Have a listen to what my friends at Folkfriends in Hamburg Germany have to say about the new whistles.


I am going to experiment with keeping the inventory status on the store now becaue I have more things out of stock than in stock. Fear not, I’m going to ramp up again. I'm in the final stages of changing over to new tubing for all my whitles. The new plastic is better for the planet and better for me. Oh, and I think the whistles are better too.

The shipping time says 60 days, because that may be needed if something is out of stock and needs replenished, but typically I can ship product within a week or two.

If you need something by a certian time, ask me when I can get it out. Also check with me if something you want is out of stock to learn when it will again be available.


A customer wrote asking for a fingering chart for my Bb whistle. After replying, I thought I would post the reply here in case it would be helpful to others as well:

I actually have never made any fingerings charts. In fact, I rarely concern myself with the names of the notes. I do know the names of the finger positions on a D whistle, mainly because from time to time an accordion player will mention a certain note by name and I have figured them out enough times that they stuck.

Using the

Do Re Me Fa So La Ti Do

approach to naming an 8 note scale, the Fa and the Do are the only two half steps, the rest being separated by whole steps.

So the C scale is:


E to F and B to C both being half steps. As such there are no Fb or Cb notes.

The D scale is:

D E F# G A B C# D
And the Bb scale is:

Bb C D Eb F G A Bb

The fingerings for each of the scales above is the same. All fingers down to all fingers up, then all fingers down again in the next octave.

Getting into the third octave is rare in Irish music, and the whistle gets very screeching when played up there. But one can often find a passible sound for the bottom two notes by trial and error. It is pretty much guaranteed to not be the same as the lower two octaves.

Whistle players most often refer to the D scale names of the fingerings regardless of the whistle they have in their hands on those rare times they need to talk about fingerings.

To play a G scale on a D whistle one needs to manufacture a natural C. Most use the all open C# and add in the top one or two fingers of the bottom hand. Others will shade, or partially cover, the top hole of the whistle.

Here is a link to good chart showing whistle fingerings. (And Grey has a lot of other good stuff on the web.) Since the whistle is a transposing instrument it applies to whatever whistle you pick up. Only the names of the notes will differ.

Hope that helps,


Happy New Year to all! The store is back on-line. Orders will be queued in the ordqer received and shipped according to when the batch of that type of whistle gets finished. Obviously I can’t make batches of all the types of whistles at the same time.

I hope 2018 is a good year for everyone.


Good news! The store will open to take orders in the beginning of January. Check back with me then. In the meantime I am working on making inventory and one or two new whistle models.

More good news. The current host for my store, Square, has added a few countries to their payment processing:

“Card payment acceptance with the Square app is currently available in the US, Canada, Japan, Australia, and the United Kingdom. We currently don’t support payment card processing outside of these countries or in U.S. territories such as Puerto Rico, Guam, the U.S. Virgin Islands, American Samoa, and Northern Mariana Islands.”

If you live in a country other than those listed above, send me an email with your desired item(s) and I will send you an invoice from PayPal that you will be able to pay with a credit card.

(click “News” title above for news archive)


We drove to Charlotte a week ago and then to Cincinnati to stay with old neighbors. The forecast seemed to zero in on our neighborhood. Thankfully the reality went 20 miles west. That was the difference between 15 ft storm surge and 130 mph wind and no flooding and 75 mph wind.

The house and shop are fine, but the area has no power and gas is limited. We will return when we can, probably next week.


I already am weary of the name “Irma.” We plan to evacuate Thu, to North Carolina!! The closest La Quinta (pet friendly) room the La Quinta rep could find. This road trip will make the eclipse look like nothing. Take care y'all!

3-Sep-2017 - Shop Arrived at New Quarters

In the past few weeks the shop contents have arrived at the new location. As you see, it is not an operational shop at this point. In fact, I can only find one or two flat blade screwdrivers out of the 17 or so I know I have. The mill is not wired to the lathe yet, and nothing has been organized onto shelves etc. In fact, it’s quite difficult to even walk from one end to the other at the moment.

