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PostPosted: Sun Jun 03, 2018 4:07 pm 
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So rather than start a thread for each these, some quick questions perhaps the more experienced can help with:

1) Is there a limit (or should there be) for how many tunes one can learn and retain? I am not sure how many I know now, but I imagine it must be somewhere between 30-40, give or take. Is it possible to learn and retain 100s of tunes played proficiently for example?

2) What is your top tip for "getting good" on low whistle? Obviously that might be subjective and dependent on natural talent, and obviously the main answer is "practice", but any tips for becoming as skilled as pros like Paddy Keenan, Brian Finnegan, Cormac Breatnach, John McSherry, or Fred Morrison?

3) This one is a bit different and technical, but what is it that I am doing wrong here? On my low D (MK Kelpie) I play the second octave proficiently but I sometimes have trouble with the top two notes (A, B) at the second octave. Sometimes they might sound a bit more shrill and loud compared to the lower notes on the second octave, but worse is sometimes I go to hit an A in the second octave and it comes out like a loud blowing sound almost in the fist octave, as though I am not blowing hard enough. What's strange is I am not sure what's causing it because at times I play it perfectly fine, and others these mishaps still happen despite no real variation in my playing.

Feel free to answer any of the above questions rather than having to answer all of them.


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PostPosted: Mon Jun 04, 2018 3:53 am 
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The top notes of the second octave are more difficult to play well. The tiniest variations in your breath make a difference. And I find wind instruments extremely dependent of day form and conditions. Player's tension or tiredness, air temperature and humidity - everything influences the sound quality. Some days I play better, some days I play worse - that just can't be helped. I suppose after several thousand hours of practice the "worse days" may become good enough so that listeners won't notice... (but I'm sure that even top pro players have moments when the sound is not quite what they aimed for)

Theoretically there shouldn't be a limit on the number of tunes one can learn, but in practice I'm still at 5, so I'm not the right person to answer that question...


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PostPosted: Mon Jun 04, 2018 6:51 am 
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Rank novice here. I have a Kelpie and find that it takes me a few minutes to warm up, which may actually be the time it takes the whistle to warm up, and that it's tiring to my hand.

With jigs and reels I would offer a basic definition of "good" as "inclined to make people tap their feet." And I think the key to getting good--and again I'm far from an expert--is time time time, not just hours of practice time, but practicing to have a strong steady pulse, practicing time. It seems to me that no matter how you play, if it inspires people to want to move, you're good. This is true in lots of genres and instruments, but it seems especially true with the whistle and irish music, which often has such a strong dance pulse

I'm working a lot on "Helvic Head," a classic jig with a long form and five sections, all involving different kind of moves. the basic moves aren't that hard, but getting them in time, and flowing together, is very hard. I see the most improvement when I practice with a metronome. So that's my answer! But I'm doing all this on my own and in isolation


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PostPosted: Mon Jun 04, 2018 9:06 am 
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The number of tunes you know is directly affected by how much listening and playing you do. Going to sessions and gigs regularly will help expose you to new tunes, as will listening to recordings. Eventually, as you get better at your instrument, you'll start learning tunes much more quickly, without necessarily needing to look up sheet music or slow each part down. Personally, if I hear a polka or slide, I can often play it through on the third or fourth time around. Reels and jigs are trickier, but if I have it in my head, I can usually work it out without needing to go over to thesession.org to check the sheet music.

That being said, having a large repertoire doesn't necessarily correlate exactly with your playing ability. In fact, I know some gigging musicians with relatively small (100s rather than 1000s) repertoires. They can learn tunes quickly, but they mainly play gigs with their group, so they don't necessarily spend a lot of time learning new ones. The tunes they do play, though, are at an extremely high polish, given that they've played them hundreds if not thousands of times through in gigs. Conversely, I've been to sessions with musicians who were clearly familiar with every tune being played, but were not strong players at all.


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