C Whistle - Transpose or Not

The Ultimate On-Line Whistle Community. If you find one more ultimater, let us know.
rothers
Posts: 2
Joined: Tue Aug 16, 2022 1:53 am
antispam: No
Please enter the next number in sequence: 8
Tell us something.: Want to ask questions about tin whistles, whistles in C v whistles in D and what tutorial books to get.

C Whistle - Transpose or Not

Post by rothers »

I play the Ukulele and read music fluently. A lot of the tunes our group plays are in C and require a low C, for example Whisky in the Jar.

Thought I'd get and learn to play a whistle to add to the mix so got a C whistle.

First problem - it seems 99%, if not 100% of tutor book are for the D whistle and teach D whistle fingering.

Question is should I learn fingering for the C whistle where I consider the bottom note to be it's true pitch of C or should I learn fingering where the bottom note is thought of as D and the C Whistle treated as a transposing instrument.

I've read Bill Ochs book where he recommends playing all Whistles with D fingering and treating all except D whistles as transposing. This makes sense to me as you only need to learn one set of fingering and can play all whistles provided you transpose the music for them appropriately when playing with others.
User avatar
Nanohedron
Moderatorer
Posts: 37500
Joined: Wed Dec 18, 2002 6:00 pm
antispam: No
Please enter the next number in sequence: 8
Tell us something.: Been a fluter, citternist, and uilleann piper; committed now to the way of the harp.

Oh, yeah: also a mod here, not a spammer. A matter of opinion, perhaps.
Location: Lefse country

Re: C Whistle - Transpose or Not

Post by Nanohedron »

rothers wrote: Tue Aug 16, 2022 12:27 pm I've read Bill Ochs book where he recommends playing all Whistles with D fingering and treating all except D whistles as transposing. This makes sense to me as you only need to learn one set of fingering and can play all whistles provided you transpose the music for them appropriately when playing with others.
This is the common practice. If you want to play in C or F, it's far easier to use a C whistle than to finger for C or F on a D whistle (although some people will do that, for instance if they only have a D on hand and they are particularly skillful). For this reason, whistlers will often have a battery of whistles in as many keys as they can get. This is particularly helpful in accommodating singers.

In Trad contexts in general, when it comes to fingering (for winds within the Irish tradition, anyway), the D scale is usually the reference point no matter what key whistle you're playing. When I'm together with other whistlers, trad fluters or uilleann pipers, no matter the pitch of our instruments, we all automatically use the D scale when talking about what we're doing. Eb session? Bb pipes? You still refer to your fingering in the D context, because with few exceptions, that's how the tunes are written out for the most part. So you transpose. While solfege might make more sense in music theory, it never caught on, so the D scale as fingering nomenclature took its place. But this can pose communication problems with theory-based musicians from outside the tradition (as I have personally found), so if you don't read music well, it's good to keep that in mind.
"Time is the wisest counselor of all." - Pericles

"I remain not entirely convinced of it." - Nano
david_h
Posts: 1521
Joined: Mon Aug 13, 2007 2:04 am
Please enter the next number in sequence: 1
Location: Mercia

Re: C Whistle - Transpose or Not

Post by david_h »

It may help to consider that on the Boehm flute and the recorder a 'C instrument' in orchestral terminology has D as the 6-finger note just as on your 'D' tin whistle. On the 'classical' flute (the one before the Boehm) the open holes of a 'C instrument' also play the same scale as your D whistle.

I find that there is rarely much of a communication issue with Boehm flute players - once told that the 'folk instruments' are named after the six finger note they are happy that a D whistle is a 'C instrument' and the other whistles are transposing instruments. Explaining to violinists, or even fiddlers, can be harder.
User avatar
Nanohedron
Moderatorer
Posts: 37500
Joined: Wed Dec 18, 2002 6:00 pm
antispam: No
Please enter the next number in sequence: 8
Tell us something.: Been a fluter, citternist, and uilleann piper; committed now to the way of the harp.

