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To Buy Another Whistle or Not to Buy! That is the question!
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Author:  MadmanWithaWhistle [ Tue Jul 30, 2019 2:35 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: To Buy Another Whistle or Not to Buy! That is the questi

Mr.Gumby wrote:
There are a few people who can make them work, playing on their own. But in my experience the majority of wooden whistles I get to hear have an edge to their tone that for some reason makes them unable to blend with other instruments. I was at a concert a few weeks ago where someone played a wooden D, the player could play but the sound of it was just obnoxious.


Part of the charm of the pennywhistle to me is that just a relatively cheap, simple instrument can make some of the most spellbinding and powerful music in the world. The more battered, the better in many cases as it's an indication of much use!

Author:  Matthewlawson3 [ Tue Jul 30, 2019 10:10 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: To Buy Another Whistle or Not to Buy! That is the questi

So would you say the air requirement is higher for the Abell? More than a Burke Brass D?

Author:  kkrell [ Wed Jul 31, 2019 12:20 am ]
Post subject:  Re: To Buy Another Whistle or Not to Buy! That is the questi

I've seen this guy play an Abell appropriately in session:

https://durfee.org/awardee/frank-simpson/

Author:  Mr.Gumby [ Wed Jul 31, 2019 3:01 am ]
Post subject:  Re: To Buy Another Whistle or Not to Buy! That is the questi

Quote:
The more battered, the better in many cases as it's an indication of much use!


I would sooner think it's a sign of someone being careless with their instrument. There's no benefit in having a dirty, dented instrument.

Author:  pancelticpiper [ Wed Jul 31, 2019 6:06 am ]
Post subject:  Re: To Buy Another Whistle or Not to Buy! That is the questi

Some of the people above have hit on my very thoughts about wooden whistles, which I was hesitant to state.

I like whistles with very responsive/light/easy 2nd octaves, in other words the slightest possible "break" between the octaves.

The whistles I own/have owned that play like that are old Generations and Feadogs, and new Killarneys and Sindts.

I do have some Burkes, and they have 2nd octaves that are just a tad too stiff for my liking. I can manage them well enough, but I'd prefer easier response. Ditto the high Susatos.

As I've mentioned here before it's a taste preference, with many Americans I've met, especially from non-ITM backgrounds (Boehm players, sax players, etc) preferring whistles with a strong low octave, stiff 2nd octave, and loud overall.

When I've picked up and tried wooden whistles they've invariably played like that, a loud low octave and unacceptably stiff 2nd octave.

I've mentioned that a couple years ago I was at the National Flute Society's annual convention and a famous wood whistlemaker had a booth. His whistles were amazing looking, exotic woods and sterling silver fitments, and cost several hundred dollars each. He invited me to try them. I did. He asked "what do you think?" I told him the 2nd octave was too stiff for my liking.

He said "Mary Bergin told me the same thing."

But people like Mary Bergin aren't his clientele. His clientele are people who don't want a whistle that plays like a traditional whistle plays.

Author:  Mr.Gumby [ Wed Jul 31, 2019 9:12 am ]
Post subject:  Re: To Buy Another Whistle or Not to Buy! That is the questi

Quote:
people who don't want a whistle that plays like a traditional whistle plays.



I sometimes wonder how much the 'magpie' factor plays a role in this. People who want to be seen to play an instrument that is (very) expensive. And if it is, it must be good (the best surely)?

Author:  MadmanWithaWhistle [ Wed Jul 31, 2019 12:07 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: To Buy Another Whistle or Not to Buy! That is the questi

Mr.Gumby wrote:
I sometimes wonder how much the 'magpie' factor plays a role in this. People who want to be seen to play an instrument that is (very) expensive. And if it is, it must be good (the best surely)?


This is a topic that really irks me. When I attend (in the states) Irish music retreats, festivals, and the like, the hoarding of instruments I see is unbelievable. For example, one guy had FOUR Olwell flutes (and, of course, could barely play a note). They looked identical, and I asked him what the difference was.

