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PostPosted: Thu May 26, 2005 2:06 pm 
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I have two different tin whistle tutorial books, and both of them <a href="http://learningtowhistle.blogspot.com/2005/05/practice-no-frills-whistling.html">omit something which I feel is very important</a>: Learning how to play a tune simply, without ornamentation.

If there's a shortcut to this, I haven't found it yet. Right now I'm using the "practice and repitition" method of study. But I wanted to mention this in case anyone here ever finds themself writing a tin whistle tutorial: To a new whistler it's a challenge, and it's something which shouldn't be entirely ignored.

In the <a href="http://learningtowhistle.blogspot.com/2005/05/practice-no-frills-whistling.html">article</a> I linked I also discuss a tutorial which gets it right. Or at least better.

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PostPosted: Thu May 26, 2005 2:49 pm 
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Brother Steve rocks!

(Oh, Debbie says hi, Steve... um... quite a while ago actually :oops: )


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PostPosted: Thu May 26, 2005 5:21 pm 
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Yeah, Craig, I noticed the same thing when I first took up whistles. Most of these lessons seem to go from Lesson 1 - Notes/Fingering to Lesson 2 - Ornamentation. At the time I was thinking "Ornamentaion? Geez, let me learn some songs & tunes first; I'll worry about ornamentation later when I have some basics that I can enhance." I ended up just learning songs/tunes on my own through repetition & practice. Months later, I went back to the ornamentation lessons & started practicing the different enhancements. It made more sense then, and by that time I had something I could ornament!

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PostPosted: Thu May 26, 2005 6:23 pm 
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I thought you were going to say they were being sold for 0.01 via eBooks on eBay. I have a friend who's book was done like that. It's a bloody mess to get cleared up, especially if both parties aren't in the US.

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PostPosted: Fri May 27, 2005 6:13 am 
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barbuck wrote:
Months later, I went back to the ornamentation lessons & started practicing the different enhancements. It made more sense then, and by that time I had something I could ornament!

Yes, I'm really looking forward to knowing how to play the tunes well enough that it will be worth going back to those lessons.

As it is I'm happy that I managed to play the Blackthorn Stick at about 3/4 of the usual speed at the session last night.

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PostPosted: Fri May 27, 2005 12:15 pm 
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Craig,

I allowed myself a small flush of pride on reading your blog entry but feel that some qualification is in order. For one thing, apart from the "meditation" you quote about rhythm being more important than ornamentation, I don't think that there is anything much on the Brother Steve site to help you learn how to play a tune without ornamentation (I do say also that the site isn't intended for complete beginners).

The passage you quote was written a few years ago and I've refined my thinking somewhat since then. I was really aiming it at people who get obsessed with more complex forms of ornamentation such as rolls and crans of various kinds before they can make sense of a simple tune - and I have come across plenty of such players of whistles and other instruments in real life and on the net. In that respect I stand by that passage.

Now however I would say that more basic devices that are commonly lumped under the heading of "ornamentation", especially cuts and to some extent taps, are indispensable and should be integrated into your learning of Irish music almost from the word go. If you don't learn them early you'll probably develop the habit of tonguing all over the place, a habit that is hard to undo once you've developed it. These devices then are not less important than good rhythm because they are more or less vital to developing good rhythm.

Anyway thanks for the plug, and for putting a flea in my ear. I'll no doubt get around to clarifying my "meditation" at some point.

Good luck
Steve

PS Nico if you see Debs before I do please return the greeting!


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PostPosted: Fri May 27, 2005 1:34 pm 
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StevieJ wrote:
For one thing, apart from the "meditation" you quote about rhythm being more important than ornamentation, I don't think that there is anything much on the Brother Steve site to help you learn how to play a tune without ornamentation (I do say also that the site isn't intended for complete beginners).

While I'd love to see more on how to learn this, I didn't feel like faulting you for not doing enough in light of the two books I own which didn't even mention the issue.

To some extent it seems obvious that one should learn to play a tune simply first, but it is less obvious when you have a tutorial which implies that you shouldn't. The meditation you wrote was a good corrective which told me that my first intuition was right.

StevieJ wrote:
Now however I would say that more basic devices that are commonly lumped under the heading of "ornamentation", especially cuts and to some extent taps, are indispensable and should be integrated into your learning of Irish music almost from the word go.

This also passes the intuitive test. In part because the cuts really do sound good and in part because <a href="http://learningtowhistle.blogspot.com/2005/05/practice-learning-from-mistakes.html" title="Learning from Mistakes">it ties into other things I'm trying to learn, such as breathing and playing with other musicians</a>.

StevieJ wrote:
If you don't learn them early you'll probably develop the habit of tonguing all over the place, a habit that is hard to undo once you've developed it.

Yes, I really appreciated your <a href="http://www.rogermillington.com/siamsa/brosteve/tonguing.html#Exercise">tip</a> to strip out all tonguing. That helped me a lot.

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PostPosted: Fri May 27, 2005 2:33 pm 
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Craig, while I can certainly understand the need to learn how to play a tune simply in the beginning, skipping ornamentation can be a big mistake. Playing irish music without ornamentation is kinda like using the english langauge without using punctuation or fully understanding how the english langauge works. Learning the ornamentation properly early on is vital to you success. I've seen and heard alot of people who skip past rolls and the results are pretty bad.

Anyways, good luck.

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PostPosted: Fri May 27, 2005 3:32 pm 
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Allow me to elaborate a little more on my analogy. Without ornamentation, you will not be able to express your ideas to the best of your ability and it will keep you communicating to and with other people should you one day decide to play with other people.

