Help on Enunciating clean Whistle Notes

Help on Enunciating clean Whistle Notes


When I play the Silver Spear it sounds OK. But when I listen to a recording I hear all the ghastly mistakes. Particularly the fact that I’m not enunciating clean notes. I know you don’t have to use tonguing to do this necessarily. What’s the secret of getting clean crisp sounding notes in a tune. I’ve heard the Silver Spear is relatively easy. The fingering isn’t to bad except for some triplets but the register changes take some mastering to make it sound good. I’m plying a Brass Dixon Trad D.

Any Tips

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Re: Help on Enunciating clean Whistle Notes


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Re: Help on Enunciating clean Whistle Notes


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Re: Help on Enunciating clean Whistle Notes

Joking aside, it’s all down to speed and accuracy. It takes months if not years to develop the necessary type of muscle fibres in the required muscles — the ones used for speed, not strength. But it takes even longer for the development of the synapses and neural paths in the brain that are needed to contract single muscles on demand and with ease. Half of the battle is NOT sending signals to all the other muscles to keep still, which results in gripping the whistle. It’s a bit like moving your ears — the muscles are there, but the brain isn’t trained to communicate with them.
Incidentally, pipers can move their ears, because this is the only way they have to communicate while playing the pipes. Telepathy doesn’t work — either that or my desperate requests for a pint are just wilfully ignored.

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Re: Help on Enunciating clean Whistle Notes

You can "clean up" your playing by practising arpeggios… it’s very difficult for learners sometimes to play them cleanly.

For practise, don’t tongue, because tongueing creates a silence which can hide bad note-changes.

The word "arpeggio" sounds pompous and non-traditional but all it means, as far as practicing whistle goes, is practicing intervals of 3rds and 4ths, which occur all over the place in Irish tunes. Call them "intervals" or "leaps" if you don’t like Italian words.

It’s all about coordinating the action of various fingers so that they move simultaneously.

Anyhow try

D F# A d f# a
a f# d A F# D

D G B d g b
b g d B G D

E G B e g b
b g e B G E

the following practice both using C naturals and C sharps
E A C e a c
c a e C A E

If you can play all of those cleanly without tongueing then you can play Silver Spear or any other tune cleanly, pretty much. Those are the building blocks of loads of Irish tunes.

Re: Help on Enunciating clean Whistle Notes

All tips mentioned are really good tips, but I’m surprised the one of them hasn’t shown up until now. Practice slowly. If you practice fast, it will always sound like a big blob of mumbo jumbo notes. If you practice slowly, your muscles have time to react, and you have time to concentrate on things that will become habit later. Such as making things like arpeggios clean.

When you practice the Silver Spear (I wouldn’t say it’s easy, but it’s a good starting tune to get the "fundamentals" down), practice it slowly. Especially the triplets. I play them like rolls, or turns if you’re from a classical background. One of the hardest parts of ornamentation, that I’ve found, is timing them well. By the time you learn to time them correctly, you will probably have your ornaments clean and crisp, or at least mostly. So, in the Silver Spear (and any other tune really), if you can play those triplets exactly in time, and be able to change the speed, but still stay in time with the rest of the tune, you will have come a great way. This goes with crans and the like as well. I hope all goes well!

Re: Help on Enunciating clean Whistle Notes

yep befor tune i suggest basic scales and various patterns like richard suggests. as you get better these little groups of notes will morph into tunes. also Id suggest playing with next to no ornaments, that way the tune will be clear and precise. only after a lot of tunes ae masterd in their basic formshould you IMO advance to ornamenting them.

When kids learn this music they start simple…. so should adults IMO

ps try jigs and simple marches at first[ after getting the hang of the various patterns and scales of D and G maj.]

Re: Help on Enunciating clean Whistle Notes

Thanks, I’ll try those tips.

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Re: Help on Enunciating clean Whistle Notes

Practice makes perfect. And start with simpler tunes—there are a number of jigs and polkas that are very straightforward. Silver Spear is a relatively straightforward reel, and quick to learn because it is rather repetitive, but it is not the simplest of tunes.
While it doesn’t hurt to play some scales and arpeggios from time to time, I find it far more enjoyable to find a tune that contains those same scales and arpeggios, and get my practice that way.
Don’t despair. I know many good musicians with years of experience who still are not satisfied with the sounds they make (that is how they became good). ;-)

Lay off the reels, avoid playing fast in sessions, step back, slow down, relax…

"I’m intermediate with the tin whistle."
# Posted on July 25th 2012 by hughjmasterson

Sorry Hugh, but from what you’ve contributed so far I wouldn’t really think you were yet ‘intermediate’, maybe beginning-intermediate. How long have you actually been playing?

A number of well known and accomplished musicians, born to the tradition, including whistle and flute players, have come up with something similar when addressing beginning and developing musicians who come to them for guidance ~ something along the lines of "lay off the reels", but not really meant as being taken literally, but more about slowing down and avoiding speed, which, in sessions, reels will force you into, along with SLOPPY playing.

To use a term that is usually applied elsewhere ~ "SPEED KILLS!" But let’s not take that necessarily literally either. It does damage, and that can even be physical damage, pain and suffering, and even debilitating, crippling. I’ve known a number of folk who have suffered this, damage to joints and ligaments, tendons, tendonitis. The has also been the need to give up their passions for music, either part time, sometimes to re-educate themselves in their playing, sometimes completely, and there are cases of both on this site in the discussions.

