Burke D narrow-bore (brass) and whistles generally

Burke D narrow-bore (brass) and whistles generally

Bought this (quite dear) whistle (burke d narrow bore in brass)
my reflections on it after playing it for a month are:

Very stiff upper octave - so much so that i’d argue that you need effectively 4 distinct breath pressures - 1 for the lower octave, 2 for upper octave D-G, 3 for high A, 4 for high B.
this is a problem. Try playing a tune eg Graf Spee 3rd part, and no matter what it’ll either be shrill or notes won’t sound. Or the second part of Jackson’s.
see eg: https://choonz-irish-music.bandcamp.com/track/bonus-track-the-graf-spee-burke-d

The other thing is if you articulate ornaments, and ornament a lot, the whistle’s just not responsive without a significant amount of backpressure, so they don’t sound immediately, and if you ornament as much as i do, it affects the flow of the tune while you wait for it to sound.
(its not just in my head: i was going between it and my cheap dixon and my not so cheap killarney. Atm i’d say i play best on the cheapest and worst on the most expensive, which is very frustrating considering that i spent 2 months disposable income on the burke! (Also the dixon’s not in tune with itself…))

anyone else have feedback on burkes?

Re: Burke D narrow-bore (brass) and whistles generally

I’m very conscious of stiff high notes, and I avoid such whistles.

I’ve owned Burkes from High D (both "session" and "narrow") down to Low D and several in between. For all their numerous good points, Burkes as a species have larger bores, take a larger quantity of air, and have stiffer high notes than most other makes I’ve tried.

I do think that the so-called "narrow bore" Burkes (which in fact have normal bores) are an improvement over their usual wide bores. For me the narrow-bore High D is probably Burke’s best-playing whistle, yet I very much prefer, for High D, vintage Feadogs and Generations and new Sindts and Killarneys. When comparing those others to my narrow-bore High D Burke, I found that the non-Burkes had sweeter high notes yet the low notes were just as good. In other words I found that the narrow-bore Burke High D had a greater differential between the registers than those other types.

And all of those others took less quantity of air, Burkes as a species being more air-hungry than most.

I think you’re spot on with your impressions of the increasing force of air required. It’s not just the force of air: when I was testing a large number of Low D Whistle makes for air-efficiency I noticed that all makes were more or less the same in the low octave, but as I got higher in the 2nd octave the required volume of air increased dramatically with some makes. To sustain High B at pitch on a Burke Low D required twice as much volume of air as sustaining the same note on my MK or Goldie.

Also High B on some Low D whistles is finicky, if you back off ever so slightly the timbre of High B becomes harsh. My Burke Low D had that quality, but I don’t recall having that issue on the smaller Burkes. (You do need to make sure on Low Ds that you finger High B completely open xoo ooo)

About articulation of ornaments, I know that’s something I hear people talking about, but it’s something that I’ve not perceived myself. I play Highland pipes and uilleann pipes and whistles from big to small, and I used to play Irish flute (until a hand injury) and various other things, and honestly I don’t notice a significant difference between instruments.

It’s true that on uilleann pipes, flute, and whistles all ornaments aren’t created equal, and certain cuts that sound good in the low octave don’t work well in the 2nd octave.

So in the low octave this cut on E sounds fine

xxx xxo
xxo xxo
xxx xxo

but in the 2nd octave it can sound muffled, so I switch to this

xxx xxo
xxx oxo
xxx xxo

Re: Burke D narrow-bore (brass) and whistles generally

Without being dismissive, Burke d whistles are not ideal. We should be able to create a stable column of air, and not have to think about it to change octaves, or engage the upper octave. Sindt…..

Re: Burke D narrow-bore (brass) and whistles generally

Yes Sindt! Possibly, probably, the best High Whistles made today.

Though when I compared, at length, my Sindt D, C, Bb, and A to my vintage Feadog and Generations in those keys I ended up selling the Sindts. They were very close! But I liked the vintage whistles a tad more.

(Yes I have a Generation A, a Generation Bb top on a self-made A body.)

Re: Burke D narrow-bore (brass) and whistles generally

Thanks guys!
Glad it’s not just me. I *wanted* to like this whistle…
Whoever said about the high B being harsh, yes.
Also, you can’t cant get away with oxxooo for cnat on this whistle.
Honestly, I think Michael Burke got carried away with his o-ring technology. It doesn’t make a big difference with alto/ low whistles, only volume really, but nah, not for high whistles.
3/4 breath pressures? nooo.

I defy any ‘busy’ player to favour this whistle. plus if you do ornaments, it takes a variable time to sound depending on which note, and that delay kills your flow.

I have a Burke alto G, really easy to play & really nice. Low C - soo breath-hungry, you need another pair of lungs. Plus its so finicky, temperature clogging, but when it is behaving has a lovely tone.

I have a killarney D. Upgrade to Sindt? Tbh, in terms of playability its £10 dixon > £80 killarney > £££ burke. Except the dixon’s out of tune with itself. but easy to play. if i could get a tweaked generation, i’d do that - its good enough for mary bergin. i’m nifty on basic tin whistles: even my killarney’s a bit needlessly chaffy. I just can’t find a decent one.
So, sindt vs killarney? also how do you get hold of sindt? i can’t see a website..

