Tuning Up for the Dance of the Frenzied Turkeys

Being a whistlesmith and making whistles all day can be a heavy burden. While you are working on whistles all day, your friends are out whistling away their time and having fun. The more they play, the better they get, until they actually begin to sound like real musicians. Soooooo, I decide to learn at least one new tune every week for an entire year.
I calculated that by years end my repertoire of fifty tunes would be sufficient to impress my neighbors at the Bugbee Fourth of July Pig Roast and I would be playing an impressive variety of music. After about a month, I was practicing six tunes every night for a half hour and I could see I was really making progress. Then along came a sizeable order for some whistles and I got really busy with making parts and putting the order together. All was fine until I set about tuning the order and realized I would be a while getting this many instruments finished. The more I tuned and the more I tested the whistles for sound, the better my tuning became. However the tune I was playing was not music, it was scales and riffs and bounces from one octave to the other and back and repetitions of the same note while undercutting holes and OTHER STUFF! Tuning is real work and you must concentrate and get it right and it was just killing my practicing time. Soon I could not stay on a single tune, but kept wandering off and ending up playing parts of my tuning routine. Every song soon became a medley of songs and sounds no matter how hard I tried. When a friend walked in and commented that the tune I was playing sounded very nice and he liked it and what was it? I had no idea that he thought my tuning routine was music, but to humor him, I replied,” I call this composition the Dance of the Frenzied Turkeys.” “Nice!”was his reply,” I will bring the wife over so she can hear it too.” So of course, I began to play the Dance of the Frenzied Turkeys every time folks dropped in and wanted to hear how the latest whistle design was turning out. The real point of all this wandering is that the Dance of the Frenzied Turkeys has attracted some local attention and now folks have even requested the tune by name. (“You were playing the Turkey thing the other night when I walked by your place with the dog”). I think this tuning tune is meddling to be part of a medley or perhaps a new melody on its own.

are a few thoughts on common tuning problems with whistles that I run into all the time.

1. Low notes on the whistle are not loud and tend to lag too much when played. Most common cause is a mouthpiece that is not blowing correctly. Mouthpiece is designed incorrectly or is unstable, has a build up of dirt in the wind way, or may have a hidden piece of whistle material between the mouthpiece and tone body. The tone body edge facing the mouthpiece may be intruding into the flow of air or has an edge that is protruding. 2. Finger hole has a buzzing sound or sounds like two notes trying to play together. Send it back to maker if still under warranty or try the following remedy at your own risk. The finger hole has a bad edge. It is either bent or the inside edge is not clean and sharp. Hold the whistle up to a strong light and try to determine what is happening. The hole will probably look just fine , so use a metal reamer or small file and try to carefully clean up the edges. Usually you can correct the problem, but sometimes nothing works. If all else fails, use the whistle as a novelty support to tie up a potted plant and buy a new one to play. 3. A single hole sounds weak and does not play correctly. The tone hole is not correct. Use the same technique you used to fix the buzzing hole. Usually, the side of the hole is not cleanly cut, has a burr, or is dented slightly. It may look okay to the eye, but the path of least resistance has an invisible detour in the way. When correctly made the hole will play loudly. Do not try to make the hole a different shape or deviate from the round as the pitch of that hole may be raised or lowered too much for the whistle to stay in tune. 4. When using the tuning slide, remember that the whistle will be in good tune on the lower octave much longer than it will be on the second octave. Tune your whistle to play best on the high register and then check it for accurate tuning on the lower one. Every note will vary to some degree with temperature, humidity and breath pressure, so tune for the best overall result in both octaves. Tiny movements of the tuning slide (thickness of a piece of paper) can make extreme changes in the upper octave. When you are finished tuning, make a tiny pencil mark for reference to reset the whistle at a later time.