Does a whistle get overblown?

Does a whistle get overblown?

From the recent discussion on Boehm flutes, a question.

A non-whistler (me) and another non-whistler are having a disagreement about "blowing".

She says "you need to overblow it" to get the higher octave, and I say it’s not overblowing, it’s just blowing harder, and it’s a natural part of playing the instrument. Overblowing just refers to reeded instruments."

What do you think?

Re: Does a whistle get overblown?

It’s overblown. You’re switching resonant modes from the fundamental (ie first octave) to a higher harmonic.

But, question: what’s the difference between overblowing and blowing harder from a linguistic viewpoint? You overblow by blowing harder…

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Re: Does a whistle get overblown?

I think it doesn’t matter what you call it, you do what works.

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Re: Does a whistle get overblown?

@Nico, thanks. I think the point was that I tend to think of "overblowing" as something that’s an "optional extra" for reed instrument players, but a necessity for whistlers.

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Oh, it’s necessary for reed players too - well, clarinets, oboes, etc.

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Re: Does a whistle get overblown?

Just as with oboes, and clarinets, the flute requires some adjustment of the embouchure in addition to alteration of the air velocity (force?). Whistles, at least some, require me to make some subtle adjustment to my embouchure as well. As with the human voice, the entire wind system has to be taken into account. Uilleann Pipes are a little different, and I´m sure Nico can get into the weeds on that one.

Re: Does a whistle get overblown?

Or perhaps "get into the REEDS on that one!" Hehehehe

Re: Does a whistle get overblown?

Yes.

Re: Does a whistle get overblown?

"Uilleann Pipes are a little different, and I´m sure Nico can get into the weeds on that one."

They are different inasmuch as they are not mouth-blown, but in any other respect? They are still overblown, by adding pressure to the bag (i.e. squeezing it harder). I suppose, for clarinet, oboe etc. there is a difference in the mechanics of overblowing, as lip pressure, as well as breath pressure, comes into play, but however it is achieved, the air column enters a higher mode of vibration.

Northumbrian pipes, by contrast, achieve their full 2+ octave range without overblowing (so I am led to believe).

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You’re overthinking it Jim 😉

Re: Does a whistle get overblown?

We are in danger of getting bogged down in semantics. Clearly there is a difference between reed instruments and whistles, but when whistlers talk about overblowing they mean that they blow harder to get the second octave (and even harder to get D").

Re: Does a whistle get overblown?

Whistles do get overblown.

The trick with a whistle when jumping to the upper register is not blowing harder, but increasing the velocity. When a whistle is blown harder to reach the high notes, the note can be piercing.

I find it best to blow harder on the lower register and softer, but faster on the upper register so that the two are more balanced as far as volume. The lower notes need more air than the upper notes.

Re: Does a whistle get overblown?

//You’re overthinking it Jim// But Titch, it’s not a banjo! 🙂

Re: Does a whistle get overblown?

This thread is more fun than the Boehm flute one has become, so I’ll toss in an opinion.

Overblown is not a good term for the octave jump in a whistle, because it implies blowing more than necessary. A certain amount of pressure is needed to initiate notes in the first octave, and then we increase the pressure (or velocity if you prefer) to reach the second octave. There is nothing that feels excessive or "over" in the amount of pressure needed for the second octave if you’re doing it right.

Overblown to me would imply poor technique: blowing harder than needed for the notes you’re aiming for, resulting in either poor tone or an octave jump you weren’t aiming for. Some beginners do overblow whistles at first, and you may overblow when trying a new whistle for the first time if you’re used to something different. There is a proper amount of pressure for any fipple instrument where it performs best in each octave, and you can under-blow or overblow and miss that sweet spot.

Re: Does a whistle get overblown?

Well, looks like I was mistaken in the use of the word "overblowing". My understanding was that the "overblowing" on a whistle to get the higher octave was necessary (and normal), whereas "overblowing" on a reeded instrument was to get a particular effect (but I was wrong about that).

So, thanks for all your input.

I don’t mind being wrong about an instrument I don’t play, but I’d be pretty miffed if I was wrong about any technical matter regarding fiddle (or "violin") 🙂

On a related note (haha), we all know the duff sounds instruments can make when played with less than the necessary skill.

On fiddle (apart from out of tune notes), it’s scratching, to the point where the note/string is strangled by too much bow pressure, so you you only hear the scratch, not the note.

On whistle, it’s sometimes by playing out of tune, caused by poor breath control, and/or not realising the instrument can be tuned by adjusting the mouthpiece.

On button accordion, excessive clicking can be caused by poor coordination (or hammer fingers).

So to my next question - what makes a clarinet "honk"? Is it not enough blowing pressure at the beginning of a note, or what?

