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PostPosted: Mon Dec 02, 2019 3:07 pm 
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Hi, new guy here. New to whistles and the forum.

A couple of Dixon brass trad alto whistles dropped through my letter box today. One in A and the other in Bb. I was aware of the overblow thing, but for the first few tries, I was significantly underblowing, and it just sounded like a stovetop kettle about to boil. I gave it a little more gumption, and found some proper notes popping out with a really nice tone. Somewhat louder than expected too, although in truth, I wasn't really sure what to expect. I haven't gotten to finding all the notes yet, and need to spend a little more time getting to understand just how much air each needs, and at what point it kicks over into the second register.

What I also need to do, is track down some music to play. Is there an online resource for downloadable music, that's either organised, or sortable, by key? I did find some music out there, but it didn't specify the key, and I don't want to have to keep downloading one after another, just to find out what key it's in. It would be nice to just have a list of tunes in A, and another list in Bb to grab from.


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PostPosted: Mon Dec 02, 2019 6:43 pm 
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Good for you! Enjoy the journey. Hopefully the folks on this forum can be helpful if you have any questions moving forward.


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PostPosted: Mon Dec 02, 2019 7:01 pm 
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TheWanderer wrote:

Is there an online resource for downloadable music, that's either organised, or sortable, by key?

It would be nice to just have a list of tunes in A, and another list in Bb to grab from.


Trad whistle players don't think about the whistle keys like that.

For whistles of all keys, A and Bb and all the rest, trad players think of, and refer to, the notes as if a D whistle were being played.

No matter what key whistle they're playing they read the notes as if they were playing a D whistle.

So in sheet music the keys you're looking for are D and G, that is, two sharps and one sharp.

Here's how trad players name the notes:

xxx xxx D
xxx xxo E
xxx xoo F# (though trad players just say "f")
xxx ooo G
xxo ooo A
xoo ooo B
ooo ooo C#

for the D scale.

For the G scale you play C natural instead of C#

oxx ooo C natural.

So a tune that's in D on a D whistle is thought of and described as a tune in D no matter what key whistle is being played. Of course if you play a tune in D on an A whistle it comes out in A, on a Bb whistle it comes out in Bb, and so forth, but trad players normally don't think about that, they just grab a whistle of whatever key and just play.

A trad player wouldn't think of looking for music in three sharps to play on their A whistle, or music in two flat for their Bb whistle.

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1945 Starck Highland pipes
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PostPosted: Mon Dec 02, 2019 7:32 pm 
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busterbill wrote:
Good for you! Enjoy the journey. Hopefully the folks on this forum can be helpful if you have any questions moving forward.


Thanks busterbill :)

pancelticpiper wrote:

Trad whistle players don't think about the whistle keys like that.

For whistles of all keys, A and Bb and all the rest, trad players think of, and refer to, the notes as if a D whistle were being played.

No matter what key whistle they're playing they read the notes as if they were playing a D whistle.

So in sheet music the keys you're looking for are D and G, that is, two sharps and one sharp.

Here's how trad players name the notes:

xxx xxx D
xxx xxo E
xxx xoo F# (though trad players just say "f")
xxx ooo G
xxo ooo A
xoo ooo B
ooo ooo C#

for the D scale.

For the G scale you play C natural instead of C#

oxx ooo C natural.

So a tune that's in D on a D whistle is thought of and described as a tune in D no matter what key whistle is being played. Of course if you play a tune in D on an A whistle it comes out in A, on a Bb whistle it comes out in Bb, and so forth, but trad players normally don't think about that, they just grab a whistle of whatever key and just play.

A trad player wouldn't think of looking for music in three sharps to play on their A whistle, or music in two flat for their Bb whistle.


Ahhh, so they're just used as transposing instruments? Thanks pancelticpiper :thumbsup:

That kind of fits with the reason I got the Bb. I have a songbook for a clarinet, and if the play the whistle as if it were in C, the notes will (should) play in the pitch they were intended to. Play a C on a clarinet, and it comes out Bb too. I still might need to do some half holing or forked note voodoo depending on the tune though, depending how many brain rufflers (sharps and flats) are on the stave.

I will get some traditional tunes and have a go playing them as you suggest. In which case, I need suggestions for a resource for airs and ballads, please folks. I love the whistle sound on the slower tunes, and will probably be picking a low D or C at some point (once I've learned to drive these two). My brain and fingers will struggle to keep up on the nippy jigs and such. Maybe later in the journey...

