Changing Registers

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leydog
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Tell us something.: I first encountered C&F almost 20 years ago when I became interested in learning to play the whistle. I renewed that interest this year, with the help of the resources on YouTube. In addition to dedicating serious time to the whistle, I also decided to invest in learning to play the flute. Tired of hoping others would ask the questions I have, I decided it was time to join the discussion/session, rather than continue sitting on the sideline with my flute/whistle on my lap, so to speak. So I ask permission to make my contribution.

Changing Registers

Post by leydog »

I became interested in the whistle a number of years ago (including following C&F). But this year I decided to begin a serious effort to learn to play the instrument well. Of course I have acquired several whistles--5 in D, 2 in C, and one in Bb. As I practice either tunes or exercises, I find that, if I stay in the second octave for awhile, going back down, especially to D, E, or F#, is difficult. The notes don't want to sound. It doesn't seem to matter which whistle I am playing, either.

I'm an old French horn player and had a similar experience transitioning through the ranges on the horn. That was a matter of adjusting the embouchure. But playing the whistle does not involve manipulating an embouchure. So I'm not sure what else I can adjust to get a smooth change of register with good sound. Any advice from this august group would be greatly appreciated.
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Re: Changing Registers

Post by fatmac »

It's normally the other way around, difficulty playing the second octave.....I wonder if you are using your air too forcefully, you don't need a lot of air, in my experience, to play a whistle.
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Re: Changing Registers

Post by RoberTunes »

what fatmac said.........
........and every different whistle model has it's own way of handling air pressure for the octave change, tonal variations, breathiness, etc.. If you learn to play one whistle well through the octaves, moving to another whistle may require time spent to adjust how you're using your air with it.
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Re: Changing Registers

Post by oleorezinator »

As far as embrochure is concerned
simply compressing the lips to make
a smaller hole is sufficient to go from
the 1st octave to the 2nd, and the reverse.
Smaller hole air travels faster. No need
to overblow.
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Re: Changing Registers

Post by busterbill »

In my experience the change for force or air speed is in the diaphragm. My mouth does not change.
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Re: Changing Registers

Post by Tommy »

busterbill wrote:In my experience the change for force or air speed is in the diaphragm. My mouth does not change.
Correct.
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Re: Changing Registers

Post by pancelticpiper »

leydog wrote:I'm not sure what else I can adjust to get a smooth change of register
Hmmm...interesting question.

Part of me wonders how smooth an octave change is desired on trad Irish whistle, at least when you're playing reels and jigs with octave changes you often want them to "pop" and will do little gracenote things sometimes to make them pop more.

xoo oox (B melody note in the low octave)
xxx xxx (closed Middle D gracenote)
xxx xxo (E melody note in the 2nd octave)

Different in airs, perhaps, where you might want smoother octave transitions.

I think with Irish whistle most of it is built into the whistle.

I use the term "stiff 2nd octave" meaning a whistle where you really have to push the second octave, and sometimes there's a clear break, an audible snap, between the octaves.

With high whistles (say, mezzo Bb up to the ordinary high D) I like the easiest most nimble 2nd octave possible, which allows the high notes to speak with the slightest change in airstream. People not used to whistles like that tend to overblow them till they get used to them.

For you it might be a matter of trying as many different whistles as you can, to get an impressions of what level of octave nimbleness or stiffness suits you best.

I do find that people coming to whistle from brass instruments, sax, etc tend to wildly overblow because they're used to instruments that require exponentially more force of air to play. And, they tend to gravitate towards whistles that are far stiffer than I would want.

It's why people coming from orchestral backgrounds so often love Burke whistles, while people coming from trad backgrounds often find Burkes too stiff.

Now this is flute, not whistle, but it's an example of smooth octave transitions not being sought after

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5IhW3ZmKk_Q
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c1980 Quinn uilleann pipes
1945 Starck Highland pipes
Goldie Low D whistle
leydog
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Tell us something.: I first encountered C&F almost 20 years ago when I became interested in learning to play the whistle. I renewed that interest this year, with the help of the resources on YouTube. In addition to dedicating serious time to the whistle, I also decided to invest in learning to play the flute. Tired of hoping others would ask the questions I have, I decided it was time to join the discussion/session, rather than continue sitting on the sideline with my flute/whistle on my lap, so to speak. So I ask permission to make my contribution.

