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out of tune whistle !

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Whistleworks 15 Jun 01 - 01:53 PM
Seany 15 Jun 01 - 10:02 AM
Whistleworks 14 Jun 01 - 08:41 AM
pavane 14 Jun 01 - 08:07 AM
pavane 14 Jun 01 - 07:59 AM
alison 13 Jun 01 - 10:16 PM
Seany 13 Jun 01 - 08:46 AM
Uncle Jaque 12 Jun 01 - 11:57 AM
GUEST,leeneia 12 Jun 01 - 10:31 AM
alison 12 Jun 01 - 09:22 AM
Seany 12 Jun 01 - 09:16 AM
mcpiper 12 Jun 01 - 07:17 AM
alison 11 Jun 01 - 10:35 PM
ollaimh 11 Jun 01 - 10:25 PM
Sorcha 11 Jun 01 - 09:59 PM
GUEST,Brendan Williams 11 Jun 01 - 09:26 PM
Mike Byers 11 Jun 01 - 04:22 PM
Brían 11 Jun 01 - 12:35 PM
Les from Hull 11 Jun 01 - 10:29 AM
Sorcha 11 Jun 01 - 09:25 AM
Brían 11 Jun 01 - 09:17 AM
Seany 11 Jun 01 - 08:44 AM
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Subject: RE: Help: out of tune whistle !
From: Whistleworks
Date: 15 Jun 01 - 01:53 PM

They're all important.

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Subject: RE: Help: out of tune whistle !
From: Seany
Date: 15 Jun 01 - 10:02 AM

Is the A note the most important one ? Because if it is then I'm in big trouble.

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Subject: RE: Help: out of tune whistle !
From: Whistleworks
Date: 14 Jun 01 - 08:41 AM

Seany, what a great bunch of replies you have received. This is why I have such a warm place in my heart for the fellow Catters out there. Excellent replies.

Being a whistle player for almost half my life (I'm 51), I can tell you from personal experience how to ACCURATELY tune those whistles that you have. Place them carefully on the ground, preferably on a nice piece of cloth, in a row. Then run them over with your car. Then, go out and buy a better whistle.

The posts here are accurate and very truthful. Cheap whistle = cheap sound = out of tune. Now I am not advocating that you go out and get a top of the line Copeland or Burke (which will mostly solve your problems MOSTLY) but some of the tips offered by the folks on Chiff & Fipple are excellent ideas. Also, a mid-grade whistle that may cost between $30.00 and $100.00 may be an expensive answer, but you'll find it to be more in tune but not exactly accurate.

Brian hit it right on the nose. Whistles are not accurate instruments by nature. Try to get as close as you can by matching up with the chief player in the session. And Les From Hull expresses both accuracy and etiquette by saying that tuning to the box player or piano player in a session is better than getting your "A" from an instrument that is variable in pitch, like a whistle (especially if it doesn't have a tuning slide).

Try to get into the world of tuneable whistles, and I don't mean tuneable by melting the glue off the plastic fipple. And please use your electronic digital tuner sparingly. If the whistle is a D, then get the A note bang on and then, as my cousin Tom would say in Dublin, feck all.

Good luck to you.

Bob Pegritz

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Subject: RE: Help: out of tune whistle !
From: pavane
Date: 14 Jun 01 - 08:07 AM

Just worked out - a perfect 5th should be a frequency ratio of 3:2 or 1.5, but an even-tempered fifth uses 1.498 so it is 0.002 flat.

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Subject: RE: Help: out of tune whistle !
From: pavane
Date: 14 Jun 01 - 07:59 AM

Don't worry - Pianos are out of tune as well. They don't even use even-tempered tuning, but 'stretched' tuning where the bass notes are lower than they should be, and the treble notes are a little highter (Sharper). Otherwise they just sound too dull.

Perfect tuning is based on the ratio of the Fifth to the Tonic, which was established by Pythagorus (yes, the same one) as 3:2. It is still used when you tune a guitar to itself in the common manner. But no matter how much you apply this ratio, you can never get back to an exact multiple of 2. So the event tempered scale is based on the ratio of the 12th root of 2 for each semi-tone. This makes the fifth a little flatter (or is it sharper?) than it should be, but not really enough to notice. The advantage is that it sounds exactly the same whichever key you play in.

