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PostPosted: Fri Apr 24, 2020 7:03 am 
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I am considering the Optima Low D whistle and just got a close up view of the lower holes and was wondering do all low D whistles have such a wide spacing of the lowest two holes? Can anyone give me a measurement on one of their Optima Low D units? They sure looked far apart. Was not sure if it was just that model or if all Low D's have such a wide spacing on the low end. That is why initially I was considering the Low F to get a whistle that may not be as difficult to finger (pipers grip of course). Any information would be very helpful. I would like to order very soon like today or tomorrow.

Scottie


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PostPosted: Fri Apr 24, 2020 7:15 am 
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Yes, all of them have that wide spacing, except if it was a tapered bore. But even my tapered bore Dixon doesn't have much less stretch. That is the whole problem with cylindrical bore whistles and flutes (I make those). The lowest hole is small and the next one big. If you made the lowest one bigger in order to strengthen that note, it would move even further down. I like the older Chieftain V5 or Thunderbird design where the second hole from the bottom is larger and the spacing more even. On the new ones the spacing is closer to a Goldie with a huge gap between the last two holes. I don't like that. I think it is awkward to play. I prefer about the same stretch between all three of the bottom holes. On my flute I made the lowest hole a bit smaller (6.5 mm) -- that will weaken the note a bit but make fingering much easier. But on a low whistle I think it's not so much of a problem with the piper's grip.
I don't have one of the newer models with the different hole layout so I cannot help you there unfortunately. I am just glad I bought all my Chieftain low Ds before that design change.


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PostPosted: Fri Apr 24, 2020 8:21 am 
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The lowest hole, Hole 6, is the most out-of-place from its acoustically correct position.

Placing a hole higher on the tube makes the note sharper, meaning to compensate you have to make the hole smaller.

That's why Hole 6 is the smallest hole.

Makers are caught in the middle between acoustics and the size of human hands, so they compromise.

Here are some Low Ds from several makers showing that they have all arrived at more or less the same compromise position for Hole 6.

Top to bottom:
Susato
Dixon conical bore
Reyburn maple head
Reyburn Delrin head
Burke Pro Viper
Kerry Optima
MK

Image

Acoustically ideal would be for Hole 6 to be the same size as Hole 5, placed halfway between Hole 5 and the bottom of the tube.

There you would get a powerful Low E note.

But few could reach it!

Coming from the human anatomy side, ideal ergonomically would be for Hole 6 to be as close to Hole 5 as the other fingerholes are to each other.

To be in tune Hole 6 would have to be tiny, and the Low E note would be feeble and want to jump the octave.

So we're stuck with the compromise that all makers have arrived at.

BTW on Burke Low Ds that Low E note is noticeably weaker than its neighbours, and that's the Pro Viper! Burke makes an EZ reach Low D with an even weaker Low E note.

My Goldie Low D has a strong Low E, and has the lower three fingerholes a bit closer-spaced than many Low Ds. MK Low Ds have exceptionally strong Low E notes, just as strong as the other notes. I have no idea how they accomplish that.

As Sedi says, using a bore that narrows towards the end, like Recorders and Baroque flutes, allows the lower-hand holes to be closer together. I think the Tony Dixon plastic conical-bore Low D is the most comfortable Low D I've played.

Other than that, the solution is to have a key for that Low E note. Susato makes/made Low Ds like that, they are obviously super easy to finger.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JESWb8Xnmoc&t=95s

This video is very nice, he demonstrates the drawbacks to the keys, making "pats" more difficult, and eliminating the nice gliss you can do with an open hole. His Susato Low D has keys for both ring fingers, to me the upper key isn't necessary, and a key for Low E being the only useful one.

