C Whistle - Transpose or Not

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Re: C Whistle - Transpose or Not

Post by NicoMoreno »

No, of course not. When you play a Bb whistle (trad convention), what note sounds when you play OXXOOO? Hint, it's not C! Whatever note is produced with respect to the fingering for the note C, which for whistles is OXXOOO, is the name in classical terminology.

Why do traditional musicians call it a Bb whistle? Because when you play the fingering XXX XXX (ie the fingering for the note D), you get... a Bb.
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Re: C Whistle - Transpose or Not

Post by stringbed »

NicoMoreno wrote: Fri Aug 19, 2022 12:44 pm …I call that a D, and it's sounding as a D, so I'm calling this a concert pitch instrument, aka a D instrument…
It’s a point I failed to make in my previous contribution to this discussion but maybe I’ll fare better this time. The concept of concert-pitched instruments is defined independently of the context-sensitive nomenclatures used to designate the sizes of instruments. Any instrument that sounds a D (or E or F or G) when the player is producing what they regard as a note with the same name, is at concert pitch by definition. This is commonly reflected in the way the performer labels their instruments — in one way or another — but the naming conventions are a separate issue.

“Concert pitch” itself is the A to which an instrument is tuned, or a group tunes. It has varied over the range of about a major third over its entire known history and musicians have often needed to deal with more than one clearly different level. Present-day recorder players have to play at modern A440, and at least two earlier but contemporaneous Baroque standards, A415 and A390. They need separate but nominally identical instruments for each and, bracing myself for what may happen next, that’s the root of what are now treated as transposing instruments.
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Re: C Whistle - Transpose or Not

Post by Nanohedron »

I should point out that in ITM parlance, flutes and uilleann pipes with a D bell note are termed as being at "concert pitch". Something to keep in mind, just in case future discussions arise.
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Re: C Whistle - Transpose or Not

Post by david_h »

NicoMoreno wrote: Fri Aug 19, 2022 10:56 am Recall my first post on this thread:
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
I was going to reply to that directly afterwards, saying I thought it was very succinct and clear, but I went for a walk instead.

On my walk I realised that rather than "when you play a C [or D] fingering" might be better put as "when you play the fingering for the note that is C [or D] in standard staff notation written out for your instrument." I surmise that when learning a 'Bb instrument' one is told what fingering makes the C note on the stave (even though what sounds is not a C)). I have heard a clarinet player when asked for an A respond with "my A or concert A" as if they were normally thinking of the notes named as written not as sounding. Like a whistler playing a C whistle may still think of the 6 finger note as D.
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Re: C Whistle - Transpose or Not

Post by Peter Duggan »

NicoMoreno wrote: Fri Aug 19, 2022 12:44 pm Fun counter example, and going back the OP, I've just learned that unlike most instrument families (whistles, flutes, pipes, clarinets, saxophones), recorders don't do this
Yes, and no...
so a Soprano recorder player will play X XXX OOO O and call it a G (full disclosure, I don't know recording fingering schemes, so this is a guess and probably wrong)
Called and sounding G, so not wrong.
but an Alto recorder played will play the same fingering and call it something else!
Called and sounding C, so also correct.

But... recorders in other keys (e.g. sixth flute, fourth flute, voice flute etc.) don't normally require the player to learn yet more fingerings. For instance, voice flute (sounding a minor third below alto) would typically be notated as alto sounding lower (analogous to A clarinet if you like), and a nifty baroque convention of recorder players reading flute music in French violin clef with changed key signature and alto fingerings actually produces the same sounding pitches from voice flute and traverso.

And... recorders are confusingly usually known by their bell (seven-finger) notes, with the alto called an F recorder despite not being an 'F instrument', although this would work if you regarded soprano fingerings as standard. Which they're not!
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Re: C Whistle - Transpose or Not

Post by NicoMoreno »

Nanohedron wrote: Fri Aug 19, 2022 1:54 pm I should point out that in ITM parlance, flutes and uilleann pipes with a D bell note are termed as being at "concert pitch". Something to keep in mind, just in case future discussions arise.
Something I very carefully pointed out....
david_h wrote: Fri Aug 19, 2022 2:28 pm On my walk I realised that rather than "when you play a C [or D] fingering" might be better put as "when you play the fingering for the note that is C [or D] in standard staff notation written out for your instrument."
Well, except that it doesn't depend on the existence of sheet music, because it's much easier to say "play a D!" and mean XXX XXX (for the whistle) rather than "play all fingers down!" regardless of the actual pitch of the instrument.

@Peter Duggan - I know nothing about recorders except that they're weird. But wouldn't the bell note naturally correspond to the classical music terminology? An 8 keyed flute has a bell note of C, and happens to also be called a C instrument in the classical world, and I thought recorders basically had the same extra pinky operated c#/c notes (but holes not keys)
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Re: C Whistle - Transpose or Not

Post by Peter Duggan »

NicoMoreno wrote: Fri Aug 19, 2022 5:22 pm @Peter Duggan - I know nothing about recorders except that they're weird. But wouldn't the bell note naturally correspond to the classical music terminology?
Only if, as I said, you regarded soprano fingerings as standard. But historically there's probably a stronger case for alto fingerings as standard, at least in baroque times.
An 8 keyed flute has a bell note of C, and happens to also be called a C instrument in the classical world, and I thought recorders basically had the same extra pinky operated c#/c notes (but holes not keys)
They do, but the current dual fingering convention makes C recorders (three fingers G, bell note C) and F recorders (three fingers C, bell note F) all C instruments in the classical transposing instruments sense. Which is, yes, a bit weird!
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Re: C Whistle - Transpose or Not

