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 Post subject: Jerry Freeman Tweaked Shaw D--review
PostPosted: Wed Feb 09, 2005 8:23 pm 
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review located at: http://www.tinwhistler.com/music/review ... /index.htm


Jerry Freeman Tweaked Shaw D
(Review written February 2005)

Preface
Jerry Freeman is probably the world's only professional full-time pennywhistle tweaker. Tweaking means, simply, to change a whistle to try and improve it. This can be done by modifying the mouthpiece or tube in various ways. A classic simple tweak is to squeeze a Clarke mouthpiece a little more closed, so that it takes less breath. I say "simple" but I've always failed at even that small of a tweak. So it hardly suffices to say that I'm in awe of the level of tweaking Jerry does. With each whistle Jerry sent, he included a sheet detailing what tweaks are done on that brand of whistle. I assume he sends that to everyone.

I wrote Jerry and let him know I was going to do a mostly-negative review of a Generation tinwhistle. It's known that good Generations are prized instruments treasured by their owners. It's also known that finding a "good" generation is an undertaking of near epic proportions. So in the interests of fair play, I asked Jerry if he'd send me one of his tweaked Generations so that hopefully both sides of the Generation coin could be explored. He did one better, and sent me five different tweaked whistle brands to review!

Today, we'll be taking a look at the Jerry Freeman Tweaked Shaw. Shaw whistles are made by Dave shaw in the keys of high E, Eb, D, C, Bb, B, A, G, F, and low D, but I think Jerry only tweaks Ds and Eb as a standard. Jerry makes a number of changes to improve the base whistle. As he describes his tweaks: "The air requirement has been reduced for more comfortable and expressive playing, and the voicing has been made less breathy, more focused and richer sounding." He definitely succeeds at these goals.

At a Glance
Whistle Reviewed: Jerry Freeman Tweaked Shaw
Models Available: Tweaked D and Eb
Construction: Rolled nickel silver tube, with a wooden fipple block.
Price at time of review: approx $37.00 US
Available From:
The Whistle Shop
Big Whistle Music
Whistle and Drum
How Acquired: Product sample from Jerry Freeman
Bottom Line: Like a stronger, much louder Clarke original. Loud, and taking a fair amount of lung power, but with that windy/chiffy sound that many people love.

Appearance/Construction
The Shaw is a conical, one-piece whistle. If you've seen a Clarke original, you have a good idea of what a Shaw looks like. Being nickel silver, it's a bit more durable than a Clarke. The mouthpiece is also squared off, unlike a Clarke. I bought my first Shaw in 1996, and I am pretty sure it had a cedar wood block. It certainly had a very cedar-y aroma. This Shaw doesn't. The wood is definitely some kind of hardwood though, and is much better carved than my original Shaw.

Image
Here's the full-sized whistle. You can't really see Jerry's tweaks in this view. But you can see that the Shaw, while similar to the Clarke original, has it's own distinct and immediately recognizable look.

Image
Here's a good look at the windway. The odd "U" shape is Jerry's doing. Originally, the Shaw has a huge windway, and Jerry narrows it by crimping the mouthpiece as you see here. Unfortunately, this produces two sharp-ish points on the mouthpiece. These bothered me a lot when I first started playing the Shaw. By the end of the week, I hardly noticed them. If they bother you, you could easily fix things with a trimmed saxophone mouthpiece cushion, available at most music stores. You can kind of see where I think Jerry has glued in a piece of guitar pick or something at the roof of the windway as well. This probably helps account for the lack of condensation I experienced.

Image
Here's a closeup of the labium ramp. It looks like Jerry has done a little shaping of the labium ramp as well. If I had been doing this, I would have completely destroyed this whistle by now. I speak from personal experience.
Disregard that little bit of fuzz. I think it's lint from the cloth from where I was rubbing my fingerprints off the whistle. The four dings in the side are from the Shaw company, and help hold the fipple block in place.

