Choosing a Low Whistle and a Irish Flute

Choosing a Low Whistle and an Irish Flute

I’ve been playing tin whistle for a while now and thinking of getting a low whistle and possibly an Irish flute in the future.

I’m looking into the MK Pro or a Howard low D whistle. I like the price of the Howard but afraid the sound will be inferior compared to an MK Pro. Does anyone have experience on which one should I choose? I’m afraid that MK Pro especially the paint won’t last very long.

Also, I’m saving up to get a Delrin flute. The Galeón Pratten 4 piece sound nice to me but I’m worried that if a keyless flute will need to be upgraded when I progress. Maybe an M&E 6 Key Flute will be a better suit? Does anyone have any experience with how Tony Dixon three-piece flute (Dx030) sound like compared to Galeón Pratten?

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Re: Choosing a Low Whistle and a Irish Flute

My only advice is (unless you’re not comfortable financially at the moment), is buy the instrument you want, rather than over focus on price (buy once, buy well).

Good instruments keep their value somewhat on the secondhand market and otherwise you’ll always wonder what your dream instrument would have sounded like/won’t enjoy the one you got.

Re: Choosing a Low Whistle and a Irish Flute

Welcome to The Session Freja. I see that the MK Pro costs £249 ($332) and a Galeón Pratten costs $499.99. A total of $832 = (£632) = (€701). I’d suggest buying a mopan Solen Lesouëf keyless D flute for $800 instead of the low whistle and delrin flute. That is continue with your whistle and go for a good keyless flute unless you really want a low D whistle?
https://www.irishflutestore.com/products/solen-lesoef-mopane-d

A good keyless flute will suffice for a number of years if you’re thinking of playing Irish traditional music. You’ll be able to order and save for a good keyed flute during that time, and a Lesouëf keyless flute will have a good resale value, should you decide to sell, as her flutes are excellent.
http://sosolaflute.com

Re: Choosing a Low Whistle and a Irish Flute

Thank you Steamwikes for your helpful recommendation. I’ve never thought of only getting a flute. I like both of their deep and low sound that no high whistle could provide and I just feel like a low whistle is easier for me to transit from tin whistle. Should I just give up the low whistle and learn the flute instead?

Also, I’m a very sloppy human being(I’ve ruined a Clarke Sweetone before getting a proper whistle), I’m afraid that I may not be able to take proper care of a wooden flute. I’m currently living in an area with extreme heat in the summer and extremely dry in the winter and scared that a wooden flute will crack. I’m looking for an instrument that can stick with me for a long time. Perhaps a Delrin flute suit my living situation?

I’ve no musical background beside tin whistle, if I play Irish music only, is a keyless flute enough for me?

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Re: Choosing a Low Whistle and a Irish Flute

The MK Pro colour is anodised not painted. It will not tarnish.

Steamwilkes advice is sound for two reasons. Either Low-D whistle or D flute are going to take time (years) to master. They are similar - but you’ll get better results by focusing on one rather than splitting your experience and practice over two. Get yourself a really good keyless wooden flute and put all your budget there to get the best you can afford. For new flutes expect 6 months to 2 years wait time depending on maker. But there are generally good second hand ones available for around the budget your are looking at spending.

Welcome on board and best wishes with your purchase(s) and learning.

Re: Choosing a Low Whistle and a Irish Flute

I concur. The sound attainable froma flute is superior to low whistle. The recommendation is sound. Solens flutes are wonderful as are Martin Doyle’ s . Id have a hard time choosing between the 2 .
Michael Burkes low D is the only low D that ive found to approach the quality of flute tone. But the stretch requires dedication.
Im only a beginer flute player, buti know what I like 🙂

Re: Choosing a Low Whistle and a Irish Flute

Well it’s up to you, but as gbyrne mentioned, I’d focus on just one new instrument, the flute. Wooden flutes are not that delicate. The keyless Leousëf’ flute has no sliding head joint (no metal in the head joint) so if you don’t leave it in the sun or parcel shelf of a car in summer, and keep it in a flute box or plastic container at home with a piece of damp sponge, if you have central heating, during the winter months, you should be alright. I have a Wilkes flute, and some 125 to 142 years old, Rudall & Rose flutes here in Sweden and they do fine. A keyless flute in D will be fine.

