Whistle (or flute) do you sometimes break up constant slurring for variety? (if so where/when?)

Whistle (or flute) do you sometimes break up constant slurring for variety? (if so where/when?)

I have been having a go at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bxGe2Y0CWMw

Jennies welcome to charlie and on the first part when the octaves jump I have been thinking it can sound better to do a mix between non slurred rather than slurred.

Of course it comes down to preference but wondering what people like to do where because with whistle and I suppose applies to flute too you can end up just slurring nearly everything and what I have been playing with lately is deliberately breaking it up a little on those usually long slur runs to give variety.

Re: Whistle (or flute) do you sometimes break up constant slurring for variety? (if so where/when?)

Styles vary widely but ‘constant slurring’ would be unusual. There’s a big difference between constant air flow and constant slurring. Some do make more marked spaces in the tune for breath or phrasing effect (like Micho Russell or Mike Rafferty) but almost all whistlers/fluters break up phrases in multiple ways with finger articulation/ ornamentation (cuts, taps, slides, rolls). Mary Bergin or Brid O’Donaghue, for example. Occasional tonguing on the whistle but not on the flute (which tends to rely more on glottal stops or breath pulsing for effect). Etc

Re: Whistle (or flute) do you sometimes break up constant slurring for variety? (if so where/when?)

I’m a fiddler. I don’t play the flute and have always been just a casual whistle player (though it’s been all my life). But I listen a lot and I was surprised by this question. The words ‘sometimes’ and ‘constant slurring’ had me scratching my head. And where and when???… well as I like! That’s how you play, isn’t it? I think Loughcurra covered my thoughts.

Posted by .

Re: Whistle (or flute) do you sometimes break up constant slurring for variety? (if so where/when?)

well ornamentation obviously is a thing so that was a given, I am talking about besides that.

Re: Whistle (or flute) do you sometimes break up constant slurring for variety? (if so where/when?)

Articulation/ornament is the very opposite of ‘slurring’. What did you have in mind besides? Do you mean where to pause for breath?

Re: Whistle (or flute) do you sometimes break up constant slurring for variety? (if so where/when?)

Garda: why are you slurring
Driver: I like to slur to break up the constant variety, occifer

Re: Whistle (or flute) do you sometimes break up constant slurring for variety? (if so where/when?)

Ha, ha. Yet pertinent.

Posted by .

Re: Whistle (or flute) do you sometimes break up constant slurring for variety? (if so where/when?)

"Jennies welcome to charlie … the first part when the octaves jump …"

@Counrty Roads: Do I assume correctly that you are referring to the ‘rocking’ passage GEcE dEcE (or similar, depending on the setting)? On the whistle, a common approach to a passage like this is to slur into the ‘strong’ notes (1, 3, 5, 7) and tongue the ‘weak’ notes (2, 4, 6, 8) – the tonguing cuts short the note *before* it, creating a staccato accent. I am not a flute player but I assume this would translate similarly to glottal stops on the flute (it can also translate to bow changes on the fiddle).

Of course, mixing it up is perfectly legitimate: you can slur the whole passage (accenting using the breath), tongue only *some* of the weak notes or you can tongue every note in the passage, and use all or any of these approaches within the one tune.

Re: Whistle (or flute) do you sometimes break up constant slurring for variety? (if so where/when?)

Yes the rocking passage is a good way to put it. Rock on!

"Articulation/ornament is the very opposite of ‘slurring’. What did you have in mind besides? Do you mean where to pause for breath?"

This is not what I was saying. I didn’t say that ornamentation is the same as slurring. I was merely saying that often with whistling there is a tendency to slur passages a lot (even when there is ornamentation); and I am not referring to things other than slurring (I guess I wasn’t clear); I know there are pauses for breath and all the like.

I am talking specifically here only about ‘staccatto’ notes vs. slurring and when you might mix them about, like with the ‘rockin’ passage CMO most eloquently highlighted. I find that slurring too many notes in a line is kind of ‘flat’ and that adding in some deliberate staccatos, of an otherwise long run of slurs, adds some variety to the landscape.

Re: Whistle (or flute) do you sometimes break up constant slurring for variety? (if so where/when?)

Yes, in that passage it would be hard to slur through it and probably a bit messy. Off the top of my head, I think I would cut or tap the first G, then slightly shorten each of the Es underneath the jumps, while huffing each of the higher notes a little bit. The opposite would also be possible (staccato/popping the high jumps against a more continuous E pedal).

Re: Whistle (or flute) do you sometimes break up constant slurring for variety? (if so where/when?)

I know that there are many styles of fluteplaying, and many styles of whistle playing.

Modern players are inventing new styles all the time, and if you go back to the 1920s there were styles not heard any more.

Add to that the recent invention of Low Whistles, and the styles which have evolved for those.

However going back a generation or two, I think it’s safe to say that the most commonly heard Irish flute style had much less tonguing, much more slurring/legato, than the most commonly heard high-whistle style.

I started out on pipes, then Irish flute. On flute I did practically zero tonguing, in other words my music (in non-trad ordinary musical terms) was almost entirely slurred. Yes I did "breath pushes" with the diaphragm and plenty of gracenotes and rolls but I didn’t stop the airstream with tonguing or glottal stops.

