Praise Whistlers Abroad

Please give me some advice
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Author:  Houston Steve [ Tue Jan 06, 2009 1:18 pm ]
Post subject:  Please give me some advice

I need some sage advice, a wise turn of words or something. I have been trying to play whistle for a while now, and I just stink. I tried for a couple of months a year or more ago , then gave up. I have been at it again for a couple of months and am about ready to give it up again. Ive played stringed inst. for 20yrs plus and when I went from one to another 2 months got me playing the new instrument fairly well. The mando has been my latest stringed inst.

But this dang whistle stuff is hard.Especially in the 2nd octave. I have a few decent whistles, Clarke orig. Mellow Dog, susato G and I have ordered a blackbird. All these hoping they will help me. Im down to 1 cigar a night, yes I know not good, but good for where Im coming from. that hasnt seemed to help much.
I told my wife last night after watching a video I had made of myself playing , that I wish I didnt want to play this whistle so much. The Bible says, :what one day you love ,,tomorrow you hate: seems I am doing both on the same day.

Then the Spirit jumps in and says "Is it really that big of a deal Steve?"

Forgive my rambling

Steve Jeter

Author:  RonKiley [ Tue Jan 06, 2009 7:27 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Please give me some advice

I expect you are blowing too hard. You need to just barely put some air into it at the low end. In the second octave you need to increase the speed of the air not blow harder. This is called breath control. Of the whistles you named the mellow dog should be the easiest to learn on. The blackbird takes very little air. It is harder to control. Also the whistles are very sensitive to having the holes properly covered. If you are having a lot of squeals and screeches you may not be sealing the holes properly. Someone else willexplain this much better than I do.

Author:  Judy K [ Tue Jan 06, 2009 10:29 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Please give me some advice

Steve, persistence is the best advice I have for the whistle, and a bit longer than 2 months at a time. The first time I tried (in 2001) to play, the noise was so bad, and so disappointing, that I put everything back in the box and ignored it for 6 months. However, my niece didn't hide her whistle and I'm a little too competitive to let her be so much better than me without at least trying again. My first whistles included a Clarke original, Walton's Mellow D, and a Feadog. To this day, the Clarke is the only one I still like ... absolutely grew to hate the Feadog and it's wasn't too fond of me either. ;) After a few weeks of playing squeaks and squawks, the whistles were all headed back to their hidey hole and I planned to call it quits, but decided to try a different whistle just once more. Ordered a Dixon polymer D (with brass tuning slide) and found out that changing whistles really can make a major difference. The Dixon gave me no squeaks, no squawks. Nirvana! I found a whistle that I liked the sound of, which meant it would see much more playing time. This seems to be the main secret to learning to play. Find a whistle that you like, one that fits your playing now. Some whistles require a lot of breath control, some very little. A Sweetone will play easily in two octaves, an Oak will require more attention to breath control. One of the better (to me) whistles, yet with a fairly reasonable price, is the Dixon Trad. The key is to give it 6 months or more, playing a little every day if possible. Compare a recording of now with one made in 6 months. That's when you'll see a nice change in ability.

BTW, welcome to PWA! :wave:

Author:  jrc [ Wed Jan 07, 2009 7:45 am ]
Post subject:  Re: Please give me some advice

Welcome brother!!

That's all really good advice - hang in there. Also bear in mind you are ALWAYS you're harshest critic. When you're ready, post a clip and maybe someone could be a bit more specific in the advice area. This is a really supportive group .. we'd love to hear you play, regardless of where you are in the process.



Author:  shadoes [ Wed Jan 07, 2009 8:28 am ]
Post subject:  Re: Please give me some advice

May i ask what your practice methods are? When i started i had similar issues so i would just sit for 10ish minutes at the start of practice and just run the scale up and down trying to make each note sound clear and non squeaky, gradually increasing speed as I could. Start SLOW SLOW SLOW...each note.

And try to be aware of what you are doing, how hard your are blowing, mouth position etc... all of those and more can have an effect on your tone :)


Author:  Houston Steve [ Wed Jan 07, 2009 8:55 am ]
Post subject:  Re: Please give me some advice

Thanks all of yall, last night I just about completely convinced myself to go back to harmonica which I can already play. I feel like I need a wind inst. to help keep these lungs going good. I guess I need to keep playing and not obcess on it. Im too OCD on certain things,, . Which can be helpful to learn things but sometimes makes me looney.
Pardon my ignorance, but I dont understand how to increase the speed w/o blowing harder,
as mentioned by Ron, I believe.

