Category Archives: The WhistleSmith News

A Whistling Adventure across Portugal and Spain

Greg Dorr purchased a Low A and a Low F whistle this fall with the intentions of playing them while he hiked through Portugal and Spain.

He has returned from his adventure and was kind enough to send photos and a description of his route for us to enjoy.

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Number2

Number 3

Left from Boston for Portugal on Nov. 6th. Spent a few days in Lisbon which has a active street music scene along the Rua Augusta. All types of music with a strong leaning towards jazz standards for which the Low F was most versatile.

Then I hiked from Porto to Santiago de Compestala (on the Portuguese Camino) and found the Low A played the easiest while walking – a good length and fit my hands comfortably.

The low range is less startling to the people who overhear your playing as you wander along. While walking I largely played celtic tunes.

13 days to Santiago and then I turned West and walked to Finisterra (another 5 days often in the rain which made the rainbows that much more welcome).

Again, I greatly enjoyed your instruments.

Everything is not Barter… Some things are “Being Neighborly”

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Being Neighborly with a tune at the Scarecrow Festival at Mahone Bay, Nova Scotia. Just as this photo was being taken, a tour bus pulled up and I played some tunes to the passengers who thought I was part of the festival welcoming committee.

Barter is doing business without using man made money. Folks display their goods and you display what you will give them in return for those goods. This is the oldest kind of trade, swap or doing business that exists and a common method of exchange between neighbors and friends in rural Maine.

You can exchange splitting wood with someone who has vegetables, milk, tires for your car or welding on your snow plow. Barter is also called “Being Neighborly” by the folks around The WhisleSmith Shop on Griffin Ridge.

Over the years, I have bartered for lots of items and have found it makes friends and let’s you know what’s going on in the neighborhood.

Aroostook is the largest county in Maine and the neighborhood is a very large area. You get to know a lot of good folks to contact that might be interested in your items. Word of mouth increases your reputation and the number folks willing to barter.

Here are a few examples of barter.

An old but sturdy piano for four cords of firewood. I didn’t have a way to move the one ton instrument, but a wood lot owner had wood and some really strong men and the barter was made. Both parties were happy and the new owner got a piano for his daughter.

Furniture that wore out its welcome got bartered for knitted, sewed, tatted and quilted household items.

Many a newborn got a special blanket to come home from the maternity ward in.

Hand labor and work with the tractor making lawns, plowing gardens and leveling driveways, often means you have new lumber, pickles, or fresh eggs and new baked bread.

I always tell children I barter a whistle with that “I expect to hear about how they make out with the whistle and their feedback is very important to me when I make more whistles.”

The best barter is the smile you get from a child in exchange for a whistle.

While on vacation in Halifax, Nova Scotia I met Gwen, who was setting out breakfast at the Comfort Inn. She was in love with the idea of playing the whistle and just full of enthusiasm. I always carry a few extra whistles so I asked if she would like a lesson and a Low G whistle to get her started. She was a good student and was up and going on her new whistle in short order.

The next morning she presented me with a pair of bright red hand knitted wool socks. Thanks a bunch Gwen, I wear them all the time when I’m plowing snow!

Everything is not Barter…Some things are “Being Neighborly”.

Slide Flute finds New Friends and Places to Play!

I have been busy making inventory this winter and one instrument that has been consistently in demand is the slide flute. The Pennywhistle and Symphony Slide Flutes have both been found to be very satisfactory instruments for children and adults with Down Syndrome.

These folks love music and the interaction that it gives them with others. Playing the slide flute is a good therapy for improved breathing and an inexpensive way to provide an instrument that is easy to play and fits into family activities.

Because the slide flute can be played very loudly, I am providing extra poly plugs to limit volume and allow a quieter more mellow sound if required. Inserting the poly plugs also cuts down on the amount of air required to play the flute.

An adjustable poly plug on the slide rod now allows adjustment to the tension of the slide. You can adjust the size of the plug with a common Phillips head screwdriver for best fit in the flute bore. Lubrication of the whistle remains a single drop of olive oil.