"They're in different woods."

It completely didn't register for him that because he had to have four, three other people couldn't have one. I remember when I was first starting out, it was difficult to get a hold of a good instrument because the most highly recommended makers had waiting lists of several years. New players often do not have the connections to buy a flute secondhand, and buying a flute sight unseen online if it's not from the maker is always dicey (and some could argue even from the maker it's dicey if you haven't played it).

This is more of an issue with flutes than whistles, but it's the reason that I will not take reservations when I open my store (and I intend to make flutes and bagpipes as well). It's far too easy for rich retirees to sit back and park deposits on instruments, tying up the supply for no other reason than that they want more. I will maintain a stock, I will make some one-off "art project-y" ones, but folks can check my newsletter when the next batch is in if they really want one.

Of course, I have to acknowledge that this is an extremely cynical view, and that I cannot KNOW that this is the reason for long waiting lists, but being bound to a waiting list sounds miserable and my experiences with Irish music in North America only reinforce that.

But yes, to your earlier point, magpie-ism.

Author:  Tommy [ Wed Jul 31, 2019 8:26 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: To Buy Another Whistle or Not to Buy! That is the questi

No dents or dings in the whistles of this man.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=E6gaU61O9-w
He also has a wood whistle.
https://youtu.be/lZIDzoTAh8I

Author:  MadmanWithaWhistle [ Thu Aug 01, 2019 9:45 am ]
Post subject:  Re: To Buy Another Whistle or Not to Buy! That is the questi

Tommy wrote:
No dents or dings in the whistles of this man.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=E6gaU61O9-w
He also has a wood whistle.
https://youtu.be/lZIDzoTAh8I


>James Galway
If anything, this only reinforces my point.

Author:  Sedi [ Thu Aug 01, 2019 4:54 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: To Buy Another Whistle or Not to Buy! That is the questi

I am pretty certain any saxophone/clarinet/accordion player will only laugh about the price of an "oh so expensive whistle". Even the most expensive whistles are laughably cheap compared to many other instruments. So I highly doubt that bit about "magpies". And if that should be true then it is a rather stupid way to try to impress people. But this debate rages on through every hobbyist forum I know.

Author:  Wanderer [ Thu Aug 01, 2019 7:50 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: To Buy Another Whistle or Not to Buy! That is the questi

Sedi wrote:
I am pretty certain any saxophone/clarinet/accordion player will only laugh about the price of an "oh so expensive whistle". Even the most expensive whistles are laughably cheap compared to many other instruments. So I highly doubt that bit about "magpies". And if that should be true then it is a rather stupid way to try to impress people. But this debate rages on through every hobbyist forum I know.


Yup, there conversations have been happening everywhere, for years.

I think what always bothers me the most is the uncharitable commentary that ends up going along with them. The claims that the only reason to own an expensive/wood/whatever whistle is to show it off. The claims that if you do own one of these whistles, you invariably can't play worth a damn.

It's mean-spirited. And there's simply no call for it.

But then again, I've been watching the same type of commentary on C&F (in its various incarnations) for a couple of decades now. I guess there's nothing to be done about it.

Author:  Matthewlawson3 [ Thu Aug 01, 2019 9:21 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: To Buy Another Whistle or Not to Buy! That is the questi

As a clarinet player myself I can say clarinets are pricey haha. However, I also think Abell whistles are pricey. I have played music most of my life and even minored in music in college. I can tell you that I fully appreciate and respect ITM. I am seeking to understand it fully and to do that.. As Yoda said I have to unlearn what I have learned and realize I'm in a different world where you don't necessarily play what is on the page and you may not even have the page haha. I've had a Cooperman tin whistle since 6th grade that I got in Williamsburg, VA. Since then I have dabbled with it. It has been in the last year or so where I bought a Burke D in Brass, Narrow Bore, and started committing myself to learning ITM technique and ornaments fully through The Online Academy of Irish Music and through books and listening.

