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PostPosted: Mon Jun 08, 2020 5:02 pm 
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Hello!

I am brand new to this forum so forgive if I'm asking the same questions that have been asked a hundred times. Did a bit of a scan and it seemed best to post my own so I don't hijack anyone elses topic.

I am a musician, I have a degree in music on clarinet/bass clarinet and low clarinets. I am recently rediscovering Irish music as an adult and am feeling quite drawn to the whistle.

I have a Walton in "D" and a Clarke original in "D" that have been lying around the house for as long as I can remember that I decided to pick up for my first real go at it, but I am really have some issues and I cannot tell if it's me being new or the instrument being less than ideal.

With the Walton I feel like it's easy to blow into but really out of tune and a bit shrill. The Clarke is very breathy and perhaps a bit too free blowing, and while I like the softer tone I feel like playing it is a marathon, I am constantly running out of air, and I already have a good set of lungs very used to playing wind instruments. I can make them both sound decent enough but the amount of work that I'm putting into it really seems counter productive to my goals of learning the songs, and if I can remove that barrier by buying a better whistle I will.

After lurking this forum for a bit and looking at other web resources I find I am interested in a Paul Busman whistle. I am wondering if anyone has experience with his whistles and can speak to the kind of situation that I'm in. I'm trying to gather as much information as I can before I take the leap with a higher end instrument such as his.

I live in Canada and as such find that the selection of whistles is very slim pickings. If anyone also happens to know of any Canadian Whistle makers I should check out please let me know, although I am rather taken with both the aesthetic and sound of the Busman whistles and am willing to make the purchase despite the abysmal state of the canadian dollar and the inevitable duties across border shipping creates.

Any information or context that anyone would like to provide would be very much appreciated as I tend to find that most of the beginner whistle guides/books/videos and discussions around learning and choosing a whistle are very much geared to a person who is entirely new to music which is very much not me. As much as the greatest whistle player out there can make a beginner whistle sound good, I've always been of the opinion that a better instrument can minimize the inevitable frustration that accompanies the learning process.

Thank you very much!


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PostPosted: Mon Jun 08, 2020 6:25 pm 
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Very true. A better whistle will make learning easier. There are good cheap whistles though but even the good ones need some getting used to. Breath control on the traditional whistles with brass (often nickel-plated) tubes and plastic mouthpieces can be tricky. They often need very little air. So little in fact that carbon dioxide accumulates quicker in the lungs than you can breath out and you will run out of air not because you are really "running out of air" but because the breathing reflex is caused by the carbon dioxide in the bloodstream and not by a lack of oxygen. So what I do is, to breath out through the nose at the same time as playing. That will let you play longer phrases even though it sounds counter-intuitive. But that doesn't work on the Clarke of course, which just takes a lot of air anyway.
Of the cheaper whistles I like the "Oak" (got mine from amazon) or some Generations but not all of them are good (the heads are made from 4 different molds and some are more worn than others). There is a Canadian maker, David O'Brien, and I have his brass set with two bodies and one head. He also makes wooden whistles. The narrow bore brass I have, plays much like a traditional whistle but is made from higher quality materials. The mouthpiece is not injection molded but made from multiple parts, from delrin. He also makes wooden whistles however.
http://obrienwhistles.com/


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PostPosted: Mon Jun 08, 2020 6:45 pm 
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At least one person on this forum has some amount of experience with Busman whistles, a user by the name of brewerpaul AKA Paul Busman. If he doesn't drop by here you should send him an email, I'm sure he'd be delighted to discuss his whistles with you. I do not have experience with his whistles but those who own them seem to like them.

One thing to keep in mind is that there really aren't the same distinctions between "intro" and "pro" in the world of whistles as there are in most other instruments. If you watch videos of top-end traditional Irish players, you'll find a significant number of them playing inexpensive Generation whistles. Long before there were 100s of bespoke whistle makers handcrafting pricey whistles, these were the instruments available to players. Since they're mass produced they do have some amount of variation; players often seek out and keep the best-playing ones they can find. Others aren't quite perfect, but can be tweaked into excellent instruments with just a few simple modifications.

Once you get into other, more boutique whistles, you are not so much paying for quality as you are paying for customization. When you're choosing between a Killarney (€79), a Susato Kildare ($52), a Busman, and Colin Goldie, you're not choosing based on quality the same way you'd be choosing between a cheap and expensive clarinet. Instead, you're choosing based on tone, playability, and other more subjective criteria. As you're a beginner, you probably don't really have much of a baseline to judge these.

