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PostPosted: Wed Feb 03, 2021 7:40 am 
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Hello everybody,

I started whistling 2 weeks ago and did some research on the topic. But there's one thing I'm not sure how to approach. I read that the default playstyle is legato and notes are separated by ornaments like cuts etc.

However, I also read notes can be separated by tonguing (lifting the tip of the tongue a bit behind the upper front teeth and blocking airflow with a "tah"-like motion) or by glottal stops (blocking the airflow near the throat with the back of the tongue and therefore a "guh"-like motion). So far, the traditional legato + ornamentation seems way too advanced for me and I use tonguing between every single note. Yesterday, I tried glottal stops and this seems also something I'd be able to do at my stage.

But I don't want to develop bad habits, so how would I deal with this? Is it okay to tongue every note at the beginning and switch to legato later or do beginners usually start with legato? Also, does legato really mean that I constantly blow into the whistle without any interruption. And when would I start to learn ornamentations and which one first? Or am I overthinking this too much?

Sorry for all these questions and thank you very much in advance!


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PostPosted: Wed Feb 03, 2021 11:38 am 
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That is an ever ongoing debate. I'll quote Conal Ograda on this, a well regarded flute player (however on the flute, often glottal stops are used instead of tonguing):
"Some players use a lot of glottal stops (I use them on almost every single note) while others do not use them at all."
I can highly recommend his teaching book for flute (most if not all of the lessons can be applied to the whistle) "An Fheadóg Mhór", which you can buy from his homepage. Or the books from Mary Bergin.


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PostPosted: Wed Feb 03, 2021 12:11 pm 
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Quote:
I can highly recommend his teaching book for flute (most if not all of the lessons can be applied to the whistle) "An Fheadóg Mhór", which you can buy from his homepage.


But would you recommend it to a whistle playier just starting out? The flute and the whislte are different instruments, in spite of the things they have in common. If you'd attempt to play O'Ghrada's style on the whistle you would end up sounding, well, idiosyncratic.

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PostPosted: Wed Feb 03, 2021 12:23 pm 
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Learn the tune first, however you play, then experiment with the various ways later.

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PostPosted: Wed Feb 03, 2021 12:34 pm 
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Welcome to the whistle forum.

There are many beginner resources to choose from and several are listed above here on the forum under "Whistle Instruction" thread. As a quick one off suggestion I would say look into "The Bill Ochs Tin Whistle Handbook” published by Mel Bay, or try and find the original version "The Clarke Tin Whistle--a Handbook by Bill Ochs”. You may have to consider what type of whistling music you're interested in, traditional, or pop, metal, etc., so the technique(s) may vary.

Keep it fun and enjoy the whistling.


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PostPosted: Wed Feb 03, 2021 1:10 pm 
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Marcel! wrote:
1) the default playstyle
2) separated by tonguing or glottal stops
3) bad habits, .....? Is it okay ...........? and switch to legato later or do beginners usually....?
4) does legato really mean......? Or am I overthinking this too much?


There is no default play style for music but what people agree on. Maybe at a session or in a band or for a certain tune, there is a preferred way of playing, but there is no continuum of an absolute for everything. I'll wait to see what ITM players think ITM involves. I don't know the answers from their perspective.

As a new player, learn the various possibilities of playing the instrument. Why not master them all and have them at your disposal? A "bad habit" can be either a barrier to development, a way to cheat occasionally that works fine, or it can be a gateway into vast new fields of possibilities, kind of like "mistakes" are frowned upon by the terrified or mechanical, but often open up new possibilities. I don't think you're overthinking; just don't get sidetracked in a quagmire of opinions that just prevent time spent music-making. Never put the "analysis paralysis" effect of left-brain's internal editor, the categorization compulsion, in charge of "music", in charge of your band, creativity, relationships with your audience, your career or your playing style.


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PostPosted: Wed Feb 03, 2021 1:29 pm 
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Mr.Gumby wrote:
But would you recommend it to a whistle playier just starting out? The flute and the whislte are different instruments, in spite of the things they have in common. If you'd attempt to play O'Ghrada's style on the whistle you would end up sounding, well, idiosyncratic.

You got a point there. But I think it's better to transfer flute to the whistle than the other way around. I still have to unlearn too many things from my whistle playing days.
A book aimed at whistle playing might be better suited of course. BTW - didn't Mary Bergin finish the 3rd volume of her teaching book?
I guess she didn't. Hefty price but probably worth it.
http://maryberginwhistle.com/purchase.html


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PostPosted: Wed Feb 03, 2021 2:44 pm 
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I would recommend learning both legato and staccato techniques.
Both are very useful and I believe that there is no fixed rule on which one to use.

There are rules, nevertheless. Rules related to the correct way of what you are playing.
For example, traditional Airs songs should ideally be played in accordance with the vocals.
So even if you wanted to put a staccato and/or a legato, ideally you should not because you are replicating the vocals, so you should play the words.