From information that I have recently received, I understand that the slide flute works best when the person learning to play starts out with making as many different sounds as possible. The sliding sounds are at first most popular. It is best if the person who is instructing tries to mimic the student’s lead on the sounds being played.

After a session or two, the student generally begins to be confident enough to try blowing notes that are like the instructor. Making up tunes of their own is a large part of the fun and should be included in the daily routine. Loud and unexpected sounds are also very pleasing to the student and a part of relaxing and enjoying the music.

As sessions with the slide flute progress the student will become inventive and spend more time with the instrument. The instructor should encourage outdoor playing situations and search out some interesting settings where there are good acoustics. Echoes from the slide flute are especially nice sounds and the student will be encouraged by the improved music sounds they are getting from their slide flute.

Other ideas, like the student playing a rhythm line using a set single note and the instructor playing a tune that is familiar can produce wonderful results. Part of the fun is finding the perfect note for the student to play along with the instructor’s tune. As time progresses, the student can reverse the role and play the tune and the instructor can play the drone and rhythm line.

Tips about Antique Reviews – Second Hand Instruments – RIP Archives

I get a lot of calls and emails from folks inquiring about other whistle makers and instruments that they may have acquired second hand. Here is what I say.

1. Don’t buy second hand unless you can physically play the whistle and find out if it fits you and the type of music you are playing. Many whistles that are second hand have been modified by previous owners and may not be the same sounding instrument as it was when new. If the seller doesn’t want the instrument and is trying to sell it, maybe you won’t want it either. Would you buy a car without trying it out?…same deal with a whistle or anything else.

2. Do not put your faith in on line reviews that are out of date or based on second hand instruments that were once owned by the writer and are now traded off. Don’t take anyone’s word on how a particular brand plays or how wonderful it is. They are basing their opinion on one instrument out of perhaps hundreds of dozens made by the same whistle maker. Stradivarius when making violins surely didn’t make every instrument with the same sound. Whistle makers usually have several models in the same key, so find the
one that suits you best.

3. If you are a professional musician and are looking for an instrument that has a specific sound, go to the maker and play instruments until you find what you are looking for. The cost is minimal and whistlers should be as picky as a guitarist (play on words) or a violin player.

I get dozens of folks that drop by in the run of a year that are looking for a specific instrument. These folks are looking for their specific sound and they usually find an instrument that suits their needs. Often times they switch from a whistle to a flute or fife to get the sound they require. I sometimes regret I am off the path in Northern Maine as I’m sure many more folks would show up if the shop was farther south. But there again, I would miss all my Canadian friends that come by on their vacations and
play a tune and purchase instruments.

4. Don’t take chat room advice on buying whistles. It is entertaining to a degree to chat with others interested the same things you are interested in. However, many “chatters” will say they own or owned a particular whistle or flute and give it a thumbs up or down in favor of another brand. This is not always the truth and you have no way of verifying anything the “chatter” tells you.

5. No whistle maker wants to sell you an incorrectly made whistle or a whistle that does not fit your type of music. I see and handle dozens of instruments from other makers each year.The only thing that is consistently wrong with these instruments is a problem anyone can fix. Without fail, the instrument has simply never been cleaned!

6. Check to see if the instrument you are going to purchase is still being made. Many online stores are selling old inventory,unpopular models or the maker is out of business or deceased and has been for some time. Warranties are no good to you if there is no one home anymore to make them valid.

7. Check the web site you are reading to see if the postings are current and really valid. If the web site is a cemetery of old information, Antique Reviews and long gone makers, let the writer know in a kindly manner to put those entries in an RIP (rest in peace) directory so everyone is reading valid, up to date information.

Help yourself and help everyone else at the same time by letting others know the information they are reading is current.

The Whistler of Blackstone Bluff

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Last ride of the season on November the sixth. Temperature was 55 degrees in the afternoon for about two hours and I had to dress warm to be comfortable. By evening, we had snow on the ground again.