Re: Burke D narrow-bore (brass) and whistles generally

All but one of my whistles are by olivier bouchard , brass body boxwood head . And a Burke low G

Re: Burke D narrow-bore (brass) and whistles generally

@Will Evans: that sounds interesting. I’ll look him up.
Burke low G is a really good whistle, no complaints. After my Copeland low D, my 2nd best whistle. Had the Copeland nearly 20 years. They don’t make em like that anymore. Literally😋
With the copeland, when it sounds bad, I know it’s user error not instrument letting me down.
I tried a Goldie G, but it’s ‘between bores’, so not ideal, the Burke is better.
I need to get a low Eb, it won’t be a burke, because the bores too far for the size, it won’t have a good upper octave. So it’ll be a goldie. Except I can’t get hold of him…

Re: Burke D narrow-bore (brass) and whistles generally

The original poster’s description doesn’t match my experience of the Burke narrow-bore high D at all, like we’re in two completely different realities.

I have both a brass and composite version of that model. Both are over 10 years old.

The composite version is my absolutely favorite whistle, both in terms of intonation, clear tone, and responsiveness. It’s the one on my desk that I play ever day. Both are my “go-to” whistles for recording and on-line events, rock solid performance, clear tone, easy to play, very efficient as far as air requirements, no issues with octaves or any of the challenges you wrote about.

On the brass I have to slightly underblow the first octave C natural when using the oxx ooo fingering otherwise it tends sharp. That would be my only issue with it. The composite does not have that “feature”.

My only criticism of the Burke High-D whistles in general is that they lack much of the breathiness in the tone that one gets with a Generation or even a Sindt. The Burke tone, particularly the narrow bore models, tends to be more clean. Some may prefer the more “traditional” sound of other whistles. That being said, if one really needs to, it is possible by side blowing (directing the air flow against the edge of the windway rather than blow straight through) to get a slightly more breathy tone on the Burkes, a trick that also works well for Susato whistles.

Maybe it’s because my whistles are older models? I’ve seen differences in response between various Burke wide-bore model designs over the years, but have not played a very recent narrow bore.

For sessions I prefer my older Copeland brass high-D as it’s tone is a bit louder and cuts through better in a loud environment, but for online sessions and recording projects, my Burke narrow bore high-Ds are wonderful.

Re: Burke D narrow-bore (brass) and whistles generally

TheHappyCamper, might you consider posting a couple of comparison recordings of what you are experiencing with the Burke vs. another whistle that is more to your liking? This discussion is really interesting considering how different my experience is of the same model.

Re: Burke D narrow-bore (brass) and whistles generally

@Michael Eskin: here’s some examples. I can’t record more atm because out of batteries for my recording device. (It doesn’t really help the comparison that i recorded them on different days, killarney day, i was playing markedly worse. oh well):

gan ainm/ up in the garret/ the wingflapper
Burke: https://choonz-irish-music.bandcamp.com/track/wingflapper-6
Killarney: https://choonz-irish-music.bandcamp.com/track/bonus-track-wingflapper-killarney-d

Paddy at the Feis/ Hughie Travers’ /Hanley’s Tweed/
Burke: https://choonz-irish-music.bandcamp.com/track/hanleys-13
Killarney: https://choonz-irish-music.bandcamp.com/track/bonus-track-hanleys-killarney-d

here’s another set highlighting the foibles of the burke (see 3rd part of the graf spee (second tune))
https://choonz-irish-music.bandcamp.com/track/bonus-track-the-graf-spee-burke-d
when i go up high it sounds rough, there’s nowhere to hide.

Re: Burke D narrow-bore (brass) and whistles generally

I definitely hear the roughness and instability in the second octaves on the Burke in those recordings. How odd. I don’t have that issue with mine. Any chance it’s just in need of a good cleaning?

Re: Burke D narrow-bore (brass) and whistles generally

No, michael, i did give it a clean just in case. I think he’s making them quite differently now: he doesn’t make composite ones now for example.
wonder if i got a duff one? but my experience seems to tally with others here…

Re: Burke D narrow-bore (brass) and whistles generally

Just for reference, my composite is from 2006, the brass is from 2009.

Re: Burke D narrow-bore (brass) and whistles generally

I’ve had Burke Narrow D since 2011 or 2012, an aluminum one. High A and B have never been a problem, in fact, it’s one of the more efficient whistles I’ve ever played when it comes to second octave passages. Caveat: I had been playing whistle for over twenty years at the time I bought it, so that was perhaps a factor in the relative ease I found in playing it.

Re: Burke D narrow-bore (brass) and whistles generally

Just tested my composite and brass narrow bore high Ds and the pressure gradients in the second octave are smooth all the way up with no instability or roughness at all .

TheHappyCamper, I’m wondering if perhaps you just got a clunker. I hope all the new one’s aren’t like that.

Tried my old session bore high D from 2002 and it’s smooth too as far as second octave response, but I prefer the sound and air requirements of the narrow bore for my online events and recording.

