Whistle advice

Whistle advice

I’m a wooden flute player, but there are times when I’d like to play a whistle instead.

My problem is that too many whistles sound really shrill in the second octave. My ears start buzzing!

I know that Burke whistles are highly regarded - has anyone tried the composite model? How does the tone compare with the brass ones?

Are there other whistles you would y recommend for a sweet upper range? I’m thinking of a mid-range whistles (less than $200).

Thanks!

Re: Whistle advice

I bought a Tony Dixon (about $36). It sounds very nice in upper and lower range (smooth, not shrill). I now cannot stand the sound of my brass whistles. It has me spoiled. There may be better & more expensive whistles, but this is the one for me (for now!) Good luck.

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I have a Burke wide bore composite D and I like the sound; and I will be buying the narrow bore composite in the future. I have a narrow bore D (brass) that plays really well; love the tone that comes out. A buddy played mine and compared it against his Dixon and liked mine a lot. Take my comments with a grain ; I’ve just picked up whistles in the last few months; I used a sweet tone before and there is no comparison.

I’m using the whistle to imbed the tune in my head; makes playing the UP slighlty (hah) easier

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I love my new Reyburn whistles. Great tone and really smooth transition between octaves. I have the regular bore C and D, which he sells for $90 each, or $120 for the pair if you want to save the money and interchange the two bodies with the one mouthpiece.

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Check out Mack Hoover’s whistles: http://home.bresnan.net/~mackhoover/index.htm

He makes a model he calls his "quiet" whistle. I play a Hoover whitecap big bore C, and it’s loud enough but never shrill, and plays very well at low volume, too. His prices are reasonable, as well.

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Cillian O’Brian’s are really nice and sweet on the 2nd oct.

Athena

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I’m with Athena - my Cillian O’Briain improved feadog (he tweaks it) is a wonderful whistle with an easy, sweet second octave. I think they’re about 20-25 euros. Shannaquay sells them online, too.

Eric

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Depends what you want.

I have several whistles and they all do different things for me.

Burke D Brass Narrow Bore - a sheer delight to play with the sweetest and purest tone of any whistle I have ever played. This is truly the whistle I have been waiting for the past.35 years. Not very loud, and can get lost in a big session [though it held it’s own yesterday in a session of 8 musos].

The Susato is still hard to beat for power and volume but you need to be careful when buying as their production standards are nearly as poor as generation and you can be as much as a 1/8th of a tone out of tune. Get a three body set as the sound of the Bb and C is really tasty. the shrillness can also be overcome by improved control of the diaphragm so that you increase the power but constrain the volume.

I have three Dixon’s and for the price they are OK. Keep reasonably well in tune but again you need to try several out as the three I have could all be from different makers the sounds are so different.

The Cillian O’Brien improved is a must get. It is very reasonable and the sound that you get is really lovely.

There are also some good generations to be had - remember that Mary Bergin stayed true to these until very recently. She now is reputed to be playing Sindt whistles. I have had a chance to play one of them and must say it also has a beautiful voice.

But if I was only able to buy one - then the Burke it would have to be and no doubt about it.

You can get a whistle from Michael on a trial basis and if you are not happy with it then you can return and get your money back. If you are in Ireland then you can call in to see Mick O’Brien the piper who is Burke’s representative in Europe.

With $200 you could buy a Burke, a Susato set and a Cillian O Brien improved so why not go for it??

Good luck 😛

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I often play Susato in big sessions. It never shrills though it took me some months to make a lovely tone in the second octave on it. But anyway I’m also interested in Burke’s composite models. I love my loud susato, but it’s a bit hard to tune it.

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I mainly play Burkes. I have a brass session Pro high D and a session pro high B natural in aluminum (both old models, without the black tips). I have also played the composite high D’s. The only difference is the composites are a little more breathly or chiffier (I just made a new word). Can’t beat Burkes for dead-on tuning. I also play my Susato tunable high D. I think Susatos are the whistles that have put the "S" in shrill. They are good for indestructibility and the price, though not necessarily the first features I would look for in whistles.

-IMHO Clay

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I play an unpainted Clarke whistle, tin-plated steel wrapped around a wooden fipple, something I can get for less than $10, and I love the tone and quality of the playing. It plays easily in both octaves, I think due to the conical bore. It is a bit quieter and "chiffier" than other whistles, but that is part of its charm. And by playing this whistle, I can look down my nose at all these "revisionists" with their fancy (and expensive) wood, brass and plastic instruments, which are really only dim shadows of the Platonic ideal of a true penny whistle.

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I’ve played a good number of the handmade D whistles out there, and many of them have their charms, but the best one I’ve ever played is Gary Humphrey’s narrow-bore D.
http://webpages.charter.net/raindog1970/

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I think Copeland whistles are the best there is. They are like a Clarke whistle, but are tunable and have the sweetest second octave you’ll ever hear. I am also a flute player, btw.

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Just another double vote for the Burke and O’Briain… I play a wide-bore brass Burke D as my main session whistle… I use one of Cillian’s tops on a brass Generation E-flat with astonishing result… The rest of my whistle-set is quite a hodge-podge but my low-D’s an O’Briain as well (brilliant with great dynamic potential and awesome tone) and I have plans to purchase further Burkes in the future…

Good luck!

