The search for "the holy whistle grale".

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TheSinger
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The search for "the holy whistle grale".

Post by TheSinger »

The topic for this post might be a bit vague, but that’s because I don’t have a specific question, nor something I would like to write about. Rather, I would just like to share my whistle journeywith you, and perhaps some of the topics addressed will evoke discussions along the way. First, let me excuse my English in advance. I come from Norway, and so Norwegian is my first language.
First, I need to thank many of the people writing on this forum. You have been an immense resource and source to knowledge throughout my whistle search.
A bit of background about me: I work freelance as a professional singer, and I’m also educated as a music therapist. Music has been a huge part of my life, on many levels. I love it, and hate it. Especially training as a classical singer made me question if music really was something that I wanted to do professionally.
So, in 2018 I found myself in a music store, wanting to buy a pan flute. Being a musician, and having played a bit of this and that, I thought I could make the flute work at once. However, that wasn’t the case at all, and after a couple of seconds I realized that this wasn’t an instrument I would want in my life, nor would it want me. :) I asked the store owner if he had any other interesting flutes or whistles, and he gave me my first low D. It was a Tony Dixon tunable model, and I knew from the moment I had it in my hands that I had found my instrument. I could barely make it sound at once, but just knew I needed it. So I bought it, and it didn’t take a lot of time before I could play on the whistle. I had been playing The recorder earlier, and this wasn’t very different. However, it didn’t take me long before I realized that I had started at the wrong end of things, at least according to many people. So, I bought a high D clark, and found myself diving headfirst into the Irish music.
It took me two years to realize that there was a world of whistles out there, and when the pandemic hit the timing was perfect for me to start looking around at other instruments.
One thing which might be a bit different with me is that I was much more interested in finding the right instruments, rather than learning so much about the tunes and the playing technique. I love the Irish traditional music, but really, I play everything on my whistles. Although I do music for a living, finding the whistle, and especially the low whistles, seems to be more like a therapeutic, spiritual thing for me, rather than the professional musician thing. So there I was, buying a lot of instruments. First, many low D’s. Chieftains, Kerry, mk, McManus. The journey of getting the different instruments, trying them out, comparing them, and departing from them was a very fascinating adventure. Which is maybe one of the reasons I’m writing this text here, because my family and close ones don’t really understand. However, having read a lot on this forum, I’m sure many of you do.
Backpressure was the word that I came across very quickly, and something I took on board as being a very important thing. I used to play the trumpet back in the day, and so I was looking for the whistles that had the most back pressure. However, I soon realized that this wasn’t important in the way that I thought it was. Getting to know the actual instrument, and discover what it can and cannot do, seems to be much more important than finding the perfect back pressure for me. I have been playing gigs on my Goldie low D medium hard blower, still managing to make the whistle squeak, because I pushed too hard. On the other hand, I have been playing gigs on my mk low C, which has no back pressure whatsoever, compared to the Goldie, but the whistle didn’t squeak at all. I’m not telling this to compare the two whistles, only to say that for me it seems much more important to adapt to the actual instrument.
When I started ordering whistles directly from Colin, I thought that I wanted to find the perfect number, so that I could have all my whistles with the same back pressure. However, both through playing his instruments, and through talking to him, I have learned, and I’m still learning, that the whistle is a much more complex instrument than I ever thought. And that there are so many different aspects to what makes a whistle great. One time, while I was talking to him on the phone doing ordering, he said that finding your perfect whistle was kind of like finding your perfect magic wand. I truly agree with that. It seems to me like it is a combination of knowledge, and being clear on what I want, but also some sort of magic. It’s hard to believe in, because you need to experience it before you can really trust in it.
So, coming back to the title about the holy grail, is it possible to find it? I don’t know anymore. Searching for the perfect whistles has left me realizing that it’s all about compromises. Almost all about compromises I should say.
For a few years, I have been very interested in the different musical keys. Not just because they sound different in pitch, but also because of the symbolic meanings hidden in all of them. I’m posting a link at the end here, that takes you to a page where this is briefly discussed. I’m mentioning this here, because for me when it came to finding the perfect whistle for me, considering the key became important. I think maybe we can use different categories when we talk about perfect whistles: the perfect whistle on the stage. The perfect whistle for sessions. The perfect whistle for relaxing and chilling out. Etc.
With that in mind, I will actually say that I have found the whistle that feels kind of like my personal magic wand. It’s rarely a whistle I take to gigs, because it’s a very rare and unusual key, but it’s a whistle that always brings peace to my soul.It's a Goldie C# mediumblower. A few years ago, I would try and figure out why this feels like the perfect whistle for me, but now I’ve just given up on that. It just feels right. Playing it and experiencing it is way more important than thinking about it and trying to figure out why it works.
But, it’s funny, because I have other whistles which also feels like perfect whistles for me. It all change from day today, depending on my mood, and what I want.
before I finish I will just briefly mention that parting with my whistles has been an important part of my journey as well. When I started buying a lot of instruments, I thought I would always keep them all. But, I realized after a while that having good instruments hanging around that I never played it was a shame. So selling them to someone that actually uses them is a very nice thing I think.
Thank you for having read through this. And thank you for all that I’ve learned on this page.
Thomas

