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Managing Expectations for a new player.
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Author:  Marky Ted [ Wed Aug 07, 2019 10:35 am ]
Post subject:  Managing Expectations for a new player.

Ahoy! Mark here, a rock guitar player moving over to tin whistle as had enough of all the amps, cables, pedals and owning a zillion guitars. I’ve got myself a brass Generation in D and a Feadog Pro in nickel, also a D. I expect to make a start next week, having only tried out each whistle for a couple of minutes so far.
I am posting to ask what the usual progress rate is on the instrument (I’m 53), as mentioned in the Subject box. I have no previous woodwind experience. I know this will vary of course from person to person, but any clue would be appreciated. Competent-ish in a few months? A year? I’d be playing trad Irish.
Thank you!

Author:  Sedi [ Wed Aug 07, 2019 12:24 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Managing Expectations for a new player.

Hi and welcome!
A really tough question as I consider myself a beginner as well after 2 yrs of playing ITM (Irish Traditional Music). I also play guitar and like yourself never was a fan of carrying around all that stuff. I'd say you will need as much time as for learning any instrument (10,000 hrs and you will be really good -- so when practicing 3 hrs a day you need about 10 yrs) -- when I started out on the guitar I practiced 3-4 hrs a day and started to play in a bluesband after a half year but blues is easy. I think you can expect to get halfway fluent with a handful of tunes with around 30 min to an hour practice after maybe a year. There are tunes I still am not satisfied with after 2 yrs of practicing them. But the nice thing about the whistle is -- you can store one pretty much everywhere. I have one in the kitchen next to the coffee machine so I can squeeze in a quick tune while waiting for the coffee. I would also limit the number of new tunes you wanna learn. I learned about 30 in 2 years and at the moment I try to keep them polished so I could play them in front of an audience, which I haven't done so far, except for friends and family. I notice -- when I try to learn too many, I forget the older ones. Which is a problem mainly for people who didn't grow up in that tradition -- I will probably never forget all the traditional German stuff I learned as a kid but I will forget the whistle tunes I had to practice for so long to even memorize them.
A good idea is to listen to as many good traditional players as you can find on youtube or in a record-store -- not only whistle but any ITM player -- it is often very helpful to listen to the same tunes played on different instruments. If I find a good tune I wanna learn, I download it and use an app to slow it down so I can learn by ear, which is the only way that I am learning tunes. I refuse to learn to read sheet music, even though I could do it when I was around 13. But learning by ear is so much fun. Also -- some people (probably most) will learn better with a teacher. So you might consider taking some lessons if you like to learn with a teacher.

Author:  JackJ [ Wed Aug 07, 2019 1:02 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Managing Expectations for a new player.

Marky Ted wrote:
Competent-ish in a few months? A year? I’d be playing trad Irish.


If competent-ish means being able to join a session with accomplished players, I'd say a year would be a fairly aggressive goal for someone with existing musical skills. Obviously lots of variables here, as you know. Finding a good teacher (in-person or on-line) and doing a lot of attentive listening (especially if you're not already well versed in Irish traditional) are key factors, in addition to dedicated practice time.

On the plus side, it's such an incredibly simple instrument, and someone with a musical background like yourself can play melodies in a pleasing way on day one. But unless you're exceptionally gifted, there's still a challenging road ahead, and a lot to learn when it comes to breath control, finger dexterity, and ornamentation techniques. Not to mention learning the music, apart from the instrument. (And by that I mean not just the tunes, but also the subtle rhythmic and phrasing elements.)

I'm at a little over a year, and my local session tolerates me (in a very welcoming way, I should add). I'm hoping by year two we'll all be fairly comfortable with my playing on tunes that I know well, and maybe at that point I'll be competent-ish. That's the goal, at any rate.

Author:  PB+J [ Wed Aug 07, 2019 1:11 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Managing Expectations for a new player.

Marky Ted wrote:
Ahoy! Mark here, a rock guitar player moving over to tin whistle as had enough of all the amps, cables, pedals and owning a zillion guitars. I’ve got myself a brass Generation in D and a Feadog Pro in nickel, also a D. I expect to make a start next week, having only tried out each whistle for a couple of minutes so far.
I am posting to ask what the usual progress rate is on the instrument (I’m 53), as mentioned in the Subject box. I have no previous woodwind experience. I know this will vary of course from person to person, but any clue would be appreciated. Competent-ish in a few months? A year? I’d be playing trad Irish.
Thank you!



It took me about eight months to get passable at jigs, starting at 58 years old. Reels took longer. By passable I mean able to play at the more or less standard 100 BPM. Not well, but enough so people who didn't know much about Irish music might think I know how to play. I'm still not all that solid, a year and half into it. I get a kind of drunk sound, because the articulations aren't as crisp as they should be.

I haven't tried to join any sessions--it's so far just a meditative exercise for me. Also I started in on flute about six months ago, so that's decreased my whistle practice.

It's been a lot of fun--welcome and enjoy!

Author:  Marky Ted [ Wed Aug 07, 2019 1:31 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Managing Expectations for a new player.

A very high standard of advice! Thanks for taking the time. I am not steeped in “ITM”, so looks like listening will be central to my learning. I also echo the idea of not learning too many tunes at the same time. Very guilty of that as a guitar player, the older tunes just disappear from under your fingers!
Thanks again, much appreciated.

Author:  Nanohedron [ Wed Aug 07, 2019 2:03 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Managing Expectations for a new player.

Marky Ted wrote:
I am not steeped in “ITM”, so looks like listening will be central to my learning.

Here's another vote for that. Knowing what to emulate can be less easy, though, because if you rely on the likes of YouTube, it's a mishmash. Already being a musician will probably give you a leg up when it comes to discerning quality, though.