If you use MIDI equipment, there are some software commands you can embed in MIDI files to tune the player to different kinds of scale.

Default is even-tempered, but tuning for perfect 5ths would be possible. This ONLY works in one key though, and the further away you go round the 'cycle of fifths', i.e. F-C-G-D-A-E etc. the more out of tune it will sound. You can also create scales suitable for Arabic music, for example.

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Subject: RE: Help: out of tune whistle !
From: alison
Date: 13 Jun 01 - 10:16 PM

shame about that...... like any of them you can pick up a few "dodgy" ones..... nowadays its getting more frequent because a lot of shops won't let you "try before you buy" because of health risks....... good thing they're still pretty cheap........

you can hear a little of my whistle here



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Subject: RE: Help: out of tune whistle !
From: Seany
Date: 13 Jun 01 - 08:46 AM

The nickel Generation whistle was very disappointing especially the overblown A.

I have returned to the Sweetone with a slightly re-positioned fipple and am reasonably happy with it so I'll stick to that.

I may even try and improve it using some tape.


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Subject: RE: Help: out of tune whistle !
From: Uncle Jaque
Date: 12 Jun 01 - 11:57 AM

You can get about as scientific and serious about the acoustical harmonics and aereodynamics of your fipple and optimal hole size and placement as you want to; just go to some of the links on Chiff & Fipple and away you go. The only thing to be aware of is that getting really serious can result in not having nearly as much fun.

Even if you do realize perfect pitch, intonation, and interval, just pop it up to the next octave or "register", and watch the whole thing fly right out the window! This happens with the fife as well; we kind of have to decide which register we are going to play in most of the time and get an instrument tuned accordingly. It helps if the whole Corps has the same brand and style of instrument, as their idiosyncracies are at least compatable and they do not "fight" with each other as dissimmilar instruments are apt to do. I have one fife for loud, shrill "Military" use, and another for dirges and slow airs.
To a certain extent, you can compensate for some of these quirks as has been suggested, by alternate fingerings or breath delivery.
About the only time I worry about being sort-of in tune (like the man sez; this ain't Carnagie Hall) is when trying to mix with other Musicians; then it is nice to have 2 or 3 whistles in various keys. The "Pros" sometimes use the high-end tunables here, but quite a few of them still use off-the-shelf Clarkes and Generations etc. and do remarkably well with them in spite of all the rocket science.
If a whistle sounds good to you and most listeners and you have fun playing it, I'd suggest leaving the tuner in the guitar case and just ENJOY!!!

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Subject: RE: Help: out of tune whistle !
From: GUEST,leeneia
Date: 12 Jun 01 - 10:31 AM

I'm just back from a week of intensive recorder playing, taking classes and listening to concerts by professionals. I have the following thoughts:

A note may not be in tune even though you have your fingers on the right holes. Fool around with the following:

1. Move your thumb closer and further from the thumb hole and note the effect.

2. On high notes, move the low fingers of the right hand closer and further from the open holes. See what happens. You will discover that an "unused" finger hovering over a hole can flatten a sharp note and make it sweet. I have just discovered, for example, that moving my third finger closer to an open hole takes the screech off my high E. Heaven!

3. For high notes which are too shrill, start adding fingers at the bottom of the whistle and see if they play in tune. You probably can't (and don't need to) do this for quick notes.

4. You can change the pitch of a note by the shape of your mouth and throat. Shape them as if you were singing the note, so that your whistle doesn't have to do all the work.

5. Can you whistle? If so, note the placement of your tongue when you do. Then, to get high notes, imitate that high, front position of your tongue.

6. Do you raise notes by pressing your thumbnail into the thumbhole? If so, try swivelling your nail so it goes across the top of the hole rather than the side. Sometimes that helps.

7. There are a lot of suggestions here, so print this out and work on them one at a time.

I also have two opinions to offer. If you want to make sweet music, forget the whistle and buy a more serious instrument, maybe a recorder. I don't believe that no one in Scotland or Ireland played the recorder in the olden days. The instrument is too good, too ubiquitous and too accessible for musicians not to have used it, especially those who were playing for hire, either at the Hall or for weddings, etc. I believe that today's emphasis on whistle is mostly marketing ("I'm just a destitute Celtic shepherd who is also a musical genius.")