Everybody who starts playing the tin whistle sounds shrill, out of tune, and screechy. Everybody who starts playing runs out of breath sooner than they think they will. Everybody who starts playing wonders if they would sound better with a better whistle. I also have degrees in music and also played the clarinet (although my degree isn't in that instrument). I had the same problems as you when I started playing. I still have the whistle I began on, a cheap Generation bought randomly at the local music shop. It sounded terrible when I started playing it, but it sounds much better now!

If you're planning on learning Irish music, I would highly recommend both Mary Bergin and Geraldine Cotter's books, which you should be able to order online. They do have some things that you'll be able to skip over as someone who has existing musical knowledge, but there's also a lot to learn from two great players. On YouTube there's a man by the name of Ryan Dunn who is both a Jesuit priest and a very good whistle player. He has tutorials for a wide range of abilities up there. While you're on the forum, you can find a recent thread that I started about the quality (or lack thereof) of some YouTube whistle tutorials. Don't let that scare you off of the platform entirely, but do be aware that not everyone on YouTube is the expert they might seem to be.


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PostPosted: Mon Jun 08, 2020 6:47 pm 
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David also posts here as O'Brien. He's in Campbell River, B.C. Which end of the country are you?

Long and McQuade, for one, sells a variety of name-brand whistles, if you're interested in that route while you save up for your Busman or wait for the dollar to improve.


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PostPosted: Mon Jun 08, 2020 9:57 pm 
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bigsciota has some points. Nobody sounds good right off the bat, and if you're used to an instrument like bass clarinet, of course a whistle is going to sound shrill to you. :)

The common advice here is usually play the whistles you have until you have some experience under your belt, before you go "whistle hopping."

You've discovered that Clarke originals tend to take a bit more air (there's a tweak for that, though) and also be a bit softer. With the Walton, is it possible you're blowing too hard and blowing it out of tune? There's certainly a different air requirement than for clarinet (or even the Clarke). You might look into whistle tweaking... or get Jerry Freeman to do it for you. Tweaking a whistle can make a noticeable difference to the way it plays-- for example, hitting the second octave on my Walton became much easier when I stuffed blu-tack into the hollow space in the head.

And yes, unfortunately you can't usually pick up a new instrument without having to buy a book that is half composed of "and... this... is... a... quarter... note." There just don't seem to be many "instruction for people who know about music but are just new to this particular instrument" books floating around out there. You kind of just have to skip ahead to the parts that are new to you.

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PostPosted: Mon Jun 08, 2020 10:22 pm 
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Once you do some research online for whistle features that you want, consider ordering directly from the whistle maker, be they in Canada, Ireland, England, wherever. That option is legitimate. Shipping costs for one or two whistles, especially the high D/C size, will be minimal and won't take very long, and you'll get what you want.

If you buy a whistle you don't want, you'll be investing in frustration. I've done that, and the payoff is entirely predictable. The knife will dig at you every time you see people playing the better whistles, at whatever cost, online. I got sick of that. Order direct or shop around for pricing. If the whistle maker is operating during the Coronavirus lockdowns, you've got yourself pathway to real instruments. Also, I recommend avoiding buying through a North American Irish "gift store" style supplier, who may charge an arm and a leg markup.

You can spend more money on gasoline driving to a L&MQ store (and other music stores), checking out how many boxes of cheapo whistles they have, than the shipping cost from Ireland of the real thing.


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PostPosted: Tue Jun 09, 2020 2:29 am 
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There is probably something to be said for not spending too much on a whistle until you know the type of whistle and style of music you intend to play.

Get yourself a Cillian O'Briain improved or a Timothy Potter as a reliable not too shrill option (or a Generation or Oak as far as I am concerned, or spend a tenner on an old Feadóg, but you'll have to be able to handle them, they may or may not be 'beginner's' whistles in the usual sense). Once you can handle those well enough, make an informed decision about the aesthetic of the music you want to play and choose a whistle to match that.

The Potter is a quiet well balanced whistle that requires a light touch which makes it ideal for practice, It's perhaps not a whistle you'd take to play out but it does what it does well without upsetting anybody nearby.

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Last edited by Mr.Gumby on Tue Jun 09, 2020 4:48 am, edited 1 time in total.

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PostPosted: Tue Jun 09, 2020 3:13 am 
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I'm only a casual player, but when I started out, those high whistles screeched like banshees, but after playing for a little while, a month or so, they didn't sound quite so bad. :D

You need to get used to how a whistle wants to be played, then it'll sound much better.

As a reed player, I expect you are blowing too hard, (as stated above), ease off, & get used to how your whistles want to be played.

