My newest flute

Earlier this year I got my second flute, a Copley & Boegli three piece Delrin flute with silver rings, and I’m very grateful to the kind friend who bought me such an wonderful gift. It’s an amazing instrument, with a strong, rich tone, and the cut of the embouchure hole makes it rather forgiving. If you want more details of its many fine qualities, visit some of the threads about it over on the Chiff & Fipple forums, such as this one. As much as I still like my Tipple, I think this was definitely an upgrade. It’s taken me some time to adjust to the differences between the two instruments, but now that I’ve gotten used to it I think my Copley Delrin and I will be very happy together for a long time to come.

My flute

Currently my only flute is a three-piece, tunable eight-hole low D PVC flute made by Doug Tipple, which I received as a gift. I was skeptical at first about just how good an inexpensive cylindrical flute made from a PVC pipe could be, but the rave reviews on the Chiff & Fipple forums convinced me to give it a chance. I’m definitely glad I did. With the added lip plate and the Tipple-Fajardo wedge, this flute has a rich and complex tone that I really like, even when I’m being frustrated by my beginner’s inability to get the best out of it. It does seem to be pretty resistant to playing up into the third octave, but that may in part be a matter of my technique, and it’s a rare tune that calls for me playing up that high anyway. I’d highly recommend a Tipple to anyone thinking about trying out the Irish flute, or a flute player who’s looking for something to bring to places where they wouldn’t feel comfortable taking their wooden flute.

My whistles

This is my collection of whistles, all of which fall into the “inexpensive” category. I don’t see myself adding much to this list, though at some point I would like one of Jerry Freeman’s famous Mellow Dog whistles, maybe as a D/C set.

Sweetone D whistle

This was my first whistle, chosen based on the recommendations on the Chiff & Fipple Guide to Inexpensive Whistles. It’s easy to play, and the tone is okay, so I don’t regret starting with this one.

Sweetone C whistle

This came in a set with my Sweetone D, but it’s not nearly as good. I don’t think it’s in tune with itself, and on top of that the tone isn’t particularly pleasant.

Sweetone D whistle, tweaked by Jerry Freeman

This is a Sweetone D that’s been tweaked by the master of whistle tweaking, Jerry Freeman, which has left it much improved. It’s a fun little whistle.

Generation Bb whistle, tweaked by Tommy Dion

A Generation Bb that’s been tweaked by Tommy Dion. While Generation Bb whistles are considered by many to be the best in their key, Generations in general have a reputation as being rather hit or miss in terms of quality. There’s a chance the new Generation you buy will be among the finest whistles you’ll ever own, and a chance it’ll be more or less worthless without a lot of tweaking. I decided to go with one that had been tweaked in advance by Mr. Dion, using what he refers to as the Irvine tweak, in part because it was a good bit less expensive than a similar whistle tweaked by Jerry Freeman. It has a strong, smooth, mellow tone that I like a lot, and overall I’ve been really happy with it. Unfortunately, it doesn’t look like he’s currently selling them.

Walton D whistle, tweaked by Tommy Dion

A Walton D that’s been tweaked by Tommy Dion, which I got because I was so happy with the tweaked Generation Bb I bought from him. Here’s a review of it that pretty much echoes up my thoughts, and has some pictures too. Unfortunately, Tommy doesn’t currently seem to be selling these either.

Along came a flute

Even when I first started learning the tin whistle, I think I always had the idea that someday I wanted to move on to learning to play the Irish (aka simple-system) flute. Don’t get me wrong, the whistle is a great little instrument and lots of fun, but the reason I started with it was that it was both cheaper and simpler to learn than a flute.

I’d been considering buying a low whistle as the next step in my musical education, but then I learned that a fine gentleman named Doug Tipple made flutes for about the same price, meaning around $100. On the scale of flute prices that was pretty darned impressive, especially given the praise I saw heaped on Doug’s flutes on the Chiff & Fipple forums. Part of the reason for the low cost was the material Doug chose to use, simple PVC pipe. While perhaps not as fine as a flute made from African blackwood, Doug’s PVC flutes reportedly had a nice tone (thanks in part to some of Doug’s innovations) and were great for beginners.

I decided that, rather than buying the flute myself, I’d go with the same strategy I used successfully with the whistle and make it known that I’d like to receive one as a gift. My friend Jennifer was kind enough to buy me one for my birthday this past February, a three-piece, tunable eight-hole low D flute with inline holes and added lip plate headjoint and Tipple-Fajardo wedge. She also got me a copy of The Essential Guide to Irish Flute and Tin Whistle by Grey Larsen.

Now I just had to learn how to play my new flute….

A second try

Several years passed, during which my whistles sat untouched in a drawer, and then in late 2005 I decided that I wanted to give playing the whistle another try. In an effort to give myself some extra motivation, I let it be known that there was a particular whistle that I’d like to get as a Christmas gift (one of Jerry Freeman’s tweaked Sweetone Ds), figuring that having someone else invested in my progress might keep me focused longer.

That Christmas a friend of mine did indeed get me the very whistle I’d wanted, so I picked up a copy of The Clarke Tin Whistle Book by Bill Ochs and launched back into playing. Things went better this time around, probably in part because I had already learned the basics once before. I was able to keep at it, with the occasional lapse here and there, and I got far enough into things to want to purchase a couple more inexpensive whistles (a tweaked Generation Bb and a tweaked Waltons Mellow D) and even attend the 2006 Chiff & Fipple Northeast Whistle Gathering at Ralph Sweet‘s place. I was hardly a master of the tin whistle, but I was having a good time with it, which was sort of the whole point.

And then I decided that, since I’d managed to stick with learning the whistle long enough to get somewhere, I wanted to learn to play the flute too….

Long ago

Back in 1997, I decided that I wanted to learn how to play the tin whistle. The initial investment was pretty low and I was listening to a healthy dose of Irish traditional music, so I wanted to give it a shot.

I found Chiff & Fipple, and though I didn’t actually register on the forum at that point, I did use the recommendations there to help me decide which whistle to buy and which tutor I should use. Back then the Clarke Sweetone was still relatively new, and I remember that I ended up having to check several online sellers before I found one that had a D in stock in black. The place I ended up buying from (Melody’s Traditional Music and Harp Shoppe) was at the time only selling the Sweetone D in a set with the Sweetone C, but both whistles together were still only about $15, so I bought them and added Geraldine Cotter’s Traditional Irish Tin Whistle Tutor (though I didn’t get the accompanying cassettes until some time later).

It was the first time I’d played an instrument since I got through the beginning stages of learning the clarinet back in junior high, and, despite my getting off to a decent start, I found that I apparently wasn’t motivated enough to make a good try of it. Oh, I could soon play scales and a few very simple tunes, but I gradually played less and less over the course of a few months until I wasn’t playing at all. I don’t remember ever making a conscious decision to stop learning the whistle, but that was effectively what I did.

Fortunately, that didn’t end up being the end of the story….