Image
Here's a view of the back of the whistle. Clarkes and Shaws both have a seam in the back where the whistle is soldered together after being rolled. The seam on the Shaw is much less pronounced than that on the Clarke, and I can hardly feel it.

Image
Here's a view of Jerry's very tasteful logo. I really like the mouse.

Playing Characteristics
This whistle has very strong and focused tone. It's not what I would call "sweet", but is instead assertive and chiffy.
Some poeple define chiff as that burst of white noise at the beginning of a note (the "Ch" sound in the word "Chiff" for instance). Others describe it as a hissy white noise all throughout a note's duration.
This whistle has plenty of both. The second octave is even more strident and chiffy than the first, and can sound a little hissy on fast tunes that hang around the second octave much.
I don't really like hissy whistles, but by the end of the first week, I was getting used to it.
I can attest that the player hears this hiss a lot more than is evident to the listener. Check out the recordings. Nice and chiffy, and not really hissy at all.

A sound clip of the whistle:
Trip to Sligo-Here's a clip of a jig I've recently learned. It spends a good part of the B part in the 2nd octave, so you can judge the chiffiness there.
Eanach Dhuin-And a clip of a slower tune. You can really hear that Jerry has made every improvement he mentions. The whistle is strong and focused.

Volume: This whistle is extremely loud. I played it at an extremely loud session, and it was the only whistle that cut the mustard. The bar was so loud we could hardly hear ourselves, even amplified. The Shaw cut through all of that with ease. This is not a whistle for a quiet session for sure.

Responsiveness: Fast. I didn't have any problem playing most ornaments up to speed. I always feel a little clumsy on crans and rolls on E on conical whistles. I think this is a personal problem, having to do with how narrow the instrument gets down there.

C-Natural: OXXOOO produces a c-natural that's a little bit sharp, though can be managed with breath control. OXXXOO stabilizes it nicely.

Tuning: This is a non-tunable whistle. Therefore, it's important that it be in tune, or you cannot play with other musicians. Well, you could, but they'd probably stone you for it. This whistle is in tune with A=440. The F# and the A and B all require a little push beyond the expected breath pressure to be in tune, but are entirely workable. I don't suspect that this is Jerry's doing, as the tone-holes look un-tweaked.

Hole Size and placement: This whistle has holes with average size and placement. There are no weird spacings. If you can play a soprano D, you can play this one.

Air volume and pressure requirements:
Breath pressure: no sweat. No blowing so hard you get red in the face. A solid average on the backpressure scale.
Breath volume is a different story entirely. Jerry's tweak helps here a lot. The untweaked Shaw is a nightmare to play in terms of breath requirements.
By reducing the windway, Jerry reduces this requirement a lot. The first octave is a solid average here. Unfortunately, I don't know many one-octave tunes. Even Jerry's tweaked shaw is a bit of work in the 2nd octave. If you like whistles that take little air, this is not one of them.
But Jerry's tweak does reduce the breath requirements to about a Clarke original, a major improvement.
I can manage to play it but still find myself looking for breath if the tune hangs around in the second octave much--which a lot of them do for the B part. I should mention that when I took this whistle to session, and was caught up in the spirit of the moment, I didn't notice the breathing nearly as much.

Clogging: I played this whistle for up to an hour-and-a-half at a time. Granted, I'm now in winter in Dallas--which is considerably dryer than Houston. But even so, I didn't experience any clogging or moisture buildup. None whatsoever. Zero, Zip, Nada.

Summary
If you like Shaws or Clarkes with that traditional chiffy sound, Jerry's tweaked Shaw is a definite improvement over an untweaked version. The more I play this whistle, the more I'm reminded of my roots (I started on a Clarke) and the more it grows on me. Plus, I can see that I'm just going to have to have it for outdoors play and loud sessions.


