Tin Whistle Tips

Tin Whistle Tips

just started playing the good old whistle (D) a few weeks ago, and can already belt out a few good tunes. I don’t have a teacher, nor any books or anything, so I am completely trying to figure it out from scratch. Anybody have any tips? Specifically, doing fast triplets with the tongue (trebles, many people call them on the fiddle. I call them shakes) and playing separate notes steadily at a high tempo.

Thanks,
Ben

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Also, any good D whistle tunes would be apprecieated.

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Well I am about to logoff but what have you got under your belt? Please tell me it is important to you to get a good tone & that you have a solid ‘D’ note when you have all the fingers down. There is nothing wrong with tonguing. Joannie Madden & Grey Larsen use it very effectively. Try cuts on each note going up then down. Next taps. You can do a cran on the D. Try to be methodical. You will have more versatility with ornamentation if you learn the tune barebones without the ornamentation. This is hard because experienced musicians rarely know how to play anything stripped down. Just remember that often the complex sounding ornamentation is built around a simple melody.
How are you doing the C natural? Half-holing or cross-fingering? Is it clear & close to in tune?
They are all good tunes. Keep the different rhythms in mind. Some jigs are fast with plenty of drive. Think Morrison’s. Or you can ease off the tempo & get nice & comfortable; although I would not say slow. Try different jigs. Hornpipes: Last night I was playing Peacock’s Feather. But that was on the G whistle. Learn the Rights of Man.
Slip Jigs are my favourite. The Butterfly, Fig for a Kiss, Kid on the Mountain, Humours of Whiskey. you can really make that whistle sound sweet if you learn some airs. Ar Éirinn ní neosfainn is always good.

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Playing triplets with the tongue is not a traditional technique in Irish-style whistle playing. A few good players can do it are are doing it, but it remains a new technique, a novelty as it were.
I would start out learning the traditional way before I began jazzing it up.
Whistle players do tongue, but the basic feel of Irish music remains a legato flow.
Much whistle style is derived from Irish flute style, or uilleann pipe style, or both. On both these instruments there is a legato flow which is articulated with the fingers. This finger articulation is done with gracenotes of extremely short duration, so short that they are not heard as notes but as articulation of the melody. Irish players call the gracenotes of a pitch higher than the melody note "cuts" and lower gracenotes "pats". The basic system is called a "roll" which is three melody notes of the same pitch, the first two seperated by a cut, the second two seperated by a pat. True rolls, on a D whistle, are done on E, F#, G, A, and B, Traditional players did not roll C or C# or D, though rolls of a sort can be done on all of these notes. On bottom D there is a special ornament called a "cran". Traditionall whistle players did not play crans but played a cran equivalent that goes D F# E D. Played with the right rythm this is a fair approximation of a piper’s cran.
Anyhow the first step in whistle playing is to be able to play all the notes, scales, and arpeggios cleanly and in tune, up to the B in the second octave. Irish tunes rarely go higher. Then get used to seperating pairs of notes with cuts and pats, then put the cuts and pats together to get rolls. Once you can roll, you can play any traditional tune in a traditional style.
At first I would not tongue at all in order to get used to the "flow’ of Irish music. Then do a lot of listening to people like Mary Bergin to figure out WHEN to tongue. It’s not all over, it’s very judicious.
But anyhow there is a great whistle tutor written by L E McCullough. If you follow that you will be in good shape. If you find a book which purports to be a whistle tutor that does not teach you rolls pretty much from the start, don’t get it! There are a lot of whistle books which only teach you how to play Row Row Row Your Boat and nonsense like that. If you’re going to play Irish music you need to learn the Irish style- the two can’t be seperated.

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tongueing is a traditional technique,it is a style used in ulster.
I would recommend Geraldine Cotters,whistlebook,or learn to play the tin whistle by Armagh pipers club.

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Ben, don’t worry about all the techniques. Just try to familiarise yourself with various playing styles of different instruments and get an idea of how you can play the whistle. Nobody can tell you how it should be played, much less books.

Good whistle tunes can be found on this recording: http://www.bridodonohue.com/tobar_main.php

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"Playing triplets with the tongue is not a traditional technique in Irish-style whistle playing. A few good players can do it are are doing it, but it remains a new technique, a novelty as it were."

