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PostPosted: Fri Dec 20, 2019 3:16 pm 
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Location: West Sussex, England UK
Hi to all in the forum.

I'm a raw beginner at the whistle in spite of owning a couple of Generation whistles for some many years; they languished in a bottom drawer amongst a lot of other unused musical ephemera, such as harmonicas, recorders, whammy bars, capos and my grandmother's conducting baton. For what it's worth, I'm also a fiddler of some two month's experience (and so also a raw beginner at that). All this follows a life-changing decision to abandon amateur radio after forty years, and pursue my other love, music.

I've already found this forum of great utility. I'm a very shy player, and the piercing tone of a whistle means some way of muting it is mandatory, and I initially tried shutting down the edge with electrician's tape. This worked, but it flattened the pitch and there's a disparity between the high and low notes with respect to sound level. Happily, a search of the forum uncovered the solution: just put the end of the fipple to the lower lip, and blow over the window. The whistle 'whispers', and the pitch remains untroubled by interference with pipe length, although there is no second octave available. I found in doing this that I had trouble holding the whistle with all holes open, since I no longer held the fipple between my lips, so I have cable-tied a short, small piece of wood behind the tube between the two lowest holes to rest the whistle on my right pinkie.

I've ordered an introductory text about penny-whistling, "The Tin Whistle Book" by Tom Maguire, and look forward to working through it. One of my whistles is a D, and since that plays in G maj, it means that many of my favourite fiddle tunes are playable on it.

Anyway; for now, best wishes,
Peter

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PostPosted: Fri Dec 20, 2019 8:06 pm 
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hengist wrote:
the piercing tone of a whistle means some way of muting it is mandatory


When I read your post I stopped right there. As a person who has been playing whistle for over 40 years, and has owned or at least tried many of the makes and keys of whistle available, I disagree that whistles are, as a species, inherently more "piercing" than many other instruments.

I also disagree that whistles, as a species, require mutes.

There's a number of quiet mellow whistles available, perhaps it would be good to investigate those. I have an old Feadog Mk1 that's very quiet and sweet and mellow. With that Feadog I sometime have the opposite problem: people can't hear it.

My Feadog is far from unique- there are quiet mellow Low Whistles available too, like my all-plastic conical-bore Dixon Low D.

Seems to me that putting stuff on a whistle to create a dysfunctional instrument isn't a promising way to learn how to play.

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PostPosted: Fri Dec 20, 2019 10:27 pm 
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Your sense of piercing tone will evolve as your playing advances. Don't be discouraged. The initial screeching stage does not last forever. If you have internet access there are many YouTube videos available that are good lessons to learn with.

One of the most important skills to work on for whistle tone is breath control. Breathing from the bottom of your lungs by activating your diaphragm will help you will the air pressure you need to make consistent tones with even volume control. One way to visualize this is to lie on your back and think of pressing your belly button down into your spine while exhaling. Then place your hand or a book on your belly and see it actually move when you inhale.

You can't do this too many times in a row without hyperventilating but it gives you an idea where you are trying to get your air from when you are actually upright tooting your whistle. Most of us try to breath from the top of our lungs when we first start, leading to huffing and puffing and spurts and starts of notes.

When I first started playing my teacher had me doing sit up crunches every day as a part of my practice routine. :D

More members will likely chime in with advice for learning materials. Feel free to ask as many questions as you want. There is likely someone here with an answer. And if you don't get an answer right away fell free to ask again. There are lots of different people on this forum. Some who check in daily and others who pop in once a week or month or year. So you are likely to get a fresh set of eyes anytime you post.

Have fun!


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PostPosted: Sat Dec 21, 2019 2:27 am 
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Thank you, gentlemen, sound advice.

I'm still at the very earliest blundering-around stage, and I don't expect the need for a mute will last too long. I will look for mellower instrument, but a purchase will have to wait until I'm confident I will be comfortable as a whistler. Until then, I will avoid paining my wife and youngest son with my exercises and playing and keep the level low. They are now accepting my fiddle practice, and I'm happier about playing out loud.