Author:  benhall.1 [ Wed Aug 07, 2019 2:45 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Managing Expectations for a new player.

Nanohedron wrote:
Marky Ted wrote:
I am not steeped in “ITM”, so looks like listening will be central to my learning.

Here's another vote for that. Knowing what to emulate can be less easy, though, because if you rely on the likes of YouTube, it's a mishmash. Already being a musician will probably give you a leg up when it comes to discerning quality, though.

Maybe ... although a friend of mine is a good musician, and, after a few years, he still needs a bit of a steer every now and then, not so much as to what to listen to, as to what not to listen to. Just one example, but there could be others if I thought harder: he'll come up with some accomplished sounding musician on YouTube, who is playing with beautiful, classical tone, with some but not all of the idiomatic phrasing, and who, on inspection, turns out to be playing an exact replica of an incorrect version of the tune from the session.org. It can be quite grating ...

Author:  Marky Ted [ Wed Aug 07, 2019 2:52 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Managing Expectations for a new player.

Ah, the dreaded internet. I was watching a whistle review on YouTube, the bloke did a demo and after a while I thought “hold on a minute, he can’t play!”. Shocking. I have already noted the need for suitable phrasing in ITM, I will think about it in twelve months when I might be able to play the thing.

Author:  Sedi [ Wed Aug 07, 2019 4:26 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Managing Expectations for a new player.

Some tips for music:
Mary Bergin
Micho Russell (all you can find)
Planxty
Bothy Band
At least that got me started -- I am certain others have much longer lists with redommendations to offer. There is also a master-class video on Youtube from Cathal McConnell -- might be interesting (even if you don't have the basics yet):
https://youtu.be/9Y5Bplio-sI

Author:  PB+J [ Wed Aug 07, 2019 4:51 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Managing Expectations for a new player.

Let me second the suggestion of Micho Russell. He’s kind of astonishing. He’s not technically dazzling but the feel, and the spirit, are remarkable. Mary Bergin, on the other hand is technically more dazzling.

But more intimidating.

Author:  busterbill [ Wed Aug 07, 2019 6:31 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Managing Expectations for a new player.

Welcome to the adventure of Irish Whistle. And you have been getting good advice from the posters before. listening is really important. And the list mentioned in the above post is a good place to start.

There are a few moves that are particular to whistle that can sometimes be confounding. There are some basics you can learn without a teacher like where to put your fingers to sound particular notes. But having a teacher is pretty important when you get to the point where you want to make the sounds that whistle can make into something that sounds like Irish traditional music.

I got my first whistle in the 70s and listened to Irish music, but knew no one who played and couldn't figure it out. It wasn't until I found a very young Shannon Heaton and started to take lessons in the late 80s that things began to make sense. Teachers can vary and the less you know the harder to tell if you've got a good one. If there is someone around you that is a good place to start. If there isn't, the Online Academy of Irish Music teaches in a very systematic way that builds skills one upon another. One a week or one a day, it is up to you. They have an excellent whistle series. They also have an option for you to get feedback about your playing. It is a paid subscription, but I consider it a bargain since you can take as many lessons as you can absorb. Blaine Chastain has an online class that I have heard good things about but I have no personal experience with.

Most importantly, have fun. And feel free to ask the forum as many questions as you have. There are no stupid questions.

Author:  Nanohedron [ Wed Aug 07, 2019 9:46 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Managing Expectations for a new player.

benhall.1 wrote:
... a friend of mine is a good musician, and, after a few years, he still needs a bit of a steer every now and then, not so much as to what to listen to, as to what not to listen to ... he'll come up with some accomplished sounding musician on YouTube, who is playing with beautiful, classical tone, with some but not all of the idiomatic phrasing, and who, on inspection, turns out to be playing an exact replica of an incorrect version of the tune from the session.org.

Ah. Good point. If the expression comes discernibly from classical influence, it's probably not a good fit in a Trad context. More like usually, actually. In fact, I can't think of a time where it ever worked. That stuff's really more suited for the orchestra pit.

Not that there's anything wrong with classical training; it can give you a lot of technical advantages if you can shed its aesthetic clutches. Sounding classical (what a friend calls "sexy") is the problem, in ITM particularly. I know a Trad fiddler who's classically trained, but you'd never know it, which is pretty brilliant. The only way his training comes out is in his command of technical skills; he makes astute and appropriate use of them in dedicated service to the Trad sound - and which any trained ear would say he certainly has. What you hear is pure, natural Trad with very good and sure technique. It's a winning combination.

I have to say though, Ben, that after a few years you must be starting to despair for your friend. Does he not listen to Trad's lions?

Author:  tstermitz [ Thu Aug 08, 2019 12:05 am ]
Post subject:  Re: Managing Expectations for a new player.

Yes. Mary Bergin.

Jigs are easier. O'Carolan tunes are nice as they are slower.

See Brother Steve, who posts here occasionally: https://www.rogermillington.com/siamsa/brosteve/

His advice and lessons on beginning whistle are very worthwhile. I think his instructions are both concise and complete.

Author:  benhall.1 [ Thu Aug 08, 2019 12:23 am ]
Post subject:  Re: Managing Expectations for a new player.

Nanohedron wrote:
I have to say though, Ben, that after a few years you must be starting to despair for your friend. Does he not listen to Trad's lions?

He's doing OK. He got a very long way, really quickly, but he's kind of slowed down for the last couple of years. He's a lovely bloke though. If he's reading, we'll have some more tunes soon. :)

Author:  ytliek [ Fri Aug 09, 2019 9:10 am ]
Post subject:  Re: Managing Expectations for a new player.

I suggest listening to the music you like and particularly the style of whistling. YouTube has the noobs and the seasoned players also everyone else in between. Keep it fun but it does take effort like any instrument does. Only you can meet any expectations.

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