I think the idea of spending 100 pounds on a whistle is unreasonable. To see why, walk around a hardware store and see if you can find any other thin-walled pipe with holes in it that costs anything like that.

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Subject: RE: Help: out of tune whistle !
From: alison
Date: 12 Jun 01 - 09:22 AM

up to you if you want to spend that much.... but I honestly think the cheapies can sound just as good....

have fun with your generation....... the one I am playing has served me faithfully for the last 20 years....



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Subject: RE: Help: out of tune whistle !
From: Seany
Date: 12 Jun 01 - 09:16 AM

Thanks for advice,

I will hack and tinker with my spare Sweetones but this may not help if as Alison says they are out of tune with themselves - which I think is the problem I specified earlier but in different words !

I will try taping up some holes.

I bought a nickel Generation with a blue top today and I'll see how that goes this evening.

Maybe no-one really cares if my whistle is 'out of tune' but it eats at my confidence and I get worried about playing at all. I really don't want to stop so I will strive to get a tuned whistle.

Should I be buying an expensive one (100 pounds or so ? ) - would that be in tune ?


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Subject: RE: Help: out of tune whistle !
From: mcpiper
Date: 12 Jun 01 - 07:17 AM

If you're not worried about what the whistles look like, don't be afraid to carve the holes up or down. Set the mouthpiece at a true note and slot the other holes to suit. If you go too far just use a bit of tape to flatten the note. One of my generation D whistles has a slotted C# hole which I tape down to give a really nice C natural. It suprised me how far I had to slot the hole though.
As on another thread I will give this advice-Always have the means on hand to alter pitch by mouthpiece positioning, and correct individual notes with file or tape. Sometimes you have to do it almost on the run.
I do not have any expensive whistles, and I must say I would be reluctant to hack at anything too expensive or rare.

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Subject: RE: Help: out of tune whistle !
From: alison
Date: 11 Jun 01 - 10:35 PM

for cheapy whistles.. and possible to tune..... get a generation, (I prefer nickel with a blue mouthpiece)... I love the sound of my sweetones... but there is no way I can play them with another instrument... one of them isn't even in tune with itself.... (my problem is with the low and high "d")



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Subject: RE: Help: out of tune whistle !
From: ollaimh
Date: 11 Jun 01 - 10:25 PM

i used to hang around with a whistle maker, who often said that there is no such thing as a tuneable whistle, just a whistle in tune.

he claimed you could get all the notes in tune by a combination of moving the fipple--or on a clark you move the plug i think--and then carving out the holes further up to get what you want. this takes a bit of trial and error or a manual if there is one.

he often experiemented with various carburators in the barrel but came to the final conclusion that just getting the right size holes and setting the bottom at the right palce would get the best result. his tuned whistles were in local demand but his health left him and i don't know if he has made one for years.

he made one out of a sky pole--an a--that sounded great. he often looked for scrap tubing to fiddle with.

he was unconvinced by the idea that many have of hanging wires from the holes into the whistle--with a little solder, or with the temperature of the whistle being much of an issue--which was often locally discusses.

many year ago i met paddy maloney after a chieftans performance i went to with my daughter and he did exactly the same thing. set the low note then altered the highr ones by carving the holes bugger or smaller--well smaller is a trick but if you start with a blank barrel--you get my meaning.

he often said that just ptting a generation fipple on an oak body made a better whistle than either alone--of course tuning the bottom note. and he loved the old hohner barrels--he'd knock off the fipplke and make his own. thay had good tone although few found out as they had a very bad fipple. the old hohners also have a low g which is handy sometimes.

among the cadalac makers he liked o'riardan's, but i think he's too old to make them now, but he wasn't offended by copelands, just thought they needede a little tweaking.

there was a whole local cult around these whistle alterations which i got a great kick out of listening to, but i play harp and mandolin family instruments so i was purely a voyeur.

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Subject: RE: Help: out of tune whistle !
From: Sorcha
Date: 11 Jun 01 - 09:59 PM

Yea, it kind of works for the fiddler to adjust, if I can remember to use 4th finger instead of open string......the others seem to adjust rather automatically.