My purchase of an Abell is just to have a quality instrument beyond the Burke and to also have a wooden whistle, which I don't have. I also have a Jerry Freeman Generation, a three key/body Susato Kildare set, a Clarke original, and a Walton (which is my car whistle).


My girlfriend, a non-musician, probably thinks I spend more time practicing tin whistle than spending time with her hahaha. That's not true haha. She wouldn't understand even if I wanted to show the Abell off haha.

Author:  busterbill [ Thu Aug 01, 2019 11:11 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: To Buy Another Whistle or Not to Buy! That is the questi

MadmanWithaWhistle wrote:
Mr.Gumby wrote:
I sometimes wonder how much the 'magpie' factor plays a role in this. People who want to be seen to play an instrument that is (very) expensive. And if it is, it must be good (the best surely)?


I am a mediocre player with a number of great instruments I have collected over the years. I used to be self conscious about my good fortune in finding them and affording them. I got over it. My natural shyness keeps me from flaunting them, but I do enjoy them immensely. And as a friend of mine once said, and I have likely quoted more than once on this site: "You can't take a trailer into heaven." Every day I get closer to the day they will be dispersed to the wider community.






Mr.Gumby wrote:
Quote:
people who don't want a whistle that plays like a traditional whistle plays.



You are correct on that one. Many people including myself enjoy the sound and ease of playing of a good a modern whistle, just like most flute players, myself included tend to prefer the modern copies of the traditional flutes that have been tweaked and altered to play more easily in tune with more volume and that burrr we seem to prize in modern trad. Many of the great old flutes need constant nudging and minute adjustments while playing a tune just to play in tune with themselves.And when played well often have a sweeter character that we are used to looking for. If you are an expert on a particular antique instrument you may do fine if you happen to have a quality antique. And the not so great antique flutes are often a struggle to get to play in the way we expect modern trad to sound.

If we go back to the historical recordings we will find flutes are often out of tune with the band they are playing in, or pretty weak with a relatively flimsy tone compared to what we all expect in a modern flute.

That takes us full circle to the Generation purists who think it is somehow an insult to the instrument to embrace the changes in sound from a Generation to a Sindt, Abell, Copeland or O'roidon, but happily sit down in a session with an Olwell or a Grinter flute.

Author:  Mr.Gumby [ Fri Aug 02, 2019 3:33 am ]
Post subject:  Re: To Buy Another Whistle or Not to Buy! That is the questi

Quote:
Many people including myself enjoy the sound and ease of playing of a good a modern whistle,


I think this is usually where this discussion breaks down in to uncomprehension. The point Richard is making, and one I would make myself, is that the 'traditional' whistle, Generation, Feadog, Oak, is markedly more agile, flexible, less air-consuming than virtually all of the modern 'designer' whisltes. Even while the Killarney and Sindt come close, they still want that little bit more effort (it depends a bit on the key and possibly the individual whistle). Ultimately they offer a greater ease of playing.

Aesthetic choices : volume, tone etc are a different matter. Personally I find most modern whisltes lacking in sweetness and especially wooden (D) whistles have a hard edge to their sound I find particularly unappealing but that's a matter of taste. For the sake of this discussion though it needs to be understood that there is an argument for playability and agility that is present in a good specimen of the 'cheap' whisltes that is utterly lacking in quite a few others.

Quote:
just like most flute players, myself included tend to prefer the modern copies of the traditional flutes that have been tweaked and altered to play more easily in tune with more volume and that burrr we seem to prize in modern trad. Many of the great old flutes need constant nudging and minute adjustments while playing a tune just to play in tune with themselves.And when played well often have a sweeter character that we are used to looking for. If you are an expert on a particular antique instrument you may do fine if you happen to have a quality antique. And the not so great antique flutes are often a struggle to get to play in the way we expect modern trad to sound.



