What effect does bore size have

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learn2turn
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What effect does bore size have

Post by learn2turn »

I'm a beginner and I was looking at some of my high D whistles comparing bore sizes. I noticed that my Oak slides exactly into my Dixon Trad while my Dixon Trad fits exactly in my Walton Mellow. So now I'm curious. With respect to both sound and playability, what are the effects of bore size? Is there some reference someone can point me to or just post some simple observations on the effect of bore size.
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Re: What effect does bore size have

Post by busterbill »

Each maker or manufacturer will design a whistle with the bore size, the thickness of the walls, the tube length, the hole spacing and the mouthpiece balanced in relation to each other to give the whistle a decent "voice." Some manufactured whistles are better than others. (Most hand made whistles are thoughtfully made and individually tuned. In the case of hand made whistles there is a lot of time and learning that goes into making. But hand made whistles is a different discussion. Oops.)

The bore size for a manufactured whistle with a plastic head is more or less the same, patterned after the Generation whistles which were, if I am not mistaken, the first plastic headed whistles made. But each company was most concerned how the whistle would come out in relation to itself and its parts. So they are often very close to the naked eye, but not interchangeable.

In the last few decades more makers and manufactures have developed a Session Bore whistle. They had to go back to the drawing board to get the measurements right so it would continue to pay well. Session Bore whistles are designed stand out in a crowded session. In these cases the bore is much wider with the idea to make the whistle louder. Which may or may not be necessary, but is certainly popular.

You are among the many who, when faced with handful of whistles started mixing and matching. Welcome to the world of whistling and tinkering. :D
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Re: What effect does bore size have

Post by Narzog »

I'm not an expert, but I've spent more than a little time in my basement making whistles, and own a few.

A common saying that I dont think is true - is that larger bore will have stronger low notes and worse high. But I definitely don't think that's the case, at least not to the degree that people think. My burke A has stronger low end than my tilbury Bb which is a bigger bore. And my burke low F has a very crisp clean high end. Another proof for this is that transverse flutes usually have smaller bores than whistles of the same key. My C keyed concert flute has a really strong low end while having a similar bore size to my Burke low F.

I think bore sizes primary effect is blowing pressure. Whistles like the Freeman G, which is the same bore as the Gen Bb, overblow much easier than the Bb. Any head that fits on two bodies, will overblow easier on the longer tube. You can adjust the windway to not overblow as easily to keep using the same tube size, or you can go a bigger tube size (or both).

An example of this is the Kerry optima F. It uses the same head piece as the Optima low D. Which you would think is going to make one of them play badly, because the head shouldn't work well for D and F. But the headpiece on the F fits on a short tube (which works as the tuning slide), and then the smaller F body tube fits in that, making it a smaller bore than the D. Theres a reason he didnt make the low F the same bore as the D with the same mouthpiece (one would either overblow too easily or too hard, using different tube sizes will help the difference be less extreme).

Theres more to bore size than this, but I think this is a big part of it.

Hopefully this isnt too poorly written and makes some sense. I just woke up from a nap lol...
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Re: What effect does bore size have

Post by pancelticpiper »

I measured the ratio of bore length to bore width of most of the whistles that have passed through my hands, and there's a clear correlation between this ratio and how the whistles play. I plotted the ratios on a graph, and all the whistles that I feel play best are in the same range of ratios.

Which is not to say the head design doesn't have a big impact, it does of course. But given the same head design, wall thickness, and fingerhole sizing and placement the bore ratio does determine how the whistle plays. (In other words all the other factors can be used to mitigate the natural effect of bore ratio to some degree.)

As the bore gets wider the fundamental (the low octave) gets stronger and the First Harmonic (the 2nd octave) becomes harder to achieve. If the bore gets wide enough you loose the 2nd octave altogether. (Yes an improperly made head can make the 2nd octave difficult or impossible too.)

As the bore gets narrower the fundamental gets weaker and the 2nd octave becomes easier to achieve. If the bore gets narrow enough you loose the low octave altogether. (There are Balkan and Turkish flutes with narrow bores that are mostly played in the 2nd and 3rd octaves, which are sweet-playing, but require a quite difficult technique to sound the low octave.)

One thing to keep in mind that that the bore ratio isn't constant across the various sizes of whistles. Rather, as whistles get lower their bores become relatively narrower. So a bore ratio that's narrower than usual for a High D whistle might be normal for a Mezzo A whistle and wider than usual for a Low D whistle.

In other words if you doubled the size of a High D whistle, keeping every proportion identical, you would have an unplayable Low D whistle. (For one thing nobody but Andre The Giant could finger it.)

Different makes of whistles have different tendencies, Burkes have relatively wider bores than usual across their range of sizes, and have stronger low octaves and stiffer 2nd octaves than most whistles do, and consume a greater quantity of air. In response they've come out with "narrow bore" models which are narrow for Burkes but normal for everybody else.

