"all the news that's fit to spit"
August 3, 2002
ALL-WHISTLE, LOW-CARBOHYDRATE MEGA-ISSUE
I. CHIFF & FIPPLE GREETING
This issue features more whistle reviews than has ever appeared in a single issue of Chiff & Fipple since we started, circa 1996. This is only partly related to the fact that I'm a week or two late getting an issue out. I've also been blessed with an abundance of submitted reviews by loyal readers. Thanks to contributors, especially, Stephen Jones, Jim Stone, Heather Dickinson, and Joe Knight-McKenna.
It's a big issue. Really big. Printed out and pages placed end-to-end, it would reach from my house down to Jan and Fred Biasini's house.
Thanks for all of your kind words and good wishes regarding my daughter Sarah's work in China. We hear from her frequently by email and occasionally by phone. She is doing well. Teaching much and learning much. She's due back August 23.
Sarah in China, looking for Richard Nixon artifacts.
II. WILSON WOODEN HIGH D REVIEW
One of the most thrilling things about doing Chiff & Fipple is when I hear from a total stranger who sends me a whistle he or she has made, out of the blue, and it turns out to be a gem. In the case of Wilson Winds, by Ted Wilson, it turns out to be one of the finest high D whistles I've played. Who is this guy? I don't know. Ted Wilson. Tucson, Arizona. That's all I know. I'm getting more information soon.
So, Ted sends me the box and I open it and unwrap the whistle and I'm not believing it. My first thought was, "Yikes-a-hootie! This guy has made an excellent copy of a Chris Abell whistle!" In fact, I said that aloud in the break room at my office and several of my co-workers got up and left.
This whistle does look like an Abell. Dark wood and pretty silver mouthpiece (north of the window only), tuning slide, and ring on the end of the shaft. But then, one starts to note differences, which become even clearer when one side-by-sides the Abell and the Wilson. The Wilson shaft is notably wider, so it's a wider bore whistle. The tuning slide (very well made) is configured a bit differently. The dimensions of the window and the blade are different from the Abell. The mouthpiece has a curve for the lower lip (the Abell does not). Although clearly based roughly on the overall Abell design, this whistle differs enough that it should not be thought of as a copy, in my opinion.
This is also true when it is played. Because of the wider bore, it has a rounder tone, closer to O'Riordan than Abell. It has considerably more wind noise and other undertones than the Abell, so it is a less pure tone. Less pure is a bad thing in the pharmaceutical business but not necessarily a bad thing in instrument tones. It has character.
The response is quick. It holds up well across 2 octaves. It moves smoothly from lo-to-hi octave and is easy to control. The pitch varies little with changes in pressure.
At this point, I have nothing else to share in the way of details about this maker, but I should have something for you for the next issue. I want to know about other keys, prices, etc. Stay tuned. In the meantime, Ted Wilson's email is email@example.com. As far as I know, there's not a website yet.
.....Anyway, I concur with your impression of the whistle, but I know a little more about Wilson Woods. I've been buying instruments from them since 1974, and their quality and service have always been excellent. There has never been a long waiting list for their products. They are a maker of high-end fifes and piccolos. ....
III. ALBA LOW D COMMENT
Alba sent me a newly designed Low D. I have more good news for you. It's outstanding and a major upgrade from the previous Alba model. To refresh your memory:
Alba Whistles are handmade in Scotland at Alba Aerophonics, a division of Lockheed Martin. (Just kidding.) They are made from brushed aluminum and come in a full range of keys. They feature a synthetic fipple plug made from water resistant Tufnol, and a mouthpiece with a curved windway to reduce moisture problems. In addition the decorative rings engraved around the shaft and the intricate Alba logo are a distinctive feature. The Alba whistles are arguably the most visually attractive metal whistles on the market.
The whistles are made in a range of keys from a soprano G down to the Bb low whistle. The Albas have a distinctive, seductive sound, which, in a previous review, I referred to as "…like Marilyn Monroe singing 'Happy Birthday' to John F Kennedy." (Which probably has prompted a couple of buyers to return them because they don't think they sound like Marilyn Monroe, but more like Jayne Mansfield. Whistle players are an odd bunch, really, and are discriminating in eccentric ways.)