But with the old house sold last week, I can now turn my attention to sorting things at the new house. Some of that is aimed at the living quarters, some at the shop. So I don’t expect to be making whistles until sometime in October. Most likely later in October.

(click “News” title above for news archive)

17-Oct-2016 - Changing web site and e-commerce hosts.

PLEASE NOTE: This new web site is a work in progress because the hosting contract with my previous host expired before has added all the features I need to take orders directly. So in the meantime, my store is in Square and you can go there via the navigation links to “Store." This is fine for US customers, but Square cannot process international orders. If you are an international customer and wish to purchase something, send me an email and I will let you know how to get that done at the current time.

28-Sep-2016 - Shop Back In Operation

Last night I fixed the motor on my band saw, so I can resume operations. The saw and motor are my Grandfather's from the 1930s, so parts are not available. Whew! Dodged another bullet.

17-Mar-2015 - A Note from Germany

On St Patrick's Day I received this email from my dealer in Hamborg, Germany. Nico gave me permission to post his email here for your enjoyment.

Hi Carey,

Here's a St.Patricks Day Special from the norwegian singer and multiinstrumentalist Sol Heilo. I gave her one of your whistles last week. There´ll be more videos with her in future, where the whistle will be heard better. But as a beginning:

Here is what she usually does, being the singer of Europes best selling girl band Katzenjammer.

By the way - here is a little doku I made, when we reapired their Bass balalaika. Yo can take a peak at our shop. I don´t know who of us you had been in touch with. The old guy in the beginning is Volker. You may have mailed with him. The one with the black bearD is Veit our guitar maker. In the end there is Torge delivering the bass to the band and I show up to as "dentist". Only Johannes is not in the video. :-)

All the best,



15-Nov-2012 - Black High Whistles Available

Here is a family portrait of the whistles currently available. The black and white high whistles are available in the two-piece "Everywhistle" model and the three-piece "Walkabout" model. The keys available are: D, C, Eb and Bb.

Saturday, March 30, 2013

Flute Obsession 1 through 3 are albums of various wooden flute players from around. Best to let the album notes speak for them selves. If you'd like a copy of Volume 1, go to:
All three are available here:
Album NotesEach track incorporates a variety of techniques of articulation, breath, phrasing, rhythm, tone & timbre. It is also a unique reference for students of the flute and of the music.
Many like to describe the world of traditional Irish flute playing as existing along an axis between those who think the instrument is played with the fingers and those that think that it is all embodied, about what happens between diaphragm and embouchure. Of course, the best players think it is about both. Just listen to the rhythm created by the rolling, octave jumping style of Seamus Tansey, a complete player.
All these elements (and many others) have led to the development of one of the most wonderfully diverse instrumental traditions in the western world. This diversity has been complicated in recent years by musicians such as Jean-Michel Veillon, Grey Larsen, and Mick McGoldrick looking to the new international landscape of music. These flute players can't help themselves from drawing foreign elements into their own performance from traditions such as jazz, Indian flute playing, and, 150 years late, the western art tradition.
All the players here are innovators, re-creating traditional music according to their own aesthetic model, sometimes faithful to ideas of tradition, but always individual. Indeed it could be argued that the most innovative and creative musicians are those that develop their performance behind the high walls of tradition. Musicians such as Eamonn Cotter, Noel Rice, Turlach Boylan, Jimmy Noonan, John Wynne, and Cathal McConnell certainly have the ability to knock these walls down but decide not to, achieving distinctiveness by the most difficult route. Many such players are keeping faith with their idea of a regional style and are often attempting to create interpretations of such styles on this relatively new instrument.
In nearly all the regional traditions of Ireland the fiddle is central. Perhaps the history of the flute in Ireland can be characterised by flute players such as Frankie Kennedy approaching these fiddle traditions with sensitivity, not just trying to fit in with these regional voices but to add to them. Perhaps the journey of one who could be regarded as the greatest fluter of us all, Matt Molloy, can be characterized as a negotiation of the great piping tradition embodied by Seamus Ennis and Liam O'Flynn. In doing so Molloy established the first of what I once heard Séamus MacMathúna describe as cosmopolitan styles, typified here by Barry Kerr, Tom Doorley, Liam Kelly, and Deirdre Havlin, among others.
This double CD, though very much one of contemporary flute playing, is a testament to the tradition that has gone before it. Echoes of the humour of Tom Morrison can be heard in John Skelton's throaty style, and the vibrancy of John McKenna in the forceful Sligo polkas of Martin Gaffney. It is great that two relatively recently deceased bastions of tradition, Micho Russell and Josie McDermott are here, illustrating that the music of past masters is as relevant to the future of traditional music, if not more so, than all so-called 'innovations'. This is made obvious by the inclusion of track.