After the barn wreck this spring, Nadiene and I needed to replace the two SUVs that had been totaled in the building. I thought that we could do fine with one vehicle since our business is here at home and the price of gas was over $4.00 a gallon. We have always had a motorcycle or four wheeler around and I used them to go to work in the summer and run errands. This time I opted for a scooter and after some shopping around, we bought a Yamaha Zuma. I really had no idea that I would like the scooter so much and how handy it turned out to be for doing errands. After a few trips around the area, I started looking forward to a ride before supper and on the weekends, I would try to squeeze out an hour or two for a good long ride and would come home feeling really refreshed. Summer this year was rain, rain, rain with a two hour break in the afternoon with wind and then more rain at night. I dodged a bunch of thunderstorms by having some places to stop by laying out various roads to ride that fit into how much time I had for the trip.

I jokingly told my friends that I was finding the best scooter roads in Aroostook county so I could take visitors for a tour when we had company. The more riding I did, the more I discovered great places to play the whistle. Natural spots with lots of echo and amplification from the surrounding hills are not too hard to find here in the “County”. I usually make a brief stop and do a loud shout or two and if the sound is good, I will open the under seat storage, break out a whistle and give it a try. If the terrain shouts back, you generally have an amphitheater made by Mother Nature! One of the best spots is the Blackstone Bluff in Perham, Maine. The bluff is an abrupt stone drop into a twenty five mile long valley that has lots of stone faced hills facing you as you play. There is so much resonance from this arrangement of hills, that you music keeps playing back way after you have stopped.

The Bluff is also the home of a fair sized cemetery on one end that originally belonged to the Blackstone family, hence the name. Several times, I pulled into the opposite end of the bluff and played for a few minutes and then continued on my scootering. Of course, the play back from the hills bounces into the cemetery and it sounds like it was coming right out of the air in front of you. My playing apparently didn’t go unnoticed as some folks visiting the cemetery started asking around about who was playing all the music and where was it coming from. When no one knew who the whistler was, a legend was immediately born about the Whistler of Blackstone Bluff. How cool is that? Celebrity status without trying.

By the way, my scoot will hold an orchestra of whistles or enough Chinese Take Out for two days under the seat . I get over a hundred miles to the gallon, so it turns out to be economical way to travel and a great way to find a place to play your whistle.

Tips for Weatherizing your Wicked Good Whistle!

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When you receive your whistle or flute it will be easier to play if you warm the instrument up first. Winter shipping makes for some pretty cold temperatures inside the box and a good warmup will prevent the instrument from holding onto all the moisture you are blowing inside the bore. If you do not warm up the instrument, it will respond by bogging down and not having the volume or tone that it should have. The only remedy is to clean the whistle and dry it
out even though it is brand new. I have noticed several makers have started specifying a warm up for their whistles before playing.

 

If you are playing in a room or outdoors and it is colder than 65 degrees, use some method to keep your whistle warm between sets.

Putting your whistle in your sleeve is one method that works well. When playing outdoors in cold weather, I have a dress coat with a long pocket sewed into the sleeve that will hold up to a Low D size whistle. My neighbor made the alteration to the coat for me and it works just great. I think a pocket that used velcro and could be removed would be a great idea.

If you blow the whistle backward from the bottom, the barrel will warm up and the moisture if any will be in the very bottom of the instrument where gravity will make it go away naturally.

I have recommended turning the mouthpiece upside down when playing in windy or cold conditions in several tips articles. Finally, several e-mails have been received telling me what a help this technique is! The amazing thing about inverting the mouthpiece is that the whistle does not know the mouthpiece is upside down and may even sound better! The mouthpiece does not feel funny when turned over and several people have said that it feels more comfortable than
the regular position. An added benefit in inverting the mouthpiece is moisture gets pushed by your breath and pulled by gravity out the sound hole and your whistle plays much drier.

Wicked Important DiVinci Code Whistle Info

Things have been busy this winter at The WhistleSmith with lots of changes and revisions. You have perhaps noticed the Website has been newly refurbished with whistle pictures and descriptions. The type in the blog is now posting up with larger size type for better reading.