When I took up whistle, high whistle, I slowly learned the much more tongued/articulated style made famous by Mary Bergin and other high whistle players.

Most recently I took up Low Whistle and have evolved a style sort of halfway between my flute style and my high whistle style in regards to tonguing. I’m still in stylistic flux on Low Whistle, and float back and forth.

Re: Whistle (or flute) do you sometimes break up constant slurring for variety? (if so where/when?)

Too much articulation is just as bad as too little. When overdone, the articulations and ornaments lose their impact.

Posted by .

Re: Whistle (or flute) do you sometimes break up constant slurring for variety? (if so where/when?)

I cannot find it now, CR, but if you can find a recording of the tune from Zoë Conway’s "The Horse’s Tail" album it might help to learn how it’s played very well.

Here she is on a different tune ~https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lefW4od-uTc

Posted by .

Re: Whistle (or flute) do you sometimes break up constant slurring for variety? (if so where/when?)

I completely agree Aaron: too much ornamentation is probably even worse than no ornamentation at all…. I think it’s the melody itself that counts, it shouldn’t get lost in ornaments.

Re: Whistle (or flute) do you sometimes break up constant slurring for variety? (if so where/when?)

I’m curious about the distinction of the word "impact" in Aaron’s post, definitely worth exploring…

"Too much articulation is just as bad as too little. When overdone, the articulations and ornaments lose their impact."

Re: Whistle (or flute) do you sometimes break up constant slurring for variety? (if so where/when?)

Unless I’m mistaken, "impact" in that comment is related to contrast.

Articulations stand out in contrast to notes with no articulation. They perk up the ear, adding interest and a distinct "Irish" quality to the tune. However, if almost every note is articulated, then there is no contrast and the impact is lost. To put it another way, with too much contrast there is no contrast at all.

Re: Whistle (or flute) do you sometimes break up constant slurring for variety? (if so where/when?)

I could same the same thing about the word "contrast" as "impact"…

What is it we are trying to communicate in our playing with "contrast"?

What is "impact" and is there a need for it?

So many things to discuss…

Re: Whistle (or flute) do you sometimes break up constant slurring for variety? (if so where/when?)

@Richard D Cook: I’m not sure that’s even music. 😉 (I think there is little risk of offending anyone with this comment, as it doesn’t sound like it is played by a human being.)

Certainly, playing without ornamentation *can* sound a bit like that, but it doesn’t have to. It is perfectly possible to play a jig, reel etc. with good rhythm and phrasing and nary a cut, roll, twiddle or slide (whether it sounds ‘Irish’ or not – and whether that matters – is another question).

Re: Whistle (or flute) do you sometimes break up constant slurring for variety? (if so where/when?)

Michael, Conical and Jarek nailed what i meant.

IMO, if a player is articulating constantly, the tune has no flow. The point of articulations and ornaments is to emphasize the rhythm and embellish the melody. Not to override it.

Posted by .

Re: Whistle (or flute) do you sometimes break up constant slurring for variety? (if so where/when?)

Somewhere recently, maybe an old discussion on this site, I came across the advice to “be careful that the ornamentation does not get in the way of the tune”

Re: Whistle (or flute) do you sometimes break up constant slurring for variety? (if so where/when?)

"Certainly, playing without ornamentation *can* sound a bit like that, but it doesn’t have to."

Yes, sorry for my reductio ad absurdum.

I know there’s "fife style" fluteplaying which needs no cuts, pats, or rolls because everything is articulated with tonguing.

That aside, and sticking with what might be considered mainstream traditional Irish reel playing on flute, could people post examples illustrating the following claim?

"It is perfectly possible to play a jig or reel with good rhythm and phrasing and nary a cut, (pat, or) roll…"

I know it’s possible in theory. And for beginning instruction purposes I arranged a reel or two without any cuts, pats, or rolls whatsoever. I looked through a large number of reels to find a couple that suited that treatment. The difficulty finding tunes which did suit that treatment makes me wonder whether a person could show up at a session and play all the common session reels without cuts, pats, or rolls and it sound like "mainstream traditional Irish flute playing".

Re: Whistle (or flute) do you sometimes break up constant slurring for variety? (if so where/when?)

"… makes me wonder whether a person could show up at a session and play all the common session reels without cuts, pats, or rolls and it sound like "mainstream traditional Irish flute playing’".

My $.02… Articulations aren’t just artistic, they’re functional. On a sustaining instrument like flute, whistle, or pipes, how do you play two consecutive identical notes without a cut, pat, tongue or glottal stop to break the interval between them? You could do it with a breath pulse, but that’s a weak way to distinguish the notes and can’t be done on the pipes.

Speaking of pipes, I’ve been led to believe from various sources that the reason we have these articulations in the first place, might have started with the early pipes that had no way to stop the flow of continuous sound. The finger articulations developed from there, as a way to break up the notes so they could be clearly heard.

Instruments that don’t sustain like mandolin or banjo have an easier time playing a tune with no ornamentation, because the note decays so fast that two consecutive notes at the same pitch are clearly heard. You *could* mimic a cut between consecutive notes at the same pitch on mandolin with a pull-off, but it isn’t necessary as it is on a sustaining instrument.