Low F, Low D whistle

Low F, Low D whistle

I enjoy the sound of the low whistles and I would like to play one. The Low D is out, too big a stretch. Would the Low F or G be within the reach of a player with smaller hands? If so, which would be the best purchase?

Thanks, Tom D.

Re: Low F, Low D whistle

G would be more useful, for sure.
When you say D is too big a stretch, are you positive? There are lots of discussions here about using the "piper’s grip" —- kind of a flat-fingered thing —- that gets you a bit more stretch. Even that’s a tough transition, but you can’t exactly let your first impression dictate whether you can do it or not.

Re: Low F, Low D whistle

F is often cited as a "favourite" key for whistles, as it’s right in the sweet spot of that nice lower tone but good playability.

As for F or G: they’re probably both equally useless, but I’d suggest the F is probably more likely to be useful as it gets you into a couple of flats, whereas the G whistle does nothing a C or D whistle can’t do (probably better).

As for stretch, it’s about making it comfortable. Try again after playing an F for a while and see how you get on.

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Re: Low F, Low D whistle

I sure won’t argue with Calum, who knows more about this stuff than I, but maybe something needs to be said about the word "useless."
A low G whistle will give you easy access to the keys of G and C and A dorian and D dorian, which will cover a huge percentage of the Irish tunes you need to cover. Probably not as well as can be done with regular C and D whistles, as Calum says, but we’ve already established that you like the low whistle sound, and so I’m suggesting you’d find the G whistle most useful, with "useful" meaning relatively easy access to keys that will allow you to play with others most easily.
Calum argues, not insensibly, that you may like access to some keys not already covered by your normal-sized whistles, and F will do that. I can’t think I’ve come across a lot of tunes in F, but some in G dorian. Bb I guess can put you in the ballpark of Scottish pipes —- is that right, Calum? — which could be cool. C dorian doesn’t seem too very common either. That’s what an F whistle will do. Also, if you’re looking to provide that lovely mournful counterpoint to a singer-guitarist and he/she likes putting a capo in odd places, having access to an F whistle could be magic. And magic is "useful."

Re: Low F, Low D whistle

Low G yes. Or even an A ….. the G is a great whistle , never had an F

Re: Low F, Low D whistle

Tom I know nothing about you, your age, size, experience, nothing at all. So I’m only going to give you some things to think about and I do it to support you. First, I agree that the F is a great sounding flute. I have one and play it often. But here’s the rub. You’ll be playing mostly alone. It’s the rare player that can play well in F/B flat. Some can, but they’re in the small end of the bell shaped curve. They’re wonderful keys, just not common to most players. For that reason I’d say the F is just very limiting if you have any interest in playing with others and isn’t that an underlying reason for playing at all? (note: I get that it’s all about your choices and I’m not going to butt in there). Also the world is full of flute players with small hands playing D flutes, even D flutes that are not made to accommodate them (some are). My hands are not large for a man my size so the reach to the low C natural on my 8 keyed (post mounted) flute is a stretch but I learned to do it. I would only ask you to really think about why you feel like the D is too big. I’m on your side. The D flute opens many more doors and you’ll only be better off in the end. Good luck.

Re: Low F, Low D whistle

Also, as I’m sure others will mention, Casey Burns makes D flutes to accommodate small hands. I’ve never seen one but his standard "folk flutes" are fine players. I see no reason why the others wouldn’t be. Well worth the price.

Re: Low F, Low D whistle

Big Whoops here. I completely misunderstood the premise of your post Tom so I’ve made a complete fool of myself. Please accept my apology. You’re not talking about flutes at all. And yeah, the Low D whistle is a beast unless you use piper’s grip. I’ve never been able to play one.

Re: Low F, Low D whistle

A low D with a conical bore has a smaller bottom hand spread than a cylindrical bore whistle. The Dixon TB012D being one of the cheaper ones.

Re: Low F, Low D whistle

> Bb I guess can put you in the ballpark of Scottish pipes —- is that right, Calum?

Sort of…as ever it complexifies quite quickly. Many pipe tunes require the lower seventh, a G (natural) as written, or A flat. If you play a B flat whistle, that note isn’t available, so another alternative is using an E flat whistle, or modifying an F whistle by modifying the A to A flat (there will be a short quiz later…)

On your other points, as well as key, we have to consider range. A G whistle gives you friendly keys, but there are not many tunes that don’t go above the higher E on the treble clef.