Re: Does a whistle get overblown?

I’d have to add that the term “overblown” is no more helpful than saying you have to “underblow” to play the first octave. It’s semantics, but subjective and ultimately says more than is intended. But don’t let that get in the way of a good spat!

Re: Does a whistle get overblown?

On button accordion extensive clicking is caused by the mechanics of the instrument.

Re: Does a whistle get overblown?

Re button accrdn: yes, mechanics, but also by what Jim described - "slapping" of the buttons can produce that bit of noise as well.

Re "what makes a clarinet ‘honk’ ":
My guess is, you’re referring to what’s often called "squeak" - a typical error particularly among beginning cl students. There are three main causes: insufficient sealing of holes; inadvertent key contact, resulting in same, and; mouthpiece/reed issues.

I agree that "overblowing" is a problematic term in woodwinds. For example, it’s typically used to denote an extended technique (e.g., John Coltrane, et al.).

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Re: Does a whistle get overblown?

On button accordion you are not supposed to slap the buttons, press on them and open or close the bellows. Save the slapping for the 🐐 skin.

Re: Does a whistle get overblown?

That reminds me - bellows "slapping" is another undesirable noise-making consequence of poor technique (merely pointing out the variety of ways such unwanted noises can be produced on the instrument).

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Re: Does a whistle get overblown?

I never looked in detail as to how I get the higher octave on the whistle so I decided to examine my technique in detail.
Yes, I increase the pressure a little but not so much to make it too loud.
On the clarinet, blowing harder doesn’t raise the pitch, in fact it lowers it slightly but increases the volume. An exercise we use is to choose a note and blow gently and slowly raise the volume but try to keep the note correctly in tune and trying to make a beautiful sound.
Just blowing hard can coarsen the sound so it’s unpleasant on the ear.
I do understand that the whistle technique of raising the note to the higher octave is called "overblowing" but it doesn’t mean "too much" it means "just right" for that particular note.
PS
To move up a register, we use the register key under the left thumb. This raises the tone my one and a half octaves, i.e. a twelfth. On the saxophone it is called the octave key and raises the note by an octave.
As you can imagine, the fingering on the upper registers on the clarinet are different from the lower register. Makes it interesting.

Re: Does a whistle get overblown?

If you’re slapping the buttons or the bellows, please make sure you have consent from the accordion and a safe word.

Who am I to judge what other people do in the privacy of their own practice room?

Re: Does a whistle get overblown?

Forgot to say that "overblowing" a clarinet will also produce "squeeking."

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@Conrad Dobson: Is it *possible* to get the clarinet into the higher register without using the key, even if it sounds awful?

Re: Does a whistle get overblown?

Creadur, I can’t, but by manipulating the embouchure you can raise or lower the note a little, called glissando as in Harlem Nocturne
A friend told me he saw a saxophonist play a tune without using the keys

Re: Does a whistle get overblown?

Yep, sax, like flute/whistle, can change octaves by embouchure/pressure adjustment.

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Re: Does a whistle get overblown?

Thanks, catty.

@Conrad Dobson – I could be wrong, but my feeling is that what you are talking about is something different.

Re: Does a whistle get overblown?

I don’t know what else to say. Blowing harder makes it louder and the note needs to be controlled by tightening the embouchure.
It doesn’t move the note up to a higher register.

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@Conrad Dobson – I notice catty says *sax*, so maybe it is not possible (or extremely difficult) on clarinet. 1.5 octaves is a big jump, after all.

Re: Does a whistle get overblown?

Does Catty play a reed instrument?

Re: Does a whistle get overblown?

@Catty

" bellows "slapping" is another undesirable noise-making consequence of poor technique"

I don’t get this at all! Both hands are on the instrument, away from the bellows .. are we talking about a "crusher", who pushes and pulls too hard?

Re: Does a whistle get overblown?

I was weaned on trumpet. “Overblown” implied a mistake. High C, E, and G have the same fingering, for example. So if you aim for an E and you hit a G, you’ve overblown. However middle G and high G have the same fingering too. So going up and octave you adjust the embouchure AND the wind for accuracy. Blowing harder isn’t wrong unless you’ve hit too high a note. People are getting lured into overthinking.

Re: Does a whistle get overblown?

Googled "over blowing", a technique for playing high notes on a wind instrument by producing harmonics.
I can on the whistle but not on reeds. But perhaps someone else can.

Re: Does a whistle get overblown?

Jim, ya pretty much, although it’s more to do with, say, injudicial bellows control (flapping them about) rather than just working them "too hard."

Conrad, ya catty plays a bunch of reed instruments. Saxes act like flutes/whistles, and even oboe (although double reeds have their particular peccedillos); clarinets do not.