Re: Changing Registers

Post by leydog »

Thanks for the tips. I thought at first that when folks referred to "overblowing" they were talking about forcing a large amount of air against the whistle. I sense now, particularly after Pancelticpiper's reference to orchestral players, that by overblowing you may mean too much air pressure, not necessarily volume.

I've been playing Dixons and Sweetones, and I find that I get the best response from the upper octave when I focus the air rather than blowing harder. Works fine with "d" and above, but not in the lower octave. I think it's the technique Oleorezinator describes. Jumping the octave then seems to mean changing the level of compression quickly. Not so easy for a nooby,

Then again, this may be a good reason to broaden my "range" of whistles. I really haven't tried that many. In the meantime, I will keep practicing and learning to know better the whistles I have. And learning from the conversations on this forum.
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Re: Changing Registers

Post by fatmac »

Maybe just try breathing through your whistle, & then increase the pressure very slightly until it sounds the lower octave, then increase pressure very slightly until it breaks into the second octave, then you'll know how much air it takes. :)
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Re: Changing Registers

Post by pancelticpiper »

I did want to mention a thing that happens with flutes, most or maybe all flutes? That seems to happen in Low Whistles less often.

As I was saying on many whistles there's a snap between the octaves when played legato. (Of course if you tongue each note separately it gets hidden.)

On flute, though, if you have the cork set just exactly right you can play perfectly smoothly between the low octave and the 2nd octave, like this:

-play G in the low octave
-gradually begin introducing the second-octave g into the tone
-eventually you get to the middle where the tone simultaneously and equally contains both notes
-now gradually reduce the presence of the low-octave G until you're left with a pure 2nd octave g

You'll hear old-school Irish fluteplayers using that 50/50 tone. One guy I talked to called it "playing between the octaves".

I think the MK Low D is the only whistle I've tried that will do that.
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Re: Changing Registers

Post by Peter Duggan »

pancelticpiper wrote:Part of me wonders how smooth an octave change is desired on trad Irish whistle,
Very!
at least when you're playing reels and jigs with octave changes you often want them to "pop" and will do little gracenote things sometimes to make them pop more.
Having the choice to do more is fine when you've got a smooth octave transition to start with, but nothing can put that controlled base back if it's not there.
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leydog
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Tell us something.: I first encountered C&F almost 20 years ago when I became interested in learning to play the whistle. I renewed that interest this year, with the help of the resources on YouTube. In addition to dedicating serious time to the whistle, I also decided to invest in learning to play the flute. Tired of hoping others would ask the questions I have, I decided it was time to join the discussion/session, rather than continue sitting on the sideline with my flute/whistle on my lap, so to speak. So I ask permission to make my contribution.

Re: Changing Registers

Post by leydog »

Thanks, Fatmac. I tried going slow--just breathing into the whistle, then increasing the pressure until I got the lower octave and then the upper octave. I realized how easy it is with the Dixon alloy alto whistles to jump the octave. The whistle and I have some work to do.

After experimenting with that for a bit, I slowly went up the scale, doing the same exercise on each note. Very enlightening! My whistles and I are getting to know each other better. "I think this is the beginning of a beautiful friendship."

I also tried Pancelticpiper's flute exercise--on both my whistles and my flute (which I have begun to work on this year, as well). It didn't work on the whistle. But it worked on the flute. Here I thought I was doing something wrong. Turns out I was "playing between the octaves"! Gee, I'm an old flute player in more ways than one! :wink:
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Re: Changing Registers

Post by oleorezinator »

busterbill wrote:In my experience the change for force or air speed is in the diaphragm. My mouth does not change.
Try it sometime you might like it.
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Re: Changing Registers

Post by pancelticpiper »

Cool!

As with any technique, there are exercises that help build fluency with crossing the octave.

Using the ABC Notation thing, one exercise goes like this. It's essential to play it entirely legato, with not the slightest tongue or glottal or throat restriction, or any other sort of interruption in the airstream (except when you have to pause to take a breath!)

In other words the only thing you're doing to change notes is moving fingers and tailoring the strength of the airstream.

D E D F# D G D A D B D c D d D e D f# D g D a D b D....

For those people, like me, who don't have perfect pitch you might want to be looking at a tuner app while you're doing the exercise to make sure each note is getting the correct pressure.
Richard Cook
c1980 Quinn uilleann pipes
1945 Starck Highland pipes
Goldie Low D whistle
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