What up w/ Feadogs?
One of the oldest, best-known, and more widely available inexpensive whistles is sold under the name "Feadog." Many report that old ones were great and then the company changed the mouthpiece, which ended up being a bad thing because the new mouthpieces weren't as good. Now we know that recently (2001-2002ish) Feadog has again re-engineered their mouthpieces. For the purposes of this report, Mark I, II, and III are the designations for the original, the more recent, and the brand new mouthpieces.
Here's a review by Bloomfield:
For the upcoming St. Patrick's day a drunken Leprechaun sent me a huge green box full of hundreds of brand new Mark III Feadog whistles. Well, actually, it wasn't a Leprechaun, it was Steve Power of Shana Quay, and it was just a thin red tube, and it was only two whistles, and I don't think he was drunk. (Note: If he sent Bloomfield a huge box of hundreds of whistles--free--he was drunk. Signed, Dale)
But here they are: two Feadog Mark IIIs, in D and in C (actually I don't know whether the C is a Mark III). Since these babies are fairly new I thought I'd do a little review. And since I am the proud owner of an old Mark I D Feadog, I thought I'd do a comparison.
First off, they are fine-looking whistles. I got the ones with a nickel shaft and black mouthpieces and holding them I feel a lot more stylish then I would holding one of those vomit-green Clares. Hey, with this Feadog D, I wouldn't think twice about inviting Andrea Corr over to blow my whistle and for some cheese-cake. (Note: I'm sure she'd take you up on that. --Dale) That reminds me: The new Mark III Ds are very skinny. (Note: Do they have great teeth and cheekbones to kill for?--Dale) The mouthpiece is slim, with smooth lines. There is no ugly hump, like there was on the Mark II, and the entire ramp is flat. The bump at the end of the ramp, that was so characteristic of the Mark I has disappeared. The Mark III high-D mouthpiece is even slimmer than the Mark I was.
Interestingly, the mouthpiece for the C whistle has a bump, or a hump right behind the end of the blade. That makes me think that they did not change the C-mouthpiece. In profile it looks very similar to the Walton C mouthpiece, at least on top (lines are rounder, smoother, though).
I know everyone is bored hearing about he shape of the mouthpiece already, but that was the big problem with the Mark IIs. On those, the blade was set outside the line of the tube, on the Mark III it is brought back down, in line with the tube.
The mouthpieces are not glued on, so "tuning" them a bit is easy and no hot water or chamomile tea is required. Sliding the mouthpiece out a bit, about a mm (1/16") or so brought an immediate improvement in playability both on the D and C, more noticeable on the D.
But before I talk about how they play, one more observation: If you read about the improved O'Briain whistles on Steve's web page ( http://www.shanaquay.com ), it says that they used to take Feadog shafts and adjust the whole sizes a bit to improve them and that after Feadog adopted their new hole pattern, they are now just using factory Feadog shafts. So I thought if I'd hold the old Mark I (green and brass) Feadog D next the new Mark III D, I'd see a difference in the shafts. But I couldn't see any difference. It's either not there, or it's really subtle. (The shafts of the Walton C and the Feadog C are noticeably different.) Oh, and the holes on the Feadog D are a bit sharp.
So here is the Feadog D Mark I vs. Mark III comparison, with a bit of Sindt thrown in:
The tone on the Mark I is a bit softer and purer. The Mark III has a little more chiff and breath and is also stronger. On the Mark III D I notice a bit of an edge that I don't like so much and there is a hint of a buzz on the bottom notes. So I think I will tweak the Mark III a bit by dulling the edge of the blade with fine sandpaper. However, the bell note is stronger on the Mark III, which is nice. Generally, the tone of the two is pretty similar: not as rough as a Generation, but not as pure as a Sindt.
Octave Test and Screech Test
The octave test just means playing up from the D to the B, jumping back and forth between the octaves. This is not really the strength of the Feadogs. My breath control isn't the greatest, but you get not-so-pretty sounds easily trying this. Both whistles offer a good amount of resistance. They are on the quiet side and therefore a bit sensitive to breath pressure. The Mark III tends toward being tinny. Maybe a nickle-vs-brass thing, but the tone on the Mark III did not blow me away in that respect.
The Screech test: Play a G or an A and then slowly increase breath pressure, trying to make the tone hang between the octaves and screech. I can do it on the Mark I, but it is much easier to produce this blood-curling sound on the Mark III. Again, a touch of the sandpaper may fix this. Interestingly, on the Sindt the Screech test is very different: It is nearly impossible to produce that in-between sound. You flick up cleanly to the upper octave before you can screech.
The Mercy-Mercy Test
The test involves playing the B-part of Si Bheag Si Mor really slowly in the presence of loved ones. The question is: How long before they beg for mercy? Here I think the Mark III has the edge: The upper octave is sweet and pure and clean. The tuning on the high B is better than it is on the Mark I, although I don't know why that is, with the shafts identical. Also, the Mark III plays more easily into the third octave (now hear them beg for mercy!). The high-high e and f# are easier to hit than they are on the Sindt.
Struck me as very good, although I didn't use a tuner to check. The bell note is a bit sharp, unless you pull out the mouthpiece, and the high b is a bit sharp on both (better on the Mark III), but that's to be expected. The third (F#) is also a bit off, but that is also normal for cheapos.
Both Mark I and Mark III are responsive, smooth players. No trouble with ornaments or quick fingerings. They play pleasantly. The Mark III is a bit more sensitive which makes a difference if you play it where it's loud and you don't hear yourself so well. Again, I think a bit of tweaking may tame it. (Also, the Mark I was my first whistle and I have played it so much that this may be a hard comparison for me to make.)
On balance, I am very happy with the Mark III. It is a return to the glory of the Mark I. I will report back when I have dulled the blade a bit. I am also thinking of filling the cavity under the winday to see what that does. I can heartily recommend the Mark III, and don't let anyone sell you one of the ugly Mark II things anymore.
copyright 2002 by Dale Wisely, 3Fish Productions and Bloomfield.