There are new categories at the top of the blog to help you find your way around and older articles have been archived to make everything neater and easier to find. Due to the nature of the blog format, be sure to scroll all the way down to find all the entries and pictures in each category. Suggestions from readers on additional information on the whistle and flutes is being added. Here are several new items that should be helpful.

color chart for web

Stock Whistle Colors:

Available stock whistle colors are Jet Black, Dark Brown, Dark Green, Deep Maroon and Dark Navy Blue. The color swatches may appear differently on some computer video and are posted for reference only. These vinyl colors are airbrushed on the whistle and contrast nicely with the silver striping. The Low D now has a band of silver stippling on the tone body to accent the whistle.

TUNING LENGTHS for Whistles & Flutes:

Measurements are made from the bottom of the sound hole to the absolute end of the whistle. Measurement must be made with a precise ruler such as an engineers scale. Hi-D=10.25″, Hi-C=11.7″, Bb=13.7″, Low A=14″, Low G=15.6″, Low F=17.75″, Low D=21″ These measurements will put your instrument within five cents of tune (plus or minus on each note). You must use the correct fingering on the whistle chart that comes packed
with all WhistleSmith instruments. Moving the slide the width of a piece of paper will change pitch
Up when shortening the instrument and pitch Down when lengthening the instrument. These measurements are printed on the fingering chart that comes with your instrument on the bottom right side.

How to fix BREATHY SOUND and LACK OF VOLUME on your whistle!

Clean the Whistle! using the instructions that came with your instrument. A whistle bore that is full of moisture absorbs sound and will make the instrument lose its volume. If the bottom two notes on your whistle go flat or sound drops off, you must clean the whistle. Tongue the whistle on every individual note while playing the scale until you play sharp, clear notes. Breathy notes come from lack of air and the only correction on your whistle or flute is to tongue the whistle properly.
You should play the scale from top to bottom and repeat until you can tongue correctly. See article on playing with confidence

Whistle Up a Texas Fried Turkey!

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When company comes unannounced and there is a large crowd to feed quickly, it is a big help to have a way to take care of the situation.

I like to run down to my favorite grocer and get a nice fresh turkey. The one in the picture is about thirteen pounds and is just right to Texas Fry in my cooker. All you have to do is wash the turkey inside and out and dry it well to remove as much moisture from the bird as possible. Remember to take that funny little packet out of the bird before washing.

Nadiene usually gives the bird a good rub on the outside with fresh garlic juice and pepper and then injects it with marinade and her big marinade needle. The marinade is a available in all kinds of flavors and it makes the bird extra tasty and tender. Make sure the wings are opened up so the oil can flow under them and not leave an uncooked spot on the bottom of the breast meat.

Then it is a matter of getting the peanut oil up to a boil and lowering the bird into the kettle for a thirty five minute cooking or about 3 minutes a pound. Use a meat thermometer to check the bird is done by inserting it into the back of the breast meat.

After removing the turkey from the cooker, let it cool down and cut it into serviing size pieces right on the stand. This is a delicious way to do turkey, chicken, cornish hens and ducks. There is no grease and the skin is absolutely the most delicious you have ever tasted.

The day we did this bird, it was about thirty degrees outside, but the acoustically perfect barn was around fifty degrees. I have cooked turkeys this way in the barn at twenty five below zero, which might be an Olympic and World record .To pass the time while the bird was cooking, I played our friend, Diane Barnes and Nadiene Turkey in the Straw and another tune or two on the Low G.

Oh, I forgot, the marinade was Lawry’s Tequila lime and Nadiene used a whole bottle on the turkey. I was a bit afraid it might explode when I dropped it into the cooker, but everything came out all right.

So remember, another place you can play your whistle is while you Texas Fry your turkey!

Wicked Good Black Squirrels in Arlington Heights

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This year Nadiene and I spent Christmas with my younger son Jay and his wife Maya. Our newest grandson Ewan Thomas has just turned two months and granddaughter Anya is now heading for three and learning something new every day.

Because it is a full days drive from Presque Isle to Boston even if the weather is good, we try to swap Christmas destinations every year to even out the travel distances. Rodney Lee, his wife Patty, grand daughter Marilyn, and my grandson Darren (2.5 years and growing) headed out from Mineral, Virginia to visit Uncle Jay in Boston and when everyone arrived the house was full.

