Tunes for low A and G whistles

Tunes for low A and G whistles

I’m trying to give my fellow musicians some relief from the shrillness of my high D whistle. Maybe it’s just my way of playing it but I think some of them would rather listen to their own tinnitus, especially when I’m up in the second octave. Of course I could play more quietly or restrict myself to tunes within one octave, or try to become more adept on the low D whistle, but failing that I’m now transposing our regular tunes for the low A and low G whistles. It’s already making a big difference.

Below is a list of tunes I’ve transposed so far. Some settings sit very well on these instruments but others need tweaking a bit and in many cases it changes the character of the tune, particularly when the tune goes up and I have to drop down. I’m wondering if anyone can suggest other common session tunes that would fit these whistles? More tunes in A or Bm would be a blessing…

Low A
Atholl Highlanders(A), The Butterfly(Em), Calliope House(D), Cavers of Kircudbright(D), Da Greenland Man’s Tune(Em), Da Slockit Light(D), Drowsy Maggie(Em), Fig for a Kiss(Em),
Francis Aucoin(D), Go Mauve(Em), Green fields of Rossbeigh(Em),
Humours of Glendart(D), Jenny’s Chickens(Bm), Kid on the Mountain(Em), King of the Fairies(Em), Liberty((D), Lochaber Badger(Em), Longford Tinker(D), Maid Behind the Bar(D), Midnight on the Water(D), Morning Star(D), Morrison’s(Em), Muneira de Casu(D), Nordal Rumba(A), Paper Bird(Bm), Rachel Rae(D), Ramnee Ceilidh(D), Reel St Antoine(A), Rolling Wave (D), Sheila Coyle’s(Am), St Anne’s reel(D), St Kilda Wedding(D), Souter Creek(D), Trip to Pakistan(Em).

Low G
Ballydesmond Polka(Am), Brenda Stubbert’s(Am), Captain O’Kane(Am), Cliffs of Moher(Am), The Congress(Am), Dusty Windowsills(Am), Fanny Power(G), Fermoy Lasses(G), Flatbush Waltz(Am), Flatworld(Am), Gravel Walks(Am), Hogties(Am), Humours of Tullycrine(Am), Jimmy Ward’s(G), Kesh(G), Killarney Boys of Pleasure(Am), Islay Rant(Am), Lark in the Morning(Am), Marie’s Wedding(D), Merrily Kissed the Quaker(G), Mouse in the Mug (G), Muneira D’Anton(D), New Road to Alston(Am), O’Keeffe’s(Am), O’Neil’s Cavalcade, Pipe on the Hob(Am), Rakish Paddy (D), The Old Bush(Am), Red House(Am), Rocky Road to Dublin(G), Rose of Raby (Am), Sleep Sound Ida Mornin’(Am), Slieve Russell(Am), Sporting Paddy(G), The Swallowtail(Am), Tenpenny Bit(Am), Tie the Bonnet(Am), Tolka Polka(Am), Tripper’s Jig(Am).

Re: Tunes for low A and G whistles

You seem to be doing pretty well with that list. Some tunes in D actually work better on an A whistle (played in D, i.e. using "G fingering") if they have low notes but don’t go too high. You can get low notes down to low A but I wouldn’t want to go higher than g in the upper octave. Two examples that work very well for starters: Mountain Road & Lafferty’s reel/Glen of Aherlow. The latter is not really in D, but just start the tune on e in the second octave and it’ll all work out nicely (that is, e if it were a D whistle, if you see what I mean, actually a B of course).

Re: Tunes for low A and G whistles

Stiamh, nice! I was going to mention Mountain Road, which is perfect for playing on A whistle. I don’t think I ever realized that Glen of Aherlow worked that well. It does have the high G, which is pushing it on an A whistle, but that’s doable (and probably good practice) and other than that it’s grand on A whistle.

Another one (whose common-ness may depend on your location) is Sean Ryan’s "Twilight in Portroe". It goes up to the root note in the third octave, again a pain, but other than that fits well, and if you learn it this way it has the advantage that you can play it in A (Ryan’s key) or G (common key that flute players use for it) just by switching between A and G whistles.

Mind, you probably should learn these on D whistle too — but it’s nice to have the option to handle the low notes that a fiddle would play.

Re: Tunes for low A and G whistles

Thanks Stiamh - Mountain Road is perfect and I’ll check out the other tunes. Yes, I’m thinking there must be more suitable tunes in A (isn’t this a favourite key for fiddlers?) that go down to a low A but not higher than G in upper octave.

Re: Tunes for low A and G whistles

For what it’s worth, in my experience I usually find myself using the A whistle for tunes in D which go down to the first fiddle string, and my E whistle for tunes in A. "Twilight in Portroe" and Emile Benoit’s "Christina’s Dream" the only exceptions I can think of off the top of my head — and both of those go higher than the comfortable range on the A whistle. I suspect fiddles may enjoy playing on the top two strings (A & E) in the key of A?

Re: Tunes for low A and G whistles

Yes, for most tunes in A major an E whistle is better than an A whistle. Just pretend they’re in G. Which means a low E whistle unless you want even greater shrillness.

Re: Tunes for low A and G whistles

We’re on a roll with Sean Ryan tunes here: after Lafferty’s & the Trip to Portroe, try the Castle Jig (Sean Ryan’s jig) on a G whistle (using "E minor fingering"). Play the second part down an octave, except the last four notes, which you’ll have to push up an octave.

The same method should work for Paddy Ryan’s Dream, too (which the Castle Jig is to me starting to look suspiciously like a 6/8 reworking of!).

Re: Tunes for low A and G whistles

I always reach for my A whistle to play Calum’s Road and The Hut on Staffin Island - both tunes sit better on an A than high D anyhow. Will definitely check down your list for other potential tunes to give fellow sessioners a break from my high D 🙂

Re: Tunes for low A and G whistles

Thanks for these tunes. They’re all new to me. I think Lafferty’s is perfectly playable on a high D but also great on the low A. I’ll now have to do some transposing. Any more suggestions gratefully received…