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PostPosted: Sun Jun 10, 2007 11:17 pm 
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<b>History</b>
According to the <a href="http://www.howardmusic.co.uk/">Howard website</a>, in January 2007 the Howard low whistle mouthpiece was "retooled to produce a better sound," with more back pressure and a clearer upper register. Further, the redesign aimed to offer "more dynamics in both octaves," and the ability to "vary the volume without compromising tuning."

In short, the official description is true – the new mouthpiece design does offer more back pressure, volume, and more dynamics (without losing the 'reedy' tone that Howard is famous for). So, how is it different to the old design?

<b>Design</b>
<img src="http://www.anzsa.org/whistle/Howard/howard-top-2.jpg">
Apologies for the photos – I took them at my desk at work, sitting the mouthpieces on a blank A4 sheet. Anyway, the 'old' mouthpiece is on the left, and the new design on the right. Immediately you should see that the windway is wider but thinner, and is lower down on the fipple.

<img src="http://www.anzsa.org/whistle/Howard/howard4.jpg">
More noticeable differences are evident when we look at the mouthpieces from the top. This time, the new design is on the left. The new design has introduced a protruding lip that extends a few milimeters above the rest of the mouthpiece. The old design (right) is flat.

<b>Review</b>
I had a number of problems with my <b>old Howard</b>. First, it clogged a lot, and I'd find myself having to clear it frequently at sessions. Second, it was a really soft whistle, and I was drowned out at bigger sessions (not necessarily a bad thing, mind you). It was temperamental, squawking when I jumped into the upper register (especially when playing a high d as XXXXXX instead of 0XXXXX), and, finally, the top half of the upper register was soft, prone to squawking, and unreliable.

The <b>new Howard</b> mouthpiece design goes a long way to fixing these problems.

When you use the new design, the first thing you notice is the increase in volume. It's now a much louder whistle, and while it's still no match against other models in terms of volume (e.g. Susato, Chieftain), I'm comfortable taking it to sessions. I <i>will</i> be heard, I just won't overpower the mix.

To me, the back pressure is the major selling point with the Howard. I simply don't have the lung capacity to play other whistles comfortably, and I'm close to giving up on my new flute for this reason. The new design gives you greater volume without sacrificing any back pressure: it's still the most comfortable low whistle to play that I own. I like being able to play longer phrases with a single breath, so I'm over the moon that the new mouthpiece design has retained the backpressure.

Clogging is no longer the major issue that it was. I find I don't have to clear the whistle very often at all, and instead of spittle collecting where the mouthpiece joins the body (before dribbling down to my hands), it now collects discreetly at the protruding lip on the mouthpiece, if at all. Very impressed.

There is a slight difference in the tone of the whistle. It's still reedy, and has that Howard 'buzz', but the sound of the new design is crisper (if that's applicable to whistle descriptions) and the notes are more enunciated. Hopefully these qualities will be evident in the sound clips.

<b>Sound</b>
I want to apologise in advance for the rushed (read 'awful') playing featured in the audio clips of this review. Now that's sorted, on with the clips!

"Her Long Black Hair" [ <a href="http://www.anzsa.org/whistle/Howard/old1.mp3">Old design</a> ] [ <a href="http://www.anzsa.org/whistle/Howard/new1.mp3">New design</a> ]

"Rolling Waves" [ <a href="http://www.anzsa.org/whistle/Howard/old3.mp3">Old design</a> ] [ <a href="http://www.anzsa.org/whistle/Howard/new4.mp3">New design</a> ]

All clips were recorded sitting down at my desk using a Samson C03 condenser microphone, a MOTU firewire soundcard, and Audacity, a freeware audio program for Mac OS X. No effects were applied – the clips are untouched.

<b>Conclusion</b>
In conclusion, the Howard remains my favourite low D whistle. I loved it before, but as with all lovers there were nagging problems with it – the clogging, the squawking, the weak upper register, the volume. The new design lives up to its promises, taming the temperamental upper register, adding significant volume and presence, and all without sacrificing the back pressure that (to me) is so important.

