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PostPosted: Thu Jun 25, 2020 10:14 am 
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--edited to change 'legato' to 'tonguing'--

Hi all, let's get one thing out of the way first: I know ornamentation might not be the PERFECT word, but I'll use it to describe finger technique to break up continuous notes. Having played bagpipes and wind instruments all my life I've learned two very different techniques for accentuating notes and making note transitions. On the GHB and Scottish smallpipes a continuous supply of air means the only way to differentiate notes is with grace notes and ornamentation. With Uilleann pipes you can close off the bottom since there's no sounding hole on the chanter.

So here's the question: why are whistles played with the same "steady-stream" ornamentation as Uilleann pipes when you have the option for tonguing like a wind instrument? Listening closely to many fine whistle players I hear a bit of both, but that's not so much the case with "trad" players. Tonguing a triplet can be as fast as cuts and taps but won't sound as "trad" to some players.

I must admit I've used tonguing technique since I started teaching myself whistles because I had it hard-wired in my brain and, frankly, because it works. It's not until I got to much faster tunes and challenges starting and stopping the airstream on big low whistles that I began to question my technique and look for fingering solutions to complex triplet and eighth note runs.

So how do you all play? Ornamentation, tonguing, both? Drawbacks and benefits to certain techniques?

-Peter


Last edited by psoutowood on Thu Jun 25, 2020 3:28 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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PostPosted: Thu Jun 25, 2020 10:47 am 
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With Uilleann pipes you can close off the bottom since there's no sounding hole on the chanter.



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So here's the question: why are whistles played with the same "steady-stream" ornamentation as Uilleann pipes when you have the option for legato like a wind instrument?


There's something really confusing (or confused) about the things you are saying.

The pipes can play both legato and non legato and can take it to staccato if need be. And while there are some legato dominated styles of piping (though by no means fully legato if you look at the detail ) , I wouldn't think of the pipes as 'steady stream' at all. Not by by a long shot.

Ornamentation has different functions, there's the articulation part of it, but that's not by far the whole story. The older players used to speak of 'embellishment', which is a term I like because it makes sense. 'Ornamentation' has become sort of short hand for taps, cuts and rolls, with the odd triplet and cran thrown in. But it encompasses more than that, Breathnach, for example, mentions filling in of intervals, melodic variation and rhythmic variation as classes of ornamentation and I wouldn't argue with that.

So, in short, I am not quite sure what you're asking.

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Last edited by Mr.Gumby on Thu Jun 25, 2020 11:03 am, edited 1 time in total.

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PostPosted: Thu Jun 25, 2020 11:02 am 
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psoutowood wrote:
Listening closely to many fine whistle players I hear a bit of both, but that's not so much the case with "trad" players.

I think the holy grail of pure legato style is one of the great myths of beginner whistle playing, and trying to separate everything by finger articulation can become just a way of avoiding decisions!

See https://www.rogermillington.com/siamsa/brosteve/tonguing.html.
And https://www.rogermillington.com/siamsa/brosteve/jigsI.html:
'Hmm. Sounds OK. You can play jigs this way, and no-one will object. But for my taste the effect is a bit too much like a highland bagpipe. I am very fond of the highland bagpipe, by the way. But sheep's stomachs, or whatever those bags are made of, don't have tongues.'

Or look at, for instance, Mary Bergin's tutor.

While there are obviously a whole range of styles, and I've not heard many/any Highland piper/whistlers playing like Brian Finnegan, appropriate tonguing can be as key to an authentic trad lift as appropriate embellishments.

PS Did you mean legato or staccato/detached?

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PostPosted: Thu Jun 25, 2020 11:46 am 
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Mr.Gumby wrote:
Quote:
With Uilleann pipes you can close off the bottom since there's no sounding hole on the chanter.



Quote:
So here's the question: why are whistles played with the same "steady-stream" ornamentation as Uilleann pipes when you have the option for legato like a wind instrument?


There's something really confusing (or confused) about the things you are saying.

The pipes can play both legato and non legato and can take it to staccato if need be. And while there are some legato dominated styles of piping (though by no means fully legato if you look at the detail ) , I wouldn't think of the pipes as 'steady stream' at all. Not by by a long shot.