Oh, yeah: also a mod here, not a spammer. A matter of opinion, perhaps.
Location: Lefse country

Re: C Whistle - Transpose or Not

Post by Nanohedron »

david_h wrote: Tue Aug 16, 2022 3:27 pm ...once told that the 'folk instruments' are named after the six finger note they are happy that a D whistle is a 'C instrument'...
Aside from the fact that it ain't. I mean, I get it, but I have to work at it, because that sort of thinking is way outside my theory-poor mindset. To add to the confusion, trad nomenclature for simple-system flutes mirrors that of the whistle: the lowest sixth finger determines what key the flute's said to be in. So if a D flute (in Tradspeak) has lower C# and Cnat keys - and not all do - that doesn't make it a C flute; those keys are simply thought of as add-ons and not considered definitive of the flute's key-identity. But this is parlance, and horses for courses.

So far I haven't had the need to explain such things in any depth to a fiddler; for the most part they seem pretty well housetrained. If they know a whistler's going to play a set on a C whistle, they usually know enough either to finger accordingly if they're up to it, or they tune down. If they don't want to do either, they sit out. I knew one woman who kept 2 fiddles, one at standard tuning for her husband's D pipes (and other musicians' session-standard instruments), and the other was perpetually kept tuned down to go with his B set. IIRC, she even had different strings on that one so it could sound its best. In short, the fingerings they used were the same either way; it's just the pitch that was different.
"Time is the wisest counselor of all." - Pericles

"I remain not entirely convinced of it." - Nano
rothers
Posts: 2
Joined: Tue Aug 16, 2022 1:53 am
antispam: No
Please enter the next number in sequence: 8
Tell us something.: Want to ask questions about tin whistles, whistles in C v whistles in D and what tutorial books to get.

Re: C Whistle - Transpose or Not

Post by rothers »

Many thanks for the advice, certainly got me thinking, some interesting stuff.

While playing my C whistle I now thinking D fingering and it's suddenly got a lot easier, probably awakened some long forgotten finger memory from when I used to play the descant recorder.
david_h
Posts: 1521
Joined: Mon Aug 13, 2007 2:04 am
Please enter the next number in sequence: 1
Location: Mercia

Re: C Whistle - Transpose or Not

Post by david_h »

Nanohedron wrote: Tue Aug 16, 2022 7:19 pm
david_h wrote: Tue Aug 16, 2022 3:27 pm ...they are happy that a D whistle is a 'C instrument'...
Aside from the fact that it ain't.
At a mixed instruments workshop where they have sheets of dots on the table I go for the pile that says 'C instruments', not the one that says 'Bb instruments' or whatever it is the French horn player picks up.

'Orchestral types' don't seem confused that a baroque flute which only goes down to D or a Boehm with a B foot are still 'C instruments'. Just as the extra hole for a low C on my whistle doesn't make it a C whistle.
User avatar
Nanohedron
Moderatorer
Posts: 37500
Joined: Wed Dec 18, 2002 6:00 pm
antispam: No
Please enter the next number in sequence: 8
Tell us something.: Been a fluter, citternist, and uilleann piper; committed now to the way of the harp.

Oh, yeah: also a mod here, not a spammer. A matter of opinion, perhaps.
Location: Lefse country

Re: C Whistle - Transpose or Not

Post by Nanohedron »

rothers wrote: Wed Aug 17, 2022 2:45 am While playing my C whistle I now thinking D fingering and it's suddenly got a lot easier ...
:thumbsup:
"Time is the wisest counselor of all." - Pericles

"I remain not entirely convinced of it." - Nano
Narzog
Posts: 442
Joined: Mon Jun 08, 2020 9:21 pm
antispam: No
Please enter the next number in sequence: 8
Tell us something.: Can play several instruments at an unimpressive level. Currently most interested in whistling with a side of acoustic guitar.

Re: C Whistle - Transpose or Not

Post by Narzog »

This has already been stated but definitely learn 'D fingering' and use others to transpose. So if you want to paly a D tune in C, you play it on your C whistle with the same fingering you would on your D whistle.

With one exception. It can be worth learning the one alternative fingering worth playing, which is key of G on a D whistle. Using oxx ooo. due to the whistles limited range, some songs just play better this way. But it can also be used for some tunes when you dont have a low D, but you can play on an A as a fake low D (because an /A can play in D the same way a D can play in G).