Heres a whistle tune I put on youtube before Christmas, maybe you can give me some pointers from that. [url][/url] ... annel_page

Thanks for your help Steve Jeter

Author:  jrc [ Wed Jan 07, 2009 12:18 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Please give me some advice

Steve I thought the whistle was fine - you''re doing quite well, IMO!

Just my 02 cents - I wouldn't try to play bent over like you you were. That may not matter for you - could be an individual thing but I don't feel like I can breath properly, even sitting somtimes. I prefer to stand most of the time, even playing keys. I'm just comfortable like that.

and the mando was really cool! You could have quite the ITM thing going on that and whistle... very nice.

More please!



Author:  RonKiley [ Wed Jan 07, 2009 1:37 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Please give me some advice

you are doing fine on the whistle. I think all you need is some practice. One way of speeding up the air without blowing harder is to tighten your lips to narrow the wind stream. With the same pressure it has to speed up. I would also tell you to stick to one whistle for a while. But you wouldn't do it and neither will anyone else here. :mrgreen:

Author:  KittyR [ Wed Jan 07, 2009 3:43 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Please give me some advice

Hey Steve, and welcome.

Not bad. Try linking all the notes together in phrases rather than thinking of it in terms of separate notes. And Ron was right on in changing the pressure by narrowing the wind stream, not blowing harder.

Do you have a smoother sounding whistle rather than the chiffy ones? What you may be after is a smoother tone, and that would take a different whistle than a Clarke.


Author:  Adrian [ Thu Jan 08, 2009 3:23 am ]
Post subject:  Re: Please give me some advice

You are bang on track! Practice practice practice is the main thing you need. Online tutors can help you a lot as you learn techniques and they are free. There are many good ones by this Jesuit priest.

The second octave does require a slight increase in pressure. With a side blown flute the airway is definitely narrowed to speed up the airstream as the player climbs through the octaves. With the whistle the duct is built into the headjoint and so it cannot be narrowed irrespective to what you do with the lips. Some people do tighten their lips when playing in the second octave but it is not necessary.

It is important to learn what increase in air pressure is needed to play second octave notes. The best way to learn this with a whistle is to play through the basic scale like this: Start with the low D and while you are playing it increase the air pressure gradually until the note breaks into high D. Then work your way up the scale doing the same with E, F# etc. This exercise will teach you exactly how much air is needed for each note and help prevent over blowing.

Practice practice practice

Author:  TC [ Mon Jan 12, 2009 9:48 am ]
Post subject:  Re: Please give me some advice

Hi Steve, and Welcome !
Not much to add to what's already been said, only that you NEED to stick with it for a while before things may start to click for you. Practice will pay off, but get it in whichever way works for you, little bits or lengthy sessions. I tootled in my car during lunchbreaks for 6 months trying to hit the second octave smoothly.
Your video was good! From that I would say, pay real attention to your breathing. Like Kitty stated, be sure you're making smaller musical phrases and not just waiting until you run out of air to take a breath. This is something I've been working on myself.
You have a link to the Ryan Duns page which seem to be a great place to start. Have you checked out Another tutorial type page which gives great advice.
Oh, and take the time to explore this site, especially the Praise Exchange. Lots of tunes there to learn and maybe some familiar ones. Lots of examples of fine playing which may give you some ideas and a wide variety of interpretations. Learn one, record it, then share it with your new friends !

Author:  ethnicwind [ Fri Oct 30, 2009 11:56 am ]
Post subject:  Re: Please give me some advice

I am by no means the expert, but on my web site tutorial: I share some exersizes that can really help you get over that hump from sounding terrible to liking what you hear yourself play. If you do each of the excersizes on the page twice a day I garuantee that you will start getting better very fast.


Author:  Lyn D [ Wed Jan 20, 2010 3:44 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Please give me some advice

Hi Steve,

I listened to you last night on YouTube. You're doing great on the whistle! We are often our own worst critics. Keep up the good work! I really enjoyed your harmonica and your ? , oh heck, I can't think of the stringed instrument you were playing, but, it was really good! Can you tell me how you get the individual notes so clear on the harmonica? How do you block the other holes? I can play my whistles better than my harmonicas! All 2009, I've been playing the silver flute...teaching myself. I get to play it in church every once in a while.


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