Thumb hole in Burke whistles

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Peter Duggan
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Re: Thumb hole in Burke whistles

Post by Peter Duggan »

CPA wrote: Fri Aug 20, 2021 11:20 am You're probably right but I'd like you to motivate it.
An unfamiliar use of 'motivate' partially cleared up by Google, but let's give this a shot...

You are, by your own admission, a relative newcomer to whistles asking questions about them (purpose of thumb holes, narrow bore etc.). But still defining them rigidly as British, Italian, recorders or experimental. Whereas I, having played recorder for some 48 years, studied it abroad 35 years ago and treated whistle seriously for nearly as long (let's say 32), just can't see things compartmentalised like this. I've never heard anyone (bar you) playing a standard six-holed whistle say they play the 'British' whistle or suggest the addition of another hole makes it 'Italian', and think real life is both more complex and more of a continuum than this. Yes, there are fipple flutes of which whistles and recorders are both sub-types, but I just can't see or agree with your rigid, hole-and-country-based classification of them. This is not to say that there aren't distinct national types, but just that it's not that simple!
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Re: Thumb hole in Burke whistles

Post by Nanohedron »

Just to add that a local fluter/whistler plays an Abell, I think it is, with a C thumbhole, and has done for donkey's years. We've also had a recorder player sitting in at sessions on occasion. None of us ever thought of the Abell as being a recorder in the slightest, and primarily because it doesn't sound remotely like a recorder. It's just a whistle with a tweak.
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Re: Thumb hole in Burke whistles

Post by CPA »

Ronk wrote: Tue Aug 17, 2021 8:18 am I have one of Joseph Morneaux's "drop C" whistles with C & Fnat thumbholes along with a 7th hole below the low D for C. It definitely is a whistle, not a recorder. For example, you do not half hole the thumbhole to reach the 2nd octave like a recorder.

I am still getting used to it, but it has opened up a variety of different genres of music since it is essentially fully chromatic with cross fingering working well for Bb, G# as well. This is a fine instrument, and Joseph is a delight to work with.
So the fact that the musical instrument is chromatic or diatonic is not decisive for you for the purposes of classification as a recorder or as a whistle? Why?
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Re: Thumb hole in Burke whistles

Post by CPA »

Peter Duggan wrote: Fri Aug 20, 2021 12:00 pm
CPA wrote: Fri Aug 20, 2021 11:20 am You're probably right but I'd like you to motivate it.
An unfamiliar use of 'motivate' partially cleared up by Google, but let's give this a shot...

You are, by your own admission, a relative newcomer to whistles asking questions about them (purpose of thumb holes, narrow bore etc.). But still defining them rigidly as British, Italian, recorders or experimental. Whereas I, having played recorder for some 48 years, studied it abroad 35 years ago and treated whistle seriously for nearly as long (let's say 32), just can't see things compartmentalised like this. I've never heard anyone (bar you) playing a standard six-holed whistle say they play the 'British' whistle or suggest the addition of another hole makes it 'Italian', and think real life is both more complex and more of a continuum than this. Yes, there are fipple flutes of which whistles and recorders are both sub-types, but I just can't see or agree with your rigid, hole-and-country-based classification of them. This is not to say that there aren't distinct national types, but just that it's not that simple!
Well, then, scientifically, where exactly is the essential peculiarity of a whistle?
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Re: Thumb hole in Burke whistles

Post by CPA »

Nanohedron wrote: Fri Aug 20, 2021 12:09 pm Just to add that a local fluter/whistler plays an Abell, I think it is, with a C thumbhole, and has done for donkey's years. We've also had a recorder player sitting in at sessions on occasion. None of us ever thought of the Abell as being a recorder in the slightest, and primarily because it doesn't sound remotely like a recorder. It's just a whistle with a tweak.
How many changes can you make to a whistle without it turning into something else?
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Re: Thumb hole in Burke whistles

Post by Nanohedron »

CPA wrote: Fri Aug 20, 2021 12:52 pm
Nanohedron wrote: Fri Aug 20, 2021 12:09 pm Just to add that a local fluter/whistler plays an Abell, I think it is, with a C thumbhole, and has done for donkey's years. We've also had a recorder player sitting in at sessions on occasion. None of us ever thought of the Abell as being a recorder in the slightest, and primarily because it doesn't sound remotely like a recorder. It's just a whistle with a tweak.
How many changes can you make to a whistle without it turning into something else?
This strikes me as more a question for the philosophers. One thumbhole does not by definition make a whistle into a recorder; while they are both duct flutes, their construction and tone are different enough to retain their fundamental identities. People have made keyed chromatic whistles, but that doesn't make them clarinets.
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Re: Thumb hole in Burke whistles