Now, I have played nearly 30 low D whistles by almost as many makers. I own 25 or so. (Or, rather, I should say, they are in the heavily guarded 3Fish Productions storage facility outside of Anchorage.) It is my opinion that it is harder to make a good low whistle than a good high one. This is a great one. The tone is dangerously close to the famed "cosmic drainpipe" Overton sound. The low end booms. The high end is clear and fluent. It's made very, very well and is clog-resistant. It is reasonably light weight. The air requirements are moderate. Tuning is precise.
SO, I say:
IV. BLEASEY REVIEWS
Phil Bleasey is a flute, recorder, and whistle maker from Nottinghamshire. He started making instruments in 1994, having had some 30 years experience in mechanical engineering. He makes woodwinds of the flute family (Transverse flutes, recorders and whistles) for customers all over the world although he reports that his main market place is in Europe. He makes copies of instruments from as early as the 13th century and the Renaissance period as well as his own designs for use by traditional musicians.
From his website:
"Every instrument and the tools necessary to make it are hand made by me and, apart from the inevitable second hand market, they are now only available direct from me. This keeps the price down and the level of service high. I consider myself fortunate to be able to earn a living from a skill which I enjoy greatly and am privileged to be able to call the hundreds of people who play my instruments friends."
Phil sent a high D and a Low D. The high D is all-wood, I'd guess maple, with a nicely done brass tuning slide. It's very attractive. Ironically, given that he makes recorders, it looks less like a recorder than some of the wooden whistles out there (Sweet, for example). To my ears it does not sound much like a recorder, either, in spite of the fact that the window and blade are cut much like wooden recorders. The shaft gently tapers south of the tuning slide and then flairs very slightly at the end of the shaft. It's got a gentle tone, moderate in volume, with not much air required. It's fast and lively. Although I haven't a clue why this is so, there is something about this whistle that makes it exceptionally easy to half-hole notes. Some whistles' tone breaks down when you half-hole various notes. Or, due to the size of the tone holes, it's hard to do. But something about the combination of hole size, finish of the holes, and who knows what else, makes this a particularly good instrument for players who often go for the accidentals.
Now, the Bleazey Low D is an unusual instrument. I'm fully intrigued by it. Although unconventional, it is going to have a real place in the "market," so to speak. Here's the deal:
The sample I was sent is wooden and breaks into three parts, much like an Irish flute. It's got a flute-like tuning slide. It's conical, again like a flute and it flairs a bit at the end of the shaft. It is extraordinarily well made and visually beautiful. That alone would be a major selling point. But, get this: Phil Bleazey decided to design a low whistle which can be played with the high-whistle grip for those who avoid the piper's grip. (For those of you who are new and don't know the difference, see http://www.chiffandfipple.com/pipers.html.) This has been tried before with little success. Without question, this is the most successful design of a Low D using this approach. Probably the ONLY Low D I've seen that succeeds. Now, I should say that I advocate the piper's grip for low whistles. But, I found that I could play this one both ways. I have medium-sized hands. Using the piper's grip takes a bit of adjustment because of the smaller holes, especially for the bottom half. Using the high-whistle grip made my right hand felt a bit cramped, but this would not take long to settle down. In fact, as this goes to press, so to speak, I'm noting that if I adjust the position of my right thumb, everything gets comfortable. In spite of the remarkably small tone holes (no bigger than a high D) the volume is quite good. (I wish there was a better word for this than "loud". I think I have overused "bold" and "assertive.") It's not loud, but it's not quiet either. It's good. As you may have noticed, a theme of this whistle is that it is flute-like. I think this goes for the tone as well. It's not quite as flute-like as the Copeland Low D, but it is in that neighborhood.
I had a little trouble finding a good fingering for the c-natural. 0xx 000 seems off to me a bit, as does 0 x 0 0 0 0. Half-holing is effective, but I like having both options for making this note.
Another distinguishing feature: It has the largest mouthpiece, in girth, of any whistle I have seen in my life. And, as you know, I have seen many, many whistles. It is HUGE. Someone wrote me and suggested that this feature of the Bleazey inhibits some breath control. I don't find this to be true, but, hey.