My session bore has a small issue where I get air leakage around the delrin head plug when the instrument is warmed up, was messing with the tone. Sealing it with some clear nail polish around the metal to delrin interface on the fipple more or less fixed the issue. Anyone else run into that? It’s a fine whistle for sessions, but not my favorite tone or feel, never really bonded with it like I have the narrow bore models.

Re: Burke D narrow-bore (brass) and whistles generally

Happy Camper wrote:
"I defy any busy player to favour this whistle…"

Interestingly, the people who seem to prefer Burkes are often professional musicians for whom whistles are not their main instruments.

‘Reed guys’ who are ‘doublers’ in music industry slang, people who show up at studio gigs with various Saxes and Boehm flute primarily, but can double on clarinet, recorder, bamboo flutes, pennywhistles, and such.

I’ve seen these guys show up with a roll of gleaming Burkes in every key. They like the big round sound of Burkes, and the way that pretty much all sizes play alike. Coming from Sax as they do they don’t perceive the high notes of Burkes as being stiff.

Happy Camper wrote:
"I have a Burke alto G, really easy to play & really nice."

Yes indeed I think the Alto G was one of the best players of the various sizes of Burkes I had.

Burkes as a species have a larger length-to-bore ratio than most makers use, and Burke (unlike most makers) uses dedicated tubing for each size to maintain this ratio.

However measuring my various whistles I discovered that my Alto G Burke has a narrower length-to-bore ratio than my other Burkes. Why, who can say. But it makes it a bit sweeter player than most Burkes.

I’m ordering a Colin Goldie Alto G with a narrower bore yet, his Alto A tubing. I’m sure it will be a super sweet player.

(I should mention that the length-to-bore ratio that gives a similar performance doesn’t remain constant through the various sizes, but gets proportionally narrower as whistles get longer.)

Re: Burke D narrow-bore (brass) and whistles generally

I have used a Burke D aluminum die cast for a number of years. Easy to play, clear, nice tone. No complaints

I have coffee cups full of other makers whistles I tried and didn’t get along with. But I’m not a regular on whistle so find the Burke very comfortable for the times I need to play a whistle in public.

Re: Burke D narrow-bore (brass) and whistles generally

Richard Cook, do you happen to know where the Burke A fits on the length-to-bore ratio measurement? I have one of those as well.

Re: Burke D narrow-bore (brass) and whistles generally

Coming from Sax as they do they don’t perceive the high notes of Burkes as being stiff.


Guilty. Former saxophonist here. No, I never felt the Burke was stiff or difficult to control in any way. At any rate it’s much, much better than some makes of whistle I’ve played.

Re: Burke D narrow-bore (brass) and whistles generally

Damian, you mentioned a die-cast Burke…

I was under the impression that they were all made using CNC machining, which is part of why they tend to be quite consistent within the same design.

Re: Burke D narrow-bore (brass) and whistles generally

Since others were generally commenting on their favored whistles just want to chime in and say how much I love my O’ briain improved I bought about 6 months ago.

It is everything I had wanted in a ‘tin’ whistle which the cheaper ones were lacking without costing the earth. Great price point vs. functionality imo.

It is the 2nd octave where it really shines for me as the 2nd on cheap ones would always shriek horribly whereas with the O’ briain the sound is sweet and sharp on those upper notes.

Re: Burke D narrow-bore (brass) and whistles generally

OP here. I’ve had some better results since this thread with the Burke after consciously pushing the lower octave, that way the transition between octaves is smoother, and the oxxooo Cnat fingering is more in tune. Guess that’s the way its meant to be played. Wierd tho, because the lower octave sounds lovely with far less breath pressure.

albeit, the top of the octave is still pretty stiff even so. There’s a few phrases that just won’t sound, but not so many.

my other high D whistle, (the killarney) is far easier to play, but also frequently clogs, so i find myself playing the burke more atm.

first world problems lol.

its good to be mindful of what you’re doing, i’m learning. i tend to just play, and make adjustments without much if any conscious thought.

Re: Burke D narrow-bore (brass) and whistles generally

Michael wrote:
"Richard Cook, do you happen to know where the Burke A fits on the length-to-bore ratio measurement? I have one of those as well."

I didn’t measure mine when I had it, sorry. But since you have one I would be very interested to know!

If you could measure the bore ID with a gauge (ideal) or calipers (good enough) and the distance from the edge of the blade to the bell, when the whistle is adjusted to play in A=440, it would be great. That distance because I’m reckoning it as the sounding length, from where the tone is generated (the leading edge of the blade) to the bottom end of the bore.

If you could post that I’ll add it to my chart.

Three Mezzo F’s that I did measure demonstrate my "wide bore Burke" claim:
Alba: 18.67mm
Goldie: 18.16mm
Burke: 19.8mm

The Burke having a shorter sounding length than the Goldie and Alba gives the Burke an even larger ratio.

Some examples of Burkes having bigger bores than lower-pitched whistles by other makers:
Burke Low Eb 22mm bore versus Goldie Low C 21.4mm bore
Burke Mezzo F 19.8mm bore versus Alba Low E 18.4mm bore