We had a great holiday with lots to eat and plenty of homemade cooking. Jay had just finished up the entire basement into a large apartment sized entertainment room with sleeping area and bath, so everyone could move around and have plenty of room to visit. The amount of presents around the tree was pretty incredible and I am certain everyone got what they wanted when Santa arrived.

Of course the weather was the really incredible thing for Christmas. Green grass, 50 degree temperatures and although the sun was missing most of the time it was a good chance to walk around and see the neighborhood. We were actually in Arlington Heights just outside of Boston and the house is on top of the mountain which is capped by the Arlington Standpipe. This is a landmark for folks headed into Boston and is mirrored on the other side of 2A East by the Mormon Temple with its gold weather vane of Gabriel
blowing his horn. It is pretty hard to miss the Arlington Heights turnoff with two giant landmarks like these.

My grand daughter Marilyn and I decided to take our new Christmas whistles and take a walk up to the Standpipe and check out the acoustics of a huge round tower full of water. The Standpipe had a lot of folks going to visit their neighbors and people out for a jog, so we attracted a small group of folks stopping to listen to us play.

The wind was pretty fierce on one side of the Standpipe, but the side facing Boston was less windy and by flipping the whistle mouthpieces over, we managed to play without any problems. Since we had to share the camera duties , I have made a collage of the photos so you can at least tell we were playing on the same location. On a good day, you can see all of Boston from the top of the hill and it is really a spectacular view.

Anyway, Marilyn and I have added the Arlington Heights Standpipe as an interesting place to play your whistle. The tiny person in front of the Standpipe is my Marilyn starting to freeze in the wind. It really is a very big structure!

If you walk around Arlington Heights for even a short period of time, you will note that they have a huge population of gray squirrels. The large silver maples and oak trees are full of squirrel condos and there is nothing to bother the squirrels as they work their territories hiding nuts and looking for berries and seeds. Because the weather was so warm, all the squirrels were out and it didn’t take long to discover the fact that the Heights has a very large population of all Black squirrels. This is a rare
squirrel and is found in small pockets of animals in Canada and in various places in the US.

You can search on line for black squirrels and check out some of the various sightings listed there. Arlington Heights has a large population and sighting a Black squirrel should be no problem. Getting a great photo of one is a problem and especially if it is dark or rainy outside, they just so not show up very much. Leave your camera at the house and they will follow you around, but take the camera and they seem to leave very quickly.

Wicked Good Inside Scoop on Whistles!

In making urns, I have used both red cedar which has the smell of a lead pencil when cut and Port Orford cedar from the west coast which has a delightful perfume smell like flowers. Port Orford is hard to obtain in large size and in extra clear grades. Ten years ago I purchased a large lot of this cedar as a high grade lot to make urns from. This cedar was stored inside an insulated tractor trailer and eventually lost most of its moisture and is very dry and straight grained. Port Orford is so waterproof that
you can build a boat from it, never paint it and the boat will survive salt water and last for a hundred years!

amphora

This is a Port Orford Cedar creation I call The Floating Amphora that you may find interesting. The vessel still retains its wonderful aroma after many years

Wooden whistles are always interesting. I have been involved in wood turning and making urns and artistic pieces on the lathe for over forty years. Because I know a bit about wood and its inherent problems, I have rethought the manufacture of whistles from this material. Some of the opinions I had originally on using wood can be balanced by using new techniques in preparing the wood and replacing the water content even in seasoned and aged wood.

Native Americans basically got it right when they made flutes from cedar which is inherently waterproof due to its high oil content. Lightning struck cedar is the cedar of choice for many makers of these flutes and the crystallizing effect does have a bearing on the instrument. Lightning struck cedar has been made harder than regular cedar and therefore is easier to work than regular cedars that tend to be very soft.

A new way to manufacture wooden whistles along with templates for the design has been developed. This new design whistle is unique and new to whistle making and makes a visually striking instrument. Whistles that I made from Port Orford cedar over the summer, have a lovely sound and are extremely durable. They do not acquire moisture from saliva and will not clog. Because this cedar has been properly aged, it is feather light in weight and the color is clear to a slightly golden color with a very nice grain.