Well maybe, but it’s probably less new than you think. Josie McDermott and Packie Manus Byrne, to name two examples, were doing plenty of it 50-60 years ago.

OTOH I think it’s definitely a good idea to get good at playing the whistle in a more mainstream style before you start annoying everybody with tongued triplets and coming over like a bad copy of Brian Finnegan…

You might find this site helpful:

http://www.rogermillington.com/siamsa/brosteve/

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I have an old album of Josie McDermott and he isn’t playing tongued triplets on that one at least. He’s doing very little tonguing period.
Now, it’s sure true that there is an old "fife style" way of playing Irish flute that you used to hear, but nowadays the flowing style has become the norm. I’ve heard those old fife style guys but I never heard any of them tonguing triplets.
What’s very interesting are the old McKenna recordings, where he is usually playing legato with rolls but every now and then, as a variation, he will play a bar or a bar and a half with each note seperated by breath. I’ve not heard any living player do that. Some think he is tonguing, others say that he’s using diaphragm pushes.
But someone new to Irish music, as was stated above, is best off to stick to the mainstream traditional way rather than trying to imitate some current jazzy player. You can be sure that that player learned the traditional way first, then after it was mastered, started exploring twisting the style around and introducing techniques from other idioms.

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Sorry if anyone feels I am hijacking the thread, but I have a question that relates to tonguing. I see that tonguing is considered part of the tradition by at least one musician in Ulster. I know in English whistle playing, and in the fife tradition, tonguing is much more common. Is whistle playing in Northern Ireland influenced by these other traditions? You hear a lot about regional fiddle and accordion styles, is there variation in regional whistle styles?
And Ben, my advice is to start slow, and work up your speed. Take the advice above about cuts, rolls, and learning to use these instead of tonguing to punctuate things. I got a nice book and tape (would be book and CD) set with my first Clarke whistle, and it is a good place to start. Listen to other people play the whistle, buy some CDs. Enjoy!

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Josie McDermott only recorded one full album,as far as I know - by Robin Morton for the English "Topic" label - although there are a few tracks of him around from home-made recordings. His whistle playing is full of tongued triplets, so much so that in fact Breandan Breathnach complained about it when reviewing the recording. I also heard him play at the Ballisodare festival in Sligo in 1978. He played "The Floating Crowbar", "Kathleen’s Wedding" [ which I posted here - see comments ] and "The Silver Spear", and used tongued triplets in all 3.
Tongueing is more common among Northern players, and that is generally thought to be due to the influence of fife-playing. Think of Sean McGuire’s father, also John Kennedy, and especially Willis Patton.

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I always thought is was one of the pretty standard techniques and second the suggestion on Cotters book.

The greater challenge is pacing and breath control. It would seem more prudent to get a handle on that before getting too hung up on the ornament.

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BEN314 are you out there?
Which tunes have you worked up so far?
"To tongue or not to tongue; that is the question?"
The thread seems to go back at least to Shakespeare.
Will was a tonguer, alas unable to cran!

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Don’t think anyone’s actually answered Ben’s question, yet, although an exhaustive list of who tongues and who doesn’t will of course be useful to those who are trying to decide whether or not tonguing is "traditional".

When you tongue a triplet on whistle (or flute), just imagine you’re saying the word "Diddly" or "Tiddly" while playing the note; that produces the tongue movement you need. It works for me; others may have different techniques.

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Always good to remember the original post Wurzel.
The answer was there although somewhat obtusely.
Geraldine Cotter does have excellent instruction on tonguing.
Even if you consider tonguing non-traditional it would be better to learn the technique rather than avoiding it all together. BTW Geraldine Cotter is an excellent instructor for pennywhistle & good tunes.

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I don’t understand why so many of you are trying to learn techniques in a short time. They come after years of listening, playing and experimenting. Obsession with techniques sometimes leads to the neglect of musicality.

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OK, sorry I was gone until just now, so I was neglecting my own thread. Anyway, the tunes I currently know are Road to Lisdoonvarna, Swallowtail Jig, Trip to Sligo, and a few slower tunes I picked up from Lord of the Rings. Most of what I play is legato, but on tunes like Swallowtail jig with repeated notes, it is necessary to be able to tongue. Also, be a fiddle player who likes to do weird bow things, I probably do overemphasize the triplets and other ornaments.

