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 Post subject: Sweetening the high end
PostPosted: Mon Jul 02, 2018 11:30 am 
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I’ve been playing the whistle very steadily since March. So not very long. I have a small but growing tunes I know, or rather practice everyday. Yesterday I started working on “the ten penny bit.” I pr@ctice very slowly at first, with a metronome. It’s relatively easy but man the high end gets very ouchy and piercing. The high B is especially tough to take at low speed.

I have a bunch of different whistles in D ranging from a Killarney to a Cillian O’Briain tweaked and an old Generation from the 1970s, and they all sound pretty shrill. I’ve played the same tune on a low D MK Pro, and on a Bb tweaked by freeman, and they all sound kinda tough on the top notes. i assume it’s even worse for my wife and daughter, since I’m almost 60 and have the typical diminished hi end hearing of a person my age.

Is this me overblowing? Is there an embouchure thing to try? It does seem to get better if I work on backing the air pressure down. I’m also thinking those high notes are typically not sustained for very long, which is a mercy.

In the meantime I can use it to drive teenagers away. I feel like the bongo player in this Stan Freiburg skit below

https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=gNtdCsWhFic


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PostPosted: Mon Jul 02, 2018 11:44 am 
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Yes, a delicate touch helps a bit. Shading (some of the) open holes helps a bit too.

And ofcourse you have to realise the thing is right under your nose and it will sound less piercing when listened to from the other side.

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PostPosted: Mon Jul 02, 2018 12:18 pm 
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As Mr. Gumby has said shading the B note will help with those screechy, piercing high notes. This is why I tune my instruments to "Just temperament" as the B note is 14 cents flat of an Equal tuned scale which helps a LOT.

Ronaldo
www.reyburnwhistles.com


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PostPosted: Mon Jul 02, 2018 7:12 pm 
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PB+J wrote:
a Killarney...a Cillian O’Briain tweaked...an old Generation from the 1970s...a low D MK Pro...a Bb tweaked by freeman...they all sound kinda tough on the top notes...they all sound pretty shrill...


I'm reminded of the old saying- how does it go? "when ten people tell you you're drunk it's time to lay down."

My Killarney has the sweetest upper notes of probably any whistle I've ever played, a hair sweeter than my Feadog Mk1 (which is amazingly sweet).

This sort of thing is why in-person lessons are the most effective way to learn- your teacher could play your whistles and immediately know exactly what's going on, and give you a strategy for fixing it.

On this forum we can't tell you much, because we can't play your whistles.

I can only think of these possibilities:

1) you're significantly underblowing or overblowing the high notes

2) you're using incorrect fingerings

3) you have an expectation for how the high notes ought to sound that differs from the way whistles actually sound.

As for #1 that might be exacerbated if you're constantly switching between different whistles, especially as different as the MK and the Killarney. Put all of them away except the Killarney and learn how to blow that one whistle perfectly. Then start playing a second whistle sometimes, and get used to making the adjustments in blowing you need to make when you go back and forth between the two.

As for #2 on some whistles, especially Low Whistles, High B won't sound good (or sometimes won't sound at all) if you have the lower-hand ring finger on its hole, thus:

xoo oox

For a High B that speaks readily and has a nice tone, keep the rest of the holes open, thus:

xoo ooo

As for #3 if you're used to listening to whistles on studio recordings you have to realise that they're probably heavily compressed. Without the digital compression the upper notes in the 2nd octave are rather louder than the lower notes in the low octave.

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1978 Quinn uilleann pipes
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PostPosted: Tue Jul 03, 2018 5:23 am 
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There's no need to be unkind, is there? I'm not drunk. I practice very seriously, but I have questions. The fact that the high end on so many different whistles seems harsh to me suggests it's my fault, and as I mentioned I think I may be over blowing.

Playing only one whistle could be a good approach. I'll consider it. I have plans to attend the local Comhaltas event next week, and I was expecting to look for a teacher.


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PostPosted: Tue Jul 03, 2018 5:51 am 
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I'm only a beginner myself, but as with other instruments, it is usually best to concentrate on one particular one whilst learning. :)

I also get some screeching on my new brass G, but I know it's my fault, because when it happens, I then notice that one of my fingers isn't quite covering one of the holes properly. :oops:

The other thing that I have personally found is that if I 'tongue' the high octave it sounds better, so I'm trying to remember to do it on all my whistles, & both octaves. :wink:

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PostPosted: Tue Jul 03, 2018 6:02 am 
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Quote:
There's no need to be unkind, is there? I'm not drunk.


Whee did that come from???? :boggle:

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PostPosted: Tue Jul 03, 2018 6:02 am 
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PB+J wrote:
There's no need to be unkind, is there? I'm not drunk.


Sorry I had no intention of being unkind. I didn't think anybody would take that saying literally. It's like using the old saying "putting the cart before the horse" when I realise that most people nowadays don't have carts and horses.

What that saying means in this case is that if so many different whistles, which play completely differently, are all producing harsh high notes, then the issue isn't the whistles.

