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PostPosted: Fri Jan 22, 2021 10:07 am 
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Both, really, but the latter more so than the former. They are very much intertwined, if you don't have a feel for how to shape the tune your overall sound can suffer. The tone of the whistle can start sounding very dull and same-y, for lack of a better term, in a very grating way.


It's probably the reason why I very rarely listen to clips posted on the internet.

A tune played well is like a conversation, the phrases giving the call and response, repeating statements with a slightly different flourish. It;s definitely not the stream of notes so often encountered, the few yards of reels as some may put it, with out lift or sense of direction and with total disregard of the internal rhtyhms of the tune or the function of ornaments. A sprinkling of ill placed cranns is usally a give away of the type of player. Being able to more or less hammer out an ornament is one thing, the sense of placing it well,appropriately and above all meaningfully. is obviously quite another. :swear:

Simplicity and clarity are things to strive for.

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PostPosted: Fri Jan 22, 2021 11:09 am 
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Mr.Gumby wrote:
It's probably the reason why I very rarely listen to clips posted on the internet.

You just need to look for the right players. There is tons of clips by actual real players on youtube, not just dilettantic amateurs (like myself for instance :D ). First stop for me is always youtube but I look for the right players. At the moment mostly flute, so I look for Orlaith McAuliffe, Brendan Mulholland, Matt Molloy, Harry Bradley, Conal O'Grada, Stephen Doherty and the likes.
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A tune played well is like a conversation, the phrases giving the call and response, repeating statements with a slightly different flourish.

Thats's an interesting analogy to blues music which I played on the guitar when I was younger (played in different bands at the time). Blues is very much in a call and response style, being derived from worksongs. That seems like a helpful analogy, which I will try to remember for my practice.

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A sprinkling of ill placed cranns is usally a give away of the type of player.

Could you elaborate a bit on that? When would you consider a crann ill placed? At the moment for instance, I try to learn "the moving cloud" and the two versions I like best are, obviously Matt Molloy and the other one is from Orlaith McAuliffe, and if I hear it correctly, she uses a couple of cranns, where Molloy would play a roll for example. Yet another version is from Shannon Heaton and she uses less ornaments. Obviously the version by Orlaith McAuliffe is the most impressive due to its sheer virtuosity. Would you consider one being "more traditional" or just legit different versions of the tune?
https://youtu.be/FrFMUtYCTjE
https://youtu.be/SaaUoc-lrZc
https://youtu.be/7h_HfNsWU6U
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Simplicity and clarity are things to strive for.

That's what I like about Micho Russell.


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PostPosted: Fri Jan 22, 2021 2:13 pm 
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Edited to add that the exception to my general avoidance of online listening is Kenny/Douglas Hadden's channel on YouTube, and some other archival recordings. Kenny's channel is GOLD.

Here are my observations as a US player with varying (and somewhat limited) degrees of access to established ITM communities. Again, these are just observations based on my experiences, so they may not be representative of the broader community.

I was lucky enough to learn directly from a skilled player with consistent lessons, and also some very valuable group lessons at various events and camps. Before that, I did develop the fundamentals on my own, using Gray Larson's book for reference (I like his analysis and way of looking at the embellishments, but his tune settings are... special, to say the least). In my opinion, there is no substitute for hearing the nuances and techniques firsthand, and being able to ask an instructor to repeat, slow down, or explain the things that stand out.

To me, the greatest challenge in learning whistle remotely, outside of Ireland, is understanding the "point" of the embellishments, melodic variations, and rhythm, and it's something I spend a lot of time on, both myself and with the few students of my own. Technique is something that can always be improved, but understanding the motivation for why something is played a certain way takes time, and vastly more should be spent listening to field recordings and live players than me blathering. The internet is a fantastic resource for learning tunes, discussing the history behind them, and sharing favorite settings, but I encourage my students to limit their time browsing until they have a good grasp of the aforementioned "point." Understanding the personal, regional, and national relationships with the music is important, since we don't just get to absorb these things in the US the way they are omnipresent in Ireland. Often some of my favorite recordings are not of players on RTE, but just "somebody's dad" having a tune in the kitchen after work, and I try to prompt observations about how they are playing and what they are trying to express, and considering where they live, who they are, and what they have to work with. As I am neither Irish nor in a trad hotspot like New York or Chicago, my lessons take a very Socratic approach and are more about sharing observations than making declarative statements.

A point I find one has to hammer home outside of Ireland is that "getting" the music (the "nyah" as some call it) is far and away more important than technique. Many of the players we hail as greats today were just normal people with day jobs, and their technique wasn't necessarily fantastic by All-Ireland standards*. This is often a really new concept to people who are used to musicians with name recognition being technical experts as well as artists. I encourage a "feel it first, play it second," approach, as my experience has been that "if you know what you want to hear with enough specificity, your fingers will figure out how to get there." That's not to say I neglect technique, but again US musicians are often expecting they have to master all the embellishments and whatnot before getting to engage with the artistry, which can be a very discouraging assumption. The comment about an "ill-placed sprinkling of cranns" is particularly apt, as I often have to remind students to sing the tune and see for themselves whether a "dum-diddle-dum" flows naturally or not.

