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 Post subject: Jerry Freeman Tweaked Sweetone D review
PostPosted: Wed Feb 23, 2005 4:29 am 
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review housed at http://www.tinwhistler.com/music/reviews.asp

Jerry Freeman Tweaked Sweetone 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 Sweetone. I myself started on a Clarke original in 1995. It took too much wind for my tastes, and was a challenge for me to hit the second octave on consistently. So I tried a Soodlum's my wife had, moved on to a Shaw, and finally fell in love with a Sweetone, and played one exclusively for a couple of years. I still recommend them as beginner's instruments because they have a decent tone, are relatively consistent, in tune, and easy to play across both octaves. I was therefore really interested in seeing what Jerry did with it. He says his tweaks are "designed to help create a focused, richer timbre, reduce breathiness and make the whistle more responsive to nuanced playing."

At a Glance
Whistle Reviewed: Jerry Freeman Tweaked Sweetone
Models Available: Tweaked C or D
Construction: rolled tinplate, with a plastic mouthpiece.
Price at time of review: $15.00 US
Available From:
The Whistle Shop
Big Whistle Music
Whistle and Drum
Gaelic Crossings
Elderly Instruments
MyTinwhistle.com
How Acquired: Product sample from Jerry Freeman

Bottom Line: A little less beginner friendly, but with a little more focus. 2nd octave is cleaner, but harder to hit. Otherwise, retains much of the character of the untweaked version.

Appearance/Construction
The Sweetone is basically of the same construction as the Clarke original--rolled tinplate with a soldered seam. The difference lies in the plastic mouthpiece, designed by the folks who make Copeland whistles. Jerry has made some very subtle tweaks to this mouthpiece.

Image
Here's the full-sized whistle. From this view, you really can't see the changes Jerry has made.

Image
Here's a closeup of the labium ramp. Jerry may have shaped the labium ramp a little, but it doesn't really look like it. It's certain that he hasn't replaced it or built it up with a guitar pick like in his more expensively-tweaked whistles. The real tweak I'm showing off here is in the inside of the windway. There's a thin layer of plastic in there. It reduces the windway a little bit.
Image
here's a better angle on the BluTack tweak (see my Jerry-Tweaked Generation review for an explanation). This is a greyish putty that's not the same as what Jerry uses on his Generations. It restricts the airflow through that area, to prevent turbulence from mucking things up. I do know it works a heck of a lot better than when I bought a wad of BluTack and tried this same thing on one of my own whistles. By the way, please excuse all the white lint. I take these pictures in the brightest room of the house--my laundry room. I guess my wife must have just done laundry, and the whistle just picked up some of the free-floating lint.

Image
Here's a view of the seam on the back of the whistle. It's a lot more pronounced-feeling than on Shaws. While it never bothered me, some people claim to be distracted by it. I think some duct tape over it or other smoothing medium would probably help if it bothers you.

Image
Here's a view of Jerry's logo, stuck over the Clarke-added icon of Whistling Billy. The fact that Whistling Billy appears to be dancing on the back of a giant mouse makes me imagine surreal things about Pied Pipers. :)

Playing Characteristics
The tone of this whistle is similar to untweaked Sweetones. But whereas they are very pure, Jerry's tweaks have introduced a bit of a complex raspiness. This raspy chiff is what many traditional players want out of a good cheap whistle. big differences also show up in volume and breath pressure. Jerry's tweaks have widened the gap between the octaves in both of these areas. I'll cover these differences more below.

A sound clip of the whistle:
Out on the Ocean-Here's a clip of a jig on the whistle.
And on a regular sweetone for comparison.

Volume: This whistle is on the average/quiet side. It's a good volume for blending in with moderate-sized sessions. Jerry's tweak causes the first octave to be a little quieter than untweaked Sweetones. The second octave is a little louder than untweaked versions. Since many session tunes spend a fair amount of time in the 2nd octave, this probably has the average effect of being a little louder in session, but really it mostly depends on what tunes you play.

Responsiveness: Moderate. Sweetones don't feel sluggish, but in general tend to sound less crisp on the fast execution of ornamentation like rolls and crans. Jerry's tweaks neither harm nor help them in this regard. However, due to the widening of the octave jump in terms of breath pressure, the whistle sounds less muddled on certain fiddle tunes that bounce between upper and lower octave notes. I'm thinking of tunes like Drowsy Maggie (The BEdEBE in the first measure), Gravel Walk (the aAgAfA bounce in the first measure of the B part), Glass of Beer (the fBaBfB that happens across the first and 2nd measures), and Tam Lin, which has it all over the place. This kind of bouncing back and forth happens on a fair number of fiddle tunes, and Jerry's tweak cleans up those transitions quite a bit for the Sweetone. They sound a bit muddled on an untweaked version, but much crisper on the tweaked version.