Those purchasing a new Howard should make sure to check whether it has the new mouthpiece. Otherwise, the new design is available to purchase separately from Howard directly or from Big Whistle Music.

I thoroughly recommend that everyone who owns a Howard whistle try out the new mouthpiece design – you may find that you've got yourself a new favourite. Those new to the low whistle will find it a challenging whistle (you can't approach it as if it's just a 'big' version of a soprano whistle, you have to treat it as an instrument in its own right) but one with many rewards.

<b>Links</b>
Howard Music
<a href="http://www.howardmusic.co.uk/">http://www.howardmusic.co.uk/</a>
New mouthpieces can be ordered separately and arrive in a neat plastic case.

Big Whistle Music
<a href="http://www.bigwhistle.co.uk/">http://www.bigwhistle.co.uk/</a>
BWM stocks the new mouthpiece along with the range of Howard whistles.

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PostPosted: Sun Jun 10, 2007 11:48 pm 
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Interesting. My Howard, bought used, here, from a Chiffer a few years ago, has a mouthpiece that matches the 'new' design as far as the placement of the windway opening at the mouth of the fipple, but the exit windway, on the front of the fipple matches the 'old' design. hmmm ...

Is the new fipple available to purchase for older models? I would love to up the volume on mine a bit.

(edited to add) ... well... Duh... you told me right in the post ... I got so excited about the possibilities (added one to my wish list already) that I missed that part. AND... the folks at Howard Music are very thoughtful and easy to communicate with. Dorothy tells me that the differences made are inside the windway and not visible, and that the way to tell if you have the latest head is that there are 2 dots on the right of the windway as you look at it. (You can see these just above the opening on the head on the right, in the picture at the top of the initial post)

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Last edited by anniemcu on Mon Jun 11, 2007 9:27 am, edited 1 time in total.

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PostPosted: Mon Jun 11, 2007 5:41 am 
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Nice job, bdh!!! Lots of work went into that review!

I don't have a Howard anymore, but I did have one from the mid 80's, and it was a real nice whistle, and easy player-in both octaves! I didn't see the need for a new head, but the next owner got one for it (I believe it was the first new head design, not the one that is available now), and said it took some of the character away from the tone, but made it play easier. Like I said-I didn't have any problems with it, so I guess it depends on how you blow it, and breath control. I tend to blow them easy, not looking for all the volume.

By the way, I saw you mentioned maybe giving up the flute, because of not having the lung capacity. If that is how you find the flute-you just need to tighten your embouchure, because the flute doesn't take more air than a low whistle-usually less from what I've found.

So, don't give up! Just try a smaller part between your lips when you play-more focused, and it should help. It also helps to support your breathing from your diaphragm too-not just your lungs. I hope you can work it out-flute is an amazing instrument, and very rewarding too. Good luck with it!

And thanks for the nice review on the Howard!

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PostPosted: Mon Jun 11, 2007 7:57 pm 
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@ anniemcu: Hi Annie, thanks for the added info. So, to reiterate readers, look for the dots! :D

@ greenspiderweb: The flute I have is beautiful – it's a Fipple flute with the 'limited edition' speckled bore and the wedge. I can get a nice enough sound on it, but I've never learnt flute so I'm sure my embouchure is horribly wrong...

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PostPosted: Mon Jun 11, 2007 9:57 pm 
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bdh wrote:
@ anniemcu: Hi Annie, thanks for the added info. So, to reiterate readers, look for the dots! :D

@ greenspiderweb: The flute I have is beautiful – it's a Fipple flute with the 'limited edition' speckled bore and the wedge. I can get a nice enough sound on it, but I've never learnt flute so I'm sure my embouchure is horribly wrong...


Would that be a "Tipple" flute? Or is it a whistle, as in 'fipple flute'?