https://wmich.edu/mus-theo/courses/keys.html
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Jerry Freeman
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Re: The search for "the holy whistle grale".

Post by Jerry Freeman »

C&F members, please don't come after me on the grounds that I am guilty of self promotion. I am only mentioning this in an effort to be helpful.

Have you ever tried my tweaked whistles? There are many for whom one or another of my whistles is their longtime favorite.

(I am good friends with John Sindt, Jacob Goldfinch, Colin Goldie, Rob Gándara, etc. We all think well of each other and there is no sense that we are somehow in competition.)

With my best wishes,
Jerry Freeman
You can purchase my whistles on eBay:

https://www.ebay.com/sch/freemanwhistle ... pg=&_from=

or directly from me:

email jerry ("at") freemanwhistles ("dot") com or send a PM.
Narzog
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Re: The search for "the holy whistle grale".

Post by Narzog »

My thoughts on the perfect whistle has changed many times over the years. Part of me still thinks that some whistles do more thing 'right' than others. but at the same time, its just preference. Something I think a whistle does bad at somebody else might like, or at least not be bugged by. So to me the perfect whistle is something that either does the best job at what you want, or what you like. Not necessarily both. Because someone could like easy over blowing, quiet, small bores. But if they also need it to play live acoustically outside, they may find the 'best' is something that's a big bore with a hard push that has a strong loud low end that will be easy for the listener to hear. Which is the opposite of what they 'like'.

I can relate to starting whistle and taking up irish music after. Its just a good way to learn the instrument, and I could only listen to so many wihstle reviews playing irish tunes before I had to learn some of them. But I've been trying to go back to my roots and learn non irish things on the whistle. It just feels weird to me only playing irish tunes on the whistle when I never even listen to irish music outside of whistle playing, and can't actually call myself an irish music person. but I still appreciate irish tunes and plan to keep learning more. I just need to also learn other things.

Knowing what you actually want is really important when buying whistles. Or even more importantly, knowing what you DON'T want. I feel like in whistles, the things you dont like are what matters lol. for example. I was talking to Ronaldo Reyburn about his low F and said I want a low F that has a strong low end. He said I'd love his low F. Which I ended up returning, because I thought it used too much air and took too much push. But it had the most massive strong low end imaginable on a low f. It was incredibly good at what it does, so I'm not dissing his low f. But my point is I didn't really know what I wanted. What I really want is the strongest low end I can get while still being air efficient, because air hogs bug me. so the air efficiency out weighs my want for a strong low end. But if it had 0 low end, I'd also be mad. So it cant do any of the don'ts.