Rather than spending a fortune on a 'good' whistle just yet, maybe try a Generation Bb first; not so shrill, & a handy size whistle.

Whistles are transposing instruments, so once you learn the fingerings, they transfer to any key. :)

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PostPosted: Tue Jun 09, 2020 7:49 am 
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deenyo wrote:
I have a degree in music on clarinet/bass clarinet and low clarinets.

With the Walton I feel like it's easy to blow into but really out of tune...the Clarke is very breathy and perhaps a bit too free blowing...I am constantly running out of air...I already have a good set of lungs...


I think what's going on is that you're used to instruments with more resistance/impedance/backpressure and these whistles are as you say too freeblowing for you. (This is even more true with people coming from Oboe.)

With those inexpensive whistles there's virtually no quality control, and if you played ten different high D whistles from a particular maker (say, Generation, Feadog, or Walton) they would play ten different ways. Some would have better tuning, some would have more resistance, some would have purer or dirtier tone, etc. In other words no conclusions can be drawn about a particular make of inexpensive whistle from playing a single example.

With high whistles (high Eb, D, C, Bb) I want them to be freeblowing yet focused. With focus comes full round low notes and pure clean easy high notes and nimble "action" or voicing between the registers, all things I like. I have found these qualities best in Generation whistles, particularly in vintage ones.

There are Killarney whistles which vary a bit from whistle to whistle but in general play pretty much like good vintage Generation whistles, you might give one of those a try.

I have found over the years, in doing studio gigs and orchestra gigs and church gigs and interacting with "reed guys" who have taken up whistle, that they tend to prefer whistles that play differently than the sort usually preferred by people who focus on playing Irish traditional music. "Reed guys" tend to want more resistance/impedance/backpressure, and prefer whistles that I call "stiff" players, with a crisp break between the registers. Trad Irish players tend to prefer whistles with lighter 2nd octaves with more nimble "action".

I say this so you can be aware that you might get opposite advice from people depending on what their background is and/or what sort of whistle voicing they prefer. Neither type of advice or whistle is "right" or "wrong". It just comes from people who want different playing characteristics.

I know nothing about Busman whistles, never tried one.

I do know that "reed guys" tend to like Burke whistles, which are extremely even and reliable in voicing and tuning, and have that greater stiffness I talked about. However they're also less air-efficient than most other makes.

Especially with Low Whistles, I've observed how the voicing that gets big low notes tends to make for stiff high notes, and the voicing that gets sweet high notes tends to get softer low notes.

And furthermore the Low Whistles that best combine big low notes and sweet high notes usually achieve this by sacrificing air-efficiency.

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PostPosted: Tue Jun 09, 2020 8:04 am 
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There is a "trick" on getting a good Generation whistle, even without testing it by playing it. That is something that Jerry Freeman explained on facebook. He said the Generation whistles come from 4 different molds. And they are marked. On the bottom of the mouthpiece (right where it fits onto the tube) there are small, barely noticable, "bumps" to mark the molds they come from. No bump is mold #1, 2 bumps is mold # 2 and so on. The best ones I played yet have either 2 or 3 of those small bumps. The one with no bump at all doesn't play very good. The best is the one from mold #4 which has 3 small bumps on the bottom of the mouthpiece.
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PostPosted: Tue Jun 09, 2020 9:26 am 
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I'd consider a Sindt whistle. After years of a waiting list that stretched into what seemed like infinity, John Sindt's list had caught up as of last winter. It may be a bit longer now after word has gotten out, but I'd check with him. His instruments are sublime with enough edge but no shrillness. The Sindt whistle has been played by professionals and hobbyists for years. johnsindtwhistle@aol.com

It is easier and more rewarding to learn if your tools are not fighting you.

I have played in a session with a Busman player. They are great whistles too. I just don't have personal experience with one so I can't comment.


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PostPosted: Tue Jun 09, 2020 1:17 pm 
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Wow thank you so much for so many thoughtful and details replies!

Sedi- you're exactly right breath control has been a challenge and something I need to keep in mind. I don't find so much that I'm keeping an excess of air but moreso that I'm literally out of breath lungs empty. Thank you so much for the info on David O'Brien! I'm just a province over so what an amazing find!
Sedi wrote:
The mouthpiece is not injection molded but made from multiple parts, from delrin.


Do you find that the delrin is something that you'd avoid, or was it more just a comment for informations sake? I haven't heard of it before but a quick google lets me know that it's a material used in mouthpieces for both brass and wind instruments.


bigsciota- I have definitely emailed Paul Busman and he has been very helpful so far :)

bigsciota wrote:
Once you get into other, more boutique whistles, you are not so much paying for quality as you are paying for customization.