Then you still use this to transpose with different key whistles. I dont learn songs/tunes in both fingerings. I will use whatever one works best. Some tunes you will find easier to play on a D playing in g, some in the same key on a G whistle. Etc. I wont try to learn the same song in the same key with two different fingerings, it just throws me off and wastes time.

You dont need to put too much thought or worry into this though. If you are using a tunebook and it says to play oxx ooo, you're already doing it without knowing. If you want a bit of music theory, which most people dont care for: D and G are all the same notes, minus 1. oxx ooo, instead ooo ooo, creates the 1 missing note in the scale. (the scale starts on G tho not D). Then because music can be shifted, this is why it works the same on every whistle key.
User avatar
Nanohedron
Moderatorer
Posts: 37500
Joined: Wed Dec 18, 2002 6:00 pm
antispam: No
Please enter the next number in sequence: 8
Tell us something.: Been a fluter, citternist, and uilleann piper; committed now to the way of the harp.

Oh, yeah: also a mod here, not a spammer. A matter of opinion, perhaps.
Location: Lefse country

Re: C Whistle - Transpose or Not

Post by Nanohedron »

The crossfingered Cnat is an essential part of the fingering toolkit IMO, because with it you can play not only in the key of G as Narzog pointed out, but other scales as well: in major, minor, and mixolydian modes, beginning up and down the reach of the toneholes. For example, if you play a D run with a Cnat instead of the usual C#, then you have D mixolydian, and mixolydian's a prominent mode in Trad (as well as in pop music, for that matter). The thing to do is play various scales and see if the Cnat works or doesn't. Actually, you can do a G run with C# - an interesting and exotic-sounding scale - but if Trad's your thing, you might never have need of it. Play with the scales and see what you get.

Narzog recommended the most usual form of crossfingering for Cnat: oxxooo. Most whistles respond well for the note with this fingering, and it's what I use - not out of preference, but because that's what works on my whistles. But since not all whistle makes are alike, there can be other fingerings too, like oxoooo or oxoxxo, depending on the whistle's characteristics. No doubt there are others.
"Time is the wisest counselor of all." - Pericles

"I remain not entirely convinced of it." - Nano
User avatar
stringbed
Posts: 34
Joined: Tue Apr 12, 2022 9:36 am
antispam: No
Please enter the next number in sequence: 8
Tell us something.: I’ve been playing woodwind instruments for nearly 70 years and am deeply interested in their history, technology, and performance practice.
Contact:

Re: C Whistle - Transpose or Not

Post by stringbed »

Nanohedron wrote: Wed Aug 17, 2022 6:57 pm The crossfingered Cnat is an essential part of the fingering toolkit IMO
It’s quite easy to adjust the tuning of the cross-fingered C by covering the upper portion of the top hole with a piece of tape. Depending on the model, close to half of the hole can often be covered without muffling the sound or detuning any other notes to an unacceptable extent. (“Taping” is to tuning what the “blu-tack” hack is to voicing.)

I'm not certain how relevant the comparison is between the way whistle fingerings are conceptualized relative to those of the recorder. The sizes of the latter are now largely standardized to F (sopranino, alto, bass; equivalent to G whistles) and C (soprano, tenor, contrabass; equivalent to D whistles). Players know and use both C and F fingerings and recorders are not treated as transposing instruments.
User avatar
pancelticpiper
Posts: 5111
Joined: Mon Jul 10, 2006 7:25 am
antispam: No
Please enter the next number in sequence: 8
Tell us something.: Playing Scottish and Irish music in California for 45 years.
These days many discussions are migrating to Facebook but I prefer the online chat forum format.
Location: WV to the OC

Re: C Whistle - Transpose or Not

Post by pancelticpiper »

If I am writing out music for whistle I write as if I'm writing for a D whistle, and use whichever key whistle is needed to get the right "sounding" pitch.

There are times when it's helpful if you know the "sounding" pitches of the various whistles you use to play along with other musicians; not knowing them can lead to miscommunication.