I might also try to learn to play each in their true key, for adapting to other genres as well, if my head can cope with multiple fingering patterns.

Edit: correcting typos


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PostPosted: Mon Dec 02, 2019 10:52 pm 
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Enjoy! As was already mentioned, many players just think of the whistle with D fingering, no matter the key. I think you might find that certain keys if you try and play in the actual key you’ll end up in an awkward range. Example, the G whistle. To play it thinking of the scale in G, you might end up out of range of the whistle (either too low or too high) while D fingering fits perfectly. I also play guitar and banjo, so for me it helps to think of the different keys as being almost like a capo.

Regarding tunes, The Session has a really great library for tunes. You can also search specific styles and keys, if you choose.


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PostPosted: Mon Dec 02, 2019 11:18 pm 
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BookWorm wrote:
Enjoy! As was already mentioned, many players just think of the whistle with D fingering, no matter the key. I think you might find that certain keys if you try and play in the actual key you’ll end up in an awkward range. Example, the G whistle. To play it thinking of the scale in G, you might end up out of range of the whistle (either too low or too high) while D fingering fits perfectly.


Thanks BookWorm. Sorry, I'm a little confused. If I played a G tune on a G whistle with G fingering, why would I run out of range?

BookWorm wrote:
I also play guitar and banjo, so for me it helps to think of the different keys as being almost like a capo.

Regarding tunes, The Session has a really great library for tunes. You can also search specific styles and keys, if you choose.


I really like the capo analogy. That helps a lot. Same fingering (chord shapes) giving different note. Makes perfect sense.

I'll check out The Session too, thank you.

I just realised earlier, following on from what pancelticpiper said, I do actually have a load of tunes to get me started. Also through the letterbox today (different courier) came The Low Whistle Book. That's got dozens of different tunes to get me initiated. Took a while for the penny to drop... :lol:


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PostPosted: Mon Dec 02, 2019 11:19 pm 
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TheWanderer wrote:
Hi, new guy here. New to whistles and the forum.



What I also need to do, is track down some music to play. Is there an online resource for downloadable music, that's either organised, or sortable, by key?


Click this link http://tinwhistler.com then click on tunes at top of the page.

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PostPosted: Tue Dec 03, 2019 12:11 am 
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Tommy wrote:
TheWanderer wrote:
Hi, new guy here. New to whistles and the forum.



What I also need to do, is track down some music to play. Is there an online resource for downloadable music, that's either organised, or sortable, by key?


Click this link http://tinwhistler.com then click on tunes at top of the page.


Excellent! Thank you, Tommy :)


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PostPosted: Tue Dec 03, 2019 1:11 pm 
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I was playing around with them a little more today, in order to try and understand them better. Considering they are of the same type, from the same maker, and only a semitone apart, they are really quite different in nature.

The A is very eager to jump up the octave, and actually requires quite an open throat and regulated breathing to keep it down, whereas the Bb can really take some air, and needs effort to get it to make the leap, particularly the higher notes on the second register. I thought it might have been my fingering at first, but even consciously checking all the holes before playing a note, the same behavioural aspects were there, and while a quick tweak of embouchure could have me happily bouncing between registers on the A, I had to add a good blast of air with the other.

I think I could do with muting them slightly while I'm learning (so I'm not tormenting the neighbours too much), and blu-tack seems to be the easiest trick I've found online. I'll try to pick some up later in the week.


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PostPosted: Tue Dec 03, 2019 3:56 pm 
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You can also tape over half of the blade hole to reduce the volume.

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Trying to do justice to my various musical instruments.


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PostPosted: Tue Dec 03, 2019 8:58 pm 
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TheWanderer wrote:
BookWorm wrote:
Enjoy! As was already mentioned, many players just think of the whistle with D fingering, no matter the key. I think you might find that certain keys if you try and play in the actual key you’ll end up in an awkward range. Example, the G whistle. To play it thinking of the scale in G, you might end up out of range of the whistle (either too low or too high) while D fingering fits perfectly.


Thanks BookWorm. Sorry, I'm a little confused. If I played a G tune on a G whistle with G fingering, why would I run out of range?:


It’s not something that will happen always, but just something that I’ve noticed with certain keys. G especially. If you find a tune written in G, it sometimes requires notes that are either too low, or requires you to push near/into the third octave (not so awful on a low whistle, but horrible on a soprano and certain mezzo whistles). Certain keys just fit better with tunes and whistles. D is the easiest to fit. It’s just how the notes fall on the scale within the range.