Both legato and staccato techniques are tools that you can use to create a particular mood, rhythm, 'phrasal' statement or emphasis, etc.

There will be times that you will prefer using staccato in a particular sequence, other times you will prefer using legato and other times both.

The type/genre of the tune also provides clues on what technique would suit the tune, or your feeling.
I found that on medieval music staccato tends to be used more often (because it feels right).
On fast Irish tunes I tend to use less staccato (but depends on the tune and the mood).
On slow tunes, like Airs, I tend use even less or no staccato.
There are players that do not use staccato at all (the whistle replicating the bagpipes).
There players that use staccato intensively in any style of music (including fast Irish tunes).

I believe that the use of legato and staccato techniques also depend on your background and musical influences.
And all your musical experience in time will contribute to your own way/style of playing.

Regarding legato and ornamentation, with practice and dedication you will easily develop them.
What we call ornamentation can indeed be necessary to define the tune, so it may be not an ornamentation but part of the tune itself.
This means that what sometimes seems an ornamentation it is not (however the playing mechanics is the same).

The whistle is one of the simplest instruments to learn to play.
With a few lessons you will learn all what you need (just a few, I would say something like 15 things or so to learn), the rest is practice, dedication, perseverance.

It is important to listen as much as possible to the type of music you want to learn.
With time and dedication you will start to develop and understand what technique to use.
And, together with your own style of playing, you will apply the techniques suitable to the mood/feeling you intend to deliver.

It is important to play regularly. It does not need to be for long periods of time but it needs to be regular.
It is better playing every day, like 5 minutes per day, than playing long hours on just one day per week.
Doing in that way is better to your brain. It helps reinforcing what you are learning and develops muscle-memory.

I also recommend starting learning and playing tunes that you like, because if helps with your motivation.
Do not be afraid to learn to play what seems fast or complicated tunes (sometimes it is the ornamentations that do the trick/illusion).
If you slow down fast or difficult tunes and play them slowly regularly and by parts/chunks/frases you will see that they can all be learned.

There is something important to refer regarding the staccato.
Staccato separates the notes. However you will find that you might not need to separate the notes strongly.
You can use a very soft staccato to get clear notes ins such a way that even when playing fast the notes flow close to a legato.
It is hard to explain using words but a soft staccato can be achieved using the tongue like saying a soft and rapid letter ‘R’ with your tongue touching the palate.
Another soft staccato is achieved with a quick touch of your tongue on the top of your palate like saying a very soft and quick ‘D’.

Whistles are amazing instruments.
It is overwhelming the types and amount of music you can play with such a simple instrument.

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PostPosted: Wed Feb 03, 2021 4:10 pm 
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Welcome Marcel!

I am not a 'professional' player, but I have come a long way and was a beginner just a year or two ago so heres my opinion as a former beginner.

I endorse learning and using proper ornamentation, even if its a little tricky at first. And I dont mean you have to use them all at once, and at full speed. but if you play a ton without usng them, it may get ingrained in you to play that way and it may be harder to switch later on. this varies from person to person though.

Make sure you learn proper strikes and cuts. Theres a lot of good info out there but theres also a few tutorials that are just wrong. So make sure that what you learn is accurate.

So one learning option. Just start with learning strikes (also can be called taps). Which as you may know, is super quickly hitting the note LOWER in pitch than the one you are playing. Fast enough that its not its own note. And use these to string duplicate notes, and use cuts when you cant strike (aka, your lowest note when all holes are covered so you cant hit a lower one).

You could also do the reverse and always cut, but that gets slightly more complicated because the hole you use to cut with is slightly more complicated. Where strikes are quite simple, its just always the hole lower.

In the long run you want to know and use both based on what fits better but they are so similar that you can get by just learning one at a time.

and then when you know cuts and strikes you can easily add rolls because its just the two put together.

Also I'm not saying you can't practice tonging. But I do think it would be worth learning normal ornamentation too so that you cna do qhichever you want to instead of being limnited to only being able to do the one you know.

Best of luck in however you chose to learn.


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PostPosted: Wed Feb 03, 2021 10:05 pm 
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I always recommend Brother Steve's website for beginners on the whistle, "concise yet complete":

https://www.rogermillington.com/siamsa/brosteve/

As to slurring vs tonguing.

I'm in the school of slur everything and add in articulations later. Articulations means cuts, taps or tonguing.

If you are at the "Mary had a little Lamb" stage, maybe you need to tongue just to get through your first 8 tunes.

The important goal is to build up the skill to change fingers quickly and cleanly so that no extraneous notes appear. Tonguing makes it possible to hide these blips, so perhaps you don't notice that your fingers aren't fast enough. Forcing yourself to slur all notes is a good practice.

Always slurring, you will be forced to deal with adjacent same-notes. Slurring forces you to learn cuts.