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PostPosted: Tue Jun 12, 2007 8:35 pm 
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Oops. I meant a 'Tipple' flute :lol:

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PostPosted: Tue Jun 19, 2007 3:01 pm 
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Thanks, BDH. Great review. I especially appreciated the sample sound clips. Now I know how I'm supposed to sound when I play the thing. Of course, I discovered to my horror that I have been playing the Howard upside down. I wondered why he designed the whistle to be sucked rather than blown. Boy, was I getting winded! :lol:

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PostPosted: Wed Jun 20, 2007 6:16 am 
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The Laughing Imp wrote:
I discovered to my horror that I have been playing the Howard upside down. I wondered why he designed the whistle to be sucked rather than blown. Boy, was I getting winded! :lol:


Man, I hope you're kidding! :party:

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PostPosted: Wed Jun 20, 2007 6:33 am 
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bdh wrote:
The Laughing Imp wrote:
I discovered to my horror that I have been playing the Howard upside down. I wondered why he designed the whistle to be sucked rather than blown. Boy, was I getting winded! :lol:


Man, I hope you're kidding! :party:

I made the same mistake starting out. That's how I got all of this music inside me.

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PostPosted: Tue Aug 14, 2007 4:00 pm 
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Just over a year ago, I got the "new" design heads for my Howard whistles. I was favorably impressed. A couple of weeks ago, Brian Howard stayed with me a couple of days before attending Lark camp. He brought with him his latest design heads. They have the same protruding lip as the ones I got last year, but are distinguished by the addition of two small round dots cast into the head just over the entry to the windway, so I can tell which model I am using. I find this latest design to be yet another improvement over the last one. There is more dynamic range. You play quite softly without a change in pitch. The backpressure seems only slightly higher and the wind requirement remains quite low. There is less tendence to break octaves when I lean into it. I really LOVE this newest design. I am glad to see continued improvement coming out of the Howard workshop. Howards have been around over 27 years and just keep getting better. Anyone with an older Howard might appreciate this latest effort. I highly recommend you try one of the new "two dot" heads. You won't be disappointed!


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PostPosted: Sun Sep 23, 2007 7:59 pm 
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Well, I've had only basic success with the Howard Low D that I own. I've had mine since Jan. '07. It has the new head. I seem to play fine in the lower register (except low D) but moving into the upper register is a problem: can't cover the holes tight enough without using a death grip. I haven't been able to get much higher than high G.

I'm using a piper's grip, but I know I'm not covering those holes. As soon as I try to articulate using cuts everything falls apart, nevermind the slow response time and difficulty making a jump into the upper octave (like low A to high D). Now, I'm willing to accept that maybe I'm just dumb as a brick in the mud, but I don't have troubles playing any of my High D whistles - with articulations, too. I could be gripping the thing all wrong, but I played a Susato Low D fine (I just didn't like it's sound). The reach was a stretch, but I figured I could get used to it.

So I have a theory. Low whistles are made either for guys with small grips with thick fingers or long grips with thin fingers. I have a small grip with thin fingers. All of the videos of Low whistle players I've seen fall into one of the above categories. I haven't seen anybody with my hands (and it's a good thing, too, since I still need them).

I've had Burke Vipers recommended to me and that sounds intriguing since my favorite whistle is a high D brass session Burke, but before I put my Howard up for sale (It's a sweet iridescent metallic green model. I actually rather like its looks), maybe somebody has some suggestions, or better yet photos and videos of somebody with a small grip and thin fingers whaling on one of these puppies. Youtube has so far let me down and Howard's site is sparse to say the least.

~Douglas

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PostPosted: Sun Sep 23, 2007 9:07 pm 
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The Laughing Imp wrote:
Well, I've had only basic success with the Howard Low D that I own. I've had mine since Jan. '07. It has the new head. I seem to play fine in the lower register (except low D) but moving into the upper register is a problem: can't cover the holes tight enough without using a death grip. I haven't been able to get much higher than high G.

I'm using a piper's grip, but I know I'm not covering those holes. As soon as I try to articulate using cuts everything falls apart, nevermind the slow response time and difficulty making a jump into the upper octave (like low A to high D). Now, I'm willing to accept that maybe I'm just dumb as a brick in the mud, but I don't have troubles playing any of my High D whistles - with articulations, too. I could be gripping the thing all wrong, but I played a Susato Low D fine (I just didn't like it's sound). The reach was a stretch, but I figured I could get used to it.