My thoughts on getting similar whistles. Yes different whistles and keys will play differently. And what you want may change by the day or where you are playing (in your room, live, etc). My reason to try and get ones that play similarly, is it just helps to play them all well. I completely suck at playing Generations and Feadogs. The breath curve to blow them in tune is just different than my MK, Reyburn, Burke's Alba, etc. So while I could try to learn to play them, and be able to play my others, its just a lot easier to play ones that play similarly. This makes it much easier to switch between keys and whistles and still play well. And while whistle is my primary instrument, its not my only instrument. So the less effort I have to spend learning to play a specific whistle, the better.

Because I can't manage to not go off topic on any thread, what are your thoughts of the MK low C, and have you played an MK low D? I like my MK low D so the MK low C is on my list of possible low C's to get. A lot of low C's seem to overblow too easily and have a weak low end. Which I wont like. And you said it has no backpressure, which is weird because that usually means bad air efficiency. But the MK low D has excellent air efficiency. So I'm wondering how it compares to that. I actually have a custom Reyburn low C#, and its amazing. I think it would be an even better low C or B, but he doesnt have a big enough lathe to make me a lower body haha...
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RoberTunes
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Re: The search for "the holy whistle grale".

Post by RoberTunes »

A "PERFECT" whistle, is dependent on the wants of the user.
At a minimum, for myself, I'd say there would be at least 5 different tone types and at least three different types of playability,
in whistles I'd want, to feel like I had the full balance, for different musical needs at different times. And that's for just
one key, such as high D or G or something. Once you try to find your favorites in (for example), keys of high D, an alto key
or two, and one or two lower keys, you're dealing with quite different instruments. A "perfect" high D, once you've found it, doesn't necessarily
translate that the same whistle model would also be your choice of "perfect" for other keys.
So, "perfect" would soon be a list of 5+ or even 10+ instruments, because you'd find the best of whistles for producing the tones
and playability you want, in various ranges of keys.
There is a parallel to this situation with most other instruments.
Make up a checklist of the features in a whistle you want, for high, alto and low ranges,
then you're ready to start searching for you're choices of "perfect".
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pancelticpiper
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Re: The search for "the holy whistle grale".

Post by pancelticpiper »

TheSinger wrote: Wed Jul 13, 2022 2:10 pm There I was, buying a lot of instruments. First, many low D’s. Chieftains, Kerry, mk, McManus. The journey of getting the different instruments, trying them out, comparing them, and departing from them was a very fascinating adventure.

I started ordering whistles directly from Colin...and through talking to him I have learned, and am still learning, that the whistle is a much more complex instrument than I ever thought. And that there are so many different aspects to what makes a whistle great.

So, coming back to the title about the holy grail, is it possible to find it?
Good for you! You're on the right track for sure.

You're doing pretty much what I did around 15 years ago when I realised that my fluteplaying days were done, and that whistle was going to become my main ITM instrument.

For myself, I did find the Holy Grail. Oh, and some great whistles too.

I'm more of a Low Whistle guy and after trying dozens of makes of Low D I settled on the Goldie. I love my Goldie Low C and F too, and my Alba Bass A.

For high whistles my Grail has always been the classic Generation sound, for me perfectly embodied in the Generation C that I bought around 40 years ago.

At the same time I bought this Feadog D, which has been my favourite High D. (I know there's an amazing Generation D out there somewhere, my Holy Grail of High D's, but I've yet to find it.)

Image
Richard Cook
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Re: The search for "the holy whistle grale".

Post by Jerry Freeman »

That's the first design Feadog, popularly called the Feadog "Mark I." There have been four Feadog whistlehead designs and most people consider the Mark I to be the best of them all (as do I). Wonderful velvety tone.

Yes, that's a Holy Grail of the traditional whistles, along with some of the best of the pre-1980s Generations. There are some of those classic Generations still circulating that were cherry picked between around 1953 when they were first introduced and 1980 or so before Generation changed their tooling and the design changed.
You can purchase my whistles on eBay:

https://www.ebay.com/sch/freemanwhistle ... pg=&_from=

or directly from me:

email jerry ("at") freemanwhistles ("dot") com or send a PM.
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pancelticpiper
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Re: The search for "the holy whistle grale".

