go by.

I very recently put down €90 for a new whistle. Does it play easier than the equivalent Generations I already had. Most certainly not. Is it a better whistle, in some ways, perhaps, in other ways, no, it isn't. It's sturdy and shiny and I have put a lot of hours on it in the past two weeks, it's fine but the verdict is still open whether or not the price difference between €5 and €90 yielded a significant gain. If switching from one to the other while writing this is anything to go by, the cheap ones win on sweetness and effortless playability by a country mile. Nimble and light to the touch where the expensive one needs that bit more effort. Maybe that's what playing a 'professional' whistle is, it feels more like it's work.

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PostPosted: Tue Apr 10, 2018 3:52 pm 
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Mr.Gumby wrote:
Problem with this sort of thread is that there is the automatic assumption a cheap whistle is by definition mediocre and will only sound good when hard work is put into playing it while every expensive whistle is pampered with great attention to detail and therefore the better player. Reality is different, if my experience is anything to go by.


Perhaps not, but I certainly wasn't intending to appear to have made that assumption. As far as generations go, I've actually been very fortunate and played many great ones, despite the inconsistency that they apparently have. For many whistlers out there, though, that is not the case. I know I am definitely willing to trade off the generation-like tone for a more consistent whistle, and I know many other whistlers who feel the same way. It has nothing to do with disliking the sound, they just don't apreciate the need to buy several to get a good Generation. That is why we started to see a trend of susato players in the 90s and turn of the millenium. Regardless, though, in my case, the wooden whistle sound beats the generation tone (no matter how "good" the generation). Again, it's not even that I don't like the sound of generations, since I do like them, I just prefer other tones. At the end of the day, though, if you have either a cheap or expensive whistle that satisfies your needs, then stick with it.


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PostPosted: Tue Apr 10, 2018 4:20 pm 
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If you're not happy with what you have, it might be worth it to dip your toe in the water and get a Dixon DX-Trad at around $30.00 before shelling out larger sums of money. They're decent whistles, and one may suit you perfectly.

I've definitely shelled out more than that over the years trying to find a generation that I was happy with. Not all of us have the luxury of going to a store with a ton of them and cherry picking the ones we prefer ;)


And I say this as a guy who's played a lot of expensive whistles. I have more than one Milligan, and love them dearly. But especially when you're new, your needs will change over time. Give yourself time to grow into your craft, but doesn't mean just stick with your feadog (or oak, or generation, or whatever) if you don't like it. There are a ton of less-expensive options to choose from.

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Last edited by Wanderer on Tue Apr 10, 2018 4:24 pm, edited 2 times in total.

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PostPosted: Tue Apr 10, 2018 4:22 pm 
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For the money you are looking to spend, I would highly recommend a Burke whistle, or better yet, trying one out to see if you like it. I love my generation and my Burke. They are very different sounding whistles. The Burke is nice because it is easy to play for a beginner and yet has very quick, clean responsiveness and transitions between notes for the intermediate to advanced players. When I play by myself I prefer the generation, however in a band setting, I go for the Burke, as it sounds better to the other musicians in my group. I tend to agree with them, though part of the problem is that the string players are using electronic tuners, rather than tuning to the whistle. If I were playing with just the bodhran or uilleann pipes, I would likely switch back to the generation or one of my own.


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PostPosted: Tue Apr 10, 2018 4:37 pm 
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Thank you all for the replies. My experience with the cheap whistles (Generation, Oak, Faedog, waltons) I have and enjoy playing is that they are really inconsistent, and it's not just my relative inexperience. I'm just hoping a better whistle will have less to fight against. It's probably true that if I hunted around and played a lot of whistles and maybe bought a lot of whistles I'd find one I really liked.

I bought a Dixon Low Whistle and fell in love with the instrument, but then bought a used Howard on Ebay, and it was such a vast difference in volume and "handling;" It was way easier to play even though it's got its own deficiencies. I went and ordered an MK low whistle based on all the rave reviews I saw. It's still in Customs. If I don't like it I assume it will have some resale value.


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PostPosted: Tue Apr 10, 2018 5:00 pm 
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Wanderer wrote:
If you're not happy with what you have, it might be worth it to dip your toe in the water and get a Dixon DX-Trad at around $30.00 before shelling out larger sums of money. They're decent whistles, and one may suit you perfectly.