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Re: Does a whistle get overblown?

Catty, do you overblow your reeds?

Re: Does a whistle get overblown?

On saxes, yes, when improvising. The sixties, players expanded the tonal palette to include, hither til then, a range of notes well above altissimo. In the jazz lexicon, it’s de rigeuer now.

Bassists did likewise - not uncommon to find whole sections played entirely in high harmonics.

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Re: Does a whistle get overblown?

And do you go up a register just by blowing?

Re: Does a whistle get overblown?

Not often - I usually just use the key. However, it’s a standard exercise to *practice* octave shifts without the key - to further train the embouchure.

Eh, I take that back - I do use the technique sometimes when improvising.

Still, it’s not really "overblowing" but rather embouchure/pressure control. (More nuanced info: on horns, we shape the oral cavity, palates, etc to "vocalize" the note. So, there’s a lot to do other than just blow).

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Re: Does a whistle get overblown?

That’s very interesting. I’ll try it on my alto tomorrow.

Re: Does a whistle get overblown?

Oops, I should say players began to play harmonics on records in the 50s. Dexter Gordon didn’t, but John Gilmore was an influence on Coltrane who made the practice "popular." But that’s jazz, right.

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I agree that the whole of the mouth is part of the instrument, especially on the sax to make it sing and growl but it is essential to make a beautiful note on the clarinet, but I can’t growl on it.

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Ya, saxes growl - clarinets squeak. 😬 even the big clarinets don’t growl.

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Re: Does a whistle get overblown?

AB, the clarinet has a cylindrical bore whilst the sax bore increases along its length.
I guess that’s why the clarinet jumps a twelfth and the sax key raises it by only an octave. Clever design.

Re: Does a whistle get overblown?

An excellent discussion of this issue can be found here https://www.johndenner.com/johann-denner/
This is also an illustration of Practical Acoustics (the ´Speaker Key´) preceding the Theoretical.

Re: Does a whistle get overblown?

Saxophones, Clarinets, Oboes are being discussed, what apart from the Sax have they to do with with our music.

Re: Does a whistle get overblown?

"Saxophones, Clarinets, Oboes are being discussed, what apart from the Sax have they to do with with our music."

They could be used to play our music, but the commonality is that "overblowing" applies to all of them.

Re: Does a whistle get overblown?

I like tunes on an oboe - bit like a bombarde..

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@catty - the perception of some is that clarinets do "honk".

A well-known player was affectionately known as "old honkey" by other players. In some of the live recordings with orchestra, you can hear the "honk", and from memory, it happened just as he moved up to the higher register for the 2nd part of the tune.

No names, but he was was a bit of a stranger on the shore 🙂

On the vinyl recording, it was a beautiful bit of playing.

Re: Does a whistle get overblown?

I accede. And now that you mention it, I think the Bb soprano clarinet has a bit of a "honking" sound quality in the lower register (why I don’t like cl in this music). Going "across the break" (from chalumeau to clarion) *is* a typical problem area for most beginners. It has been called the "torture stick."

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Re: Does a whistle get overblown?

I dunno, Tommy Peoples had this to say: ¨The clarinet merges aspects of the concertina, the pipes, and the fiddle and the wide-ranging fiddle all in one, and how it can whisper when you back a singer!¨

Re: Does a whistle get overblown?

I accede again. I love clarinet, but just haven’t applied it here. I disdain saxes in the music too. But I know others like it, so…my loss. I’m an old fuddy-dud when it comes to trad.

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Re: Does a whistle get overblown?

@catty - just don’t mention the shehnai.

Its tone doesn’t just cut through. It cuts through glass 🙂

Re: Does a whistle get overblown?

"but the commonality is that "overblowing" applies to all of them." Not exactly, Jim.
Overblowing and underblowing applies differently depending on what type of wind instrument we’re referring to and how it’s made. There’s some good information on the site Michael Eskin linked to at the top of the page.

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Re: Does a whistle get overblown?

Of course I forgot about Brotz - he can make a clarinet growl. Probably Vandermark too.

https://youtu.be/AL-pSq6kInY


I checked and I can play some partials above altissimo with my bass clarinet, but not on the soprano cl; mea culpa.

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Re: Does a whistle get overblown?

@catty – OK, now we’ve got further from trad than I ever imagined possible on this forum 😉. Interesting discussion, nevertheless.

Re: Does a whistle get overblown?

Add that Bombard to the thread "Is this the next instrument to enter trad music".

Hat-tip to Catty.

There is an incredibly good Contra dance band that does use a bombard, very effectively… and loudly. I can’t quite remember the name of the band… damn memory hole.