Breathing exercises are something I had forgotten about, shamefully. I used to teach boatswain's call to Sea Cadets here in UK, and one of the early lessons was how to use abdominal breathing to provide steady breath for playing. The boatswain's call is a very odd device, but I have to admit there are features which I may capitalise on as I learn the whistle.

I forgot to mention my location in my introduction. We live on the south coast of England, UK, on the south scarp of the South Downs, a range of calcareous limestone hills extending across three counties.

Peter

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PostPosted: Sat Dec 21, 2019 2:46 am 
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Hey Peter I have been playing the whistle for a few days less than 3 years. I will never be that good, first because I started too late in life ( I was nearly 60 when I blew my first note) and secondly because I am not naturally musical. But I do have fun and I have slowly improved. My biggest mistake as a beginner and in hindsight was to shy away from playing tunes with high A’s and B’s because I thought the notes were ear piercing on the whistle They whistle was actually not piercing (as Richard confirms in his post above) it was just the way I was blowing it. The more you play the high notes the easier and less piercing they become and that’s not because your ears adapt it’s actually because the muscle memory blows the notes with the current correct wind power for the whistle you choose to play. So get in there and play as though you mean it and before you know it you won’t be thinking about how you are blowing the notes but rather whether the rhythm, timing etc sounds right. That’s my two bobs worth. Cheers


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PostPosted: Sat Dec 21, 2019 3:36 am 
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My first whistles seemed to screech a bit when I started, but it was my playing at fault, you'll soon be playing second octave happily.
Welcome to the simple, but quite fascinating, world of whistle & flutes.

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PostPosted: Sat Dec 21, 2019 3:47 am 
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@JTU - I am nearly 60 (one month away), and I now consider my words in my original post to be poorly chosen. Apologies to the forum.

For the avoidance of doubt, I am happy with my breath control (but there's always room for improvement), I instead suffer from player anxiety and I have a family who have little interest in music as I know it.

Hopefully this reply will bust through my new-member instant reply embargo.

Peter

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PostPosted: Sat Dec 21, 2019 4:21 am 
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I'm a newcomer to the whistle myself, and also don't want to be subjecting others to my dismal playing, so I understand your shyness, and wish to be muted.

I have blocked off half the window with Blu-tack (what some here call poster putty) to tone it down a little. I'm less concerned about pitch accuracy than making a nuisance of myself, particularly this early in my learning curve.

That said, the others are quite right on the breath control too. I've played a bit of clarinet, so I'm used to having to juggle the inside of my mouth around for balancing tone/pitch and volume. What I'd say is DON'T just rely on just blowing harder to jump up the octave. I can actually play the lower octave louder than the upper, simply by managing airflow, and I'm a complete noob. If I can, you can. Faster air, doesn't necessarily mean higher pressure. Even fipple instruments benefit from good embouchure.


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PostPosted: Sat Dec 21, 2019 6:05 am 
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TheWanderer wrote:
I'm less concerned about pitch accuracy than making a nuisance of myself, particularly this early in my learning curve.

I'm going to say that pitch accuracy and breath control go hand in hand, and muting your instrument and/or restricting your blowing in a way that affects intonation will be counter-productive in impeding the development of the essential unconscious association you need between the two right from the start.

Quote:
I can actually play the lower octave louder than the upper, simply by managing airflow, and I'm a complete noob.

While faster and harder are not necessarily synonymous, I suspect this is largely perception and doubt an in-tune upper octave could be measured as quieter on many whistles.

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PostPosted: Sat Dec 21, 2019 8:07 am 
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Peter Duggan wrote:
I'm going to say that pitch accuracy and breath control go hand in hand, and muting your instrument and/or restricting your blowing in a way that affects intonation will be counter-productive in impeding the development of the essential unconscious association you need between the two right from the start.


I certainly wouldn't disagree with that, but I'm focussing more on the dexterity aspects rather than accuracy of pitch right now. I'm aware the breath requirements might change once I start playing unrestricted, and that until then I may be a little off pitch, and am happy to accept that compromise for now.