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1978 Quinn uilleann pipes
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PostPosted: Tue Jul 03, 2018 10:26 am 
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PB+J wrote:
There's no need to be unkind, is there? I'm not drunk. I practice very seriously, but I have questions. The fact that the high end on so many different whistles seems harsh to me suggests it's my fault, and as I mentioned I think I may be over blowing.

Playing only one whistle could be a good approach. I'll consider it. I have plans to attend the local Comhaltas event next week, and I was expecting to look for a teacher.


As you're new to the forum you haven't had much time to get used to various posters editorial style so to speak.

To be sure, I can't recall Pancelticpiper ever, and I mean ever, being snarky. Tongue in cheek(ish) most definitely, but never mean-spirited. So I can assure you, as he already has, that he meant no disrespect.

Overall this group is more understanding, forgiving, and encouraging to beginners than almost any other forum I spend time on.

I would really second, or third I guess, the concept of playing one whistle until it behaves as you wish. Small and seemingly insignificant changes in design can make a huge difference in playability.

You're keen, and I'd say off to a good start, so keep it up, and if you don't find a teacher consider workshops...they can be useful. :thumbsup:

Piper Joe


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PostPosted: Tue Jul 03, 2018 1:23 pm 
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I apologize for misunderstanding the tone of the post. It's all good.

Today's practice session involved exploring the boundary between the first and second octave on high notes. A better tone resulted. I'm still wanting to favor tunes that don't go above the second A!


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PostPosted: Tue Jul 03, 2018 2:45 pm 
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Serious suggestion: Consider switching to the flute, the high notes are much more pleasant. I quit playing whistle for the most part years ago because the whistle’s high notes are just too shrill for my ears. It’s painful. Flute, no problem at all in that respect, much more pleasing tone over all in fact.


Oh yeah, and unlike the whistle, which basically only works when played at one set volume, the flute can be played somewhat quietly if needs be.


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PostPosted: Tue Jul 03, 2018 6:17 pm 
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To my limited experience Pancelticpiper’s remarks makes perfect sense as always. I find that if I “slide” into the high B from the high A that seems to reduce the shrillness. Does anyone have any thoughts on that or am I just hearing what I want to hear.
Cheers


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PostPosted: Tue Jul 03, 2018 6:23 pm 
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Loren wrote:
Serious suggestion: Consider switching to the flute, the high notes are much more pleasant. I quit playing whistle for the most part years ago because the whistle’s high notes are just too shrill for my ears. It’s painful. Flute, no problem at all in that respect, much more pleasing tone over all in fact.


Oh yeah, and unlike the whistle, which basically only works when played at one set volume, the flute can be played somewhat quietly if needs be.



I’ve never, ever, been able to get a damn sound out of a flute. Tried many many times, from the middle school band to the present, when we have flutes in the house—both a six hole “Irish” flute and a boehm system flute. I hate them. They feel terrible and awkward to hold and they resist my every effort to make a sound. It’s my fault, a fundamental disability like my inability to master algebra. My daughter, who plays the sax, can play the flute. I can play her sax, or at least get pleasing sounds and simple melodies. All the flute produces is an unpleasant rush of air and a shoulder strain. She laughs at me.

I agree though, flute has waaay more dynamic range, and much more varied timbre. I’m kind of drawn to the simplicity of the whistle. Creativity sometimes thrives on limits

Plus i do a lot of gigs on the upright bass and love the idea of an axe I can stash in my lapel pocket!


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PostPosted: Tue Jul 03, 2018 6:24 pm 
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JTU wrote:
To my limited experience Pancelticpiper’s remarks makes perfect sense as always. I find that if I “slide” into the high B from the high A that seems to reduce the shrillness. Does anyone have any thoughts on that or am I just hearing what I want to hear.
Cheers


In my poor novice experiments with this I’ve found that it helps. Blurring the edges of the note reduces the impact some.


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PostPosted: Tue Jul 03, 2018 6:54 pm 
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PB+J wrote:
Loren wrote:
Serious suggestion: Consider switching to the flute, the high notes are much more pleasant. I quit playing whistle for the most part years ago because the whistle’s high notes are just too shrill for my ears. It’s painful. Flute, no problem at all in that respect, much more pleasing tone over all in fact.


Oh yeah, and unlike the whistle, which basically only works when played at one set volume, the flute can be played somewhat quietly if needs be.



I’ve never, ever, been able to get a damn sound out of a flute. Tried many many times, from the middle school band to the present, when we have flutes in the house—both a six hole “Irish” flute and a boehm system flute. I hate them. They feel terrible and awkward to hold and they resist my every effort to make a sound. It’s my fault, a fundamental disability like my inability to master algebra. My daughter, who plays the sax, can play the flute. I can play her sax, or at least get pleasing sounds and simple melodies. All the flute produces is an unpleasant rush of air and a shoulder strain. She laughs at me.

I agree though, flute has waaay more dynamic range, and much more varied timbre. I’m kind of drawn to the simplicity of the whistle. Creativity sometimes thrives on limits

Plus i do a lot of gigs on the upright bass and love the idea of an axe I can stash in my lapel pocket!


:boggle: :lol: Ok, I’m convinced flute is not for you! It was worth a shot, lol.

My alternative advice is to play with earplugs installed.

Either in you, or the whistle :P


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