Got it, got it. I'm misusing the term legato and should specify I mean tonguing. While the whistle CAN be played with a steady stream of air, I tend to stop the flow regularly and accentuate notes as you would with a saxophone. To play triplets I would use my tongue to play 'ta-ka-ta' rather than play three cuts and not stop the stream of air.

Is that more clear?

-Peter


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PostPosted: Thu Jun 25, 2020 12:02 pm 
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Got it, got it. I'm misusing the term legato and should specify I mean tonguing. While the whistle CAN be played with a steady stream of air, I tend to stop the flow regularly and accentuate notes as you would with a saxophone. To play triplets I would use my tongue to play 'ta-ka-ta' rather than play three cuts and not stop the stream of air.

Is that more clear?


It is, although I am still confused about you use of 'legato'. A steady, unbroken, stream of air would be more 'legato' than tonguing, which I would see as not 'legato'.

But confusion aside, I don't think there are many whistle players who would not break their airflow to accentuate notes or phrases. It's not an 'either'-'or'. Different styles and different degrees of one thing or the other.

A triplet with three cuts is an utterly bizarre idea. You can play them either fully legato or spit three staccato notes if you're into that sort of thing, you may cut the first of the three for emphasis on occasion but that's just about as far as it goes.

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PostPosted: Thu Jun 25, 2020 12:19 pm 
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Mr.Gumby wrote:

It is, although I am still confused about you use of 'legato'. A steady, unbroken, stream of air would be more 'legato' than tonguing, which I would see as not 'legato'.

But confusion aside, I don't think there are many whistle players who would not break their airflow to accentuate notes or phrases. It's not an 'either'-'or'. Different styles and different degrees of one thing or the other.

A triplet with three cuts is an utterly bizarre idea. You can play them either fully legato or spit three staccato notes if you're into that sort of thing, you may cut the first of the three for emphasis on occasion but that's just about as far as it goes.


Yes, agreed on the first point. Legato is a smooth unbroken string of notes. When it comes to providing the staccato notes, however, I can play a triplet on the GHB with three gracenotes, OR tongue the notes on the whistle. A triplet in G would have quick gracenotes of C-B-A. Would you call those cuts in ITM?

So on the whistle I have a choice of stopping the airflow, on the pipes I do not. I'm not sure how I can describe that any better.

I've found this choice most acutely in playing triplets and trying to keep up with quick players. I suspect they don't tire out their tongues because they are playing them with gracenotes and not stopping the airflow. So try playing Girls in Boisdale at Brian Finnegan's speed and see what method you choose.

-Peter


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PostPosted: Fri Jun 26, 2020 2:03 am 
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More terminology confusion, in Irish music a threesome of cuts wouldn't b called a triplet. A triplet would be, well, a triplet like Bcd, gfe that sort of thing, staccato triplets on the pipes. And you wouldn't cut any of those.

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PostPosted: Fri Jun 26, 2020 8:50 am 
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Spice to taste, I think.

Some people don't like cayenne.

Coming from recorder (way back in my youth), I was so used to tonguing that I needed to play with only finger articulations. That sure taught me to be clean with my finger changes as I could hide sloppiness behind a tongue.

Listening to Mary Berlin was an eye opener, as she uses tonguing quite a lot to add emphasis and attack to her phrasing.

My opinion now is that the whistle benefits from both tongue and finger articulations because the whistle has a fixed "embouchure". Unlike a flute, your breath and lips do not give you as much ability to vary the loudness of the notes.

On flute I use less tonguing that on whistle... which I hardly play anymore.


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PostPosted: Fri Jun 26, 2020 10:59 am 
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Mr.Gumby wrote:
More terminology confusion, in Irish music a threesome of cuts wouldn't b called a triplet. A triplet would be, well, a triplet like Bcd, gfe that sort of thing, staccato triplets on the pipes. And you wouldn't cut any of those.