Peter Duggan wrote:
While faster and harder are not necessarily synonymous, I suspect this is largely perception and doubt an in-tune upper octave could be measured as quieter on many whistles.


No calibrated meters here, but a simple phone app showed I could keep it down in the lower octave at 76db, and get it to jump up at 73db. Not much in it, but there is a slight overlap, enough to illustrate that it's possible to play/practice high without significanlty increasing volume. Again, not a calibrated meter, and I didn't have the tuner out alongside it. (I know you said "in tune"). That's on a Dixon Trad brass, with half the window covered.


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PostPosted: Sat Dec 21, 2019 8:22 am 
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Thank you all for your replies.

Reading your counsel, with research, reflection and experiment has shown that I should look for a quieter whistle and then try to relax into it. I have ordered a Clarke Sweetone D, and look forward to playing it.

I've tried practicing with the 'blowing over the window' method, and I'm really missing that upper octave; it's a non-starter.

I will ask questions as they occur; until then, thank you all once more.

Peter

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PostPosted: Sat Dec 21, 2019 10:07 am 
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The Tony Dixon ABS high D is a nice mellow sounding whistle to practice on, & not that expensive either.

I often use the ABS whistles, flutes, & piccolos to cut the seeming loudness of my others when having a practice, especially at night.

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PostPosted: Sat Dec 21, 2019 10:18 am 
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Welcome to the C&F Forums. Its all about having fun playing so enjoy it all. The whistle (and fiddle) playing will improve with time. There is a wealth of information available on the forums here so take your time and be aware there is also quite a bit of subjectivity (opinions) as one individual's pleasure may be another individual's dislike. Don't give up and just enjoy the nuances that whistling may bring. Start with easy tunes... nursery rhymes or holiday tunes if necessary. Keep it fun!


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PostPosted: Sat Dec 21, 2019 10:23 am 
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Hi Peter,

If you are serious about playing the whistle or the fiddle you would do well to find a session nearby where you can listen to the music and ask advice from any decent whistle or fiddle players there. Most players are willing to give tips and advice.
As you are near Brighton there are definitely Irish sessions there (I presume that's what you want to play) Or there are probably some English sessions too.
If you could make it to Hastings there is a lively music scene with a branch of Comhaltas (the promotion of Irish music). To find out more about sessions near you go to https://thesession.org/ where there is comprehensive info on sessions.
I live in Whitstable and often go to Hastings for the music (I play whistle) so if you need any more info PM me and I can hopefully point you in the right direction.

All the best,

Dave.


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PostPosted: Sun Dec 22, 2019 8:24 am 
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The Shush whistle from Big Whistle in the UK is pretty quiet and requires, IMO, very careful breath control. I have tinnitus and was more worried early on about the effect of those piercing notes. I will agree that they seem, for whatever reason, to be less painful as time goes on—though high B is not a note I’m overly fond of yet. There does seem to be a fair amount of variation between my whistles (and I’ve collected quite a few in my 14 months of playing) so try a variety of whistles if you can. There are a few makers out there that have built-in rings that mute the whistle some—Parks and O’Brien are two I own. I prefer the O’Brien of the two but it’s twice the cost. That said, it’s only a solution for not wanting to bother others—I don’t think one can really learn to play on a muted whistle, unless your goal is only to play by yourself and you enjoy the sounds you’re making regardless of whether they sound like the original tune or not. I have, at times, say when learning a tune with lots of high notes, worn musicians earplugs that reduce volume across the frequencies which helps with the piercing quality. I also bring them to sessions in case I’m right next to a louder instrument or my tinnitus is acting up. As to holding it with all holes open—that gets easier with time and I keep my right ring finger over the bottom hole which helps me keep a grip and makes it easier for me to get my fingers back on the right holes after the C note—others use the pinky to balance the whistle. Just choose a method and practice. This being my first instrument ever, and staring at 50, I’ve been amazed at how things that seemed almost impossible a year ago now seem pretty straightforward. Good luck.


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