To mention a few appropriate inspirations in this music, with this instrument, whistle ~ Mary Bergin, Catherine McEvoy, Geraldine Cotter, Sean Potts, Darach de Brun, Mick Allen ~ all generally suggest to those coming to this music anew, meaning they weren’t born with it around them and gently coaxed and supported into it from very young, from being danced around and sung and hummed to as a baby, to take things a little bit at a time, to relax into it, and, a kind of loose general idea of ‘leave reels alone for at least the first year of your playing’, meaning in fact ‘speed’, reels at speed, or at the varying tempos of your average session.

Pushing anything too hard will result in tensions building up and it won’t be the whistle that snaps, it will be something physical and it will be painful, irritating, much more frustrating that trying to master any single part of this traditions, like ornamentation or articulation. Try backing up, stepping back down a few steps and going at it a bit more casually, playfully, rather than anylytically or intensely. Here’s hoping the latter two aren’t something you’ve taken on with wanting to learn this music through the medium of the whistle.

Despite Yhaa’s rants about getting deep into sessions, live music, which I actually agree with, in general, sessions AREN’T the place to go and learn this music. They are a place to go and listen, and to play a few tunes you’re already comfortable with. Your average session, if that’s all you’ve got, will make you into a crap musician, a sloppy musician. Yes, live is best, but we’re talking one to one as the ideal, and then, maybe up to as many as half a dozen. But when the numbers start edging upwards from five or more, things generally, in sessions, get sloppier, and it becomes increasingly more difficult to listen and learn. The tempos for one tend to fluctuate, and worse when they keep creeping upwards, being pushed, by whoever it is that thinks that adrenalin crash is where the music should go, faster and faster and faster. It’s shight. It’s also why some folks create ‘closed’ sessions, so they can be more relaxed about their playing without having someone thinking their the whip to drive the musicians onward. This whip mentality, in our experience, is often driven by percussion or chord accompaniment, and those doing it often couldn’t play a melody for the life of them, so are basicaly clueless as well as rude, or to be more forward about it - ignorant a*sholes! And ignorance is not sufficient to excuse one from the add description ‘as*hole’, as the disrespect and lack of courtesy of using their instrument as a whip has earned them that added tag.

It is always a pleasure when a solid and well grounded musician, who has confidence from that, is part of a session, as you can relax and let them carry the steady tempo and driving rhythm and clear articulation, and then, yes, you can learn something in the process, and some sessions are blessed with one or more of such players, but you really need to use your ears and figure out who they are, and when you do particpate, then do your damnedest to develop ears that can focus in on that good influence.

Don’t assume on your own that you are ‘intermediate’. Leave that up to others, others with more experience. Do your damnedest to chase up opportunities to learn in workshops, and to be bold there and get some one to one if possible, or to at lesat seek clarity that all will benefit from. Often people are to shy to admit they’re lost and need further clarification. Learn from others, every opportunity you can manage, one to one, or from one person teaching a workshop. Even then, if someone comes in and in an hour is offering a load of tunes, be shy of that. It isn’t in quantity. Learning one tune well will benefit all your playing. Cramming a laod of tunes in can benefit an advanced player, but will only leave you later wandering what exactly you just did. What was that tune? What did we do in that one place? How were all those different types of rolls executed? Take your time, and a little bit at a go. Think ‘beginner’, which, if you’ve not been born to this music, this tradition, is something you should all ways hold onto. The ‘beginner’s mind’ is a good place to live from, as it also keeps your understanding fresh of what that is about, if ever you end up in a position to pass on this passion and these traditions to another.

I tend ot use the plural, ‘traditions’, as it is considerably more than just the music and the dance. All this has a context, and the social craic and the heart and humour and patience in it is also part of what makes it special. It is not just a technical exercise.

Best of luck, but don’t push to cram in too much and on the fly. And, others have basically said something similar here ~

"Practice slowly!" ~ an fidleir

"Try jigs and simple marches at first[ after getting the hang of the various patterns and scales of D and G maj." ~ Will E.

Marches are particularly good for getting into rhythm, articulation, and the possible variations in that, a joy often missed by some, especially in a session where things can result in a kind of steam rolling flat of everything, like an MP3 bit rate compression of 48kbps, rather than the better MP3 of 320kbps, or a WAV file of 1411kbps - or ‘live!’ ~ which is hugely superior to all those forms of compression…

Have fun, relax, laugh, and when it gets to be too serious, take a break. Don’t practice ‘serious’ or ‘tension’, don’t force it, give it time and patience… Pracitce patience, as that will help you in all things. ;-)

Re: Help on Enunciating clean Whistle Notes

Wow! Quite a good essay, there, ceolachan! Lets hope a lot of newbies see it, as it is quite good advice.

Re: Help on Enunciating clean Whistle Notes

Sage words from one of experience. Especially "Have fun, relax, laugh, and when it gets to be too serious, take a break."

Tin Whistle 101

I wish I had something to add but ceolachan said everything which needs to be said for an online explanation.*
Bookmark this & share it with whistlers everywhere for learning as well as instruction ~

*I just hope it doesn’t go to his head.
Cheers ceol.

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