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1978 Quinn uilleann pipes
1945 Starck Highland pipes
Goldie Low D whistle


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PostPosted: Fri Apr 24, 2020 9:59 am 
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Very good explanation. I made a few pics, too. To show that the older Chieftains/Thunderbirds had a slightly larger F# hole. I think they changed it last year or at the end of 2018. And I think it began with the new "custom" model. I prefer the older hole layout but many struggled with the F# hole at 13mm.
From top to bottom:
Chieftain Thunderbird, Chieftain V5, Qwistle, Howard:
Image
MK Kelpie and V5:
Image
And one with one of my practice flutes -- on the flute I can get away with a smaller hole as the weak note can to some extent be compensated with the embouchure. It does sound a bit weaker but it's not really an issue. I made flutes with a thicker tube and the deeper chimney strengthens the note. So on a flute with between 3-4 mm wall thickness, the hole can be very small and you will not notice a difference in timbre/strength. Or it could be compensated with a slightly thicker piece of tube that slides over the other one to make the chimney deeper, like Gary Somers does with his practice flutes. That will also move the hole maybe 2-3 mm higher up the tube.
Image


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PostPosted: Fri Apr 24, 2020 10:13 am 
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BTW -- I still have the plan to make a low D from an aluminium tube with 3mm wall and a 19mm bore -- I made some flutes with that tube and the results were really good. Very evenly balanced even with the smaller E hole because of the deeper chimney. I wonder why no maker of low Ds ever bothered to use a thicker walled tube as that would easily solve the stretch issue for the right hand. Maybe it's because of the weight--the flutes with the 3mm wall tube I made, weigh around 300g.


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PostPosted: Fri Apr 24, 2020 5:24 pm 
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I have played Low Ds with rather thicker tubes.

One is the Susato, when I had a couple Susato Low Ds around a decade ago (one of which is in the photo above, with the angled neck) and compared them to alloy Low Ds, the Susato had a rather thicker tube.

It didn't seem to solve anything regarding the hole spacing or strength of Low E in relation to the other low notes.

What it did do was give the 2nd octave more colour, more character, than the other Low Ds.

As we all know the way the player perceives a flute or whistle might be quite different from how an outside party perceives it.

To take that step back, and listen to myself as a second party, I recorded myself playing several Low Ds from various makers.

The results surprised me. I found that all the alloy Low Ds that I had at that time, no matter how much colour/character they had in the low octave, became bland in the 2nd octave. The one that stood out as retaining colour/character in the 2nd octave was the Susato. It surprised me because this hadn't been apparent when I played the various whistles.

The Low Ds with the thickest tubes I've played were three different makes of wooden ones (with conical bores like an Irish flute). All of them were rather quiet and thin-sounding with feeble low notes.

One of them was a D flute/Low D whistle combination set, and it was amazing how much better it played with the flute head than with the whistle head. With the flute head I got fairly solid low notes and a strong bellnote, with the whistle head the low notes were quite feeble, utterly unacceptable as a serious whistle, and far below the performance of serious alloy Low Ds like the Burke, MK, Goldie, etc.

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1978 Quinn uilleann pipes
1945 Starck Highland pipes
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PostPosted: Fri Apr 24, 2020 6:43 pm 
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Interesting observations. On the flutes I made there is a noticeable difference in the strength and sound of the E in the 1st octave comparing a tube with 1.5mm and one with 3mm. But the stopper position does also differ and that might account for the difference as well (setting the stopper further out will weaken the E and strengthen the low D -- once again proof that whistle/flute-building is always a compromise). I'd have to do an experiment with everything being the same and just the wall thickness at that particular hole being different.


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PostPosted: Sat Apr 25, 2020 5:59 am 
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Isn't this the idea of the Siccama flute--that you place the hole where it "should" be and add a key? And of course that's pretty much the whole point of the Boehm flute

It would be interesting to make a whistle or flute with just a D key. I find the weak Eb to be a real distraction sometimes


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PostPosted: Sat Apr 25, 2020 6:11 am 
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To illustrate (literally) the issue with the placement of the lower-hand holes and mainly the distance between Hole 5 and 6 I just made this crude drawing.

The bottom shows the lower-hand hole sizing and spacing on my Colin Goldie Low D.

The top shows the lower-hand hole sizing and spacing of a few of my high whistles (D, C, Bb) blown up to Low D size.

On high whistles, makers can size and place Hole 6 where it sounds best and not have to worry about anybody reaching it, and you can see that it's rather further down the tube, much closer to its theoretical position nearly halfway between Hole 5 and the bottom.

Also note that Hole 5 is enormous, and due to being larger is moved a bit further down the tube.