C-Natural: Like the untweaked Sweetone, OXXOOO produces an good in-tune c-natural.

Tuning: Sweetones are generally in tune, and Jerry's is no exception. The head is moveable, making it tunable, but due to the pronounced seam on the back, you probably only want to twist it in the direction of the fold.

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: Octave dependant. The first octave doesn't take much breath at all. But the octave break has been widened from the non-tweaked version, and so the second octave requires quite a bit more attack, putting it closer on par to the Clarke original. I wouldn't have liked this as much as a beginner, because it makes the second octave take a lot more attention and work. If you aren't watching your Ps and Qs in the 2nd octave the whistle will drop octave or squawk at you. This gives the whistle perhaps just a hair more tone-chiff.
Breath volume: Average. This whistle takes neither lots or little air. It's pretty average.

Clogging: Average clogging. I had to start blowing this whistle out after 20 minutes or so. Jerry's tweak doesn't seem to have had any effect on this characteristic.

Summary
Though it takes slightly more work to play, Jerry's version of the Sweetone has some definite improvements for the experienced musician, espcially if you like whistles with a Generation-like tone. If you like a less-pure sound, and want a little more out of your instrument, it's a whistle worth looking into.


Last edited by Wanderer on Wed Feb 23, 2005 7:27 am, edited 2 times in total.

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PostPosted: Wed Feb 23, 2005 6:33 am 
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Thanks Wanderer for your review, as always very thorough. It is very timely as I have just recieved my Jerry Tweaked sweetone a week or so back. It was my first sweetone (I have the original clark) and I wanted something a little different to try out. I gave it a good going over today and like it very much. The jump between octaves certainly seems to strengthen the whistle. I like it a lot and will probably be playing it for a while or at least until my next big spend :)

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PostPosted: Mon Nov 27, 2006 6:59 am 
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I figures this thread might be appropriate since it's this whistle I have a question about.
I've been trying to learn Star of the County Down, and there's a high D (second octave) that follows a B (um, regular I think). B played XOOOOO and D played OXXXXX. I don't know if I describe this good enough.
The this is however, the D doesn't really sound good, weak and very windy compared to the B. The same thing sounds much better on my original Clarke. Anyone knows if this is a common problem, or am I playing it wrong?


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PostPosted: Mon Nov 27, 2006 8:02 am 
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Location: Now playing in Northeastern Connecticut
Many whistles play the second octave D better if you vent the top tonehole. However, I try to adjust the whistles I tweak so that note plays as well or almost as well unvented. I would be happy to take a look at that whistle and do some adjusting or replace the whistle if needed.

On closer look, I see you're already venting your second octave D. Why don't you send the whistle so I can take a look.

Best wishes,
Jerry


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PostPosted: Mon Nov 27, 2006 8:30 am 
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The second octave D was not weak or windy on the Jerry-tweaked sweetone I had. I'm sure he'll fix you right up..he's a class act :)

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PostPosted: Tue Nov 28, 2006 1:36 am 
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Jerry Freeman wrote:
On closer look, I see you're already venting your second octave D. Why don't you send the whistle so I can take a look.

Best wishes,
Jerry


Thanks, that's really nice!
I wish I had someone else around who was a little better at playing and could give me an opinion. I'm not even sure how it should sound or if I'm doing it exactly right.
I'll give it another try later when I have access and compare to the other whistle or some sound example and I'll be back if there's a problem.


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PostPosted: Tue Nov 28, 2006 4:46 am 
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Reading further, I see you're in Sweden.

Just PM me your address, and I'll send you another whistle. It would be too long and too much trouble for you to bother sending the questionable whistle from Europe and then waiting for the replacement to arrive back across the Atlantic again.

Best wishes,
Jerry


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PostPosted: Thu Nov 30, 2006 1:41 am 
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Hi, your service is excellent Jerry!

I was thinking this: You must be playing all your whistles when you tweak them, right? To know all the notes play well?
I'm thinking all the whistles should sound well in that case, so probably I'm not using it quite right, or perhaps not even enjoying the Sweetone sound that much.

I've thought that compared to the original Clarke, the Sweetone sound less 'real'. More like a toy. Reminds me of a plastic recorder I played with when I was little..
I think the notes sound ok for the whole first octave, but when I try the second, they either seem a little weak and windy, or if I push it more, just seems loud and shrill instead. Maybe I just need to improve my technique. Or this simply isn't my kind of whistle.


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