I have an Alba Low E which has a rather narrow bore ratio and I love how it plays. Yes it took some getting used to! But then I began appreciating the advantages of a narrower-bore whistle (extremely sweet easy 2nd octave and greater nimbleness).
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Re: What effect does bore size have

Post by Alaskamike »

pancelticpiper wrote: Thu Jun 10, 2021 5:49 am As the bore gets wider the fundamental (the low octave) gets stronger and the First Harmonic (the 2nd octave) becomes harder to achieve. If the bore gets wide enough you loose the 2nd octave altogether. (Yes an improperly made head can make the 2nd octave difficult or impossible too.)

As the bore gets narrower the fundamental gets weaker and the 2nd octave becomes easier to achieve. If the bore gets narrow enough you loose the low octave altogether. (There are Balkan and Turkish flutes with narrow bores that are mostly played in the 2nd and 3rd octaves, which are sweet-playing, but require a quite difficult technique to sound the low octave.)
So the whistle isn't necessarily quieter, but I don't have to blow as hard to hit the 2nd octave, so I can play it more quietly?
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Re: What effect does bore size have

Post by learn2turn »

pancelticpiper wrote: Thu Jun 10, 2021 5:49 am ...As the bore gets narrower the fundamental gets weaker and the 2nd octave becomes easier to achieve. ...
Not what I would have expected to hear. My narrower bore high-D whistles, Oak, Generation, Feadog, I find to have an ear-splitting second octave and the highest notes-- B,C#,D are very hard to hit. Maybe it's just that they are cheap whistles.

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Re: What effect does bore size have

Post by Sedi »

I found a lot of variation with whistles with injection-molded heads. Some of my Generations are way louder than others while one doesn't really see much difference between them and the tubes are definitely exactly the same. So just the variation of different molds for the mouthpiece can have a huge effect.
The Walton mellow D does play (like the name suggests) surprisingly mellow for what is technically a "large bore" whistle. The tube is the same diameter as for their C model. The heads are interchangeable.
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Re: What effect does bore size have

Post by Peter Duggan »

leearn2turn wrote: Fri Jun 11, 2021 6:56 am
pancelticpiper wrote: Thu Jun 10, 2021 5:49 am ...As the bore gets narrower the fundamental gets weaker and the 2nd octave becomes easier to achieve. ...
Not what I would have expected to hear.
It's simple physics.
My narrower bore high-D whistles, Oak, Generation, Feadog, I find to have an ear-splitting second octave and the highest notes-- B,C#,D are very hard to hit. Maybe it's just that they are cheap whistles.
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Re: What effect does bore size have

Post by Narzog »

I've used a phone app sound meter to measure whistle DB (volume), and while my high whistles arent truly louder, they sure feel louder. I feel like higher pitch of the same volume is less comfortable to the ears.
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Re: What effect does bore size have

Post by rhulsey »

Having spent many years as a pipe organ builder/voicer, there are lots of details that determine how a whistle plays. Bore can be utilized for overall power or tone color, or both. Mouth width (window in whistle-speak) is as important, as is blade height (cutup in an organ pipe). Actually, for something as simple as it appears, it isn't simple from a voicing standpoint from what I can tell. Pat O'Riordan and David Boisvert's whistles were quite similar with narrow mouths, and could make quite an account for themselves at that. I had a set of Grinters once, a high D and low F that had really wide mouths and high cut-ups, and they were beautiful, some of this nicest I have played. I'd expect that combination to require a lot of wind and produce a loud tone, but they really didn't. It's an amazing little instrument in so many ways.
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Re: What effect does bore size have

Post by chas »

learn2turn wrote: Wed Jun 09, 2021 3:37 pm I'm a beginner and I was looking at some of my high D whistles comparing bore sizes. I noticed that my Oak slides exactly into my Dixon Trad while my Dixon Trad fits exactly in my Walton Mellow. So now I'm curious. With respect to both sound and playability, what are the effects of bore size? Is there some reference someone can point me to or just post some simple observations on the effect of bore size.
I think you've partly answered your own question. The Mellow has a larger bore, or, the larger bore is mellow. I found that with my Burkes, too, that the wide-bore is mellower than the small-bore.

Listen to a cornet and a flugelhorn. They're both conical-bore instruments, play the same notes, but the flugelhorn is mellower, and it's generally played more in the lower registers than the cornet.

Of course there's a lot more to the sounds than the bore size, but the bore size contributes quite a bit.
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Re: What effect does bore size have

Post by learn2turn »

You know what is an interesting exercise is.... You should be able to find a free spectrum analyzer app that runs on your smartphone. Maybe on a desktop also but I haven't tried it. I have one called "Spectroid" on my Android phone. I've turned it on and played some whistle notes into it. You can clearly see peaks on the fundamental and several harmonics.

One thing I played with is sometimes I play C# as 000xxx instead of 000000 when I'm going to/from a D so that I can hold onto the whistle and quickly and cleanly raise and lower just three fingers instead of six. When I compare the sound, 000XXX has a clear overtone that is not as bright with 000000. I ran the spectrum analyzer and I could clearly see a peak rise, usually on the 3rd harmonic but if I'm blower harder, also on the 2nd harmonic.

-l2t
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