To me whistles in different keys are largely about playing the same tunes in the same way in different registers; yes, you can access *some* new tunes with different whistles, but you aren’t opening up a big storehouse of previously inaccessible tunes.

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Re: Low F, Low D whistle

If you’re talking about sessions then the F is of little use other than a handful of tune but Calums assertion that F and G whistles are "useless" is total nonsense.

If you struggle with low D try using your pinky on the bottom hole rather than your ring finger. It doesn’t take long to get used to and make the stretch very easy.

Re: Low F, Low D whistle

Hyperbole, of course. Clearly if they have a use they are not useless; but I possess neither key and feel entirely unrestricted by my lack of weaponry.

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Re: Low F, Low D whistle

I don’t possess a fiddle but don’t feel restricted by the fact.

Re: Low F, Low D whistle

I owned a nice Reviol low F whistle for a while. It was fun to play, but I finally sold it because I had enough other things to work on (like transitioning to flute), and didn’t need an instrument that I couldn’t play with anyone else.

If you’re primarily a whistle player, I think it might be worth having a low F as just something different once in a while, for playing at home or in a performance. It’s a very nice sound on its own, and kind of a shame that it’s not a "sociable" instrument.

Re: Low F, Low D whistle

I love my low F, but as others have mentioned, you’re not going to get a lot of chance to use it in a session. I bring out mine for one to three tunes a night, typically. You can play in Dminor and Gminor with it, which is useful, though a C whistle is generally far superior for Dmin.

As for playability, yes, the low F will be a bit easier than a low D. Here’s a picture for visual aid: https://i.imgur.com/g25QRVT.jpg
(From left to right: D, low F, low D)

It’s actually less different than it looks, since most of the spread is covered by just having your hands further apart. You’ll still need to skew your hands a bit towards a piper’s grip, especially with smaller hands.

Regardless, it’s hard to recommend getting an F over a D for ITM just from the usefulness in terms of what you can play. A low G would be more usable, and should have holes slightly closer than the F, but a LOT of Gmaj and Emin tunes go down below the G and are way more playable on a D whistle.
How much time have you actually spent trying a low D? It can take some time to get the fingering down, even if you’re proficient on a soprano whistle. I know when I got my first low D it took a handful of hours over multiple days to barely squawk out half a jig without completely butchering all the D/E/F notes. If you’ve only picked one up for a little bit, I’d definitely recommend giving the low D another go and spend some time trying to get a piper’s grip down with it. Take a look at this video for more info: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GUF4Z8a1lbc

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Re: Low F, Low D whistle

Ross is 100% correct above. If your hands are too small for a "low" D whistle, maybe consider getting a Casey Burns D flute. A low whistle in the key of "F" is f**k all use in a session. I’ll lay an open challenge to anyone on the planet to play "The Bucks Of Oranmore" on an "F" low whistle along with me on a "concert" flute [ in D ].

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Re: Low F, Low D whistle

I’ve also had trouble with covering the holes on some low D whistles - and I think my hands are a fairly standard size. However, I found that a low D wooden whistle made by Phil Bleazey (www.bleazey.co.uk/) is completely manageable and sounds pretty good. Worth trying, perhaps?

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Re: Low F, Low D whistle

I don’t have an F Whistle, but I do have G and A and they are both very useful things to have, though almost never in a session context. There are more ways of playing together than at sessions - make some friends and find a time and place to play stuff, which can allow you to pick tunes especially suited to the other keys and that can be played on the whistles. They are also useful for accompanying singers. Or for tunes which go below the D Whistle and don’t sound so good octaving up the low notes. Or for Scottish tunes in A.

I have an F Flute (two actually, one blackwood sweetheart for sale at €300…) and, though they are absolutely useless in the context of an ITM session, they are great fun to play solo due to their responsiveness. And there is a world of musicians out there who play in flat keys a lot - Balfolk, Scandinavian, northern German just to mention a few where my F Flute sometimes gets used.

Playing along to highland pipes is an exercise in futility due to the volume issue and the fact that they are rarely in BFlat, but actually halfway between BFlat and B. If you found someone playing smallpipes or quieter border pipes in A then you would play along with them on a D whistle. Or if they actually _are_ in BFlat then you would use an EFlat whistle. Other keys might be possible, but that is the easiest way to do it.