Instrument: Whistle Player’s Hornpipe
This is semi-commercial, don’t know what your policy is on that. Duncan Gillis gave me one of his new whistle-player hornpipes (http://www.highlandhornpipe.com) and asked me to provide my impressions of it on a few message boards, so here I am. As I said, the hornpipe was given to me, so read whatever bias you might into that, but this is the only contact I’ve ever had with Duncan.
On his website, Duncan suggests a whistle player will be able to take up the hornpipe in about an hour. This is pretty much true. Making sounds is certainly tougher than a whistle, but not as hard as, say, a flute. If you already have experience with reed instruments I imagine you would have no problem whatsoever, but for whistle players will need to practice a tad. I’ve been working on it for about a week now and am impressed by what you can get out of it.
There is an incredible range of sound that can come out of the hornpipe. As I said, I’m really impressed with what you can get out of it, once you get to know it a little bit. Tightening around the mouthpiece will give a pure tone, loosening will make it much more reedy, a sound I love, it is somewhere between a whistle, flute and pipe. You can modify the sound as you play, very effective at giving emphasis to some notes.
The second octave is a tad hard to hit, Duncan suggested that the reed really needs to be warmed up before you go for it. I still have not been able to hit it on mine, but Duncan played his for me and it is certainly there. I like the sound from what I heard. Third register is there too, but probably not something you want to do too often, very high.
Fingering in the first octave is all the same, except for the thumb hole, as a whistle. One of my favourite things about it is the crispness of it. Ornaments come through really well on the hornpipe, from cuts to crans. Depending on the size of your hands, piper’s grip might be best. I have large hands and have some minor troubles covering all the holes with standard grip.
Duncan pointed out to me that this is not a replacement for the whistle, there are things it cannot do, most noticeably the second register is a 1 and a fifth octave higher so for most of your tunes you won’t be able to play the whole way through. Frustrating, yes, because I know I would love to play through all my tunes with it. However, Duncan is compiling a list of tunes in the first octave, and ones that work in both registers on the instrument, on his website. Can’t wait until those are up.
It is a good looking instrument, all polished aluminum. I am impressed with Duncan’s workmanship. In fact I got the one I did because, cosmetically, it did not meet his standards. The hornpipe has some weight to it, but a thumb rest can be used so holding it is no problem whatsoever. It can be tuned by pushing the mouth piece up or down, a line marks where it should be in tune.
When I first heard the clips on the website I was sceptical about how “trad” the instrument was, but,after getting a feel for everything it can do, I can see it now. I like it, it is satisfying to play and has some good sound.