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PostPosted: Wed Jun 17, 2020 8:27 am 
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Location: Edinburgh/Orkney, Scotland
Hello all! A little background - I have been playing whistle for several years, mainly Shaws which I have in almost every key. I recently got a MK Kelpie, but find the stretch a bit much for my small hands, which unfortunately start to hurt after a while. In a search for a low D, preferably conical bore, which would take a bit less breath to play than the Shaw low D, and be a bit clearer/cut through a bit more at sessions, with a small enough stretch to suit my hands, I came across the Walt Sweet Onyx low D, and got one to try out.

I absolutely LOVE the tone of this whistle, particularly in the first octave. You can really push into the notes with changing pitch and it's so rich in harmonics, sounds really flutey. I have no problems sealing the holes and can play comfortably for ages without my hands hurting. However - I'm having major issues with learning the play in the second octave.

I've had it for about a week, and it took me 2 days just to be able to (occasionally) sound a correct, clear second octave E. If I play a first octave E and gradually increase the airstream to make it jump up into the second octave, it sounds like it only very briefly goes through the second octave E and then jumps right up the harmonic above (sounding as a B). It's like that note is just hardly there and I need some incredible precision to hit it clearly? I can most consistently play a clear second octave F#, anything above that is a bit hit or miss (but still much easier to play than the E). The D behaves similarly to the E and is nearly impossible to play clearly without venting it.

I should note that this doesn't seem to be an issue with sealing the holes - I can play clearly and easily on all the notes in the first octave. It just feels so difficult to 'find' some of those second octave notes, if that makes sense. It feels like I need a very precise sort of airstream (and maybe embouchure too?) to hit some of the notes correctly and it's so fragile that even just tonguing the note gently will cause it to break sometimes.

I'm wondering if anyone here has played an Onyx and experienced similar issues? It's at the point where I'm almost wondering if there's a flaw in the whistle, or whether this is just a characteristic that requires a lot of practise to compensate for. I would much rather be reassured that it's just me! (I don't mind having to put in the work to learn how to play it properly, because I love the sound of it so much). I know that the familiarisation period with a new whistle can take a while sometimes. It's just quite frustrating to not be able to 'see' what's going on when I'm able to sound the note correctly - I know something in my throat changes position, along with the speed of the airstream, but it's hard for me to be able to visualise and recreate it each time, and it feels like there is so little room for error.


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PostPosted: Wed Jun 17, 2020 11:52 am 
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Joined: Wed Sep 05, 2007 2:53 am
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Location: Burgdorf near Hanover, germany
I have only ever tried one Onyx lowD which belonged to a student of mine, but I found it playing absolutely effortless over the full two octaves...
The sound was very nice, sort of velvet-like, althpugh I personally prefer the somewhat heavier sound of my own Overton.
I'd advise you to seek personal help from a more experienced player - if he/she finds the same issues, I'd contact the maker to get it sorted.


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PostPosted: Wed Jun 17, 2020 12:21 pm 
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Location: North America. Way north.
This may sound stupid on an instrument as simple as a whistle, but with any wind instrument that isn't performing correctly, immediately check that it is spotlessly clean inside and out, and mechanical parts are in ideal condition. If a whistle has a tuning slide, check that there is no excess oil/grease/dirt/pizza chunks showing up on the inside of the instrument tube.

The inside of a whistle's mouthpiece, window area and full length of the tube should be cleaned regularly (any accumulated residue from saliva, dried out condensation, FINGER OILS and resulting trapped dust anywhere along there, can start degrading the musical capacity of the instrument), and it's so easy, apart from wood whistles.

Some whistles and all recorders are sold with the cleaning stick that you attach some cloth to, and run through the tube until it's shiny clean. Whistles should all be cleaned, and of course if they are made of wood you can't be running water or liquids through them, but a fast dunk in slightly warm soapy water for metal and plastic/Delrin whistle parts, accompanied with a fast cleaning, close inspection and then a complete fast drying out (but not with heated air), won't hurt metal or plastic. Never use hot water on a whistle → the expansion of the metal reacting to the heat could crack plastic mouthpieces or cause problems if there are layers of metal such as in mouthpiece designs.

If the Onyx previously played well, and then problems show up, I'd suspect a cleaning is required. If is started out that way, do a cleaning and then raise hell with Onyx if they sent you a defective piece of shrapnel.

Whistlers with whistles they play often but don't clean the insides of regularly, should try thorough cleaning and see if they notice a change in tone or playability. Check throughout from lowest to highest notes. You might be in for a nice surprise.


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PostPosted: Thu Jun 18, 2020 5:52 am 
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Location: Edinburgh/Orkney, Scotland
MichaelLoos wrote:
I have only ever tried one Onyx lowD which belonged to a student of mine, but I found it playing absolutely effortless over the full two octaves...
The sound was very nice, sort of velvet-like, althpugh I personally prefer the somewhat heavier sound of my own Overton.
I'd advise you to seek personal help from a more experienced player - if he/she finds the same issues, I'd contact the maker to get it sorted.