This is a gorgeous instrument. It is a different approach, but will be attractive to people who aren't afraid of different. I commend Phil Bleazey for his beautiful craftsmanship.
and I got this email
To: dwisely @ chiffandfipple.com
I am Robert White, London session (recording) musician(I recently used a Bleazey G whistle in the film "The Shipping news") and play with the folk group The New Scorpion Band www.new-scorpion-band.com
I noticed you have no outside comments on MR Bleazey`s instruments, I have a Small D in Rosewood ( everything one would want from a D whistle without being too "hard" can be blown loud or softer with the slide further in), Bb in mopane (this instrument is light and lively, not what I would have expected in a wooden Bb), and G (good solid sound, very sweet). These
instruments are the best I have ever played, they have a full two and a half octave working range and are very well balanced and tuned. He is now also making large Ds in blackwood, and an A is coming soon. I also own one of his descant recorders which has a full range of two octaves, wonderfully loud and great for folk music. I also own a full set of Overton whistles and can recommend these as well. TIP remember there is no substitute for comparing and trying out instruments before you buy, all whistles (whether wood or metal) are different in some way!
Robert A White
V. REYBURN HIGH D/C REVIEW BY STEPHEN JONES
Reyburn high D/C whistle combination
Reviewed for Chiff and Fipple by Stephen Jones
Construction: Maple head with Delrin fipple plug. Brass tubing with tuning slide. Models available: Head supplied with D and/or C body. Price: US$90 with one body (D or C), $120 with both bodies. Available from: Ronaldo Reyburn (more information at http://www.reyburnlowwhistles.com
Construction and appearance: Like Reyburn's low whistles, this instrument has a head of rock maple and a body of cylindrical brass tube. Unlike the low whistles, the high D/C has a block made of Delrin, with a curved windway formed by a channel cut into the top of the block - like those found in a number of other whistles, e.g. Susatos and Burkes.
The rest of the head however is a radical departure from most designs - in fact as far as I know it is a Reyburn innovation. The blade (or "splitting edge") is formed by the top of the brass tube, with the maple cut away in a V-shaped ramp to reveal this edge. The wooden head is bonded to the brass tube with a strong waterproof glue. Below the head the tube enters a short tuning slide into which the interchangeable bodies fit snugly. The rest of the body looks like a well-finished Generation-style whistle, although the tubing is slightly wider.
Playing characteristics: The Reyburn high D is a very different animal from Ronaldo's low whistles. It not only has a very different sound, but - happily from my point of view - very different playing characteristics, and no nonstandard fingering quirks.
Sound. If you want a pure tone with no or very little chiff, this whistle is not for you. There is a lot of air, overtones and character in the sound. I am very fond of its sound, and find it very satisfying to play as a result. There are links to some soundclips in the full review.
Volume. The whistle is reasonably powerful - quite adequate for largeish sessions in noisy pubs. The bottom end is quite strong, and naturally things get stronger as you go up. However the balance is good and the top B is really quite sweet.
Response. Lightning-fast - subjectively about as fast as a Generation Eb, and nothing is faster than that. This makes the whistle a delight to play. Ornaments definitely crackle and pop.
C-natural. A good cross-fingered C-natural can be obtained with either my favourite fingering, oxx xox, or "Feadan's favourite", oxx-ooo. The two-handed version sounds bang-on to me, the one-handed one a smidgin sharper, but still very usable.
Tuning: the second octave is very well tuned with the first - spot-on octaves are obtained effortlessly. I don't know if this is due to the two "bore perturbations", or to the air throughput, but it's a very welcome attribute. The tuning slide allows a wide range of movement - 40 cents either side of A=440, according to Ronaldo.
The windway does not clog. On prolonged nonstop playing a drop or two of condensed whatever sometimes seeps out on the underside of the tuning slide, but no clogging.
Air requirements. The Reyburn high D does require more air than most whistles. Although I find I've been enjoying this characteristic, it takes a little getting used to and conscious attention to breathing at first, otherwise you can get caught out partway through a tune. I'd say on balance that the air requirements are very similar to those of a correctly set-up traditional Clarke C.