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PostPosted: Thu Feb 10, 2005 6:45 am 
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I think Shaws are one of the more beautiful (looking) whistles. They're not pretty in the way an Elfsong or Alba are pretty, but they look more 'natural' to me, and I consider that more beautiful.

I've never played a Jerry Freeman Shaw, but I have played other tweaked whistles from Jerry. Every single one, without exception, has been marvelous.


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PostPosted: Thu Feb 10, 2005 10:01 am 
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I had a Jerry-tweaked Shaw low G for a while. I liked the sound, but the fingerhole spacing was too much for my right hand.

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PostPosted: Thu Feb 10, 2005 10:27 am 
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Wanderer,

Excellent review! Good pics, well organized and very through. Tells me everything I would want to know about this whistle. I would like to see more reviews of this quality on this board by knowledgeable whistlers such as yourself. I would also like to see them organized in such a way as to be easy to find for future referance.

Keep up the good work!

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PostPosted: Thu Feb 10, 2005 10:43 am 
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Darwin wrote:
I had a Jerry-tweaked Shaw low G for a while. I liked the sound, but the fingerhole spacing was too much for my right hand.


Darwin, piper's grip is your friend. Even if you have big hands.

I put off learning for a long time because the low whistles I had (Serpent F, Dixon D) were managable without it. But when I got a Howard low D, I had to make the switch.

Though the first two weeks were tough, it made a huge difference - and to my amazement, I find it works better on my other low whistles, too. :lol:

The dividing line's blurry - I don't use it for my A whistles (Serpent and Syn) but I use it on my right hand for a Meg or Sweetone C. Give it at try - your hands will thank you.


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PostPosted: Thu Feb 10, 2005 10:46 am 
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I enjoyed the Eanach Dhuin clip you posted, thanks.

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PostPosted: Thu Feb 10, 2005 10:52 am 
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peteinmn wrote:
Wanderer,

Excellent review! Good pics, well organized and very through. Tells me everything I would want to know about this whistle. I would like to see more reviews of this quality on this board by knowledgeable whistlers such as yourself. I would also like to see them organized in such a way as to be easy to find for future referance.

Keep up the good work!


Thanks for the compliments. I have all of my reviews on my website here:
www.tinwhistler.com/music/reviews.asp

This includes the older thorough reviews that I cound find on the various message boards I've posted them on. Some much older reviews (like the Herbison whistle review I did a long time ago here) really wasn't up to my current standards for posting, so I don't have them up.

I think that I've gotten better at writing them over the years.. :)


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PostPosted: Thu Feb 10, 2005 1:19 pm 
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I'm angry. I got a tweaked Shaw from Jerry some time ago. It was almost unplayable. I sent it back. Came back better, but still far from worth the money. To his credit, Jerry returned my money after I sent it back to him. I know some will get angry at the suggestion that Wanderer was favored with the best of the bunch because of who he is. Sorry.

Some makers turn out consistent products and I have to give them credit. Burke and Silkstone and Mack Hoover come to mind. Of course, their products cost more.

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PostPosted: Thu Feb 10, 2005 1:52 pm 
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E = Fb wrote:
I'm angry. I got a tweaked Shaw from Jerry some time ago. It was almost unplayable. I sent it back. Came back better, but still far from worth the money. To his credit, Jerry returned my money after I sent it back to him. I know some will get angry at the suggestion that Wanderer was favored with the best of the bunch because of who he is. Sorry.

Some makers turn out consistent products and I have to give them credit. Burke and Silkstone and Mack Hoover come to mind. Of course, their products cost more.


Handmade, or hand-tweaked items are sometimes more inconsistent than factory produced instruments would be. I know Jerry personally and I know he is an honest and reliable person and tweaker. I don't doubt that you got a bad whistle. I don't doubt it at all. That sometimes happens, with everybody - even Overtons and Copelands. I got a bad Burke once. You can't be 100% all the time. It's nothing to be angry about, really.

You did the correct thing in notifying Jerry and working it out.

If he refunded your money, why are you still angry?


