Do you play a non-tunable low D?

Do you play a non-tunable low D?

I got very lucky recently and bought my husband a set of 3 low whistles through Facebook for a great price. One was a plastic Fidgin Fain, one a Shearwater and the other an old handmade Chieftain. Hubby got very fond of the Chieftain one in particular. (The Shearwater is gorgeous too though!) The only potential problem either of us could see with any of the whistles is that none of them are tunable.

So we decided to sell on the whistles and use the money to buy a new tunable Chieftain, and it seemed the Thunderbird was the modern equivalent. Well, thank goodness we had only sold the Fidgin Fain before we bought the new one, because it arrived today, and it’s kinda crap! You have to suddenly blow way harder to move up the octave, whereas on the old one you don’t have that sudden change in air flow. The sound quality isn’t as good as the old one either, and if anything, the holes are less comfortable to cover. So it looks like we’ll be returning this one.

The striking differences between the old handmade one and the new machine made one leads me to ask: how important is tunability in a low D whistle? My husband’s high D is a tunable Killarney whistle but we figure the high D would sound particularly jarring out of tune, whereas maybe the deep sound of a low D won’t be so bad if it’s not exactly the same as the instruments around it? We’ve played together to try that out and I don’t notice myself having to make big adjustments to my intonation on the fiddle. Is he better off just keeping the gem of a whistle he’s got hold of even though it’s not tunable? Will it be ok to play it in a session?

Re: Do you play a non-tunable low D?

Keep the whistle!!! Lots of instruments are ‘ not tunable’ like concertina . The low whistle will start flat and sharpen as it warms up. In a way Its more important that high instruments are all in tune than the bass . Most of the time it will be fine!!

Re: Do you play a non-tunable low D?

Oops I think I may have spoken too soon, yes the new whistle is behaving much better in a warm room!! Sorry Mr Hardy if you’re reading this, I don’t think we’ve got a dud after all… It surprised me how much better the old whistle coped in cool air when comparing the two. I suppose when it’s tuneable, there’s a thicker portion of the whistle to warm up, and it presumably takes longer for the double layer of metal to adjust itself?

There’s a wonky-looking bit inside the mouthpiece but it doesn’t seem to be affecting playability.

The old whistle is a touch flat but not as badly as some have been described in older discussions. Maybe 10 cents on the worst notes. I suppose it’s good to have a spare anyway.

Re: Do you play a non-tunable low D?

The newer Chieftain whistles have a higher backpressure. I quite like my slightly older Thunderbird model. But the new V5 is also nice. None of them are tunable. No problems with tuning so far. A little warming up often improves the sound. It’s just a lot of metal to cool down the air and meddle with the sound.

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Re: Do you play a non-tunable low D?

With Low D’s, when they have more “backpressure” (higher impedance) you have to use greater force of air, but less quantity of air (less air travels through the instrument while playing).

Another way to word it is that the whistle is more efficient, allowing longer musical phrases to be played.

Whistles that are more “freeblowing” (lower impedance) feel easy to blow, easy to play, but in fact more air passes through while playing, so you have to take breaths more often.

The 2nd octave doesn’t necessarily get stiffer relative to the low octave when you have overall higher impedance, because I’ve played extremely efficient high-impedance Low Ds that had an easy 2nd octave relative to the low octave (both octaves were more stiff yes; I mean the relation between the octaves).

Anyhow all my whistles are tunable because you never know what situation you might have to perform in. It could be cold, or the other players could be tuned sharp. Also a nontunable whistle has built into it the room temperature of the workshop it was made in, and the blowing habits of the person who made it. If you play in a different room, or blow a whistle differently, it’s not going to be in tune.

Re: Do you play a non-tunable low D?

Personally, I also like tuneable whistles (high ones), as you can take them apart to make them small enough to go in your pocket, or turn the mouthpiece 180 degrees for wind protection when playing outdoors or wanting to play quietly on a tune you don’t know well 🙂

Re: Do you play a non-tunable low D?

Quote:
“Also a nontunable whistle has built into it the room temperature of the workshop it was made in”
Only if the maker has no clue what he is doing. Most non-tunable whistles are (or should be) tuned to 20-21 degrees Celsius. And there are ways to account for different temperatures. Good electronic tuners can be adjusted. So you can theoretically tune a whistle in a cold workshop for a differente temperature.
What you are writing is true of course, and I know you are an expert, Richard. Just adding that there is a point when a higher backpressure doesn’t make the whistle any more air-efficient. That point is reached when it becomes too hard to blow. The breathing reflex while playing (and in general) is not caused by a lack of oxygen in the lungs but by a build-up of CO2 in the bloodstream. That means, if you have a whistle with a very high backpressure and you cannot breath out fast enough while playing it, the breathing reflex will set in and the whistle will become less air-efficient because of the CO2 building up in your bloodstream which forces you to breathe. That leads to the counter-intuitive fact that on some whistles you can play longer phrases when blowing out air through the nose while playing because it reduces CO2-levels in the blood and the breathing-reflex sets in later. So the connection between backpressure and air-efficiency of a whistle is slightly more complex than meets the eye and at some point a higher backpressure reduces air-efficiency -- I guess the connection could probably be visualized by some “bellshape”-graph. But so far I only used the “breathing out through the nose” technique on high Ds like Generations or other whistles that need very little air.

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