The D and C bodies play equally well. I find the timbre, power and overall feel of the D a little more satisfying.
In conclusion, this instrument plays exceptionally well and has a great whistle-like sound. I think Ronaldo has a winner that aims at - and fills - a definite gap in the market. If, like me, you favour the tone and playing characteristics of cheap traditional whistles and you feel that most high-end offerings sound a little dull in comparison, this might be the maker's whistle you're looking for.
This is a shortened version of the full review, which has photos and sound clips, and can be found at: http://www.chiffandfipple.com/reyburn/reyburnhigh.html
Photo by Thom Brenneur
Stephen Jones is a regular contributor to Chiff & Fipple's message board. His whistle site is excellent and can be found at http://www.rogermillington.com/siamsa/brosteve/
And now a rare word from the Department of Commerce
If you'd like to support Chiff & Fipple financially and you use amazon.com, there's an easy way to do so. Bookmark this link: http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/redirect-home/chifffippltheult/ , use it each time you visit amazon.com, and we'll get a small monetary reward for everything you order. It's like a kick-back, only crunchier.
VI. DOOLIN 2-PIECE WHISTLE REVIEW BY HEATHER DICKINSON
Note: The Doolin 2-piece D whistle is one of two brands of two-piece high D whistles. The other is the Clare. They are very close to identical. These whistles look like a basic Generation or Feadog-style brass whistle. The tube breaks apart just over the top tone hole, allowing for...uh...allowing for...2-partness. 2-partity. I DON'T KNOW! It fits in your pants pocket really well!
Now Heather's Doolin review.
Physical Characteristics: A classy looking whistle. Kelly/Forest green mouthpiece with a shiny/sparkly brass shaft. Mouthpiece has this funny "lip" around the middle of it that makes it look like some space-age thing, but it comes in handy for making it less apt to go rolling off a table or something... it actually looks similar to the 2pc. Clare whistle, but it's colouring is much nicer. :)
It comes apart just a little ways above the top hole, both parts fit nice and snug. Takes a tiny wiggle to get them to fit together, but once it's together, you can twist it to align it any way you want, but it won't move while playing.
Length wise, assembled: about the same length as the Feadog, un-assembled: the part with the holes is just a hair shorter than 6 1/2 inches, the part with the mouthpiece is a hair longer than 5 1/2 inches.
Doolin 2-piece. (Actually, this is a Clare 2-piece, but they are virtually identical and if I hadn't told you, you wouldn't have known. Thanks to Steve Power of www.shannaquay.com for use of the photo. He sells these and other whistles out of Ireland. Please visit his website.)
It's the same size as the Feadog D that I have (MK II), but it's a lighter whistle. I think the shaft is made of some sort of Aluminum/Brass composite and the mouthpiece of a lighter density plastic that makes the whistle lighter overall.
Tone Quality: Sounds very similar to the Feadog/Generation type, although much less apt to squeak. Just the right amount of Chiff, solid tone, sweet and soft like velvet. On my Feadog, the higher octave notes have a tendency to become "grainy" in quality, but this whistle retains the
sweet, velvet quality to the tone in the entire range. Very nice.
Volume: Similar output to the Clarke or Feadog, although even in the upper octaves, it does not get shrill. Volume is pretty balanced throughout the whole range. Much more balanced than any other whistle I've played. It's not a loud whistle. It's more to the quiet side, but not quite. Probably a lower-end medium...
Air Reqs: Small. I thought I'd have a problem with 'overblowing,' but no. It's just fine. It's not temperamental either; you don't have to "coax" it
into hitting certain notes.
Although, you do have to be careful to 'clean' out the mouthpiece regularly when playing because if you don't, it can get clogged, and then you won't get a sound...
I recently performed a set on this whistle, and even though I like the whistle very much, it doesn't seem to "fill up" the microphone like, say... my Susato or my Clarke. I don't know whether it was because the performance was held outside, or the amplification equip., or what, but it just sounded a mite "thin" when played into a mic.