Post by Nanohedron »

NicoMoreno wrote: Fri Aug 19, 2022 5:22 pm
Nanohedron wrote: Fri Aug 19, 2022 1:54 pm I should point out that in ITM parlance, flutes and uilleann pipes with a D bell note are termed as being at "concert pitch". Something to keep in mind, just in case future discussions arise.
Something I very carefully pointed out....
Call it a re-emphasis. :wink:
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Re: C Whistle - Transpose or Not

Post by stringbed »

NicoMoreno wrote: Fri Aug 19, 2022 5:22 pm …it's much easier to say "play a D!" and mean XXX XXX (for the whistle) rather than "play all fingers down!" regardless of the actual pitch of the instrument.
That just shifts the onus from the person making that statement to the whistle player. More information than a single note name is usually needed to determine the appropriate whistle for whatever tune is being discussed. A plausible alternative directive in a group context where no form of music notation is employed might be, “The tune is in D major, so if you’re playing a D whistle the key note is your six-finger note. If you’re playing an G whistle, it’s the two-finger note.” Tin whistlers also commonly read tablature and many rely on it, so direct reference to the fingering can arguably be more streamlined than going via the name of the intended sounding pitch.
Peter Duggan wrote: Fri Aug 19, 2022 5:54 pm Only if, as I said, you regarded soprano fingerings as standard. But historically there's probably a stronger case for alto fingerings as standard, at least in baroque times.
The Renaissance instruments were termed recorders but the Baroque alto was more often referred to as the “common flute.” The qualifier was also frequently foregone and in contexts where the transverse flute was called a “German flute” the alto recorder was sometimes an “English flute.” Peter mentions the period names for Baroque recorders of other sizes in another contribution to this discussion: “sixth flute, fourth flute, voice flute etc.”

The current soprano/alto/tenor/bass array is far more recent. The primary position of F fingering shifted to C fingering during the development of the English flageolet. From there, all else is tin whistle history. This is discussed further, together with the interface between staff notation and tablature, in a blog post here (already mentioned in another thread).
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Re: C Whistle - Transpose or Not

Post by Mr.Gumby »

Tin whistlers also commonly read tablature and many rely on it
Other than rank beginners using tabs as a temporary crutch, I don't think that holds true at all.

But for the sake of argument, run with it.
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Re: C Whistle - Transpose or Not

Post by stringbed »

Mr.Gumby wrote: Sat Aug 20, 2022 2:25 am
Tin whistlers also commonly read tablature and many rely on it
Other than rank beginners using tabs as a temporary crutch, I don't think that holds true at all.
Where do the varying simplified ABC notations that commonly appear in post-beginner tutorial contexts fit into this? Their ubiquity suggests that players of the tin whistle aren’t expected to read staff notation. I’d be delighted to learn that to be untrue, as well.

I realize that we’ve been talking primarily about conventions for naming the different sizes of a given instrument. This extends into the question of how whistle players learn to select the sized instrument from their arsenal that is best suited to a particular tune. So I suppose the real question is about the frame of reference for that discussion.
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Re: C Whistle - Transpose or Not

Post by david_h »

NicoMoreno wrote: Fri Aug 19, 2022 5:22 pm Well, except that it doesn't depend on the existence of sheet music, because it's much easier to say "play a D!" and mean XXX XXX ...
It doesn't 'depend' but when learning an 'orchestral instrument' its what they do, so it is part of the perspective required to compare the conventions. And plenty of folk folk started with a Clarke C whistle and O'Neill'[s.
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Re: C Whistle - Transpose or Not

Post by david_h »

On the "why C?" and "why D?" issues. Does the 'C' come from whatever made the C scale the white notes on the piano and it not having and sharps of flats in the key signature? And does the six finger 'D' come from the reach of the human hand on the flute, especially when the pitch standard was lower?
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Re: C Whistle - Transpose or Not

Post by Mr.Gumby »

the varying simplified ABC notations that commonly appear in post-beginner tutorial contexts
Whistleplayers aren't expected to read staff notation. That's not something I see evidence of. The vast body of tune collections available in print would suggest otherwise to me.

It is, FWIW, not uncommon for tutorials, for any type of instrument or type of music, to ease beginners into reading music by providing some sort of crutch during the initial stages.

Various musical shorthands have been used in Irish music over time. A matter of convenience, a way of jotting down a bit of music as a memory aid or teaching aid. Some persist to this day but I do not think that justifies the conclusion whistle players today are generally unable to read staff notation.

There are, ofcourse, plenty of players who play largely by ear and don't need to read, even if they can.

But all that is a discussion completely different to the one the OP started and I will leave it at that.
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Re: C Whistle - Transpose or Not

Post by stringbed »

Mr.Gumby wrote: Sat Aug 20, 2022 10:11 am Whistleplayers aren't expected to read staff notation. That's not something I see evidence of. The vast body of tune collections available in print would suggest otherwise to me.
It is, FWIW, not uncommon for tutorials, for any type of instrument or type of music, to ease beginners into reading music by providing some sort of crutch during the initial stages.

But all that is a discussion completely different to the one the OP started and I will leave it at that.
I’ll also leave it by noting that Mary Bergin uses ABC notation in parallel with staff notation in the second volume of her Irish Tin Whistle Tutorial. It’s explicitly targeted to the “Intermediate to Advanced Level” so its ABC facet is not merely a crutch for beginners.
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