So I have a theory. Low whistles are made either for guys with small grips with thick fingers or long grips with thin fingers. I have a small grip with thin fingers. All of the videos of Low whistle players I've seen fall into one of the above categories. I haven't seen anybody with my hands (and it's a good thing, too, since I still need them).

I've had Burke Vipers recommended to me and that sounds intriguing since my favorite whistle is a high D brass session Burke, but before I put my Howard up for sale (It's a sweet iridescent metallic green model. I actually rather like its looks), maybe somebody has some suggestions, or better yet photos and videos of somebody with a small grip and thin fingers whaling on one of these puppies. Youtube has so far let me down and Howard's site is sparse to say the least.

~Douglas


Douglas, it was over a year before I could fairly consistently get those higher notes in the upper octave, and at least another before I could get them pretty cleanly. One thing I found that helped me, was to turn the tube a bit to the right of the fipple center, which gave me a little easier time of covering the holes on the low end. Try that and see if maybe it will help you too.

Good luck!
annie

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PostPosted: Sun Sep 23, 2007 10:17 pm 
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anniemcu wrote:
Douglas, it was over a year before I could fairly consistently get those higher notes in the upper octave, and at least another before I could get them pretty cleanly. One thing I found that helped me, was to turn the tube a bit to the right of the fipple center, which gave me a little easier time of covering the holes on the low end. Try that and see if maybe it will help you too.

Good luck!
annie


A year!?! Nope. I'm waaaay too impatient for that. I've already done nine months and if that whistle doesn't start cooperating soon I'm forcing it to play baroque music in a recorder quartet. I'll make it wear a tie, too. That'll show it who's boss.

I've actually been experimenting with it a lot tonight. I've come up with the best grip yet - a different variation on the piper's grip. I use both feet and play the Howard using my left nostril. The other grip I've had success with tonight anchors my ring finger's first joint of each hand on the bottom third hole and lets the middle joints of the middle and index fingers cover the other holes. This produces the least amount of fatigue for me, but my thumbs burn after a bit of playing. It seems I still need that death grip. However, I was able to hit high A & B tonight more easily. Progress of sorts. I still wonder if the whistle is a poor fit for me. I have to work at it so much harder than I ever had to with the high Ds. I'm used to picking up an instrument and being able to make music with it pretty quickly. The Howard has really been stubborn comparatively. Wish I lived in an area where I had access to other brands to try out. Then I'd know if it was me or the instrument. Of course, it could be that I shouldn't be using my feet to play it. 8)

~Douglas

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PostPosted: Sun Sep 23, 2007 10:27 pm 
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:lol: Hey.... whatever works!

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PostPosted: Mon Sep 24, 2007 7:00 am 
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Now I don't want to come off all preachy here, and I'm certainly not trying to say that there is only one "right" way to do things, but in my experience you should not have to grip a low whistle tightly at all. It's acutally better to have a loose relaxed grip, not only to avoid muscle fatigue, but also as it allows your fingers to "relax" into the holes, which will create a better seal then trying to squeeze your fingers into them. Now I noticed you said that you had no problem playing the bottom octave. Your "grip" should not change at all when playing the second octave! The only thing that should change is your breath support, mouth/muscle position and air/breath speed. Squeezing the whistle harder will not make it play higher! (unless of course you manage to crush the whistle and reduce the bore size :D ) Try playing a tune you know really well and just concentrate on keeping your hands and fingers relaxed. Your fingers should not be held straight out, but should slightly bend and curl around the top of the whistle just a little bit. (You'll notice that when you relax your fingers they tend to be curved, not straight) Like anything this will feel strange when you first start to do it, especially if you are used to playing with a death grip. But after awhile not only will you notice that you can play longer with less fatigue, but that you will be able to play faster as well. Hope this helps!
P.S. I just got a new metallic green Howard D myself, very hip. 8)

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