Other than that, it's a perfect whistle for jammin' around the house, or front porch "sessions," but probably not the best whistle if you're going to be using a mic.
Overall: A very nice whistle. It's one of the best inexpensive whistles I've played, and one of the best mid-range whistles I've played. Can't say for high-range, but it's a darn good whistle. Responsive, sweet, and
a joy to play. I think I'm cured of WhOA... :) I'd recommend it to beginners and advanced players alike. Plus, it's only 14 Euro (around $13.88, American), so it's a GREAT buy.
I would just add that I'm a big fan of these little 2-piece whistles, both in the Clare and Doolin brands.
VII. NEW FORUM ON THE MESSAGE BOARD
The irrationally exuberant and insanely busy Chiff & Fipple message board (http://chiffboard.mati.ca) is SO active that it has caused several brown-outs in Canada. Now there is a new forum on the message board, explained below by Bloomfield, one of the people instrumental in the formation thereof:
This will be a space to discuss style and technique in Irish Traditional Music, or ITM. Mainly style: Since this forum is not specific to any instrument, but is about ITM, technical questions about the whistle or pipes or didgeridoo should be posted elsewhere. If you're asking if you should use the first or the third finger to cut a G on a D whistle, you'll get a better and quicker reply on the Poststructural Tinwhistle Forum and no one will ask you to take it elsewhere. But if you are asking why Micho Russell always cuts the high A on St. Anne's Reel, this is the place. (I don't know that Micho does, just made it up.) Expect to find here discussions about rhythm, variations, ornamentation as a stylistic device, the different styles of different regions or players, and so forth.
VIII. DAVE MATHEWS UPDATE AND, NO, THIS ISN'T THE WRONG NEWSLETTER
Leroi Moore, sax/flute player of the Dave Matthews Band, has played the whistle on tracks of two of the band's last three albums. While Moore does not play the whistle in the tradtional style his take on the tin whistle is definitely worth listening to especially for those whistlers interested in playing in a "jazz-esque" fashion. The albums with whistle playing on them are "Before These Crowded Streets" and "Busted Stuff". Thanks.
IX. ELFSONG WHISTLE REVIEW by Joe Knight-McKenna
Joe Knight-McKenna writes:
I came across Elfsong whistles on their whistle site while searching the net for whistles. A couple of time I posted an inquiry on the Chiff and Fipple board to see if anyone has ever tried these whistles. No one ever replied. A few weeks ago I received an email from the maker of Elfsong whistles, Sandy Jasper. She told me that her husband Steve had search the C&F achieves and saw my postings. They wanted to know if I would like to try one of their whistles. Even though I have been try to keep my WHOA under control, how could I refuse.
Elfsong whistles are made by Sandy Jasper in
. British Columbia comes from a musical family background and has a band called “The West Coast Whistle Company”. Besides playing the whistle, she sings and plays the keyboards. You can also get their CD on the same site as the whistles- http://www.angelfire.com/music2/WestCoastWhistleCo/. She started making whistles for herself, but after playing them in public people ask if they could buy her whistles. They are two piece cooper whistles. The mouthpieces have wooden fipple plugs which she puts a protective clear non-toxic coating on as with the polish copper. She paints the body of the whistles and offers many color and designs from which to choose. Elfsong whistles come in D and C (a D&C set-two body’s one mouthpiece is available). She has recently started making brass F and G whistles and is working on a low D and a soprano Eflat. Sandy
sent me a D& C set to try. Elfsong whistle make you think of other whistles and whistles makers. The high quality of the paint job on the body compares to the finish Paul Hayward uses on his PVC whistles but Elfsong whistles offer many more choices of color and design. The fact that they are made of copper brings to mind Dave Parkhurst’s whistle. They have that copper weight, but the airway is narrower and the clear coating protects the copper from trashing. Sandy
The sound of the Elfsong whistles reminds me of Mack Hoover’s brass whistles. The 2nd octave plays very easily and they have a pure sound with little chiff, but they are louder than Mack’s whistles. I found both the D and C barrels in tune with OXXXXO the best cross finger for a C natural with the D barrel and OXXOXO the best for a B flat with the C barrel. The whistles are individually made so
can try to match not just the design of the whistle but the sound of the whistle to your desire. Sandy
In looking over the posts to the Chiff and Fipple GeoNet Guest Book, the thought has crossed my mind that I may be the only whistle player (this term is applied loosely) in the state of Vermont. Although I can't believe that to be true, I haven't seen one post by anyone else from this state.