Re: Choosing a Low Whistle and a Irish Flute

‘The keyless Leousëf’ flute has no sliding head joint (no metal in the head joint) ..’

Steamwilkes, just for your information, Solen making unlined and lined heads for her flutes, so You must inform her what You want. I ordered 2 flutes made by her and didn’t specify what type of head I would like to have at time when I ordered first one , so I recived flute with lined head.
Of course, according Murphy law I prefer unlined heads, so it was my bad ….
Marin

Re: Choosing a Low Whistle and a Irish Flute

Thank you all for your recommendation. I think I will put off the low whistle and give a flute instead.

I know this may be a silly question but do a Polymer or Delrin have a drastic sound difference compared to a wooden flute? Can I conclude that even if I start off with a Delrin flute, I will need to upgrade to a wooden flute as I progress? (I feel kinda bad to purchase a flute made by protected wood species. Perhaps I should go for Mopane if I end up buying Lesouëf flute?)

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Re: Choosing a Low Whistle and a Irish Flute

> MK Pro or a Howard low D whistle

Of these two, the MK, no question. (They’re not painted, the colours are a powder coat which doesn’t come off)

> if I play Irish music only, is a keyless flute enough for me?

Although I agree with the advice that buying the right instrument once is the best route (and why I say MK), if you’re not sure what makes a good instrument for you there is a lot to be said for starting with a decent workhorse. And if you play whistle, you’ll already have an idea of how often you want to play notes that aren’t there, so I see a lot of sense in you going for a keyless Delrin flute.

> I just feel like a low whistle is easier for me to transit from tin whistle

This is definitely true. Flute definitely means taking a fair while to get to a playing standard equal to what you’re used to on the whistle. A low whistle is a much quicker transition.

One thing to be aware of is that although low whistle and flute have a lot of similarities, they’re very different instruments and you play them quite differently (or at least I do).

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Re: Choosing a Low Whistle and a Irish Flute

> do a Polymer or Delrin have a drastic sound difference compared to a wooden flute?

Ask six flute players and you will get seven answers and possibly a fist-fight, but if there is a difference, it’s not much. What can make a difference is that cutting different materials in the same way can have different results in dimensions and smoothness of cut surfaces, and this explains some at least of the difference that is (claimed to be?) heard.

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Re: Choosing a Low Whistle and a Irish Flute

I’ve got the Howard and like it quite a bit, but whistle isn’t my main instrument, so investing in something like an MK Pro didn’t make sense for me at this point. It’s a good whistle with a nice sound and is nothing I’d be ashamed of using at a paying gig or on a recording (which is where I expect to use it most, to add a bit of flavor to some harp stuff I’m working on). It’s also pretty sturdily built and doesn’t seem to be in any danger of getting dented or scratched easily.

Re: Choosing a Low Whistle and a Irish Flute

What i noticed in my limeyed experiences isvthe delrin was a lot heavier than my present cherry( plum?) wood flute .
Quality of tone? Well the reflective surface is hard and polished so the sound will be harder and edgier IME closer to African Blackwood.

Re: Choosing a Low Whistle and a Irish Flute

"Steamwilkes, just for your information, Solen making unlined and lined heads for her flutes, so You must inform her what You want. " Maric.