Post by pancelticpiper »

Jerry Freeman wrote: Thu Jul 14, 2022 10:51 am That's the first design Feadog, popularly called the Feadog "Mark I." There have been four Feadog whistlehead designs and most people consider the Mark I to be the best of them all (as do I). Wonderful velvety tone.
As I recall several years ago you sent me a tweaked Feadog D for me to try. I compared it to that c1980 Feadog and they were uncannily close.

As I remember, at the time I thought it was the second-best D I'd ever played.

Sindts are really close to good vintage Generations and Feadogs too. I compared that old Feadog to a Sindt D and while the performance was very similar, the Feadog had a slightly darker more complex tone.

Ditto with a Freeman Generation Bb and the Sindt Bb I used to have; the Sindt lacked that Generation something.
Richard Cook
c1980 Quinn uilleann pipes
1945 Starck Highland pipes
Goldie Low D whistle
TheSinger
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Re: The search for "the holy whistle grale".

Post by TheSinger »

Narzog, thanks for your question! I'll give you my thoughts and impressions, because yes, I do have an MKPro low D as well.
First, let me rephrase myself, because the MK low C does have backpressure :) When I said it didn’t, I was comparing it to my Goldie low C, which is a hard blower. Compared to that, it virtually takes no air pressure whatsoever for the notes to break on the MK. Having had the Goldie for a shorter time than the MK I will say this:
The MK Low C compared to the Goldie low C has a weeker low end. It's easier to overblow than the Goldie. I do like how it sounds though... My reason to get the Goldie low C, was because of the spacing between the two lowest holes on the MK just was to much of a strech for me. To play it comfortably, I need to use my little finger, and all though possible, I just don't want to spend time on teaching my brain a new fingering technique.
And now to the question you actually asked:
The low C basically feels like a slightly bigger version of the low D, which is what it is :) The tube is the same, mouth peace is the same. The spaces between the holes are almost the same, except between the two lowest ones. In general, the first octave is easier to overblow on the MkC, which for my personal taste is not what I prefer. I like to push the notes a lot. I need to nurture it a bit more, than on the D.
If it hadn't been for the long strech, I would stay with it. Now, I'm considdering celling it.

pancelticpiper: I wrote in my first post that I needed to thank all the people in the forum for everything I've learned. I should have mentioned you spesificaly. Your comments have been extraordinaryly helpful in my search. Actually, in some ways you're responsible for me getting several Goldie whistles. My favorite low D is a Goldie medium hard blower (0,85, and I just love it. I still have my MK low D hanging around, but I'll probably let it go. I love the MKSound, but the overall feeling of the Goldieis just closer to my heart.
From loweest to highest, this is what I've got at the moment:
Goldie Low C (Love it)
MkPro low C (Will probably cell it do to big finger spacing)
Goldie low C# (love it)
Goldie low D (It's a keeper)
MKPro low D (probably let it go)
Goldie low Eb - small bore (Beautiful chamber music whistle)
MkPro low E (My first MK, so it needs to stay)
Goldie low F (perfect...)
MKPro low F# (Good whistle, but don't know if I need it)
MkPro low Ab (Love the key, but rarely use it)
Goldie A (Keeper)
McManus A (truly a beauty, but don't know if I need it)
Goldie Bb (Great)
Busker B (Rarely use it, but good for certain keys and tunes)
Goldie soprano C (very sweet)
Goldie soprano D (I got this just for fun, and really enjoy it)
Mcmanus D (it’s a beautiful handcrafted instrument, and I think it would be better off with someone who actually uses it)
Well! No one asked to hear about my collection, but now I have sorted my head out nevertheless :)
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Re: The search for "the holy whistle grale".

