Size of holes on a tin whistle

Size of holes on a tin whistle

I have a D tin whistle (Clarke celtic) which I have had for a few months and getting on well with it. I find it very easy to play and cover the holes. The mouthpiece never seems to be clogged or cause a problem.
However, I fancied having a go at an A tin whistle but Clarke don’t make one so I found a Tony Dixon Alto trad brass in A and I also bought a Dixon Brass Trad high D.
What surprised me was how much bigger the bore and the holes were in the D compared to the Clarke and obviously the holes and bore in the A key were also even bigger.
Comparing the Clarke and the Dixon in the same key I find the Clarke easier to play and maybe a slightly higher tone but I’m struggling a bit with the lower A. Also both seem to have a problem with loss of volume after playing for a short time, I think because of getting clogged by moisture.
I wondered if anyone knows if there is another manufacturer who produces a low A with smaller holes as I think it would find it easier.

Re: Size of holes on a tin whistle

Hi, Steve. Does the Clarke celtic have a conical barrel (narrows to the bottom) or a cylindrical bore? It looks like the head/fipple is the same as Clarke’s sweet tone series. Which is a great head piece. I’m just not familiar with your model.

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Re: Size of holes on a tin whistle

Having a whistle in the key of A is - paradoxically - not a great help for playing tunes in A major (A mixolydian is another matter, since it can be played on a D whistle). Most of the A major tunes usually go down to C#, D or E below the keynote, and to the B above the octave. So having a whistle that goes from A to A" is still missing these notes below. What I’m wondering is whether any whistle maker would be prepared to produce a whistle that was essentially the same as the D soprano, but with the note below the A producing the note G# rather than G natural. I guess this could be done by making the hole bigger or placing it higher up (or a combination of both). That would enable us whistlers to play a huge range of fiddle tunes written in A major, but unfortunately to my knowledge no-one has attempted to produce such a whistle.

Re: Size of holes on a tin whistle

AB you are right the mouthpiece is the same as the sweet tone series and it just seems so much easier to play to me. The difference between the Dixon Brass trad and the Clarke is that the bore is conical on the Clarke, i.e. narrows to the end. I’m not sure what difference that makes but to me it feels much better that the Dixon which was more expensive. The model is here https://clarketinwhistle.com/shop/the-celtic-tinwhistle-pouch/

Borderer, the reason I wanted an A ,and I’m not really a musician so don’t understand all the terms, is that I notice when I pick up the D whistle to play a tune I am very often playing in the key of G as the tune needs a note lower that low D. My reasoning was that if I got an A whistle then playing in the second position is actually the key of D. If this sounds stupid please forgive my ignorance as I like to play but have a lot to learn and in all honesty some of technical stuff goes a bit over my head. When my wife starts talking about bars I’m thinking pubs and she’s into music. lol

Re: Size of holes on a tin whistle

Actually, Steve, you have it right. While most D-tunes don’t go below the bell note, some do. I’m thinking of the Hut on Staffin Island or Martin Wynne’s. It seems to me when tunes do go below D, they don’t just go to C#, rather A or B.

Re: Size of holes on a tin whistle

Borderer, I did that very thing years ago to a D whistle: I enlarged the G hole to make it play G#.

Why? I was doing quite a bit of studio work at that time, and a D whistle is the only one that sightreads at Concert Pitch. So if a score was in three sharps (A Major) I could grab this whistle and play without transposing.

Not ideal of course. In my opinion the ideal whistle for playing in A Major is an E whistle, which I also have. Sight-transposing a step isn’t so bad sometimes, but I’d rather sight-transpose up or down a line or two, or a space or two.

Playing in A Major on an E whistle is like Steve’s example of playing in D Major on an A whistle; both are playing in the equivalent of G on a D whistle, which I usually prefer. Or in the handy terms I’ve heard some people use, having the tonic be the "three finger note" instead of the "six finger note".

BTW another solution to G# on a D whistle is to drill an extra hole, off to the side, which is covered by the upper-hand little finger. Problem is you have to cover it quite a bit, and have to get used to moving the upper-hand ring finger and little finger as one. Many fifes are made this way, and those guys have no problem with having that additional side hole. I borrowed a fife for a while and it was easier than I thought it would be to get used to the fife with all the extra holes (for the little fingers and the thumbs, the "10 hole fife").

Re: Size of holes on a tin whistle

About the size of holes, yes they can vary quite a bit from make to make in the same key.

I’ve never encountered an A with holes that felt large to me. But I play Low Whistles! Which sometimes have huge holes.

Personally my favourite A whistle is the one I made, a home-made A body from brass tubing that I play with a Generation Bb top (Jerry Freeman modified).

I’ve played A whistles from Susato, Burke, and Sindt and the sweetest players were the narrow-bore Susato (using the same tubing and head that they use for their High D whistles) and the Sindt. Both were superb whistles, but I like my home-made one a bit better.

Susato has used at least three different bore sizes for their A whistles, I’ve owned all three, and the narrow-bore was easily the best.

Re: Size of holes on a tin whistle

Richard: thanks for your comments. You are right that playing off the three finger base on an E whistle will give A major and most of those extra notes; I just hadn’t realised there are E major whistles (I’ve only come across E flat). Do you know which makers sell them?

Re: Size of holes on a tin whistle

Off the top of my head makers who make (or have made) Low E whistles:

Bernard Overton*
Colin Goldie
Susato*
Michael Burke
Alba Whistles*

*ones I have owned

Now it would be an easy enough thing to make a High E whistle from a Generation Eb whistle.

I’ve done it with other sizes. I play a Generation B and a Generation C# that are cut down from a Generation Bb and Generation C.

I do it in this order:

1. chop the top of the tube until the upper-hand notes are in tune to the new key
2. chop the bottom of the tube until the bellnote and its octave are in tune to the new key
3. enlarge Hole 6 to suit.
4. enlarge Hole 5 to suit.

I’ve only had to enlarge those two bottom holes- the others have been fine.

Re: Size of holes on a tin whistle

Shaw makes an E whistle.

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Re: Size of holes on a tin whistle

I agree with Richard D Cook that the narrow bore Susato A whistle is superb. I happen to be the lucky owner of one.