In response to the whistles having different personalities, you’ll find that a lot with most makes. I have three different Tony Dixon whistles, a soprano D, a mezzo G, and a low D. The soprano is the easiest to handle, very forgiving in temper, and easy to jump octaves. My G takes a surprising amount of air for a Dixon, especially in the upper octave. This is probably my favourite of the Dixon whistles because you can really give it a good amount of air and not worry about inadvertently jumping the octave. I rarely play my Dixon low D. If I need a quiet low D, I favour my Kerry Optima. The Low D takes the least amount of air of all my Dixons (soprano included). If you push even just the slightest bit of extra air, you’re going to jump the octave. Once you you figure out their personalities though, Dixons make really sweet and really wonderful whistles. I’ve found even after upgrading, they remain excellent practice whistles. I have some higher end whistles, but still, aside from my low D, will often choose a Dixon if I’m just looking to have a quiet sit and play.


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PostPosted: Tue Dec 03, 2019 9:19 pm 
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Tommy wrote:
TheWanderer wrote:
Hi, new guy here. New to whistles and the forum.



What I also need to do, is track down some music to play. Is there an online resource for downloadable music, that's either organised, or sortable, by key?


Click this link http://tinwhistler.com then click on tunes at top of the page.


Thanks for the plug :)

This guy's user name...looks so familiar for someone reason ;)

Welcome to the forums TheWanderer!

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PostPosted: Wed Dec 04, 2019 3:17 am 
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fatmac wrote:
You can also tape over half of the blade hole to reduce the volume.


That makes life easy. Thanks Keith


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PostPosted: Wed Dec 04, 2019 3:23 am 
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BookWorm wrote:
TheWanderer wrote:
BookWorm wrote:
Enjoy! As was already mentioned, many players just think of the whistle with D fingering, no matter the key. I think you might find that certain keys if you try and play in the actual key you’ll end up in an awkward range. Example, the G whistle. To play it thinking of the scale in G, you might end up out of range of the whistle (either too low or too high) while D fingering fits perfectly.


Thanks BookWorm. Sorry, I'm a little confused. If I played a G tune on a G whistle with G fingering, why would I run out of range?:


It’s not something that will happen always, but just something that I’ve noticed with certain keys. G especially. If you find a tune written in G, it sometimes requires notes that are either too low, or requires you to push near/into the third octave (not so awful on a low whistle, but horrible on a soprano and certain mezzo whistles). Certain keys just fit better with tunes and whistles. D is the easiest to fit. It’s just how the notes fall on the scale within the range.

In response to the whistles having different personalities, you’ll find that a lot with most makes. I have three different Tony Dixon whistles, a soprano D, a mezzo G, and a low D. The soprano is the easiest to handle, very forgiving in temper, and easy to jump octaves. My G takes a surprising amount of air for a Dixon, especially in the upper octave. This is probably my favourite of the Dixon whistles because you can really give it a good amount of air and not worry about inadvertently jumping the octave. I rarely play my Dixon low D. If I need a quiet low D, I favour my Kerry Optima. The Low D takes the least amount of air of all my Dixons (soprano included). If you push even just the slightest bit of extra air, you’re going to jump the octave. Once you you figure out their personalities though, Dixons make really sweet and really wonderful whistles. I’ve found even after upgrading, they remain excellent practice whistles. I have some higher end whistles, but still, aside from my low D, will often choose a Dixon if I’m just looking to have a quiet sit and play.


Thanks for the clarification on the keys.

Yeah, I'm perfectly happy with the whistles, even if they are so different. I got those two first, as they're as high as I'd want to go. In time, I plan to get a D, and then maybe one somewhere between. I also fancy an end blown flute at some point, like a xiao or quenacho.


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PostPosted: Wed Dec 04, 2019 3:24 am 
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Wanderer wrote:
Tommy wrote:
TheWanderer wrote:
Hi, new guy here. New to whistles and the forum.



What I also need to do, is track down some music to play. Is there an online resource for downloadable music, that's either organised, or sortable, by key?


Click this link http://tinwhistler.com then click on tunes at top of the page.


Thanks for the plug :)

This guy's user name...looks so familiar for someone reason ;)

Welcome to the forums TheWanderer!


Ha Ha! Thanks Wanderer :D


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