Hmm, I only know one other whistle player, who is similar levels of experience to myself. I do have a friend who is an amazing flute player (classical/jazz) who occasionally dabbles in whistle, maybe he'd be able to give me some advice on embouchure etc.

RoberTunes, thanks for the advice but I don't think dirt is the problem. The whistle was new from a shop, I've only had it for about a week and I cleaned it when it arrived due to coronavirus concerns.

It may be that I posted prematurely because I picked up the whistle today and some of the notes are sounding a lot clearer. I think it may be that I just need to be a bit patient and give myself more time to adjust to the airstream requirements of each particular note, and practise moving between them and the first octave.


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PostPosted: Thu Jun 18, 2020 7:33 am 
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Location: Bischberg/Bavaria/Germany
Maybe it was just a little condensation in the windway. Just cover the window with your finger and blow hard every now and then. That should keep the windway clear of condensation.


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PostPosted: Thu Jun 18, 2020 8:54 am 
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It could be that the whistle is playing as it was designed to do, but it's super finicky about how you blow the 2nd octave.

I like whistles with very easy 2nd octaves, and when other people go to play one of my whistles they usually wildly overblow it.

It could be that that whistle isn't voiced how you're used to, or how you like your whistles to play.

I only played a Sweet Low D once, I didn't care for it. To me the low octave was too feeble, though the 2nd octave was OK. I don't know what model the one I tried was, it was in a shop behind the glass and I asked to try it.

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PostPosted: Thu Jun 18, 2020 9:53 am 
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whistling_miserere,

I have an Onyx.

I totally agree that the sound is wonderful. It's the closest to a flute of any LowD that I've tried.

I tried to replicate the gradual ramp from 1st to 2nd octave on E. I simply didn't get the narrow-window + jump-to-B that you describe.

That jump to B sounds suspiciously like incomplete hole closure. Note, the sound-pressure-levels inside the instrument are higher in the second octave. So, finger-placement + pad-pressure that work in the 1st octave might not be enough for the 2nd octave.

In my experience, any (and I mean ANY) bit of leaking in the closed holes leads to weird squawks+screeches.

Note, that since the Onyx has 3 parts, you can try rotating the bottom piece (which has the lower 3 holes) into a position that fits your fingers better.

Question: which finger pads are you using to close the holes ? First pad (finger tip) ? Second pad (piper's grip) ?

Also, in your week of ownership, how many total hours of practice do you have with it ?

LowD's are much more demanding, physically, than high whistles. It simply takes longer to train all of the muscles to accommodate the wide finger stretch, the heavier weight, and greater airflow requirements.

Honestly, I've found that the slightest angular-offset of a closing finger-pad can lead to a leak + squawk.

I'd suggest starting there.

Best wishes !

trill


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PostPosted: Thu Jun 18, 2020 9:57 am 
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Walt Sweet Onyx is a completely different animal from the older Ralph Sweet low D whistle. I have an Onyx and have absolutely no issues with the second octave when I am careful to be sure to cover the toneholes carefully (more critical in the second octave than the first in my limited experience). Of course I am more used to playing the flute and may be unconsciously adjusting the whistle angle a little to address any irregularities. In addition to cleaning the windway, confirming you have a good seal on the tuning slide (lube those o-rings), you may want to try raising the bottom end of the whistle just a very small amount so it feels like you are blowing down into the windway, just a little bit, on the second octave.

Be patient with your Onyx. Once you get it the rewards are there. I really like the fact that it is a low D whistle that I can play with my fingertips.

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PostPosted: Thu Jun 18, 2020 2:38 pm 
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Slightly off topic but . . .

Latticino wrote:
Walt Sweet Onyx is a completely different animal from the older Ralph Sweet low D whistle.

I totally agree !

I have one of each. Totally different voices.

A few notable comments on the Ralph Sweet LowD:

1. One of the most powerful bell notes of any LowD I've tried (about a dozen).

2. I swear, it sounds like a clarinet !

. . . . Now, back to our original topic, already in progress . . .

trill


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PostPosted: Fri Jun 19, 2020 9:19 am 
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I've never encountered this w/my Onyx. Depending on circumstances a high B and up may require tongue or throating to sound the note accurately.

If there's something wrong Walt will fix it. But it may just be you getting used to it.

I love it as having carpal tunnel the shape makes it it's the easiest low D to play I've encountered,although in all fairness I've only played 4 other makes,one of which is the hardly tapered at all "tapered" Dixon.


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PostPosted: Mon Jun 22, 2020 1:38 pm 
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The E breaks easily on mine, but it tends to break from tonguing. It's more stable when you just push gradually (breaks fairly quickly from first octave to second, and then holds in the second octave for quite a while before breaking into the next harmonic). A missed fingering can cause a squawk as well. For me, I have trouble with the second octave B and A, where they tend to drop down into the first octave or otherwise sound rough relative to the rest of the whistle because of how hard I have to push them.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sSET5MQfenw&t=283s

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Jn5NtmEASC8&t=43s

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