I think your argument ignores issues of availability and maintenance. I think we're lucky to have a few really fine flutemakers. Just like the 19th century has some really great flutemakers whose instruments survive and are played to this day. But don't forget, just like modern flutes, not all old flutes are great ones.

I believe Irish players are usually quite pragmatic about these things. If it works and is suitable, it doesn't matter all that much if an instrument is old or new. I know quite a few people playing Rudalls, some nights I have found myself playing with four Rudalls around me. But all would have had those flutes because they did the job, tone, playability, availability. Chasing down a suitable, well priced, in good condition 19th century is not as easy as it once was (and there was a time ofcourse when there were few alternatives, if any at all) and its certainly easier for most people to go to a modern maker and order a new flute that does the job well. Is it purely because all modern flutes are the better ones, well, I am not so sure.


I always shrug at the use of 'purist' in a discussion like this. It is usually a sign of weakness of your argument. Try avoid it.

Author:  pancelticpiper [ Fri Aug 02, 2019 6:00 am ]
Post subject:  Re: To Buy Another Whistle or Not to Buy! That is the questi

(EDIT: crossposted with Mr Gumby, which is why my post has some redundancy with his.)

busterbill wrote:
most flute players, myself included tend to prefer the modern copies of the traditional flutes that have been tweaked and altered to play more easily in tune with more volume and that burrr we seem to prize in modern trad. Many of the great old flutes need constant nudging and minute adjustments while playing a tune just to play in tune with themselves...often have a sweeter character...a struggle to get to play in the way we expect modern trad to sound.


I'm a dinosaur, in that when I started playing ITM everyone played old flutes because that's what was available. (I played an original c1830 Rudall & Rose for many years, then an original c1860 Pratten model for many more.)

I've been out of the flute world for over a decade now. But in my 30+ years of playing Irish flute, having played hundreds of antique English 8-key old system flutes and modern "Irish flutes" I will say that the finest flutes I ever played were old ones, Prattens made in the 1850s and 1860s. Every note from Bottom D up into the 3rd register were clear, powerful, and in tune. The tone exemplified the traditional rich reedy sound, which by the way was in vogue with orchestral flutists in the mid-19th century.

So I can't agree with the characterisation of old flutes as out-of-tune, being difficult to play, having a sweeter tone, etc. We have to keep in mind that the new makers have been, for over a quarter-century now, endeavouring to capture that vintage sound. Perhaps some have achieved it, I'm not current on the new makers. I know the Olwells I've tried have played like the really good old flutes.

busterbill wrote:
If we go back to the historical recordings we will find flutes are often out of tune with the band they are playing in, or pretty weak with a relatively flimsy tone compared to what we all expect in a modern flute.


We have be careful about not conflating two separate issues 1) the instruments 2) the performance practices of the players.

It's happened to me many times: I've handed my flute to a good Irish player, and the first thing he does, before he plays a note, is to shove the headjoint all the way in. The guy is an excellent player, but he's playing extremely sharp. And on many old recordings you'll hear the flutes a mile sharp like that.

busterbill wrote:
Generation purists who think it is somehow an insult to the instrument to embrace the changes in sound from a Generation to a Sindt, Abell, Copeland or O'Riordan, but happily sit down in a session with an Olwell or a Grinter flute.


Personally with both flutes and whistles it's not about when an instrument was made, it's about performance. I think many other players are like that. If the best-performing whistle available to a player is a vintage Generation and the best-performing flute available to that player is a new Olwell then he's wise to play those. Another player's best-available whistle might be a new Sindt and his best-available flute might be an 1860 Pratten.

About various modern whistles making changes in sound from Generations, in my opinion what makes Sindts so good is that they capture so well the sound and performance of really good vintage Generations. The modern makers who have diverged most from that great vintage sound and performance are making things I'm not interested in playing.

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