Thanks, I’ll go check out those books.

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Check out Brother Steve’s site linked above - that won’t cost you anything, and it’s better than any book I’ve ever come across.

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‘I don’t understand why so many of you are trying to learn techniques in a short time. They come after years of listening, playing and experimenting. Obsession with techniques sometimes leads to the neglect of musicality.’

That too but so few people seem to realise the importance of good steady rhythm and clear phrasing. That really comes before anything and all the rest is only there (at first at least) to support those

also see www.whistlethis.com

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Those are fine jigs BEN314.
If you have not looked it over already - Brother Steve
has his take on "The Tongue"
Keep having fun & try all the dance rhythms.
Cheers!

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Ihad the pleasure of hearing Packier Byrne many times in the past,he used tongueing.

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Hi Ben314, You already have 6 yeas of fiddle - odds are you will have a good idea of how the music should sound and know a good selection of tunes already?

From that base, you might look for the correlating techniques that might apply on the fiddle and transfer them onto the whistle - almost any decent whistle tutor will give you this. That’s a starting point only. After that, it’s listenning to the great whistlers closely and heaps of practice to master each technique.

Some of the advanced techniques (including triplet tricks) might require a live teacher - perhaps you could get into a workshop at a festival and ask your specific questions from the source (so to speak). A lot can be done on your own, but a good teacher will help avoid some of the technical errors - these errors can take a long time to "un-learn". For myself, my teacher is helping me understand the role of tongueing - legato comes first, but as always, the techniques are for the rhythm - each time one of these is mastered the dynamic and character of the music improves.

In the mean time, have a listen to Brid O’Donohue’s CD - she does some very effective accented triplets - one day I’ll find out how she does it - if you find-out, let me know!

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I would recomment a book by Grey Larsen. It’s called "The Essential guide to irish flute and tin whistle. It is quite expensive at 39 US dollars plus shipping costs but he goes into a lot of detail about ornamentation, variation and tongueing etc.There are other books by Clare McKenna and LE McCullouch.
Listen to players like Matt Molloy, Seamus Tansey and Breda Smyth to get a feel for different styles.
Maybe when playing a short roll you should tongue on the first grace note. Sliding into long rolls has a good effect as well.

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Grey Larsen is an excellent instructor.
He is very patient to have written all the information he gives in the ‘Essential Guide’
Breda Smyth ~~ now you’re talking!

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hi can anyone tell me a format which shows abc notes that is easy to follow .some have numbers next to them this i find difficult to follow . i can not read music at all thankyou .
ps. how do i listen to music i have put on my tunebook i have just become a new member ..thanks again

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Try learning to read the musical notes in standard notation, a lot easier than ABC, if you ask me.

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i have tried this but it takes to long abc is best for me .please tell me how do i listen to tunes i have downloaded to tunebook.

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tin whistle players.
i wish to improve my playing i have been playing for 6 months
if anyone wishes to give good advice like simple irish tunes to start on please contact me .

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To answer your question freyafruit:
you can listen to ABCs by downloading the free program called
EasyABC from here
http://www.softpedia.com/progDownload/EasyABC-Download-211425.html

Once you open the program simply paste the ABCs into the lower window and the notes will magically appear in the upper window. On the upper left of the main window you will see a play button (a green circle with a white arrow tip), click on that and a midi will play the tune.
EasyABC also has a transposer for shifting your ABCs into more whistle/flute friendly keys, and plenty of menus to experiment with.

Remember that when you paste ABCs into a window they must have all of the ABC fields before the actual tune - like this:

X: 1
T: Winning Ticket, The
M: 6/8
L: 1/8
R: jig
K: Gmaj
|: GFE | D[B,E]D G2 A | BGB de=f | ecg dBG | AcB AGE |
D[B,E]D G2 A | BG/A/B de=f | ecg dBA | G3 :|
|: GB/c/d | g2 a bag | afd d2 e | =f2 g agf | e/f/ge cBc |
df/e/d dBA | GB/c/d g2 f | e/f/ge dBA | G2 D :|