How of many of these whistles will be available for sale? The first one hundred have already been purchased by a private collector on a ship as ready basis. It will be some time before any consideration to further production can be taken into account. Having a benefactor for the WhistleSmith is a very exciting development!

I do have an extensive amount of information on processing wood for turning and some neat tricks for processing raw wood to product that can be a lot of help to anyone who is interested in pursuing this area.

I will be posting individual items on the WhistleSmith News on each of the new developments as things proceed in the next few weeks. Be sure to sign up for the News Letter where you can get immediate updates. I promise you will be entertained by some unique new designs. You never know, The Magic Whistle may show up and you wouldn’t want to miss that!

 

In the past six month, I have had the privilege to talk and e-mail to dozens of folks who have purchased WhistleSmith whistles and flutes and have received input that is impossible to obtain any other way.

As I have written up the e-mails for posting, there have been some areas that bear listing as a reference for further development. Probably the first item to be taken care of is the matter of whistle colors. White whistles have a number of things going for them and although it might be repetitive, I’m going list them right now.

1. White whistles and flutes do not require the extra work in masking and painting and therefore cost less.
2. White whistles are easy to see if they are misplaced when camping and outside when camping.
3. White whistles play better under very hot conditions and draw very little heat.
4. White whistles are easier for children to maintain because you can see when they need cleaning.

The problem is that folks like color on their whistles and how many of each color whistle or flute do you need to stock and what colors do you need to have on hand? Over the past two years, I have narrowed the color selection down to one that works for almost everyone. Jet Black, Bright Red, Dark Green, Deep Maroon, Dark Brown and Cornflower Blue will still be the major colors that are always offered. Navy Blue,Magenta, Rose Pink, and Orchid Purple will also be offered as additional colors that appeal to a large
group of whistlers. Silver striping will be standard on all white whistles and the decals on all whistles have been resized and updated to give a more uniform look.

For those folks that want a colored whistle in a model that has previously only been made in white, I am offering a custom paint package. Buy your whistle and then purchase the paint package in the color you wish your whistle to be finished in. Silver striping and pewter silver stippling will be included at no extra charge. The price for the paint package will be posted with a full description on both eBay and this website with Buy It Now information. This option will be extra nice if you are purchasing whistles
as sets and want a matching color combination on the entire group.

Before I get a dozen or so calls on the subject…The prototype whistles I am going to mention next will not be for sale on eBay or anyplace else. Most will never see production, but they will all be available for study along with information on how they were made. Prototypes are part of the archive of whistles and flutes that are the property of WhistleSmith to be preserved and studied for future changes or improvements to the product line. WhistleSmith does not sell seconds, prototypes, or whistles with defects
on eBay or anywhere else.

I made four dozen completely new design prototype whistles in various materials to test for ideas that might make it into a production whistle. The idea was to find out as much as possible about these materials, how they work for different applications and document the material as far as pluses and minuses on machining, finish, sound and of course, durability. All this information is going to be available at the workshop this summer and I’m sure it will be enlightening to everyone attending. At no point in history
have there been as many materials (both man made and natural) available to a whistlesmith as there are today.

Aluminum in various finishes has been a predominant material in testing. Since I obtained the samples and test material from a major manufacturer of extruded aluminum, I have been able to proceed with putting together a complete set of prototypes whistles. These whistles are a new concept design and are exceptional in appearance. Aluminum passes most tests for durability(except bending and denting), is easily machined and can be finished in a variety of ways. Right now, aluminum seems to be cost effective in
small size whistles and a bit more costly in the larger whistles. Aluminum is most efficient at dissipating heat and there is where a major problem lays. Below 68 degrees, which is a warm temperature, large bore aluminum whistles such a the Low D play too cold and collect condensation in the bore. No matter how hard they are played, they stay much too cool to be practical if played outdoors and in cold weather. One of my testers after playing the Low D in aluminum in the barn on a cool day, suggested we could
wrap the whistle in insulation foam to take care of that problem. I can only hope he was just joking. Small bore aluminum whistles seem to be fine and play well down to about 65 degrees (after which they get noticeably flat).