Maracirac just for your information, I’m well aware that Solen makes both unlined and lined head joints for her flutes. I was referring to the mopane flute with the unlined head joint for sale at the Irish flute store for $799.99: https://www.irishflutestore.com/products/solen-lesoef-mopane-d

Re: Choosing a Low Whistle and a Irish Flute

Thanks, Calum. I’ve got the impression that the Galeón Pratten 4 piece sound the most like an Irish flute(from ケルトの笛屋さん if google translate is correct) and it’s also highly recommended by the Irish Flute Store. I doubt if a wooden flute is really worth my money since my inexperienced ears don’t hear much difference in them. I will switch to a whistle in a different key or half-holing if the key is not there. Is a keyed flute more convenient than half-holing on a keyless flute or it sounds better? Is there any ornament or other stuff that I’ll miss if I go with a keyless flute?

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Re: Choosing a Low Whistle and a Irish Flute

Thanks, Matt dB. I wonder which version of the Howard you got. From all the sound sample around the internet, the Howard sounds scratchy and rough in the second octave while the MK Pro has a pure sound throughout. The sound of Howard whistle is one of a kind. I’m also really impressed by the possibility of changing out the head. But I’m afraid I may regret it if I choose a Howard but not choosing an MK Pro. I think I’m overwhelmed by the MK Pro trend but Howard seems to have redesigned their head and I’ve seen a lot of good comments about the Howard on Chiff and Fipple recently.

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Re: Choosing a Low Whistle and a Irish Flute

The one I have has the more recent "M3" head, which seems to give it a pretty consistent sound through most of its range. I haven’t gotten to hear an MK in person to really compare the two, but I suspect you wouldn’t be disappointed in one of those at all.

I think it’s all up to you, if you’re thinking of using a low whistle as one of your primary instruments, get the nicest one you can afford. On the other hand, if you’re thinking of taking up flute as well, you may find you play the low whistle less often. On the other hand, is it really a bad thing to have a few nice instruments around?

Or, you could get a flute and a couple of low whistles in keys other than D, like A, G or F so you could have a whole arsenal of different tones and pitches to play with!

Re: Choosing a Low Whistle and a Irish Flute

I would second the advice to concentrate on one of the instruments - and of course, as I have said elsewhere, I don’t really think there is anything that a low whistle can do that a flute can’t do better. Yes, you need to work on your tone quality and colour more on a flute, but on the other hand, you have actually got a tone quality and colour (not to mention dynamics!) that you can work on, whereas with the low whistle you’re stuck with whatever tone the instrument has and no ability to change the volume.

Traditionally players would start on a keyless, moving to a keyed flute once the need for keys has been felt and by which stage the player should have a much better idea of what they are looking for in "their" flute.

You normally wouldn’t want to, but it is certainly possible to imitate the sound of a low whistle using a flute, though it requires practising for a flexibility of tone that most traditional flute players don’t feel that they need. But then, apart from the odd slow air or two, why would you want to?

("flexibility of tone" - The ability to change the quality and character of the sound you make according to how you want to sound at a given point in a particular piece of music.).

And by all means keep up the high whistle - I rarely play my high D, but I do frequently play the other keys of higher whistles (middle G to high EFlat mostly), especially when the guitar players start taking out capos. For F I would use an F Flute - they are also fun.

Wood is not much harder than plastic to look after, but it does require a bit of caution. I know many flute players that are happy with delrin, though I prefer wood and have never really had any problems with it. I live in a temperate (northern European) climate and the climate does nothing to the flute compared with the stress of actually playing it. Centra heating dry air could be a problem in winter if we heated more, but we don’t. I know a player from Arizona who stores his wooden flute in a sealed tupperware box when not playing.