Monday, March 18, 2013

Here is an change in my whistle making process that illustrates little changes I am constantly making in the shop...
Over time I have seen a few of my whistles with cracked outer WAB joints. I believe this is a combination of stress during use (or from sitting down with the whistle in one's pocket) and built-in stress from the interference fit of the parts. The walkabout joints are pretty short for the diameter of the whistle, and so experience more torque on the parts.
Originally I was using a live center to hold the outer end of the part when I turned the tuning slide and walkabout joint OD. This resulted in a nominally straight or parallel OD. As the joint was adjusted, the contact area was increased and decreased, making the joint get tighter as it was closed. This increased the pressure in the joint. Not to a point of failure in the short term, but perhaps it contributed to the long term cracking.
I've been turning without a center for a while now. This allows the material to deflect some while turning. The deflection is greater farther from the chuck. Thus the distal end of the cut will have a slightly larger OD than the proximal end, making for a good seal at the distal end while minimizing the stress on the extreme end of the female joint in use. The trade-off in this approach is a very small amount of yaw in the joint. A fair trade for increased life in the whistle and uniform pressure to tune the whistle regardless of the position of the tuning slide.
One other thing I did a long time ago is to bias the thickness of the joint toward the outer (female) part of the joint. All the cracks I have seen have been in the female part of the joint, so I make them as thick as I can, and allow the male portion to be thinner.
Small things to be sure, but each one improves the breed.
Take care,

Saturday, March 16, 2013

Having made reservations at The Manor House on Rathlin Island last November I was surprised when their web site became inoperative. I called and after two rings the line went dead. So I started digging around and after emailing a person who has business on Rathlin, today I received the following reply, which I am posting here in hopes that the search engines will pick it up and others will be able to find it. If you have reservations at the Manor House, check with the National Trust and see if they have someone to fulfill them before you show up.
Good afternoon Carey,
I’m afraid the last tenants in the Manor House have finished their lease and at present no new tenants have been appointed by The National Trust who are the owners of the Manor House. I’m sorry but we have no way of knowing when the new tenants will be taking over. Perhaps if you tried to contact the National Trust N.I. through their website they may be able to give you more information.

Friday, February 1, 2013

Hi everyone,
The United States Postal Service raised their prices at the start of this week. They advertised it as "a one-cent rise in the cost of First Class Mail." This is true. But what they didn't talk much about was the huge jump in international packages. Perhaps they are trying to make their Priority service look more attractive, but I've seen a HUGE jump in the cost of sending a whistle to Europe, and an even bigger one to Canada, because Canada used to cost less than Europe, but now all international shipments cost the same.
For example, I used to charge $8 for an international shipment, and I would win some and lose some depending on the country. On Tuesday when I sent a whistle off to Germany, it cost me $12.58. Yipes!
So, to allow room for the packaging etc. I have raised the shipping from $8 to $14 for international orders of whistles. Racks, since they are heavier and larger, cost even more.
I use the PayPal shipping calculator and base the cost of the order on the weight of the items being shipped, so several whistles might cross a weight boundary and jump the price a bit. But I try not to make money on the shipping. The reason I don't build the shipping into the price of the items is by charging according to weight, the second whistle in a domestic order ships for around twenty cents as compared to $2.41 for the first one, so it wouldn't be fair to build three or four dollars into the price of each whistle and give free shipping, even though that probably feels better when you are purchasing.
Someday I'll be able to email whistles to you, via 3-D printing, just like a fax machine. Well, maybe the next generation of whistle makers will be doing that. But until then, we're stuck with the post and other even more expensive carriers. Feel free to come to Florida for a holiday, have some tunes with us and pick up your whistle without any shipping cost at all!
Play on!