For example knowing that xxx|ooo is Eb on your Bb whistle helps if you're doing a church gig and they tell you they're doing Be Thou My Vision in Eb. (Grab your tiny Generation Eb whistle and you'll get the dogs howling.)
Richard Cook
c1980 Quinn uilleann pipes
1945 Starck Highland pipes
Goldie Low D whistle
User avatar
NicoMoreno
Posts: 2077
Joined: Tue Jun 26, 2001 6:00 pm
antispam: No
Please enter the next number in sequence: 12
Location: Detroit, Michigan

Re: C Whistle - Transpose or Not

Post by NicoMoreno »

Nanohedron wrote: Tue Aug 16, 2022 7:19 pm
david_h wrote: Tue Aug 16, 2022 3:27 pm ...once told that the 'folk instruments' are named after the six finger note they are happy that a D whistle is a 'C instrument'...
Aside from the fact that it ain't.
No, it really is. There are two naming conventions happening at once:
1. Traditional naming convention, where the instrument's pitch is whatever actually sounds when you play a D fingering
2. Classical naming convention, where the instrument's pitch is whatever actually sounds when you play a C fingering
In both naming conventions, if the pitch that comes out is the same as the fingering (ie D sounds when you play a D OR C when you play a C) then the instrument is concert pitched, otherwise it is a transposing instrument.

It's only confusing if you aren't clear which naming convention you're using. A concert pitch Boehm flute is a C instrument in classical terminology and a D instrument in the traditional world. A concert pitch simple system flute (even 8, 9, 12 or whatever keyed version of it) is the same.

By the way, there's at least one more naming convention - bansuri naming convention. There're probably more, too! And one more aside, concert pitch tinwhistles (ie a regular D whistle) and piccolos are technically transposing instruments, because the D (or C) is actually an octave above what is written.
User avatar
stringbed
Posts: 34
Joined: Tue Apr 12, 2022 9:36 am
antispam: No
Please enter the next number in sequence: 8
Tell us something.: I’ve been playing woodwind instruments for nearly 70 years and am deeply interested in their history, technology, and performance practice.
Contact:

Re: C Whistle - Transpose or Not

Post by stringbed »

On a "concert instrument" what the player regards as a C also sounds a C. On a "transposing instrument" a played C produces a different sounding pitch. If it is a Bb, the instrument may be termed a Bb cornet, clarinet, saxophone, or whatever. When someone plays a C on a D whistle it sounds a C — it is not a transposing instrument. The same fingering on a C whistle sounds a Bb — it is a transposing instrument. Tin whistles are designated by their six-finger notes or, if one prefers the alternate conceptualization, by their primary major key. This does not alter the definition of a transposing instrument. Octave shifts do not weigh into it either and are typically quantified as ”sounds an octave above/below notation.”
Last edited by stringbed on Thu Aug 18, 2022 11:38 am, edited 1 time in total.
User avatar
NicoMoreno
Posts: 2077
Joined: Tue Jun 26, 2001 6:00 pm
antispam: No
Please enter the next number in sequence: 12
Location: Detroit, Michigan

Re: C Whistle - Transpose or Not

Post by NicoMoreno »

That's what I said, but more verbosely! Except for the octave shift part - that's not actually correct. If you read a middle C (ie the C below the staff) and sound an octave above, then technically you are playing a transposing instrument. But as I said in my previous post and in this one, that's a technicality. It's not something most people worry about.
User avatar
stringbed
Posts: 34
Joined: Tue Apr 12, 2022 9:36 am
antispam: No
Please enter the next number in sequence: 8
Tell us something.: I’ve been playing woodwind instruments for nearly 70 years and am deeply interested in their history, technology, and performance practice.
Contact:

Re: C Whistle - Transpose or Not

Post by stringbed »

NicoMoreno wrote: Thu Aug 18, 2022 11:37 am If you read a middle C (ie the C below the staff) and sound an octave above, then technically you are playing a transposing instrument. But as I said in my previous post and in this one, that's a technicality. It's not something most people worry about.
I guess I’m the oddball who does care about such distinctions but will extend the discussion here a bit longer in the belief that I may not be truly alone. Octave shifts are not regarded as transposition in any discussion of transposing instruments I’ve ever encountered in such things as textbooks on composition and orchestration. I’d appreciate any pointer(s) you might be willing to provide to sources that might broaden my (our?) perspective on this.
Post Reply