Post by CPA »

Narzog wrote: Tue Aug 17, 2021 8:59 am I think the easiest way to answer the question of what makes something a whistle is to use a more extreme example. Carbony makes a whistle with highland bagpipe fingering and scale. Is it a bagpipe or a whistle?
"Open upright flutes, without slow air chamber, with open whistle, and passage to the high register by overblowing". So would it work?
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Re: Thumb hole in Burke whistles

Post by CPA »

Nanohedron wrote: Fri Aug 20, 2021 1:00 pm
CPA wrote: Fri Aug 20, 2021 12:52 pm
Nanohedron wrote: Fri Aug 20, 2021 12:09 pm Just to add that a local fluter/whistler plays an Abell, I think it is, with a C thumbhole, and has done for donkey's years. We've also had a recorder player sitting in at sessions on occasion. None of us ever thought of the Abell as being a recorder in the slightest, and primarily because it doesn't sound remotely like a recorder. It's just a whistle with a tweak.
How many changes can you make to a whistle without it turning into something else?
This strikes me as more a question for the philosophers. One thumbhole does not by definition make a whistle into a recorder; while they are both duct flutes, their construction and tone are different enough to retain their fundamental identities. People have made keyed chromatic whistles, but that doesn't make them clarinets.
No philosophy: only the will to arrive at a precise dictionary definition (a description that leaves no doubt). The manufacturer Generation calls its whistles "flagiolets". Curt Sachs wrote (in "History of Musical Instruments") that the flagiolet is a small recorder with six tonal holes and that the first flagiolet was built in Paris around 1581. This, Sachs wrote, is the French flagiolet, while the English flagiolet "it's an amateur instrument" of the early nineteenth century. So, for Sachs, the whistle is a subspecies of recorder. Definition that, I think, you will not share, despite the fact that it comes from the great Curt Sachs. So, if this discussion aims to clearly define the essential characteristics of the "english flagiolet" to the point of eliminating any doubts, I hope that it achieves its purpose.
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Re: Thumb hole in Burke whistles

Post by Nanohedron »

CPA wrote: Fri Aug 20, 2021 2:11 pm No philosophy: only the will to arrive at a precise dictionary definition (a description that leaves no doubt). The manufacturer Generation calls its whistles "flagiolets". Curt Sachs wrote (in "History of Musical Instruments") that the flagiolet is a small recorder with six tonal holes and that the first flagiolet was built in Paris around 1581. This, Sachs wrote, is the French flagiolet, while the English flagiolet "it's an amateur instrument" of the early nineteenth century. So, for Sachs, the whistle is a subspecies of recorder. Definition that, I think, you will not share, despite the fact that it comes from the great Curt Sachs. So, if this discussion aims to clearly define the essential characteristics of the "english flagiolet" to the point of eliminating any doubts, I hope that it achieves its purpose.
I'm of the suspicion that Sachs used the term "recorder" only out of convenience, since even his least-informed readers would have grasped the general concept. I'm quite certain he would have known and recognized the better accuracy of the terms "duct flute" or "fipple flute", but then he would have had to spend more ink explaining that. It's like calling a zebra a type of horse, which it is not. Both are equines, but that's where the kinship ends. Earlier on, the modern whistle was alternatively termed a flageolet because it developed out of the English flageolet. But time moves on, and now whistles and flageolets are considered different things.

Beware of relying on dictionary definitions as canonical: they are sometimes contradictory, and as I have discovered, can even be grossly wrong.
"Time is the wisest counselor of all." - Pericles

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Re: Thumb hole in Burke whistles

Post by CPA »