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

A customer asked me to take some photos of his whistle being made. So I took the chance to make a little album of most of the steps involved. The link below will take you it.
Photos of making a black Parks Every Walkabout in C

Friday, December 21, 2012

Dia duit cairde,
Recently my inspiration for posts comes from questions from customers. Here's one that just came in today:

Whistle head slides too easily over the body. Makes it too simple to go out of tune while playing. Any suggestions?

The whistles ship with a fit that I consider plenty stiff for the way a whistle should be played. The mouth and the fingers are fairly light on the whistle so they can flit about while playing. The tighter you grip, the slower your movements will be, and the sooner you will tire.
That said, sometimes the whistle suffers some abuse and the joint gets deformed, making the fit too loose. Here are some things you can do to make the joint stiffer.
It's an interference fit, so causing more interference is the thing. If you squeeze the two mating sections between your fingers - squeeze one front to back and the other side to side - you can tighten up the joint.
You need to squeeze enough for the plastic to take a set, but don't mash the whistle. This can be made easier by dipping the joint in boiling hot water for several seconds, but be careful to not burn your fingers.
Another way would be to create a little flare on the lip of the inner, or body, section. Take a dowel, drink mixer, un-sharpened pencil, anything like that and while holding it in the top of the body at an angle and pressing such that it applies some force to the inner edge of the lip, rotate the body. This will flare the edge and cause the fit to be tighter.
When doing either of the above, start by doing less, and if it is not enough, increase the force until you achieve your goal. You can always do more, but you can't do less.
You can also paint on some clear fingernail polish, or lacquer. Anything to take up the space. Cork grease will take up the space, but it also lubricates, so it may not work for what you are trying to do.
You might get the result you want by wrapping a wet string or thread around the outer section of the joint a number of times. Then when the string dries it will tighten and squish the joint tighter. You would leave this string in place, so choose an attractive color, and consider wrapping so the ends are concealed within the wrappings. LIKE THIS.
Put the ends on the back of the whistle. If the joint is loose because it has taken some stress - I sometimes slip a whistle in my back pocket and forget it's there until I sit down - this may be the best option because the outer joint has been deformed a bit.
A nice stainless hose clamp will do the same thing, or a wire wrapped a time or two and twisted with pliers, but these will leave an unacceptable protrusion in my opinion.
Be creative! You know what needs to happen.
If you would rather, I'll be happy to tighten it up for you if you want to send it to me. I have some plugs and a heat gun that I can use to expand the inner section a little.
If you have this problem and effect a solution, post in the comments for this post so we can all benefit from your effort.