Post by Narzog »

Do freeman whistles fill the sides and cavity under the windway? To me the biggest thing in if I like a whistle or not, is if it has flat / filled in sides in the windway haha. I'm not sure who did it first. At some point tube head whistle makers realized they can just make things to fill the sides to have the same effect as ones that have flat sides. But to me the tuning curve is night and day different. I honestly like the tone on Gen and Feadogs. I just hate how the tuning curve feels vs my others. So if Freeman tweaked have the tuning curve of my others but the more trad tone of Gen and Feadogs I'd probobly pick one up. Luckily for me I'm also a low whistle guy so I can live decently without a high d.

I see that the original feadog has flat sides on the outside. So if it has less empty side space on the inside id probobly like it a lot lot more than the newer versions.
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Re: The search for "the holy whistle grale".

Post by Jerry Freeman »

I have observed that filling the cavity under the windway with something like poster putty deadens the sound and takes away some of the birdlike brightness. It took a decade or more to find a solution that I was happy with. I needed something that would be opaque to air but transparent to sound, like the acoustically transparent fabric that is used to cover loudspeakers. Eventually I developed an open lattice that is porous enough for sound not to be impeded but sufficiently closed that air will cling to it enough to create a boundary that prevents the airstream from swirling randomly into the cavity under the windway, which is one of the things that causes the notes to become unstable and "dirty" sounding.

I've never found any need to fill the sides of the mouthpiece. One thing that might do is cause the octaves to play out of tune from each other (or alternately it might correct them if they are out of tune with each other in the first place). In flutes, one moves the position of the plug that defines the upper end of that space to adjust the octave tuning. Alternate flute designs use a wedge or spike that fills some of that space, as a way to adjust the octave tuning. Anything you do that increases or decreases the volume of the airspace in the headjoint will have an effect on the tuning between the octaves.
You can purchase my whistles on eBay:

https://www.ebay.com/sch/freemanwhistle ... pg=&_from=

or directly from me:

email jerry ("at") freemanwhistles ("dot") com or send a PM.
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Re: The search for "the holy whistle grale".

Post by TheSinger »

Well, I have two correct some of the things I wrote above. I just had a long play on the Goldie low D and C, and the MK low D and C. I said that the space between the two lowest holes on the MK C was much bigger than on the Goldie, and then I couldn’t cover it with my regular finger position. However, that wasn’t true. The space is slightly smaller on the Goldie, but I have realized that I can use the same finger position as always on the Mk low C.
In general, it seems like the Goldie low D and C both are slightly more air efficient than the MK's, but now that I figure out how to actually play the low C, I might keep all of them. They are such different instruments, with very different tones and qualities.
I wanted to only have one whistle for each key, but maybe I should make an exception for the low C and D :)
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Re: The search for "the holy whistle grale".

Post by Narzog »

TheSinger wrote: Fri Jul 15, 2022 7:27 am Well, I have two correct some of the things I wrote above. I just had a long play on the Goldie low D and C, and the MK low D and C. I said that the space between the two lowest holes on the MK C was much bigger than on the Goldie, and then I couldn’t cover it with my regular finger position. However, that wasn’t true. The space is slightly smaller on the Goldie, but I have realized that I can use the same finger position as always on the Mk low C.
In general, it seems like the Goldie low D and C both are slightly more air efficient than the MK's, but now that I figure out how to actually play the low C, I might keep all of them. They are such different instruments, with very different tones and qualities.
I wanted to only have one whistle for each key, but maybe I should make an exception for the low C and D :)
I have the same issue, I have several low D's. I dont need them, but I dont want to sell either of them.

You should hold onto them at least for a while so you can really pick a favorite, if you ever do. But even then you can still keep them. My logic is when you factor in the cost of living, food, rent, etc. a whistle is worth nothing. So there's no shame in keeping the ones you play less.
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Re: The search for "the holy whistle grale".