Hole 4, on the other hand, is smaller and moved further up the tube. This is so that the index and middle finger aren't crowded together, a potential problem on High D whistles.

The + on each tube shows where Hole 6 would be if Holes 4, 5, and 6 were evenly spaced, which I suppose is the ergonomic ideal.

Image

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1978 Quinn uilleann pipes
1945 Starck Highland pipes
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PostPosted: Sat Apr 25, 2020 6:17 am 
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PB+J wrote:
Isn't this the idea of the Siccama flute--that you place the hole where it "should" be and add a key? And of course that's pretty much the whole point of the Boehm flute.


Yes exactly. Siccama and Boehm (and others) saw that the two open fingerholes of the traditional cone-flute which were most poorly placed were Holes 3 and 6, the holes governed by each hand's ring finger. Both those holes are placed too high, meaning they have to be made too small. Though Nicholson and Pratten flutes were amazingly even in power, still the only way to get those holes in the proper locations and still be able to finger the flute is to put keys on them.

Anyhow Siccama put covered keys on Holes 3 and 6, and Boehm covered everything.

PB+J wrote:
It would be interesting to make a whistle or flute with just a D key.


I know that Susato makes/made Low Whistles with keys for Holes 3 and 6. Not sure if they made them with only Hole 6, but to me that would make sense. Hole 3 usually isn't all that bad.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JESWb8Xnmoc&t=161s

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1978 Quinn uilleann pipes
1945 Starck Highland pipes
Goldie Low D whistle


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PostPosted: Sat Apr 25, 2020 1:53 pm 
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Siccama's flute design fascinated me for a long time. When I was experimenting with making low D whistles, I tried nearly every size for the bottom hole: from a tiny hole that made for a very nice grip, all the way up to a hole as large as (or larger than) the 5th hole, which made for very good tone and tuning for both Es. Eventually I decided that, assuming that you're going to cover the bottom three holes with your index, middle, and ring fingers, the compromise that the average store-bought low D makes is the ideal compromise.

However, I realized that if one is willing to learn to finger the instrument using the index, middle, and pinkie fingers, new possibilities arise...when covering the bottom hole with the pinkie finger, the bottom hole can be made as large as the acoustics call for, and placed where the acoustics want it to go--and it's not an uncomfortable stretch (for medium or large adult hands, anyway).

There's a second idea which follows naturally from this first one: if you're opening and closing holes with the bottom hand index, middle, and pinkie fingers, that means that the ring finger and thumb are constantly gripping the instrument, supporting it and holding it steady. And...the ring finger is constantly gripping the instrument right above where a hole for F natural would go! It was a simple thing to drill the extra hole on one of my PVC prototypes. The hole for Fnat is held closed for every note except Fnat, to allow for a steady grip of the instrument. This idea can be scaled up to larger, lower whistles, which IMO makes for a better compromise between ergonomics and acoustics in a larger whistle. My homemade bass whistles use this design, and I'm quite happy with how it works for them.

...But with all that said, when I play a low D, I prefer my MK with its 6 holes, and I just use piper's grip (index, middle, ring fingers) and play some tunes.


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PostPosted: Sat Apr 25, 2020 6:07 pm 
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For sure Stanton using the index, middle, and little fingers of the lower hand accomplishes all those things.

I experimented with that, the lower hand is much more comfortable, and as you say you have a convenient built-in anchor finger, the ring finger, and perfectly placed for an F natural hole.

That's how Bulgarian kavals are made, with evenly sized and spaced holes, the low hand giving

x xxx xxxx D
x xxx xxxo E
x xxx xxoo F
x xxx xooo F#
x xxx oooo G

so it's fairly natural to me (I used to play kaval).

Then you could play all those pesky G Mixolydian and D dorian tunes!

What would make it ideal is if G could sound pretty much the same fingered

xxx ooxo (ring finger anchor)
xxx oxoo (middle finger anchor)

which would facilitate playing rapid passages involving F natural. In effect you would just switch which anchor finger you're maintaining, to transpose the whistle from D Major to D dorian.

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Richard Cook
1978 Quinn uilleann pipes
1945 Starck Highland pipes
Goldie Low D whistle


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