Friday, November 9, 2012

Hi gang,This morning while waiting for the moka pot to finish my second cup of coffee, I got out my grandfather's fiddle, as I often do while the pot heats, and played a tune that I recently learned on the flute. Now, the fiddle is SO not my first instrument. It took me several times through before I was enjoying it at all. And that doesn't mean anyone else would be enjoying it even then. If you play music you know exactly what I mean. Thinking about what was going on - my inability to play the notes I wanted - I noticed that playing a note on the fiddle is WAY easier than playing a note on the flute. The problem with the fiddle is ALL the notes are equally easy to play. The problem is not playing A note. It's playing THE note. By contrast, once you can play notes on the flute, opening and closing a finger hole pretty much gets you into the ballpark. Not so with the fiddle. It will - and does - play any note within it's range quite happily, and your problem is not to play the right note, but to avoid playing the wrong notes. Fast forward a few hours into my day. I may have just sat down with the third cup of coffee, I don't remember. But following a few clicks around the web looking for something else, I stumbled upon this talk from the 2011 TED conference. I've always enjoyed these talks and encourage you to randomly sample some others from their web site. There are MANY! But I digress...This particular one is entertaining and pertinent to just about any human endeavor, including playing music. So many people fear playing in public, especially at the early stage of their music. Why? Fear of failure. Fear of being wrong. You know what? It's not that bad. Of course, if you suck, keep learning until you don't suck. But really sucking is way different from being able to play a tune perfectly at any speed. You don't need to be error-free to have fun playing in a session or for relatives. You just need to share what music you do have. The act of sharing can never be wrong.Here's the video, enjoy! Carey

Monday, October 22, 2012

I just got back from a week counting migrating raptors in the Florida Keys. They are mostly young birds who follow the coastline down and then jump across to Central and South America. For details visit
Upon return I found a question from a new customer in Germany. He was wondering how best to clean his Walkabout. Here's the meat of my reply. I thought others might have similar wonderments:
There are no wood parts. The fipple block feels like wood, but it's really sanding marks pretending to be grain.
You can clean it with water, soapy water, or put the parts in the top rack of the dishwasher (standing up is best.) Just be sure not to use a "heat dry" or any other setting that would get the temp near or over 100C. Too much of this might lighten the engraved markings, but won't hurt if you have a really big mess to clean up.
For stubborn beer residue or whatever, you can fold a strip of business card in half and when moist, run it into the windway. The only real sensitive part is the edge or labium. If you poke to strongly with something too stiff, like a wire pipe cleaner, you could damage it, and the sound will not be so clear.
Condensation is normal as the whistle warms up. I usually find I have to give it one blowing out about the third tune in the first set. I can do this while playing if the tune provides and opportunity to play a second octave A or B. Otherwise, put your finger over the window and give it a good blow. Once warm, there should not be much condensation.
If you want to minimize the problem, you can put a little soapy water in the windway, wipe off the outer parts and leave the soap in the windway to dry. This will help the water move out more easily and may just clear it during normal play.
The plastic doesn't mind being played hard and put away wet, but watch for growth inside if this is done a lot. A good way to kill bacteria is to dry them out.

Friday, October 12, 2012

Quick post today, announcing "Wolfhound," a new Irish music band in southwest Florida.

We are Wolfhound, South-West Florida's premier Irish Music Band! From the jigs and reels to the old ballads and the foot-stompin' drinking songs, we represent and celebrate the history of the Irish-American experience like no other!
Check out the sample tracks and let me know what you think. (That's me on the right end)

Sunday, August 26, 2012

The yard is clear and the house ready. It's looking like Isaac won't hit us too bad, but there are mandatory evacuations of some beach communities. Shelters are opening for these people this morning. Storm surge of 3 to 5 feet is predicted.

That doesn't sound like a lot, but the floor of our house is only 8.5 feet up.

One new thing the last couple years is some shelters are declared pet friendly so people with pets have a place to go.

Saturday, August 25, 2012 Interruption in Production for Isaac

Sorry those waiting for whistles will have their wait increased while we prepare the yard and house for a wind and storm surge event. (First post from my Android phone.)

Friday, August 17, 2012

Breanndán Ó Beaglaoich workshop and house concert

A couple days ago I held a house concert at Parks Whistles headquarters. Clearing the living and dining rooms of bulky furniture gave plenty of space and good acoustics for an afternoon workshop on West Kerry tunes and an evening concert by Breanndán Ó Beaglaoich, well known button accordion player from Boys of the Lough and Beginish.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Walkabout or Every?