Re: Choosing a Low Whistle and a Irish Flute

Hi Freya—

Here is some advice, in no particular order:
(1) The difference between a good wood and a good delrin flute is slight, but I believe detectable. If you go to Rob Forbes website, there are three videos of Kevin Crawford playing his (Rob’s) delrin flutes. You can compare for yourself the sound he obtains with the sound he obtains with his Grinter wooden flutes.
(2) Currently I am playing two Olwell blackwood flutes and two delrin flutes, one by Rob Forbes and the other by Garry Somers. I am happy to alternate between the wooden and the delrin flutes (usually on different days). All four are fine instruments.
(3) You do not need a keyed flute for 95% of Irish music.
(4) Wood definitely requires more care than delrin. In the winter, in a heated house, I keep my wooden flutes in a large tupperware container with a hygrometer to measure the humidity. I use orange/tangerine peels to keep the humidity around 60%. I also year-around oil my wooden flutes once a month with almond oil.
(5) The flute is a difficult instrument. It takes years to acquire a decent embouchure and takes daily playing to keep it in shape. So buy all means purchase a low whistle as well.
(6) Buying a flute, delrin or wood, be sure to get an instrument from a good maker. There are many such for wooden flutes. For delrin, I have played those by Somers, Forbes and Copley and any of them would be fine. Forbes’ flutes are Pratten models and take a lot of air to drive. Copley’s are in the middle in terms of air requirements, and Somers’ Rudall model takes relatively little air. He also makes a Pratten model which I’m not familiar with. None of these delrin flutes are very expensive and all are excellent.

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Re: Choosing a Low Whistle and a Irish Flute

Thank you Crackpot and cac, Somers’ Rudall model is a real gem! And I think I’ll consider to Forbes and Copley too. How about makers like Serry, Galeón, M&E and Dixon, has anyone tried them or how do they compare with Somers, Forbes and Copley? The Somer’s Rudall is a 5 piece flute, does the number of piece matters or a flute with 3 pieces or above is enough for ergonomics purpose?

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Re: Choosing a Low Whistle and a Irish Flute

And I would base my personal judgement of whether I want to own a flute on:

1. Do I like the feel of having it in my hands and playing it. Be subjective. Close your eyes. Then be even more subjective…
2. The main acoustic quality is responsiveness, i.e. how easily and quickly does it make loud and clear noise?

Obviously there are many other factors, such as intonation, ergonomics, finish, care requirements et.c. But my flutes have been chosen with the above criteria representing 95% of the choice and I have not regretted any of them, though I have outgrown one or two.

Re: Choosing a Low Whistle and a Irish Flute

I have about 7 Low D whistles.
My Howard I don’t like. My Syn is not comfortable.
My Hammy Hamilton is excellent and full in tone (flute like).
My Optima is OK but hole spacing could be better.
My Kerry Thunderbird is loud, uses a lot of air and is not bad to play.
My Kerry V5 has a lovely breathy tone and does not require a lot of air although it can be blown quite strongly and remain in control.

I have a friend with an MK Pro but I prefer my V5 or Hammy Hamilton.

Hope this helps.

Re: Choosing a Low Whistle and a Irish Flute

Colin Goldie makes an Overton design low D and will customize it for n any number of ways. When you order he’ll call you on the phone to discuss your wishes. I wanted mine loud for sessions, with a flutey chiff and I have big hands with big fingers and wide spans so could handle large holes. I got everything I wanted and he can also make whistles for smaller fingers (though you have to have a fairly wide span and longish fingers for any Low D). He played it over the phone when it was done so I could hear it! Customer service and lifetime warranty to the owner with your name engraved in the bell.

Re: Choosing a Low Whistle and a Irish Flute

Hand size!?! A Low D will require (usually) a pipers grip if you have small hands. I don’t and still have to use a pipers grip. No one has mentioned this so something to consider

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Re: Choosing a Low Whistle and a Irish Flute

Hi, the Burke low D is a lovely and user friendly instrument.

The on line scary commentary that you may encounter about low D whistles is not entirely accurate. The tonal quality of Burke whistles, in this case the low D is a strong motivator to attain success with the use of the pipers grip on any low whistle, in this case the Burke low D.

It soars in low and high ranges and is a joy to play. Once the grip is mastered you will love it’s richness in tone and flexibility in playing airs and fast tunes. My thoughts.

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