Nanohedron wrote: Fri Aug 20, 2021 2:36 pm
CPA wrote: Fri Aug 20, 2021 2:11 pm No philosophy: only the will to arrive at a precise dictionary definition (a description that leaves no doubt). The manufacturer Generation calls its whistles "flagiolets". Curt Sachs wrote (in "History of Musical Instruments") that the flagiolet is a small recorder with six tonal holes and that the first flagiolet was built in Paris around 1581. This, Sachs wrote, is the French flagiolet, while the English flagiolet "it's an amateur instrument" of the early nineteenth century. So, for Sachs, the whistle is a subspecies of recorder. Definition that, I think, you will not share, despite the fact that it comes from the great Curt Sachs. So, if this discussion aims to clearly define the essential characteristics of the "english flagiolet" to the point of eliminating any doubts, I hope that it achieves its purpose.
I'm of the suspicion that Sachs used the term "recorder" only out of convenience, since even his least-informed readers would have grasped the general concept. I'm quite certain he would have known and recognized the better accuracy of the terms "duct flute" or "fipple flute", but then he would have had to spend more ink explaining that. It's like calling a zebra a type of horse, which it is not. Both are equines, but that's where the kinship ends. Earlier on, the modern whistle was alternatively termed a flageolet because it developed out of the English flageolet. But time moves on, and now whistles and flageolets are considered different things.

Beware of relying on dictionary definitions as canonical: they are sometimes contradictory, and as I have discovered, can even be grossly wrong.
Thank you for these valuable considerations of yours (which I really appreciate very much): I consider them a further step towards solving the problem, not a surrender to the current uncertain state of the definitions.
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Re: Thumb hole in Burke whistles

Post by Peter Duggan »

Peter Duggan wrote: Fri Aug 20, 2021 12:00 pm You are, by your own admission, a relative newcomer to whistles
Sorry, CPA, I got you mixed up with someone else there and actually have no idea if you're a newcomer or not!

But still not sure just what you're trying to prove...
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Re: Thumb hole in Burke whistles

Post by CPA »

Peter Duggan wrote: Fri Aug 20, 2021 3:05 pm
Peter Duggan wrote: Fri Aug 20, 2021 12:00 pm You are, by your own admission, a relative newcomer to whistles
Sorry, CPA, I got you mixed up with someone else there and actually have no idea if you're a newcomer or not!

But still not sure just what you're trying to prove...
The identification of the writer does not matter: the topic is the real protagonist of the discussion. I don't want to prove anything, I express my opinion but I keep looking for the truth (with your help). For example, in my native language, wikipedia called the whistle "pemperino". This word, however, does not exist in any of the most famous and encyclopedic dictionaries of the Italian language. Therefore I pointed this word to the "Accademia della Crusca": an Italian institution that gathers scholars and experts in linguistics and philology of the Italian language. It represents one of the most prestigious linguistic institutions in Italy and in the world. In this way they will professionally and definitively carry out the work of identification and perfect definition of that word and its etymology. Now we only have to understand whether, for our ear, the thumb hole works, and whether or not it distorts the whistle of its essential or typical characteristics.
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Re: Thumb hole in Burke whistles

Post by Narzog »

CPA wrote: Fri Aug 20, 2021 5:47 pm Now we only have to understand whether, for our ear, the thumb hole works, and whether or not it distorts the whistle of its essential or typical characteristics.
The issue with thumb holes isn't if they work or not. Its that we usually don't want to use them. I taped over mine. On my Burke A, the cross finger is horribly out of tune, and to me is very obvious. The thumb hole note on the other hand is perfect and sounds like every other note. Michael Burke doesnt try to make a good cross finger on his whistles because they have a thumb hole option, or you can tape the hole (which is what I did on my low F). Many other makers just make a good cross fingering because most of us don't want to use the thumb hole.

To me a thumb hole doesnt make a whistle any less whistle than an irish flute with keys any less irish flute. Its an option to extend its key range that doesnt change what instrument it is.
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Re: Thumb hole in Burke whistles

Post by RoberTunes »

If a whistle is given enough tone holes to make it fully chromatic, it's still a whistle, it's not a recorder.
If a whistle has no holes except the window and the end of the freaking pipe, it's still a whistle.
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Re: Thumb hole in Burke whistles

Post by pancelticpiper »

Ronk wrote: Tue Aug 17, 2021 8:18 am I have one of Joseph Morneaux's "drop C" whistles with C & Fnat thumbholes along with a 7th hole below the low D for C.
That's cool.

Seems to me there are four ways of getting a chromatic scale from a whistle:

1) half-holing

2) cross-fingering (as we know this doesn't work well for F natural and G sharp)

3) Recorder-style double holes (you need thick walls)

4) addition of extra dedicated finger-holes and thumb-holes.

The fife world has gone with #4 with great results.

I borrowed a 10-hole fife and it was surprisingly easy to get used to working the upper-hand little finger on its side hole, the thumbs on their back holes, etc.
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