Poor blog. If nothing is going on I don't post anything. If too much is going on, I don't post anything.
Here's a note I seem to be sending out a lot recently, so I thought I'd post it on the blog. Not that I don't want to hear from you, but to save you some time so you can write me with other questions.
Q: Is there any difference between your three-piece Walkabout and the two-piece Every models? I'm considering getting one of your whistles, but I'm not sure why I should prefer one over the other (except for the price difference).
A: They are made with the same tooling to identical specs save for the extra join between hands. If you have other whistles and carry a whistle roll or similar, you have no need for the Walkabout. But, if you want a whistle you can carry in your pocket, purse or backpack very easily, it's the Walkabout you want. I also find the Walkabout fits the pocket in my car's door much better than the Every Whistle.
So, for playing they are the same, for carrying the Walkabout is to be preferred.
Hope that helps,

Friday, May 25, 2012

Visit To Baltimore

At the end of April I visited Baltimore. I had hoped to visit several sessions, but things conspired in a good way to keep me otherwise occupied. I have an aunt and three cousins in the Baltimore area and I wanted to visit them first of all. Originally thinking I'd go up in early May and catch the cherry blossoms and a session in DC too, that plan changed when another cousin in VA announced a wedding for the first weekend in May.
The net result being I only had a chance to stop in to J Patrick's on the Tuesday after the Baltimore Irish Arts Center held theirBaltimore Irish Trad Fest 2012. Originally I was supposed to get in to BWI at 5 PM on Saturday and I thought maybe I could catch the Saturday evening concert and session at Liam Flynn's Ale House. But our plane was delayed 5 hours and I didn't get to BWI until nearly midnight. I think it was midnight by the time I cleared the airport in the rental car.
Anyway after all the excitement of the weekend, the Tuesday session was a small, quiet affair. Which I found quite enjoyable. It gave me a chance to play some flute with Dan Isaacson on uilleann pipes, Donna Long on fiddle and Patrick MacCubbin backing on DADGAD guitar and also giving us some tunes on his flute. The four of us sitting around one of the small drink tables had a nice session. As expected I did a fair amount of listening, but that's good. Why travel someplace else just to play the same tunes you always play at home? They were all great players and very nice people. If you are in Baltimore, try to make it to J Patrick's. I know I will be there again sometime. There are sessions on many if not most days of the week, so check the schedule.
From the chat I gathered the festival went quite well, and everyone was still enjoying the warm glow days later. Maybe it would be smart to be sure to catch the festival next time I'm up that way, provided of course there are no family weddings. (The wedding was great by the way, glad I could make it.)
Stay "tuned",
PS - If you have not clicked on the links above, do yourself a favor and browse around the sites. You'll be glad you did.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Just Intonation and Equal Temperament Whistles