Aside from submitting ads in the local "Personals" (gad), how do suppose I could go about finding out if there's anyone else here? I'm way out of touch with the local music scene, so doing a pub crawl probably isn't going to work. Well, I suppose it might but, OH! the morning after.
Anybody out there from Vermont? Lemme know if so and I'll pass this email address to you.
XI. DE-GUNK YOUR WINDWAY!
You know how you'll go somewhere and you're playing music and they offer you cookies or pretzels and the like, any how the fiddle players and the banjo players and bodhran players all stuff themselves until crumbs are all scattered everywhere but you abstain because you don't want to gunk
up your windway? And then you weaken and the next thing you know you've got a whistle full of fig newtons? Well my tip is (and you've probably published this before, but at my age everything has started to sound vaguely familiar so I'm not sure) -Garden twisties! Those green paper things with the wire inside that you use to hold tomatoes to stakes. Use the paper edge of the thing- not the wire end which could damage the windway!! Like all tools, improper use could lead to injury, death, or even worse, damage to the whistle.
Chiff and Fipple always twinkles like a diamond amongst the dross of my inbox.
- Emily Keene
P.S. I liked seeing the picture of you and your daughter at the School of the Americas protest. I long for the day when the swords are turned into
plowshares and I can turn my picket signs back into garden stakes.
XII. STREET MUSICIANS: AN ESSAY
Veteran C&F member Jim Stone writes:
In the latest newsletter bulletin, Norman Dannatt gives an apt description of a fellow playing a Clarke whistle quite well in the place where the legendary Whistling Billy (also a Clarke fan) once played. Norman calls this fellow a 'musical beggar.' But why?
Street musicians, real street musicians, aren't begging. They are brightening people's day by performing music; people are welcome, if the spirit moves them, to show their appreciation by putting money in the jar. In effect, the musician is playing for tips. A piano player in a restaurant, playing for tips, isn't begging. Moving the piano to the sidewalk doesn't make him a beggar; nor does substituting a whistle for the piano.
There may be beggars who pretend to be street musicians, but the defining feature of the street musician is that he or she is really a musician, that is, she plays well. So if this musical beggar was playing well, well, he wasn't a beggar, I submit.
The ambience of playing on the street doesn't feel at all like begging. People really are delighted, especially children. Putting money in the jar (or hat, or whatever) is something they enjoy--often they have their child do it. It's about as free and upbeat an economic transaction as there is on this planet. The music is given freely; the money is given freely. No quid pro quo, no contract. The gratuity flows from gratitude for the music.
Forgive the huffing and puffing! Occasionally on the street in St. Louis we are taken for beggars, and I've always been surprised-- not feeling at all like one--but it's happened only when we were packing up, never when we were playing.
Hmm. Jim Stone writes like a professional philosopher.
I agree with Jim, but, in the interest of equal time, here's a picture of the darker side of street musicianship:
XIII. OH, WELL, IT'S A GOOD THING IT'S A CRAPPY WHISTLE, WHAT WITH THE FELINE DROOL AND EVERYTHING.
Thanks to Beth for the photo.
X. CHIFF & FIPPLE's WORLDWIDE DOMINATION
Remember we're trying to get a handle on the geographic distribution of Chiff & Fipple members. Response has been good. If you haven't already:
XIV. THE MOST IRONIC PIECE OF JUNK EMAIL I GOT THIS WEEK
Subject: Eliminate Annoying Junk Emails!
is a worldwide community of whistle-players. You may subscribe to this newsletter by sending blank email to firstname.lastname@example.org with the word "SUBSCRIBE" in the subject line. A very active and supportive message board forum is available at http:// chiffboard.mati.ca . An unbearably extensive informational website for Chiff & Fipple is at http://www.chiffandfipple.com.
Lord, help us see how near is your kingdom.