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I’d love a Copeland D, but a tad on the pricey side (for my talent at least)- I do like the conical bore that the Copeland has. That’s why I like the sweet tone(until I got my Burkes’); conical bore and the fipple/chiff end was done in conjunction with Copeland from what I understand.

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I’d play any whistle if I had one.

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You know how to whistle, don’t you? You just put your lips together and blow.

KFG

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Do you know our ex banjo player? A Canadian tourist was fascinated with his whistle playing (multi-talented) and asked "How do you play one of those" and our hero, in our true tradition, said "You f””’n blow it". That’s how to pass on the tradition.

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I’ll second the suggestion of trying one of Gary Humphry’s whistles. I have two of his wide-bore D whistles, one in dark gray CPVC and one in brass. The brass has an especially sweet 2nd octave. They’re my favorite whistles so far and I’ve tried bunches.

I’d say try a Burke brass and a Humphry brass. You’re bound to like one or both of them and you’ll have two whistles for about $200 total.

-Brett

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"… which are really only dim shadows of the Platonic ideal of a true penny whistle."

Bravo!

Yeah, what she said—play a Clarke conical bore whistle, and sound the way whistles are supposed to sound.

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"…which are really only dim shadows of the Platonic ideal of a true penny whistle."

After first impoverishing you so that you could no longer afford a proper Irish whistle the English have sold you a revisionist whistle, complete with a Certificate of Ideal Authenticity, and so you happily remain in the cave mistaking your certificate, which is only a shadow of a shadow of a whistle, for the whistle itself.

The Irish whistle (and English, for that matter) predates the Clarke by hundreds of years, and it is made from native Irish…wood.

I find it ironic that the flute players, complete newcomers to the game, in holding steadfastly to the purely English wooden flute over the revisionist metal flute, in some ways remain truer to their Irish roots than the whistle players have (even if they like to import the wood from Africa).

No, I am not rationalising my purchase of an expensive wooden whistle. Mine are English, metal and cheap (couple of Generations and a Sweetone), I simply feel no need to rationalise them as traditional Irish instruments or "real" whistles when I know they are merely shadows of the same.

(My embouchure flutes are all American made and polymer or metal, with the exception of my Native American made Quena, which has returned from the land of the missing. Whether they are cheap or not depends on what value might be place on my labor, the materials costing me little to nothing at all. I’m a good scrounger. I expect to be making some wooden whistles this summer. I grew the tree myself.)

KFG

P.S. The above not to be taken overly seriously as some sort of trad/Irish nationalist rant. That’s why I bothered to point out that I don’t play the sort of whistle/flute I’m "defending." I really don’t care that much.

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KFG,
I said "the Platonic ideal of a true penny whistle" which is a whistle made of metal, which I agree with you, seems from what I have read to have originated in England. If I had said "the Platonic ideal of a true whistle" then I would agree with you that wood came first, although with the proliferation of six-hole wind instruments around the world, I would challenge any individual country that claims to be their sole point of origin. Or maybe, instead of wood, the first whistle was made from a toebone of a mastadon, or the thighbone of a prehistoric boar, come to think of it.

Re: Whistle advice

""the Platonic ideal of a true penny whistle" which is a whistle made of metal…"

An argument that begs the question. If you’re simply going to define "Penny Whistle" as a tin Clarke and its sound as the only "proper" traditional whistle sound, then sure, you win by default.

But you’re going to have to find some way to rationalise the "penny" whistle costing a meg.

"…the thighbone of a prehistoric boar"

Nooooow we’re talkin’! Although naturally hollow woods, such as the various grasses and pithy plants are just as, if not more, likely, but such do not remain in the archeological evidence.

The very idea that a whistle should cost as much as a meg, let alone a penny, is a revisionist idea and a step away from the ideal that "penny" whistle claims to represent.

Free (as in beer) the whistle!

KFG

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Humans didn’t invent whistles—the wind did.

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Well, that’s it then. I’m giving up whistle for the Aeolian flute. The Platonic ideal demands that they be played in wind generated by driving a Maserati 8CM, but I may have to settle for a Hailwood TT Replica Ducati. Suffering for my art I call that.

KFG

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Kev, you generate wind enough without speeding around in a car…. ;o)

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Just trying to do my bit to help generate spring. Persephone shouldn’t have to shoulder the entire burden herself when there are other perfectly viable sources of hot air around.

I’m not sure how people in the antipodes feel about the whole thing, but if they wanted me to take them seriously they shouldn’t go walking around on their heads.

KFG

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What about a Jerry Freeman tweaked Generation….lovely sounding whistle.

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Why when playing a C it sounds sharp - is it a crap whistle (Shaw)?

And I don’t mean playing a C#.

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Different whistles sometimes require different fingerings for a good C natural. And on many whistles, with just about every cross fingering, that C nat sounds a bit sharp. Try half holing it, so you can adjust your finger to get the pitch just the way you like it.