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PostPosted: Sat May 28, 2005 2:00 pm 
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I have to respectfully disagree there, Jack. I didn't learn any ornamentation to speak of until I had been playing for at least a year, and I didn't have any problem picking it up. (Of course, I was a kid back then and we all know these things come easier to kids). Although now that I think of it, I think I had learned to play cuts early on, without knowing what they were or anything.

The garage sale is going pretty well today, by the way.

Later,

Justine


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PostPosted: Sat May 28, 2005 2:29 pm 
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The Bill Ochs tutorial (which I started with) is pretty good at giving you a graduated learning scale, no ornamentation in any of the lessons until you get through lots and lots of tunes.

I played for a couple of years before I ever even attempted cuts and taps (going by the suggestion in his book). I played for a couple more before I got over my fear of rolls and started working on them.

Since then, I've stricken just about every tune I learned in those first four years from my "tune list", or re-learned them properly. In hindsight, I think I could have benefitted from a much earlier introduction to the simpler forms of ornamentation, which would have resulted in an earlier introduction to the more complex forms. I think, in all honesty, I'd be further ahead in where I want to be with my playing than where I'm at now.


Last edited by Wanderer on Mon May 30, 2005 8:33 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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PostPosted: Mon May 30, 2005 8:11 pm 
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Thanks very much to everyone who replied. This helps me condense my thoughts about personal practice and what I can do to help other beginners who are learning about the same things. I've posted some <a href="http://learningtowhistle.blogspot.com/2005/05/practice-making-cut.html">longer notes</a>, but the long and the short of it is that I'm starting to fiddle with cuts, and I'm also doing some meditations on the type of practice guide that I'd like to see.

I've noticed that whistling tutorials tend to be written by experts. What I'm trying to do with my weblog is to speak "from one ignoramus (me!) to another." I think I'm going to use "how to practice" as a running theme, and try to build a curriculum of effective practice as I learn.

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PostPosted: Tue May 31, 2005 1:38 am 
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Comparing learning the whistle with learning the pipes is interesting in this regard. On the pipes you don't have the option of tonguing, or of stopping the airflow any other way as a means of articulating repeated notes. In practice, this means that you have to learn to use cuts and rolls from the beginning to get through virtually any tune. This might sound terrifying, but in fact just leads to different emphasis on learning. For example, the first tunes I was taught on the pipes were the Rambling Pitchfork, the Kesh and Garrett Barry's, all of which feature prominent rolls - this is precisely why they were chosen. Of course I played them VERY SLOWLY INDEED.

And this is just the point. None of the ornaments used in whistle playing are "difficult", in the sense of requiring any particularly complex motor skills to perform (although I might leave crans as an exception); it's not usually the movements themselves that cause the problem, but coordinating them at speed. Most people can play a perfectly good cut or tap in isolation, from the first time they pick up a whistle. The struggle comes in stringing them together. So the solution is to play slowly.

Another benefit of learning ornamentation from the beginning is that it gets you quickly out of the habit of gripping the whistle/chanter too hard. It's virtually impossible to play a good cut when you're hanging on to the instrument as if your life depended on it.

So my advice would be:
1 Begin by practicing a long note, puntuating it with the appropriate cut at regular intervals (say 1 per second, getting gradually faster as you you get the hang of it). Repeat with other notes, and repeat with taps. Concentrate on keeping the hands relaxed.

When you've got this licked (you'll find it won't take more than a day or so, if you're diligent about practicing properly)..

2 Do the same exercise with rolls (i.e. cut followed by tap). Make sure to practice on E, F#, G, A and B. You'll probably find that notes where the cut and tap are done by the same hand (i.e. A and B) are the most difficult at first.

I'll bet that after a couple more days you can perform some good, reliable rolls at a moderate tempo. At the piping club in London, we usually find that absolute beginners can be playing reasonable rolls on all notes after a week or two. AND that's with learning to coordinate bellows and bag as well - on the whistle, no problem!

Then, pick a tune with some prominent rolls (the Kesh, Rambling Pitchfork, Rose in the Heather, Boys of the Town, etc..). Pick a SLOW tempo and stick to it.

Sam


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PostPosted: Tue May 31, 2005 7:04 am 
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I agree completely Sam. I'd just add that (unless you have a very good ear and the discipline to go very slowly, step by step, which most people don't) if you're learning rolls from the word go it is useful to have a teacher or experienced player handy to give you feedback on how they are sounding. Otherwise the results can be... well we've all heard them. Rhythm is still the most important thing.

Craig, might I add a word of caution about gut instincts and learning from other "ignoramuses"? Gut feelings are very reassuring and they are often an excellent guide in many situations. But you need to be able to set them aside sometimes, especially when learning music.

As an example - I'm learning a new instrument at present and recently another player relayed a piece of advice he had been given that I instinctively rejected. It struck me as illogical and completely counter-intuitive. More recently still a top player that I buttonholed after a concert gave me exactly the same piece of advice. This time I decided to listen and having worked on it for a while I can see that it is extremely valuable.


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PostPosted: Tue May 31, 2005 7:45 am 
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StevieJ wrote:
As an example - I'm learning a new instrument at present and recently another player relayed a piece of advice he had been given that I instinctively rejected. It struck me as illogical and completely counter-intuitive. More recently still a top player that I buttonholed after a concert gave me exactly the same piece of advice. This time I decided to listen and having worked on it for a while I can see that it is extremely valuable.


C'mon Steve, spill the beans! What instrument & which piece of advice...? :-D


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