Post by CPA »

pancelticpiper wrote: Thu Jul 14, 2022 10:04 am
TheSinger wrote: Wed Jul 13, 2022 2:10 pm There I was, buying a lot of instruments. First, many low D’s. Chieftains, Kerry, mk, McManus. The journey of getting the different instruments, trying them out, comparing them, and departing from them was a very fascinating adventure.

I started ordering whistles directly from Colin...and through talking to him I have learned, and am still learning, that the whistle is a much more complex instrument than I ever thought. And that there are so many different aspects to what makes a whistle great.

So, coming back to the title about the holy grail, is it possible to find it?
Good for you! You're on the right track for sure.

You're doing pretty much what I did around 15 years ago when I realised that my fluteplaying days were done, and that whistle was going to become my main ITM instrument.

For myself, I did find the Holy Grail. Oh, and some great whistles too.

I'm more of a Low Whistle guy and after trying dozens of makes of Low D I settled on the Goldie. I love my Goldie Low C and F too, and my Alba Bass A.

For high whistles my Grail has always been the classic Generation sound, for me perfectly embodied in the Generation C that I bought around 40 years ago.

At the same time I bought this Feadog D, which has been my favourite High D. (I know there's an amazing Generation D out there somewhere, my Holy Grail of High D's, but I've yet to find it.)

Image
For me, the Holy Grail of high D Whistle is the whistle that has the sweetest sound and the easiest and smoothest transition between octaves. For my playing I think I found this characteristic in the narrow bore Burke whistles and in the Lir whistles. However, I consider these whistles "pure" that is almost like instruments for making classical or orchestral music, so I must confess that the sound of Generation and Feadòg is so deeply ethnic and typical for me that for some time I have been really tempted to ask to Jerry Freeman for having a version with a rectified mouthpiece, so that they approach the playability of the others but without losing their basic characteristics.
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Re: The search for "the holy whistle grale".

Post by CPA »

pancelticpiper wrote: Thu Jul 14, 2022 1:06 pm
Jerry Freeman wrote: Thu Jul 14, 2022 10:51 am That's the first design Feadog, popularly called the Feadog "Mark I." There have been four Feadog whistlehead designs and most people consider the Mark I to be the best of them all (as do I). Wonderful velvety tone.
As I recall several years ago you sent me a tweaked Feadog D for me to try. I compared it to that c1980 Feadog and they were uncannily close.

As I remember, at the time I thought it was the second-best D I'd ever played.

Sindts are really close to good vintage Generations and Feadogs too. I compared that old Feadog to a Sindt D and while the performance was very similar, the Feadog had a slightly darker more complex tone.

Ditto with a Freeman Generation Bb and the Sindt Bb I used to have; the Sindt lacked that Generation something.
Perhaps some consideration should also be made for the high-D whistles of polymer resin. At first I had some doubts about the Susato, then when I heard them play by Ron Korb, together with the Vancouver Metropolitan Orchestra, I was very impressed.
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Re: The search for "the holy whistle grale".

Post by Narzog »

Am a proud Goldie low D (soft blower) owner as of today. Only got to play it for like 5-10 mins so far cuz I need to get on with my day. My immediate impressions is that its a stronger and less mellow than the MK. The low end can be pushed harder but its easier to hit the top of second octave. Wider but shorter windway so it uses similar air use, maybe a hair less but is close. Its definitely easier to get squeaks and weird noises from. But thats not truly a bad thing, it just means you need to be better to play it. The MK is virtually impossible to make bad sounds with. I'd say MK is more newer player friendly. Someone who doesnt want to deal with squeaks and wants the easiest thing to play would probobly like an Mk more. The Goldie I can see being better when I'm adjusted to it more. But on the topic of holy grail whistles, I do feel like Goldie has to overall be one of the best low D's (and makers in general). No low D will be perfect for everyone and every use. but the Goldie does seem to do a lot of things really well.

I obviously cant post a credibly Goldie vs MK review after playing it for 5 minutes, I just wanted to post about my Goldie haha.
Last edited by Narzog on Tue Aug 09, 2022 8:50 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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