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PostPosted: Thu Feb 10, 2005 2:31 pm 
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I've got several of Jerry's tweaks including Shaws. I have to say I'm really excited about these and the Shaw tweak particularly. I've always loved the Shaw whistles whole conical thing, the similarities to the classic Clarke look, and the fact that they are so well made. But, Lord, the air requirements. Jerry's tweak makes it a radically different whistle in sound and play. It's really terrific.

And--right--Dude--he refunded your money. Relax.

Dale

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PostPosted: Thu Feb 10, 2005 3:07 pm 
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E = Fb wrote:
I'm angry. I got a tweaked Shaw from Jerry some time ago. It was almost unplayable. I sent it back. Came back better, but still far from worth the money. To his credit, Jerry returned my money after I sent it back to him. I know some will get angry at the suggestion that Wanderer was favored with the best of the bunch because of who he is. Sorry.

Some makers turn out consistent products and I have to give them credit. Burke and Silkstone and Mack Hoover come to mind. Of course, their products cost more.


Both of those whistles (they were two different whistles) came back to me out of adjustment. The second one, I had set aside with the idea that I might send it to Mary Bergin, but it was the only one I had available at the moment, so I sent it to you instead. I can assure you both whistles were very playable when they went in the mail.

It happens occasionally (I would say maybe five times to date, over a total of about 500 of these whistles I've done) that the soundblade or the windway roof gets accidentally pushed out of adjustment. Usually, I can coach the customer how to adjust it back where it belongs, and they don't have to send the whistle to me for maintenance. That it would happen twice to the same person before they've even had a chance to play the whistle is just extremely bad luck, but I don't think there was anything either of us had done that was irresponsible or unreasonable.

I remember that encounter very well because I was sad about it for weeks. I take my work very seriously, and I will go to just about any length to make sure every customer is 100% satisfied.

Please let me send you another whistle, with my compliments. No charge.

Best wishes,
Jerry

(I'll be needing your address again, if you wouldn't mind. If you would PM it to me, I would be most appreciative.)


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PostPosted: Thu Feb 10, 2005 3:23 pm 
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Jerry,
Wanderer let me try all of the various whistles that you tweaked. Each is a gem. They are beautiful. So unlike the originals, there's no comparison. Wanderer was particularly taken by the Shaw.
So, what got my Irish up was that every single one that he got is so excellent, and my experience was such a let down. And I couldn't help but come to the conclusion that he got the pick of the litter. An assumption, I agree. I have to admit that one experience is a poor statistical sample, so maybe I should calm down.
I appreciate the offer, but don't worry 'bout it. I plan to pick one from the ones that Wanderer is sending back (after review) and I'll forward the money to you. Not a problem.

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PostPosted: Thu Feb 10, 2005 5:16 pm 
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Jerry, what whistles are you offering now?

Robin


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PostPosted: Thu Feb 10, 2005 5:42 pm 
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Tweaked Shaw, keys of E, Eb, D (soprano) and C. I don't do Shaws below C because the lower keys have metal covering the fipple block, which prevents me from being able to adjust the block.

Tweaked Generation, redtop brass or bluetop nickel, high G, F, Eb, D, C and Bb. The voicing is intended to match as closely as possible the voicing of vintage, pre-1980's Generations.

Tweaked Mellow Dog. This is a tweaked Feadog whistlehead on a tweaked Waltons Mellow D Tube, very sweet/pure voicing.

Tweaked Feadog, brass D. This is intended to retain the distinctive "edgy" voicing of a regular Feadog, but clean up the upper register roughness and make it overall less inclined to buzz, rattle and squawk.

Tweaked Sweetone, D and C.

Best wishes,
Jerry


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PostPosted: Thu Feb 10, 2005 6:38 pm 
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I think I got the world's only tweaked Freeman tweaked Meg (way back when). :)

P.S., Jerry, happy 3,000 posts! :party:


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