Key of [blank] whistle can play what Scales easily?

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Grexrell
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Key of [blank] whistle can play what Scales easily?

Post by Grexrell »

Hi

I'm picking up the Pennywhistle again after a false start a while ago (a year maybe? can't remember now)

Dad bought a dulcimer for his B-day last month so I'm re-attempting to learn the whistle to play along.

My question:
I've been searching the internet for penny whistle related web sites (found this one) I saw a web page that mentioned that the Key of D pennywhistle is good at playing tunes in the Key of D, the Key of G, and some other key.
But It wasn't what I was interested in at the moment, so, without thinking ahead, I failed to bookmark the web page or remember where it was I saw the information.

Can someone fill me in on what Tune keys can be easily played on a so and so key?
I understand what it takes to change to key of G, and I've got a really good Pennywhistle chart printed off for reference, so thats not a problem either.
I've got a pennywhistle set in the mail, its been ordered for MY birthday (early april) the set has E-flat, E, D, C and B-flat in it, and I'm wondering which of the whistles are best for what key of song etc.. (I:E when I should swap them out when playing with others)

...Hope that made sense, I've got to go, so I can proof read this (sorry)

-Lem
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O'Brien
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Post by O'Brien »

The main two keys for any whistle are its own key and the one that has one less sharp or one more flat, plus their modes (when a tune finishes on a note other than the tonic).

Here are the keys for the whistles you mentioned:

D also plays G
E also plays A
Eb also plays Ab
C also plays F
Bb also plays Eb

To get the second major scale, start with three fingers down and play the fourth note oxxooo. You should transpose all tunes to either D (2 sharps) or G (one sharp) and use the different whistles to get the other keys. In other words, playing a tune using the same fingering you would use on a D whistle, but on a C whistle, is the way to play in C.

For minor keys, go back two letters in the alphabet- ie. Am is the relative minor for C.

I hope that doesn't confuse more than it helps.
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Post by anniemcu »

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Grexrell
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Post by Grexrell »

Thanks, both your posts help alot.

I really couldn't find that information again. (had trouble with the right search engine keywords)

Thanks for your help :D

-Lem
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Post by TheSpoonMan »

Wait... hate to be pdantic but aren't those Dorians, not minors?
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Post by pastorkeith »

O Brien

Newbie question - If we play on a non D whistle and play using the D fingers reading the tune (which transposes) - we can only do that if we are playing by ourselves and not with other instruments like a gutiar or piano, correct? In a group we have to finger the whistle in its own key, yes?
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Post by O'Brien »

Pastor,

No. If your guitarist happened to know the chords to a tune in C that you play on a D whistle, playing the tune on a C whistle with the regular D fingering would do the trick.

We may have had this discussion before, but I don't see the point of learning to read music in keys like Bb and Eb for when you play whistles in those keys. Just transpose everything to either D (2#) or G (1#), whichever fits best, and play every whistle as though D was the lowest note (xxxxxx).

David
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Post by MTGuru »

TheSpoonMan wrote:Wait... hate to be pdantic but aren't those Dorians, not minors?

Actually, both Dorian and Aeolian are available with cross fingerings in the keys listed as minor. That is, both the major 6th and minor 6th of the scales are available. So in the chart, minor is probably just meant as a cover term for the two minor modes. The only exception might be A Aeolian, where the minor 6th (F natural) needs to be half-holed on most whistles.

In sessions around here we usually refer to Ionian and Mixolydian as "majorish", and Aeolian and Dorian as "minorish" -- because we're lazy. :-)
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Post by The Weekenders »

MTGuru wrote:[
In sessions around here we usually refer to Ionian and Mixolydian as "majorish", and Aeolian and Dorian as "minorish" -- because we're lazy. :-)


Amen. Don't need no steenkin' Latin.
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Post by TheSpoonMan »

The Weekenders wrote:
MTGuru wrote:[
In sessions around here we usually refer to Ionian and Mixolydian as "majorish", and Aeolian and Dorian as "minorish" -- because we're lazy. :-)


Amen. Don't need no steenkin' Latin.


Greek.
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Post by Nanohedron »

TheSpoonMan wrote:
The Weekenders wrote:
MTGuru wrote:[
In sessions around here we usually refer to Ionian and Mixolydian as "majorish", and Aeolian and Dorian as "minorish" -- because we're lazy. :-)


Amen. Don't need no steenkin' Latin.


Greek.


:lol:

If there's a tune with both sharp and flattened sevenths in it, I call it "Mixollaneous".
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Post by anniemcu »

If you think my chart needs ammending, please let me know how (and why :lol: ) and I'll think about it. :D

Seriously... I offer it only as what I understand, and that is inarguably not guaranteed to be perfectly accurate.
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Post by MTGuru »

Annie, your chart is not exactly wrong, just incomplete and a bit oversimplified.

There are 4 common scale modes in Irish/Scottish/English trad: Ionian (1), Dorian (2), Mixolydian (5) and Aeolian (6), both full and gapped (pentatonic, hexatonic). Each is based on a scale tone of the major scale, shown here in parentheses.

Ionian is synonymous with conventional Major, and Aeolian with Minor. Mixolydian uses the major 3rd scale tone, and is considered major-ish. Dorian uses the minor 3rd scale tone, and is considered minor-ish. So ...

For every major (Ionian) scale a whistle can play, there are three other related modes it can also play. For a D whistle, this gives:

Maj (1): D G A
Dor (2): E A B
Mix (5): A D E
Min (6): B E F#

Or lumping major-ish and minor-ish together, you get:

Majorish: D* E G A*
Minorish: E* F# A B*

where the starred keys include both modes, and the non-starred keys only one of the modes. Since E Mixolydian and F# Minor are not common, you could simplify this to:

Majorish: D* G A*
Minorish: E* A B*

which now looks like your chart, if you specify that G is Ionian only, and A minorish is Dorian only.

So if you modify your chart to indicate that:
1) "Keys" really means "modes"
2) "Major" means Ionian or Mixolydian
3) "Minor" means Aeolian or Dorian
4) The middle Major is Ionian only
5) The middle Minor is Dorian only

then it would be accurate and pragmatically complete.

I would also add the E whistle, which is sometimes used in Scottish music for E and A tunes, and the B whistle, which is used for playing with low-tuned uilleann pipes in B.

Hope that helps!
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Post by Roger O'Keeffe »

TheSpoonMan wrote:
The Weekenders wrote:
MTGuru wrote:[
In sessions around here we usually refer to Ionian and Mixolydian as "majorish", and Aeolian and Dorian as "minorish" -- because we're lazy. :-)


Amen. Don't need no steenkin' Latin.


Greek.

More "renaissance pseudo-Greek with added bits", as I understand it.

The original question is understandable, but theoretical replies only complicate things. To reply to it in untutored terms, a whistle in the key of N plays the scale of N and the scale of N + 3. Playing in N+3 gives you more flexibility. Instead of confusing yourself with black dots on a page and chicken-scratches and stuff, just get a tune into your ear and play it in the key that fits without too much half-holing. If the half-holing doesn't go away, just stick to Irish music or buy a r*c**d*r.
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Post by walrii »

MTGuru, everytime you post one of these music theory lessons, my brain spins real fast and my eyes cross. I gaze into the distance for a while until the spinning stops then I pick up "The Complete Idiot's Guide to Music Theory," a copy of your post and a glass of wine. A while later, wine gone, I slap my forehead and yell "aha!" The cats stare at me but I have learned something new. Keep up the good work.
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