Right. The descriptive language isn't what interests me, or what ITM players call it. I'm curious what whistle players of any musical genre use to achieve quick clean repetitive notes. Call it staccato, call it triplets, call it grace notes, call it super-quicky-finger-flicky if you'd like. In the middle of a tune when you don't have time to disseminate musical etymology and have to make decisions, how do you all get the quickest results?

-Peter


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PostPosted: Fri Jun 26, 2020 11:25 am 
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Mr.Gumby wrote:
More terminology confusion, in Irish music a threesome of cuts wouldn't b called a triplet. A triplet would be, well, a triplet like Bcd, gfe that sort of thing, staccato triplets on the pipes. And you wouldn't cut any of those.


Am I misunderstanding the group of three notes with the number '3' over them to not be a triplet? And to achieve differentiation of those three notes you might play small gracenotes in between OR tongue each individual note? I've used both methods on different instruments requiring different technique. I'm all for correct terminology so I want to make sure there's universal agreement on what is a triplet.
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PostPosted: Fri Jun 26, 2020 11:36 am 
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They are triplets, but triplets don't have to be three identical notes.

Also, these triplets look like just one interpretation/setting to me where many would just notate a crotchet/quarter note and likely play a roll.

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PostPosted: Fri Jun 26, 2020 12:03 pm 
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Peter Duggan wrote:
They are triplets, but triplets don't have to be three identical notes.

Also, these triplets look like just one interpretation/setting to me where many would just notate a crotchet/quarter note and likely play a roll.


That makes sense. I am aware triplets can be any series of notes but it's the repetitive notes where it has to be broken up somehow. And in this tune it matters what technique you pick because you'll be doing a LOT of it!

-Peter


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PostPosted: Fri Jun 26, 2020 12:47 pm 
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psoutowood wrote:
Am I misunderstanding the group of three notes with the number '3' over them to not be a triplet? And to achieve differentiation of those three notes you might play small gracenotes in between OR tongue each individual note? I've used both methods on different instruments requiring different technique. I'm all for correct terminology so I want to make sure there's universal agreement on what is a triplet.

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That's almost certainly a fiddle setting of the tune. Irish fiddlers have a term for single-note triplets like that, referring to them as a "treble".

Only a small minority of whistle players would play that tune as written above. If you wanted to, you would have to use a triple-tonguing technique, using a ta-ka-ta or diddle-dee movement of the tongue to articulate between the notes.

Putting a grace note between each component is not really on. But if you replaced the triplet with two eighth notes (or quavers) of A, giving you three consecutive As rather than 4, then you could put a grace note between each, and that would be a roll. A much more common way of interpreting that passage on whistle (as Peter Duggan says above).

See http://www.rogermillington.com/siamsa/b ... olls4.html


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PostPosted: Fri Jun 26, 2020 1:59 pm 
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psoutowood wrote:
On the GHB and Scottish smallpipes a continuous supply of air means the only way to differentiate notes is with grace notes and ornamentation...why are whistles played with the same "steady-stream" ornamentation when you have the option for tonguing?


Yes with bagpipe chanters having unstopped bottoms you have to articulate with the fingers. (That's any sort of bagpipe made like that, not just Scottish.)

As to why Irish flute and whistle players choose to use bagpipe-style articulation when they don't need to, I think it's a matter of the bagpipes influencing the styles of flute and whistle.

In the general mainstream flute and whistle styles I usually hear, flute players tend to do less tonguing and more finger articulation, while whistle players tend to do more tonguing. I think players, through endless trial and error, have found what styles sound best on each type of instrument.

It's not just in Ireland. Bulgarian traditional dance music also has a bagpipe and a flute, and the bagpipe has to use finger articulation while for the flute players it's a choice. In Bulgaria there are different flute styles depending on region, some are more "flutelike" with lots of tongued articulation and some are more "bagpipelike" with mostly finger articulation.

In Ireland you'll sometimes hear fife-style flute playing where they tongue most notes and do little in the way of bagpipe-like ornamentation.

As you say, it's a choice.

And by the way it's not just whistle and flute players who can choose to do bagpipelike finger articulation, fiddlers do it too. Because a fiddler can articulate only with the bow if they choose, or they can choose to play a group of notes on a single bow, articulating them with fingered ornamentation.

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