I've definitely shelled out more than that over the years trying to find a generation that I was happy with. Not all of us have the luxury of going to a store with a ton of them and cherry picking the ones we prefer ;)


I would agree that a Dixon Trad might be perfect. Wouldn't perhaps a Freeman-tweaked whistle also be a good option thats about the same price? Actually, Greg, would you mind posting a link to your whistle reviews site for PB+J to check out?

I know what you mean. The manager at the local music store would probably chase me down with a fire extinguisher if I tried on of the whistles without buying it first :lol: . In all honesty though, I find it hilarious how lucky I've been as far as buying "good" generations without having played them go. I have known far less fortunate whistlers...


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PostPosted: Tue Apr 10, 2018 7:20 pm 
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BigBpiper wrote:
Wanderer wrote:
If you're not happy with what you have, it might be worth it to dip your toe in the water and get a Dixon DX-Trad at around $30.00 before shelling out larger sums of money. They're decent whistles, and one may suit you perfectly.

I've definitely shelled out more than that over the years trying to find a generation that I was happy with. Not all of us have the luxury of going to a store with a ton of them and cherry picking the ones we prefer ;)


I would agree that a Dixon Trad might be perfect. Wouldn't perhaps a Freeman-tweaked whistle also be a good option thats about the same price? Actually, Greg, would you mind posting a link to your whistle reviews site for PB+J to check out?

I know what you mean. The manager at the local music store would probably chase me down with a fire extinguisher if I tried on of the whistles without buying it first :lol: . In all honesty though, I find it hilarious how lucky I've been as far as buying "good" generations without having played them go. I have known far less fortunate whistlers...


Happy to oblige.
http://tinwhistler.com/reviews

I haven't played a Freeman tweaked in almost 15 years, but they were good at the time. My favorite among them was the Mellow Dog. But I like the DX-Trad just a bit more (which is, of course, a subjective opinion).

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PostPosted: Tue Apr 10, 2018 7:47 pm 
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Thank you for that site and those reviews!

I'm a little biased against Dixon because I don't like the mouthpiece on my Dixon Low D al that much


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PostPosted: Tue Apr 10, 2018 7:54 pm 
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For what it's worth, I don't like the Dixon low D, either. :D

I also wasn't very fond of the original Dixon line (the DX004). But Tony's done a great job with the DX Trad.

But whistle preference is entirely subjective. What works for me may or may not work for you.

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PostPosted: Tue Apr 10, 2018 10:19 pm 
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I wouldn't get too hung up on needing an expensive whistle. Mary Bergin, one of the better players, had a preference for standard Generation whistles that she used on her two great albums. I don't really know but I assume she might do some selecting or tweaking to fix any little issues. And, maybe she has different preferences nowadays.

I think the first two questions you need to answer are not about whistle "quality" rather whistle "character":

(1) What type of sound do you want (wooden vs metal, warm/resonant vs bright, clean vs chiffy)
(2) Session volume or sweet second register.

Only after you answer those two questions, will you have enough information to take the next step.

Personally, I'm not attracted to the wooden, "recorder-like" warm sound. My preference on whistle is for a bright, slightly chiffy character with an easy & sweet second register. Therefore, I like my Freeman tweaked Generation, my 1970s Bb Generation and I absolutely love my Killarney.

Your taste may differ; your taste may change. I did go through a phase where I was interested in a warmer sound, and as I gained more experience, I returned to the traditional, cheapo penny whistle sound like the old-school Generations.


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PostPosted: Wed Apr 11, 2018 1:17 am 
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Quote:
I'm just hoping a better whistle will have less to fight against


You don't seem to want to take my point about cheap whistles not putting up a fight. Which is fine, had the argument enough times to not fancy another round of kicking it about. But why ask if you have already made up your mind?

Like the previous poster I think at this point it is perhaps important you decide what you want from a whistle, the whistles in the OP are wildly different ones. Between, say, a Killarney and a Goldie there's a world of difference and each is fine in its own right and they have their own uses but they're hardly interchangeable choices. Decide what you want to play, what sort of style, type of music and all that, pick an instrument to suit that rather than chase the elusive but completely non specific 'something better'.

There is also a lot to be said for sticking with what you have, put in the hours and decide what you may want or need once you can play the things a bit.


[fixed typo]

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Last edited by Mr.Gumby on Wed Apr 11, 2018 7:49 am, edited 1 time in total.

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