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 Post subject: Whistle Naming Practices
PostPosted: Sun Oct 27, 2019 5:58 am 
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The topic of the inconsistency in the naming of the various whistle sizes, as practiced by the various makers, has once again come up.

I decided to take a look at the sites of a few of the well-known makers to see what terms they used.

What I found was that the naming practices mainly fell into two camps, the vocal-range camp and the high/low camp.

Using the names of the vocal ranges were Dixon, Alba, and Goldie.

All three agree on calling the high D "soprano" and the middle G "alto".

Dixon and Goldie call the High C "soprano" but Alba calls it "mezzo soprano".

Alba and Dixon call the ordinary Bb and mezzo A "alto" but Goldie calls them "mezzo soprano".

Dixon and Goldie call the Low D "tenor" but Alba calls it "low tenor".

Alba calls the Low C "bass" but Goldie calls it "baritone". They agree on calling the Low Bb, A, and G "bass".

Using only the term low were Burke and Freeman.

They are in agreement that the traditional Generation keys are simply known by the key name, needing no prefix.

Both call anything below the Generation Bb pitch "low".

Susato uses "high" for the old Generation pitches down to C and "low" for Bb and below.

To show how crazy this all is, the old Generation Bb whistle pitch is called "mezzo soprano", "alto", and "low" by the various makers. (Ditto the A whistle a half-step below the Generation Bb.)

The middle G and F are more consistent, either being called "low" or "alto".

The low Eb and D are likewise, being called either "low" or "tenor".

The outlier I came across was Setanta, who mixed the two naming conventions, calling their high D and C whistles "soprano" but their low E, Eb, and D whistles "low".

It's no wonder people new to whistling get confused.

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PostPosted: Sun Oct 27, 2019 10:37 am 
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If they'd just use the piano convention of middle C being C4, high C would be C5, high D would be D5, low D would be D4, etc, which makes it easy to tell if its high, middle, or low. :D

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PostPosted: Sun Oct 27, 2019 3:27 pm 
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fatmac wrote:
If they'd just use the piano convention of middle C being C4, high C would be C5, high D would be D5, low D would be D4, etc, which makes it easy to tell if its high, middle, or low. :D

See, that just confuses me. Surely, the bottom note of a high C whistle is middle C, isn't it?

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PostPosted: Sun Oct 27, 2019 3:50 pm 
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Thing is, these makers are making things more complicated than they need to be.

In the main, the only key for which a "high"/"low" naming dichotomy isn't sufficient is G, because Generation and a few other makers make the tiny High G, and a couple makers make the enormous Bass G. (I'm talking whistles of the ordinary type, not fewfangled keyed contraptions.)

A and G being right in the middle between the standard High D and standard Low D, the term "mezzo" seems obvious and clear.

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PostPosted: Mon Oct 28, 2019 1:48 pm 
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For my own whistles, I use the terms high, mid and low. High whistles from Bb up, mid range A, G and F, and low below that. I also make a low low D. The terms tend to follow the dimensions of the tubes that determine the bores.

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PostPosted: Mon Oct 28, 2019 2:38 pm 
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I've only been learning about the higher quality whistles for about two years, and this issue hit me early on. If the whistle isn't already called "high", then I need to see a photo of it, so I can tell it's length and therefore it's pitch. The variation of names in the alto range is annoying. Can the industry work together to clean that up? I prefer to see "alto" for the mid F, mid G and "low" for lower and "bass" for below "low C". "Soprano" is fine with me. "High F" and "high G" make sense for the highest range tiny whistles. They could call that "soprano F/G" if they want. I haven't yet seen a whistle called "sopranino" like what you see with recorders. By the way, I recently bought a Yamaha YRN-302BII sopranino recorder and it plays magnificently. I don't know how the term "mezzo" got linked up to Irish whistles, but it must have taken a lot of ale first. I think the adoption of ancient Italian classical music terms is outdated and should be dropped. Either that or use a different language base for every option. Swedish for alto, Chinese for soprano and ancient Kenyan for low or bass. See you at the "Rose and Mezzo Pub" for a round, eh?


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PostPosted: Mon Oct 28, 2019 6:40 pm 
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benhall.1 wrote:
fatmac wrote:
If they'd just use the piano convention of middle C being C4, high C would be C5, high D would be D5, low D would be D4, etc, which makes it easy to tell if its high, middle, or low. :D

See, that just confuses me. Surely, the bottom note of a high C whistle is middle C, isn't it?
Although it looks like middle C in notated music, the whistle actually plays an octave higher than written (C5). Same with notated music for a high D whistle (D5).

Bottom note matches the C on your fiddle A string, not the one on the G string.


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PostPosted: Tue Oct 29, 2019 2:18 am 
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Tunborough wrote:
Although it looks like middle C in notated music, the whistle actually plays an octave higher than written (C5).

Since I'm certain that Ben already knew that, I'd assumed he was being ironic!

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PostPosted: Tue Oct 29, 2019 3:08 am 
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I should hope so! :D

I took it that way. :thumbsup:

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PostPosted: Tue Oct 29, 2019 6:47 am 
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syn whistles wrote:
For my own whistles, I use the terms high, mid and low. High whistles from Bb up, mid range A, G and F, and low below that. I also make a low low D. The terms tend to follow the dimensions of the tubes that determine the bores.


That makes sense for one particular maker, but if every maker based their names for the various sizes on the tubing they used it would make the current maze of confusing names even worse.

For example I've owned three mezzo A whistles from one particular maker; each whistle used a different size of tubing. One, which played great by the way, used the small tubing that's one of the tubing-sizes they use for their high D. They would have a "mezzo A" and a "high A" which played the same notes.

I have a Low E from another maker that uses the tubing they ordinarily use for their mezzo F and G whistles.

There are at least two makers I know that use their Low D tubing for their middle-size F whistles.

And then there are makers who use dedicated tubing for every size whistle they make.

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PostPosted: Tue Oct 29, 2019 7:04 am 
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Classic "Generation" Bb(4) and upwards = "high". A(4) and below = "low"

No confusion... presume (hope) nobody makes or owns a "low low" A or a "high high" Bb. Even if they do they are such outliers as to defy categorisation.


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PostPosted: Tue Oct 29, 2019 3:31 pm 
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Peter Duggan wrote:
Tunborough wrote:
Although it looks like middle C in notated music, the whistle actually plays an octave higher than written (C5).

Since I'm certain that Ben already knew that, I'd assumed he was being ironic!
I would have thought so, but, "That just confuses me," made me think he might be serious, so just in case ...


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PostPosted: Tue Oct 29, 2019 3:58 pm 
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gbyrne wrote:
No confusion... presume (hope) nobody makes or owns a "low low" A

Multiple makers do, and people on these forums have them.

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PostPosted: Wed Nov 06, 2019 11:18 am 
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Might a whistle be closer to a pipe organ than a piano?
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