Small bore prototypes are finished and no further development is necessary at this point. However, I am not going to recommend aluminum for outdoors cold weather playing. Aluminum makes a very nice concert type whistle where temperature is not a problem. Aluminum scratches and nicks easily under hard use, and requires the owner to treat polished aluminum whistles with care. I have a very good source for coated aluminum tubing that promises to be much tougher to scratch and seems (at this point in time) to be
more suited for whistle production. I am doing a complete data base on aluminum and finishes. Information on my conclusions and sources will be available on request to anyone interested in this area of whistle development when information is compiled and complete.

Whistling in the Wind at St Froid Lake

This fall, I had the privilege to be invited to Cry of the Lost Hunter Campground for Sunday dinner with Frances Cushman and her daughter Ann. Located on St. Froid Lake at Quimby, Maine ,the campground was home to my boys and Nadiene and I in the summer for many years.

St Froid whistler

Here I am playing away in an extremely cold and stiff wind. Whistle worked great!

Owen and Frances Cushman created the campground from an undeveloped piece of shoreline property over a long period of time. Originally the campground was full of tents and folks with trailers in the summer, but now most of the occupants are local people that enjoy being there all summer and have settled in with larger trailers that stay all year long.
It was a really bad day weather wise when we left Presque Isle and the wind was up even worse by the time we had driven the sixty miles up to the lake. Even though it had been quite a few years since we had been to the campground, everything looked pretty much as we had left it on our last visit. Mother Nature seems to maintain things at a pretty nice level if she doesn’t get stressed and the fall foliage was at its best even if the day was dark and wet.
We had a nice long visit at the big log cabin where Frances lives in the summer and of course a tour of the property and a chance to see some folks we knew who were getting in the last visit to camp for the season.

After a leisurely dinner with all the good things that go with homemade cooking and big piece of raspberry pie, I decided the rain had let up sufficiently to go for a walk. The wind was still blowing at about twenty five miles an hour and the shore was getting hit with some big waves from the whitecaps out on the main part of the lake. Nadiene picked up her camera and came along with me as I grabbed my whistle from the Mazda and headed for the beach.

I had been testing the new Traveler whistle in A and thought it would be a real test to be able to play it outdoors under some tough conditions. Frances, Ann and our friend Diane Barnes stayed on the porch to see how the whistle sounded and how far away they would be able to hear it against the wind.
We wandered up the beach and I played the Dance of the Frenzied Turkeys all the way. Nadiene took a bunch of pictures of the cabins along the way and was the on site expert to attest to the playability and staying power of the little whistle against the wind. It was great fun and there were several places that I would have played for a while, but everything was pretty wet and the weather held off just long enough to get in a good walk.

The girls back at camp said they could hear me playing until we were completely out of sight which I found surprising as the wind really started to blow. The Traveler played without a hitch. No wind kill even though I did a full 360 degree in slow motion and the wind was very strong. This is a very pleasant whistle to play and the more I play it the better I like the Key of A. After getting back to camp I gave everyone a short concert of some of my tunes that I’ve been working on and then it was time to head
for home.
We all had a great day and got home just before dark. You try to miss the moose and driving in the dark is not a good idea in the fall of the year. Later in the evening , a tremendous gust of air came down out of Canada and the next morning the color was gone as the leaves blew off the trees. You could say we got in the last nice day of the fall season and had a chance to whistle our way through it in style!

Sound Recorder Can Improve Your Playing!

I’m not a big fan of using sound files to make judgements on how a whistle plays for a prospective customer. I find many sound files have been corrected with filters in the recording process and are no longer true to how the whistle really sounds if you picked it up and played it. Correcting sound for a commercial album is accepted policy, but a sound file made for a buyer should be as factual to the instrument as possible. No reverb, no filters, just the way it comes out of the whistle.

Playing a tune for a prospective buyer on the cell phone can be limited, especially if you are unprepared to play on a moments notice. However, there are some interesting uses for Windows Sound Recorder that will improve your whistle playing technique, timing and intonation.

