Whistle grace notes

Whistle grace notes

Hello,
I am an oboist who has been "playing" the tin whistle for about theee years but I am still really bad at it. I struggle to copy grace notes I hear in videos and use "oboe grace note fingerings" because oboe and whistle have basically the same fingerings. If anyone has any tips on basic tin whistle grace note fingerings that would be greatly appreciated. Thanks!

Re: Whistle grace notes

Most whistlers I think will call them cuts, taps, etc. rather than grace notes.

Re: Whistle grace notes

Soapbox warning.

The whistle is a real instrument. It takes the same level of commitment as any other instrument. Any average player who has been at the instrument for 3 years and cannot play "grace notes" properly has simply not been putting in the time nor the effort needed.

If you want to get gud at the instrument, get lessons (even informal ones) and commit yourself to it. Daily practice et al. A whistle certainly doesn’t take as much skill and talent as the oboe, but you aren’t going to improve by reading text on a screen.

Skype lessons are a thing if you can’t find somebody local.

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Re: Whistle grace notes

You can say the same thing in a nicer way, Aaron.

The concept of "grace notes" gets in the way of understanding whistle articulations. Cuts on the whistle are much briefer than grace notes - they’re not even really notes. Siamsa is probably the most accessible of the written sources. Grey Larsen’s tome is very complete in its explanations.

Or, as Aaron suggests, find a whistle player and ask them to show you what they are doing.

Re: Whistle grace notes

I second the suggestion of the Grey Larson book, especially for anyone already trained in another musical tradition.

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Re: Whistle grace notes

Can you do whistle ornamentation on an oboe? Forgive my ignorance.

Re: Whistle grace notes

People coming from orchestral instruments to Irish whistle, flute, and especially pipes will do well to practice doing the things they’re accustomed to doing with their embouchure, diaphragm, and tongue, with their fingers.

You’re accustomed to articulating notes with your tongue, now practice articulating with your fingers.

You’ve done vibrato with your diaphragm, now do it with your fingers.

If you’ve "bent" notes, likely you have used your embouchure. Now bend notes with your fingers.

I think Irish woodwind players tend to do things with their digits is because of the influence of the pipes, on which there is no contact with the reed; therefore everything comes from the hands.

Anyhow for whistle it’s quite simple.

"Cuts" are upper gracenotes. Many old-time players cut the lower-hand notes D, E, F#, and G all with the upper-hand ring finger:

Cutting D:

xxx xxx
xxo xxx
xxx xxx

etc.

With A you have two possible cutting fingers, both are used:

xxo ooo
xoo ooo
xxo ooo

With B you only have one choice!

xoo ooo
ooo ooo
xoo ooo

Then there are the "pats" or lower gracenotes.

A couple examples:

xxx ooo
xxx xoo
xxx ooo

xoo ooo
xxo ooo
xoo ooo

Then cuts and pats can be combined in various combinations to make rolls:

xxx ooo
xxo xxx
xxx ooo
xxx xoo
xxx ooo

It’s all straightforward.

Re: Whistle grace notes

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Re: Whistle grace notes

If you can play oboe you can play tin whistle. It’s a lot easier than a double reed.

This will sound insane, but to learn tin whistle for ITM, you really need to watch a piper play, not so far as play pipes yourself, just watch. It should make sense after a bit of that. Bear in mind tin whistles became popular because they’re insanely cheap in the mid-19th century (they still are cheap).

They’re mostly made in England (or were then) predominantly by Clarke. As such, strictly speaking they are a later addition to traditional playing and were influenced heavily by how other traditional instruments were already played, namely bagpipes (and a lesser extent others).

Playing the tin whistle is only hard because you’re not playing the tin whistle, in ITM you’re playing the pipes on tin whistle. Once you understand that, it’s a lot easier.

Nearly all of what probably makes no sense to you on whistle draws from piper-style playing where you only have an octave, so the cuts and strikes, and rolls, "grace notes" are being used to emphasize, ornament, and separate notes, not necessarily to bridge them. You can’t tongue notes (pipes are enclosed double reed). That carried over into all other Irish wind instruments (though you should be tonguing some notes on Tin Whistle, it’s less than you’d probably think). Most everything on pipes is done with your fingers, not your mouth. Just don’t watch stuff with more modern additions like "slides" or "false fingering". Not to say it’s not neat, but it’s not the kind of pipe playing that’d help you play whistle.

Go buy the Clarke Tin Whistle book and play through it. Listen to ITM and Irish/Celtic fusion whistle players. Since you already play one wind, you should be playing ITM style whistle fine in under a month.

Re: Whistle grace notes

Michael, I disagree with so much of what you’re saying. One does not need to know anything about pipes whatsoever to properly execute a cut or a roll on the whistle. They just need somebody to show and/or explain the techniques. Like a teacher.

Does knowing about the pipes and its role in the music help? Sure. But surely it’s not a requirement to execute a roll or a cut? (and not even a requirement to play the music properly, IMO)

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Re: Whistle grace notes

+1 to everything @Richard D Cook said. What he wrote is the heart and soul of the matter there.

OP - Do you play anything else wind, but without a reed? e.g. flute, piccolo?

@Aaron

I don’t think we really disagree on much. We know the pipes play a part in how a whistle is played in ITM, we just disagree on quite how much. I think a teacher could probably identify what’s wrong quicker IRL than any of us (myself included) could do on the internet.

I don’t see any harm in a lesson or two either provided the person instructing had some formal level of musical familiarity (a lot of trad players honestly don’t), but for someone like OP classically trained in a double reed instrument, I think that’s important.

Most people who play more than one instrument can pick up whistle quickly. I’m still kinda confused as to why that wasn’t the case here. OP doesn’t seem to know what cuts or strikes are if she’s playing "oboe-style" grace notes when listening to music you should be able to tell that won’t work since in ITM, these "grace notes" are much shorter and markedly more percussive, closer to some flute or piccolo articulations. I’m drawing a blank on anything vaguely similar on oboe.

IMO, OP just needs a book like the Clarke. Or maybe not. If she can’t learn from a book (though I did for plenty of instruments after knowing one in that family) lessons of some nature are probably an advisable option.

I still think the quickest way is for OP to watch some pipers hands at work (tin whistlers as well, obviously, though I was assuming she’d watched some). It’d break her out of this oboe mindset on the whistle. I don’t think she gets what cuts and strikes are at an intuitive level and needs to see them and their original context on a visual one to see why you can’t play them on a whistle like you would an oboe. If that and one of the better practice books doesn’t work, yes, of course, obviously some instruction probably would be in order.