Playing in a session could be a whole class of its own, and getting western classically-educated musicians to differentiate between "conversation" and "performance" can be challenging. The amount of tunes in the US session repertoire that are specific album versions also makes this difficult - album playing is of course very different than session playing, and I think many of us are familiar with the excruciating experience of starting a tune in a certain style or tempo and having the session road-haul you with the version they know. Understanding that a single well-known player's interpretation of the music may not be representative of the broader community is really important, and I strongly feel the level of hero-worship US players place upon certain musicians is counterproductive to understanding the broader role of the music in the community.

Far and away the hardest and most frustrating people to teach in my experience have been old American hippies. There is this weird attitude among that generation that I think makes it difficult for them to really engage with the music, and the people behind it. Maybe it stems from the Flower Child mindset that "everyone's contribution is of equal value," or something? Certainly, many never really seem to accept that their idle strumming is not of the same artistic value (to the broader community) as a skilled and trad-immersed player, and become defensive if asked to play more quietly or to make room at the table for a more skilled player. There seems to be this idea that performative displays of humility entitle them to invade any space or community; i.e. not understanding that there are places where their presence (or hell, mine for that matter) might be inappropriate, or that no amount of "humbling one's self" will absolve them of the responsibility to strive for improvement and good taste. Whatever is behind it, to me it reads as this weird self-flagellating type of egotism. There are people that have been playing for decades who have not improved a single bit, yet still get all passive-aggressive at the gentlest reminders of expected behavior. God knows I've made my own share of session faux pas, and I still cringe at the memory of some very stupid misunderstandings on my part, but I have done my best to learn from them.

Anyway, I'm sorry - this turned into quite a wall of text. Am I a misanthropic asshole? (somewhat) Am I falling into the same "who am I to say this" area as those I discuss? (maybe) I'm curious what other US players' experiences have been, and how those living in Ireland view them compared to domestic players.

*the effect of the All-Ireland championship on flute/whistle playing (in my opinion, contributing to the erasure of regional styles) is a whole other topic...


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PostPosted: Fri Jan 22, 2021 6:09 pm 
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pancelticpiper wrote:
I had to go the other direction and figure out how to make my High Whistle playing sound appropriate, and not like my flute playing.

And it's the sound, isn't it. "Appropriate" is subjective, but at the same time it's somehow indisputable.

[Inserting here the probably unnecessary reminder that this sidetrack also comes from the traditional Irish/Scottish styles perspective]

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PostPosted: Fri Jan 22, 2021 9:06 pm 
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Nanohedron wrote:
pancelticpiper wrote:
I had to go the other direction and figure out how to make my High Whistle playing sound appropriate, and not like my flute playing.

And it's the sound, isn't it. "Appropriate" is subjective, but at the same time it's somehow indisputable.

[Inserting here the probably unnecessary reminder that this sidetrack also comes from the traditional Irish/Scottish styles perspective]


oof, I feel this. I became a MUCH poorer whistle player after going whole-hog into flute for a few years. Had to rebuild my playing from the ground up.


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PostPosted: Sun Jan 24, 2021 10:14 am 
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Sedi wrote:
...an interesting analogy to blues...very much in a call and response style, being derived from worksongs.


The call and response thing is huge in Highland piping, particularly in 2/4 marches, due to the way the phrases are constructed.

Sedi wrote:
When would you consider a crann ill-placed?


I always think of this scene when the subject of the "when" to do something comes up!

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NtfHaJKW1zQ

Silly, but profound, and as true in comedy as it is in conversation, music, love, and many other things.

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PostPosted: Tue Jan 26, 2021 5:40 am 
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Sedi wrote:
Could you elaborate a bit on that? When would you consider a crann ill placed? At the moment for instance, I try to learn "the moving cloud" and the two versions I like best are, obviously Matt Molloy and the other one is from Orlaith McAuliffe, and if I hear it correctly, she uses a couple of cranns, where Molloy would play a roll for example. Yet another version is from Shannon Heaton and she uses less ornaments. Obviously the version by Orlaith McAuliffe is the most impressive due to its sheer virtuosity. Would you consider one being "more traditional" or just legit different versions of the tune?
https://youtu.be/FrFMUtYCTjE
https://youtu.be/SaaUoc-lrZc
https://youtu.be/7h_HfNsWU6U

Those Eb's that Sharnnon is playing in the 3rd part are really nice, and you really don't hear it played that way too often - especially not on a flute.

Back on topic, I probably don't have too much to add. I'm 'self taught' as most might put it. I had had some lessons as a child, but abandoned it, and I was already a working musician when I took up the flute and whistle seriously, and so just listened to everything I possibly could, played as much as I could, and played with as many different people as I could.


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