Sound Recorder is the standard little program that comes with Window operating system. You may have to search through you hard drive to find where it is located. Usually it is located at Programs/Communications/Sound Recorder. Easy enough to find and simple to use. Sound Recorder makes Wave files that are a minute long and you can save them into a file on your hard drive to play and study over and over again.

When recording you can play over the same file again and again until you have an acceptable version of the tune you are playing. Save a version of your session after a try or two. You can listen to this early version later to compare how you have changed your playing or the sound of a composition you are working on.

It helps if you have someone to run the recorder program and keep everything under control, but you can do it yourself once you are accustomed to playing and recording at the same time.

You will want a good microphone plugged into your computer and set about four or five feet from the computer to eliminate computer fan noise and feedback . I recommend you use a separate microphone and not the built in microphone that now comes on most computers. You need about ten feet or twelve feet of distance from the computer microphone to your playing position to get the best sound from your setup. If the recording sounds faint or too loud, move your distance from the microphone accordingly. If you have
a laptop, you can set up your sound recording studio where acoustics are best and it makes recording in a variety of indoor and outdoor locations a snap.

On your first attempts to record, you will be nervous. Stay cool and get used to coordinating your playing with the person doing the recording. My wife Nadiene, counts to four and then hits the Sound Recorder button. That’s because I seem to need more time to get the big first note going and be on track with the music we are trying to get down. If she is too fast I get left at the gate. Don’t worry about playing correctly or getting it perfect while you are getting familiar with the whole process. I guarantee
you will not get anything right at first and it may take a couple of evenings before you don’t feel strained and relax and have fun with the process of recording. You probably will also develop a new found respect for people who record music for a living. It isn’t as easy as you expect.

One of the first things you will gain from your new setup will be all the unexpected sounds you make when you play. Incorrect breathing (huge sound of air being inhaled), throat grunts (Erol Garner Syndrome), and badly damaged notes with lots of air (chiff) from incorrectly timing your tonguing and fingering coordination and the absolute worst sound of all…running out of air on the last note and hearing your lovely note flounder and die. Sound recorder is the ultimate critic who cannot be refuted. Remember
if it doesn’t kill you, it will cure you.

You may want to take a break and have a cool glass of water after a few tries. A minute of recording will seem like an hour and you may not be able to fill up a complete minute for your first few tries. Don’t try to improvise an ending to your recording minute during this point of your development or you may really disappoint yourself. Just let each trial minute stand on it’s own and let your playing stop where it will.

At this point, make sure you and your recording partner agree on what is to be kept and those recordings that you want to do over. Name your wave files by number (Trial Wave Number 1,2,3 etc.)and save them in a folder named Wave Files that you have made on your C drive.

Check to see if your recording partner is still having fun (you don’t need the sound of static in your files!) and proceed to record a few more tunes. When you have a goodly amount of Wave files , replay them and pick out the mistakes and oddities you have collected and make note of what you want to do when you record your next session. Take a break for the rest of the evening and have a go at recording again the next day.

One of the aspects of Sound Recorder you may not expect is how well you play. Even your first attempts may startle you with how much virtuosity you have already developed. After several sessions of recording and listening to your results you will be amazed at how you have improved your technique, fingering, ornamentation and breath control.

You will also note some things about playing the whistle that you thought were fact and have now turned out to be fiction.

Your whistle doesn’t make as much chiff and air when you play it as you originally thought. You have improved your air control and your fingering is now more coordinated to each note. You hear more air from the whistle when you play because the mouthpiece is directly in front of both your ears and only inches away. The microphone is ten feet away and simply doesn’t pick up this additional sound at all!

You play the music exactly the same every time. Hey! not so fast! Better check those sound files again. Repetition is the hardest element of playing music and no one is perfect.

Some of your best loved fingering techniques are out of sync with the way the music is written and sound like… well, not so wonderful. Sound Recorder can really change your memory of what the music sounds like to how it is supposed to sound when played correctly.

Remember to have a good time and have fun using all this technology. If things start getting serious, take a deep breath and a break. Then play your rendition of the tune the way you originally learned it before you gained all this playing perfection.

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