Learning Flute After Whistle…

Learning Flute After Whistle…

The comments on learning traditional flute coming from classical were very generous and interesting.

Any suggestions on learning flute after whistle?

Re: Learning Flute After Whistle…

Should be easier, but you’ll need more air and you may be surprised to find that you will ornament differently and use your tongue less than with whistle, despite the fact that both instruments finger the same. I’ve known a lot of whistle players -some quite brilliant- that never double on flute. I’ve always wondered why, since most flute players (I think) play whistle, at least occasionally.

I find I like some tunes better on one instrument or the other, so you might not do your entire repertoire on flute.

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Re: Learning Flute After Whistle…

I agree with most of what Ailin has said.

However, the bit about air consumption is more of an issue when just starting. I find I often use very little air on flute compared to low and alto whistles. I suppose this depends on which flute and whistle you play, and a few other factors, though. The player has much more control over air consumption on flute, whereas on whistles it is for the most part fixed.

Re: Learning Flute After Whistle…

I found a low D to be an handy intermediate device. It allowed me to get used to the longer stretches while keeping the simplicity of the fipple. Also, it was interesting to observe the point at which my embouchure had developed enough that the flute actually seemed to require less effort than the low whistle. I’m certainly not suggesting it as a necessary thing, but I found some nice synergy there.

Re: Learning Flute After Whistle…

The flute is more difficult, but it is worth it. Getting the embouchure and grip down were probably the hardest parts for me. Just keep at it, maybe don’t touch the whistle at all for a while - only the flute.

Re: Learning Flute After Whistle…

I learned flute first, really… I dabbled with whistle but spent long hours of work on my embouchure just to get any sort of tone at all. It’s a lifetime thing, developing your embouchure and keeping it in shape.

One thing that I’m sure many Irish trad fluteplayers will disdain is something I found tremendously helpful: asking advice and/or taking some lessons from a "classical" fluteplayer.

You might be huffing and puffing on your new flute, getting a fuzzy weak tone despite how much effort you’re putting in, perhaps with low notes that feather out to nothing, and high notes that are harsh and forced. Hand your flute to a good "classical" fluteplayer and they get a big strong tone, with a huge booming Bottom D and pure sweet high notes… well, guess what? They know something you don’t know, and that’s how to play the flute! They know how to form a great embouchure, and how to adjust it to get maximum power from the low notes and maximum purity from the high notes. If you find the right player, they might be delighted to teach you how to do it. Maybe even for free. It happened to me: a few free lessons from a great "classical" fluteplayer simply because it was something different.

Yes an Irish fluteplayer, a jazz fluteplayer, a Baroque fluteplayer, and an orchestral fluteplayer all have different opinions about what is the "ideal" tone, yet in ALL fluteplaying a great sound comes from a great embouchure, and it will save you much time and trouble to get together with somebody who knows how to teach it.

Re: Learning Flute After Whistle…

Hmmm, migrating from whistle to flute? That was a long time ago…

But a few thoughts:

Don’t expect to switch directly from fast reels on the whistle to fast reels on the flute. Go back to really easy tunes - song tunes, set dances, etc. These give you time to listen to what you are doing, and to concentrate on getting your tone up. Until you can get your tone up, your efficiency is too low to play fast tunes well.

You will need lots more air at first, so build a lot more sips of air into your playing. Never let yourself run out.

If after a while you don’t feel you are getting anywhere, swap flutes with someone else at a session. It could just be that your flute is not working well, or simply doesn’t suit you.

Once you start getting somewhere, leave the whistle at home. With nothing else to play, you’ll break through.