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PostPosted: Thu Feb 04, 2021 2:53 am 
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Thank you very much for these detailed and insightful answers. Even though the opinions differ a bit, most of you suggested to at least integrate legato. So I'll try that and also to slowly learn ornamentations.

I'll also take a look at all the resources that were suggested, thanks a lot.


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PostPosted: Thu Feb 04, 2021 4:40 am 
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tstermitz wrote:
Tonguing makes it possible to hide these blips, so perhaps you don't notice that your fingers aren't fast enough.
Yes, I gained a lot from that suggestion on whistle and flute.

(was reading down and ready to point the Brother Steve but tstermitz did it)


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PostPosted: Thu Feb 04, 2021 12:04 pm 
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I'd like to offer up an important point for "beginner" situations, which can be of four types;
1) in the process of learning the instrument
2) in the process of learning the song
3) learning to play the song on the instrument
4) learning how to read sheet music and at adequate speed (playing speed)
(and for the natural musicians) 5) improvising music while #1 is internalized

I think confidence and speed of steady progress goes far faster and with fewer obstacles when you separate the first two processes, and tackle things sequentially when handling #3. I'd always start out by learning the song in your head first; memorize how it goes, be able to hum it start to finish. Have no doubts, no weak spots. Then look at the song in terms of what instrument techniques, melodies, sections, phrases, mood, speed, etc., that it needs and practice all that. You can practice it slowly and speed up later if you want.

But first, you already DO know how the song goes and can learn it on an instrument with a sense of confidence in your progress when the internal ear is guiding the fingers and the fingers aren't asking "what do we do next?", while the brain is going "uh, really not sure yet, it's all a blur, will have to listen to the recording again, I was drinking last night and haven't been practicing and my session mates are shunning me because I keep hitting off notes."

Get the order of the act together. This is important for people still learning the instrument, the song and reading sheet music at the same time. Ever taken lessons at a piano? Nothing turns off the mind and heart faster and more permanently than looking at trying to learn all four at the same time, under pressure of a teacher, nagging parents or your own idea that you got into music to enjoy it whenever you feel like it. Separation of these tasks allows you to decide on a productive sequence of things to learn, and advance QUICKLY!

Eventually, you'll develop a natural feel for the instrument, for playing what you feel or hear in your head, be able to learn songs far faster by using a system, and "improv" then also becomes available to you. Improv is easily within reach of anyone, given the chance to learn how to play the instrument as an extension of yourself. I consider "learning how to play the instrument" the weak link in most musician's list of abilities. They're always focused on "playing the song", and neglect time spent completely merging with the instrument to develop range, agility, fluid expressive control, fun, endurance and free-flying confidence that just goes on and on and on.............

Learning to play the instrument should have a wide range of "practices and techniques" to go through, but should be low-confusion and high effort, done with full focus and duration enough to really learn and develop, but NOT using songs, using a list of techniques to learn. When techniques become available in the subconscious, you can focus on the song and have all these musical skills in reserve to apply anytime. You'll know you're ready to throw yourself at it. Try all sorts of things, including extremes of everything. Develop your lungs. Do hand exercises and stretches. Develop YOU as much as instrument control: tone control, ornaments, phrasing control, clarity, sense of musical feel, etc. Unfortunately, a lot of structured, institutionalized learning keeps things unified and greatly neglects appreciation for the player merging with the instrument and indulging in the exploration of what the interaction can create, it isn't explored outside of learning along a linear path of duplicating selected music composed by dead people that institutions can rip off.


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PostPosted: Thu Feb 04, 2021 3:55 pm 
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I was told way back in the stone age when I was learning, just to skip tonguing for right then, The issue, she said, was tonguing everything develops a rigid pattern that you just need to break later. So she'd lean towards breathing breaks, glottal stops and taps and cuts then adding rolls and after all that introducing tonguing for emphasis.

If you are still in the Hot Cross Buns or Rattlin' Bog stage I'd suppose it would be ok. But once you know where the notes are and can make a simple tune...


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PostPosted: Fri Feb 05, 2021 8:43 am 
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Since the OP specifically asked about Beginners, when I'm teaching I want a beginner to first be able to negotiate the instrument, be able to get around from note to note, before worrying about ornaments and stylistic theories.

From note to note not only means adjacent notes (scales) but also intervals of 3rds and 4ths (arpeggios) and for me larger intervals too.

What I don't want people just learning the fingering to do is to tongue, because it creates a silence during the transition from one note to the next which is the very thing I want to hear. I don't want them hiding sloppy note changes.

So at the start I have them play entirely legato.

If you have learned clean fingering you can play cleanly while playing legato, and tongue whenever you want.

If you learn covering up all your note transitions with tonguing, tonguing might have become a crutch, disguising a lack of technique. When you want to play legato you might not have the technique to do so cleanly.

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