I really like how you put that, I think it's exactly what I'm looking for in a whistle. I don't have a great baseline with whistles, but in my degree and working in a music store I'm very accustomed to all kinds of different sounds and tones and have a good sense of what my preferences are.
Thank you for the whistle, book and youtube recommendations! I've been meaning to read your post too, the title was intriguing.

Tunborough-
Tunborough wrote:
David also posts here as O'Brien. He's in Campbell River, B.C. Which end of the country are you?
Long and McQuade, for one, sells a variety of name-brand whistles, if you're interested in that route while you save up for your Busman or wait for the dollar to improve.


I'm in Alberta so really by post not far at all as I regularly purchase things from BC. I've checked out L&M and did purchase a good book from them but found their access to whistles was a bit lacking, at least in Alberta. The timelines to get what I wanted were a bit long as well, likely covid related. Where possible I'd rather support a local maker than a chain store ( i used to work at a St. John's Music so I am also a bit biased haha).

Katharine- one thing that is actually pretty interesting about the bass clarinet is that it has an infinite range, weird but true! As much as it might not seem like it it can also get very screechy. I did the majority of my playing on clarinet where I sat right behind the flutes and in front of the trumpets. I have ears of steel. I can appreciate what you're saying though. I do find the register is one to get used to, but it's more the quality of that shrill sound that I'm looking to improve on.
I don't feel qualified to tweak any instruments at this time, and honestly just don't have the time or energy to go messing around with it, at least not yet. Thanks for your comments! All feedback is useful :)

RoberTunes- definitely my plan, I always love getting things direct from the maker when I can. Canada is my preference for right now just due to exchange rate and duty concerns. I also have my eyes set on rosewood which is not really possible to get across borders at the moment ( although I have found some updated information on that which seems to have snuck out in November of last year).
I will say I am a little worried about buying the wrong whistle, but thankfully I am finding some with a return policy which is very nice and helps with the higher price point. I also feel like being able to ask makers questions and watch play videos is helpful with the process.

Mr. Gumby- That does seem to be the general opinion, start with something at a lower price point until you're a bit more sure of what you're looking for. I'll have to check out your recommendations, thanks so much!

fatmac- I'm definitely looking forward to when I"m a little further along! thanks for your comments :)

pancelticpiper- yes, I think you absolutely nailed it.
pancelticpiper wrote:
I have found over the years, in doing studio gigs and orchestra gigs and church gigs and interacting with "reed guys" who have taken up whistle, that they tend to prefer whistles that play differently than the sort usually preferred by people who focus on playing Irish traditional music. "Reed guys" tend to want more resistance/impedance/backpressure, and prefer whistles that I call "stiff" players, with a crisp break between the registers. Trad Irish players tend to prefer whistles with lighter 2nd octaves with more nimble "action".

That is definitely me I think.
Thank you so much for your thoughtful comments, it really resonated with me and what I've been thinking. :D

Sedi- thanks for the tips on the generation, I"ll have to keep that in mind when purchasing IRL instead of online is possible again.

busterbill- thanks for the recommendation! I'll give them a look.

Again thank you all so much for taking the time to comment and share your knowledge and experience, it's really invaluable when you're starting out. I seem to have found one of the friendliest parts of the internet in this forum and I'm looking forward to learning and sharing more!


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PostPosted: Tue Jun 09, 2020 1:39 pm 
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I mentioned the delrin mouthpiece because it is actually of higher quality than your standard injection-molded mouthpiece.


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PostPosted: Tue Jun 09, 2020 1:43 pm 
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Sedi wrote:
I mentioned the delrin mouthpiece because it is actually of higher quality than your standard injection-molded mouthpiece.


Oh very good to know, thanks! My experience definitely lies with solid one material mouthpieces that are usually machined/carved out so that's good to know about differences with whistles.

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PostPosted: Tue Jun 09, 2020 3:05 pm 
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I will second the recommendation of Jon Sindt whistles!

The first time I played one I was blown away- here was a maker who seemed to embrace all the playing characteristics found in the very best vintage Generation whistles, that players like myself spend a lifetime hunting for.

Their voicing is smooth perfection, the tone wonderfully dark and round, with none of the bad things so often heard in high whistles (shrillness, harshness, thinness, metallic edge, etc).

They are on the easy nimble freeblowing side, not on the stiffer side often preferred by "legit" players who take up whistle.

The Killarney whistle I mentioned is more or less a Sindt clone.

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