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PostPosted: Thu Nov 28, 2019 9:24 pm 
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In the past year, I grew increasingly curious about playing the double whistle. I already played whistle and quena, and had previously owned one of the Hind double ocarinas in C/F.

I looked at available options online, and although most have one side which is a full whistle with six or seven holes (the dvodencivka actually has eight, and is chromatic), I ran into different set-ups for the secondary side in different traditions. Some whistles were made with one tube just for droning on one or two notes. The Susato Dolce-Duo has one side with three holes, for four possible notes in the first octave. The Moldavan and Ukrainian double flutes, like the older English and French double flageolets, have four holes for a fifth range in the first octave, allowing easy playing of thirds with parallel fingering on both tubes. Where to start?

After poring over numerous videos, I picked up two relatively inexpensive plastic-headed tin-whistles, pitched the same. I made a spacer out of a chunk of rubber, so the two would be in a narrow "V" shape with the mouthpieces at the vertex. I taped the top holes on the whistle played by the right hand, trying both two and three covered holes over time. Having four holes available certainly gave more versatility, so I decided to concentrate my efforts there.

I put in an order at Susato for four Dolce-Duos, one each in Bb, C, D, and Eb, and each with two six-hole bodies. I also bought a Ukrainian dvodencivka (a double sopilka) and a Moldavan double whistle from eBay, both in D.

And then I played those things mercilessly.

I wrote up some scale exercises, to get into the habit of turning the corner when playing notes only available on one tube when both hands are engaged on their separate sides. Using the D instruments as an example, I worked different scales like G to get used to incorporating the forked C, and E to get used to both a forked fingering and a half-hole approach on the low G#. I worked harmonized scales.

So, what did I find?

The Ukrainian instrument was actually pretty neat, and pretty to boot. The nine-hole side is completely chromatic when played with both hands. However, when playing both sides in harmony, some combinations left the instrument poorly held and insecure. If I can figure out an elegant-looking way to secure this thing, it would likely be the top pick. I also learned that I'm probably going to have a Ukrainian chromatic sopilka in my future. There are a few whistle makers who have instruments which have suspiciously similar layouts to this one on their chromatic whistles, so I'm not the only one who thinks it's useful.

The Moldavan instrument is insecure, not chromatic, and the mouthpieces aren't easily played simultaneously compared to the Ukrainian double. I'm still glad I got a chance to try the instrument out, though.

Lastly, the Susatos... which have turned out to be the best purchases so far in this pursuit. I've only gone up two octaves and a note, but the tone is stable, and it's relatively easy to get the right pressure to selectively overblow only one side to get to the next higher octave. The thumb rests keep the instrument(s) physically stable and secure. The mouthpieces are even closer together, and easier to switch between, than on the Ukrainian instrument, and since the instrument isn't wood, I don't have to worry about the wood swelling when working tongue-stopping when playing different rhythms on the distinct sides.

(Incidentally, I had previously read about people's difficulty getting the lowest note on the Susato Bb Oriole whistle, and so I wasn't surprised when I ran into the issue. It takes some jaw-dropping and breath control to hit those low notes, and I haven't been able to do it consistently. Still, nothing ventured, nothing gained, and it's possible that keeping the instrument in the practice regimen might yield better technique and a workable embouchure for playing this thing's lowest range more at speed.)

Lastly... I recently contacted Susato again, and inquired about buying four more Dolce-Duos, this time with both sides having only the lowest four holes. My goal was to recombine the parts with what I had on hand, while also removing the tape from the top holes on the current right-hand sides, and to end up with two instruments each in Bb, C, D, and Eb.

They said they'd be happy to make them with however many holes I asked for, so the order was placed. (This was all through email, and not through normal website order options.) Soon after, the package arrived, the tape and residue was removed, and everything fit together and tuned up perfectly in the new configuration.

----

I have been writing and arranging for this thing on keyboard first, so as not to get bogged down in habit-worn phrasing. Also, as happens with different whistles, not every fingering works for certain accidentals, so I normally learn about a given situation when overblowing and spectacularly failing to hit a pitch.

As noted on the Double Flageolet page over at flageolets.com, the double flageolet suffers from being between the amateur and professional worlds. An amateur might find it difficult to put in the work to master going around the break, while a professional might find its diatonic centering to be too limiting. As a composer would need to be familiar with both the instrument's strengths and ranges to write material for it, there is little to no such material to be had. I've been raiding various traditions for material, ranging from UK material to Andean music and beyond.

And so far over the past year, I've been having a lot of fun.

I'm now thinking of getting some Rose Whistle bodies drilled in four- and six-hole C and D pairs, if they are willing, as they fit the Susato heads, just to have something even fancier looking while exploring how the material sounds. Eventually, I'm also inclined to get a four-and six-hole double in both C and D from Carbony.

----

Being as the C&F forum was one of the places I found even a modicum of information about my envisioned path, I'm hopeful my first post here will be useful to those who are looking for information on the topic in the future. Much thanks to those who previously discussed the matter!


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PostPosted: Fri Nov 29, 2019 3:19 pm 
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Joined: Tue Apr 18, 2017 3:21 pm
Posts: 13
Thanks for sharing your experiences. I'm very interested in double whistles.
I've been looking to buy a Susato dolce-duo. It's great to hear from someone who plays one, or rather all of them in your case!
If you are so inclined, it would be great to see some photos of your instruments.


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PostPosted: Sat Nov 30, 2019 3:23 pm 
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Joined: Mon Jul 10, 2006 7:25 am
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Location: WV to the OC
My only experience has been doing the parlour-trick (often done by whistle players) of putting tape on the top three holes on one whistle, then playing two whistles in the mouth.

What you get is one whistle for the upper hand and one for the lower hand. You end up with an intermittent G drone.

I have much more experience on the double bagpipes.

Scottish Highland pipe fingering has inadvertently built into it a huge advantage for double-pipes: one hand or the other is always fingering the tonic note, "low A". So you can do the equivalent of the whistle trick above, plug the upper-hand holes on one chanter, so that you have an upper-hand chanter and a lower-hand chanter.

The "virtual drone" sounds continuously and switches back and forth between the chanters.

At will you can play independent harmonies on the two chanters.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=m4lw8-3Jf9w&t=11s

Here I demonstrate how it all works:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0EEDTmIydUs&t=52s

_________________
Richard Cook
1978 Quinn uilleann pipes
1945 Starck Highland pipes
Goldie Low D whistle


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