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Subject: RE: Help: out of tune whistle !
From: GUEST,Brendan Williams
Date: 11 Jun 01 - 09:26 PM

Hi Seany et al,

The vast majority of electronic tuners which are available today are for the tempered scale. This scale was used to play J.S. Bachs "Equal Tempered Clavier" in all 12 Major and 12 minor keys. He needed equal temperament so that the tuning was "tolerable" in all keys, that is - equally out of tune in all keys. So trust your ear, the fiddle players can follow, fretted instruments can adjust somewhat and the keyboards can play what suits them. It may be an idea to tune the whistles like the pipes - tune to a drone - whatever key you play in most. Note that the pipes are more in tune if tuned properly than the tuner. Have a listen to a note on accordian they get their vibrato by having two closely tuned reeds. Close enough is good enough.

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Subject: RE: Help: out of tune whistle !
From: Mike Byers
Date: 11 Jun 01 - 04:22 PM

If you want to do some "whistle tweaking" experiments, check out; they've got some useful information on this. But I believe it was El McMeen who said something to the effect that the best way to tune a whistle is to jam it through a bodhran. No, actually, I like whistle and bodhran players; but since I play the banjo...

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Subject: RE: Help: out of tune whistle !
From: Brían
Date: 11 Jun 01 - 12:35 PM

That's right, Seany, fire that tuner. You'll feel much better for it.


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Subject: RE: Help: out of tune whistle !
From: Les from Hull
Date: 11 Jun 01 - 10:29 AM

As a 'box player, I am appalled when I see string players asking a whistle player for a note to tune to! Breath pressure alone can account for quite a difference in tuning, and as Brian says, whistles aren't that accurate in tuning anyway. Not that it matters a great deal, lots of people use the cheaper type of whistles in sessions and it always sounds fine to me. Or maybe that's the Guinness!

I think that using the tuner is putting you off. Were you happy enough before?

Perhaps the answer is to buy a more expensive whistle. There are some great sounding wooden ones on the market. I'm sure that the whistle players'll be along in a minute or two to tell you which of those plays accurately.

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Subject: RE: Help: out of tune whistle !
From: Sorcha
Date: 11 Jun 01 - 09:25 AM

I've noticed that with our whistle player too. Bottom D is in tune with my open D, but the higher up the scale you go the farther out of tune it is. Think it means the holes weren't drilled accurately.

And it's only really noticable when we do a duet with him leading, so we don't use the cheapo's for that anymore. He has this really neat 3 pc. brass whistle that we use for duets.

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Subject: RE: Help: out of tune whistle !
From: Brían
Date: 11 Jun 01 - 09:17 AM

Whistles are notoriously out of tune. It's one of the characteristics of playing traditional music, anyway. You'd probably be shocked to find out how out of tune most of the musicians at an average seissiún are. I have a tuneable whistle. I usually try to match my "A" with the cheif musician, the other notes I don't eorry about. I'm not playing Carnegie Hall....

If the band is good, the musicians are reasonably in tune, The average listener in a pub will get the ambience of it, that is if there's not too much talking, glass braking or the bartender has remebered to turn down the t.v..


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Subject: out of tune whistle !
From: Seany
Date: 11 Jun 01 - 08:44 AM

Please don't knock me for starting a new thread on this topic - I know there have been discussions in the past.

I recently decided to check how well tuned my tin whistle is by using an electronic guitar tuner - this allows me to check the EBGDAE notes.

Shock ! Horror !

While some of the notes seem to be reasonably in tune others are way out.

I have 2 Clarke sweet-tone 'D's and 2 Clarke Sweetone 'C's. The 'D's are better than the 'C's.

I have experimented as suggested by melting the glue on the mouthpiece, applying grease and then sliding the mouthpiece about.

This does not work - yes, it moves the bottom note (and all the others) but the bottom 'D' note is in tune on my 'D' whistle so I knock it and a few others out of tune.

It is the 'E' note that I am having most trouble with. I can resolve this by blowing with half the strength I normally blow with but if I am going fast in a tune then I have no chance of being able to modify the blowing pressure on a per note basis.

The 'C' whistle is a complete disaster !!

Is there a cheap whistle, that not only sounds good, but that is definitely in tune or which can be tuned by tinkering about with it ?


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