Again a customer has asked a question that I suspect others have had but have not asked me, so I will post below my response to the question "Are your whistles tuned to concert tuning?" Feel free to e-mail me or post a comment if you have questions or comments.
Hi Jenny and Phil,
There are two aspects to the tuning of an instrument - the base note of a scale and the intervals within the scale played by the instrument.
On my non-tuneable Ghost whistle I am responsible for both. On my tuneable whistles, the player is responsible for the base note of the scale, and I am responsible for the intervals within the scale because I decide the position and size of the tone holes.
By default, my whistles are tuned in "Equal Temperament" (ET) which is the way modern orchestras, pianos and guitars are tuned. I'm assuming this is what you mean by "concert tuned." (I feel obligated to note that concerts are given on traditional instruments too!)
"Concert Pitch" will tell you what frequency a particular reference note should be tuned to. A=440 is normally used today, but the ensemble is free to agree on another pitch if they so choose, and everyone can accommodate it. Which is hard for things like accordions and pianos to do.
Once a reference pitch has been agreed, the next question is how are the intervals to be spaced? This is not very often thought about, since the maker of the instrument pretty much builds in the intervals. Fiddles and trombones have much more freedom to play what they will in terms of intervals. And harps and other instruments with individually tune-able strings at least have a chance, but it is a chore to re-tune for each key change.
Note that if A=440 is agreed, we can still have our C land in different places if we don't agree on the intervals we will use for our scale. So, all "concert" instruments today are tuned A=440 and Equal Temperament.
Just Intonation is the "natural" tuning of western instruments before the advent of "classical" music, and keyboard instruments. Simply put, you play a note, and then play a note one octave up, and it will be twice the frequency of the first. The other notes you play will fall on "nice" fractional intervals between the two.
The limitation (I didn't say "problem") of this approach is your playing is pretty much limited to one octave. When you play in the next octave, those perfectly places tone holes need to be in different places. So to allow compositions spanning more than one octave that were being penned by the "classical" composers, they had to agree to average out the location of the notes so they sounded equally good/bad regardless of which octave was being played.
I default my instruments to Equal Temperament because the first thing I expect customers to do is go find their piano or electronic guitar tuner and see how I did making the instrument.
I do offer D whistles in "Just Intonation" (JI) tuning, which I expect you are referring to when you say "trad tuning." These are most often purchased by pipers whose bagpipes are JI tuned, but solo players and people who play with baroque groups like them too.
Can you play a Just Intonation whistle along with a piano or guitar? Can you play an Equal Temperament whistle along with a baroque ensemble? The answer to both is a qualified yes, because player technique can push the notes for each hole around a bit. This is more easily done on a flute than on a whistle, but in each case you do have to actually PLAY the instrument vs. just blow and move your fingers.
An experienced musician, and I'm speaking more about their ear than their lips and fingers, will know if they are flat or sharp compared to the others they are playing with and can make some adjustments, within limits, to the tone they are playing.
Comparing one common interpretation of JI (which I use) to an ET C scale, here are the differences in cents for each note:
C -4 C# -12 D 0 D# 12 E 4 F 16 F# -14 G -2 G# -10 A 2 A# 14 B -15
So depending on the notes played and their duration, you may get by with an ET whistle in a baroque group. You will have to bend the note one way or the other 16 cents at most. That said, it is of course simpler to have the appropriate instrument to start with. But you still have to listen and play the right tone.
Question: What do you call three flutes playing A?
Answer: A chord.
Why do people bother with JI or "traditional tuning" any more? Because if you live within the limitation of one octave, the music sounds better. And with today's computer technology MIDI instruments can me controlled to play JI in any key with the push of a button. And, knowing the root note, I expect they can produce notes in multiple octaves that are nice round fractions of the root tone.
HERE is a link to a graphic demonstration of JI vs ET intervals. Sadly, this kind of on-the-fly re-tuning of the notes being played is not possible when playing a physical instrument. But you will see the reasons for each tuning I think. Please realize that when the narrator says "Clearly out of tune." he means clearly the intervals are not ideal for the selected root note of the scale. They ARE in perfect tune to the Equal Temerament tuning of the scale, which is what all of our keyboards, guitars, pianos, clarinets etc. come with these days so we can all play together in whatever key the composer (or singer) has selected for the performance.
Let me know if you'd like more info or if I've said something that isn't clear to you. Google will find more that you care to read if you search for "Just Intonation."
(Sadly the best site "" has been hacked and it's content replaced with some blather and I would expect the buttons to download a virus, so don't follow that link when it comes up in your search.)

Wednesday, February 29, 2012

You Can Tune A Piano But You Can't Tune A ...

After writing a response to a session mate (is a singer/guitar player who is taking up the whistle) who asked what I use to tune my whistle I decided it would be good to share what I wrote with my customers and customers-to-be. So, here's more than you ever wanted to know about tuning your whistle(s):
Melissa, a chara,
The best tuner is your ears! This is because how you blow the whistle will change it's pitch. Softer = lower, harder = higher. Thus it is possible to blow any particular note into or out of tune, within limits. Those limits are maybe plus/minus ten cents or so. So a whistle player is constantly tuning, just like a singer or fiddle player.
But it's good to have the whistle adjusted so it's wanting to play in tune to start with, so at sessions I use an acoustic tuner like this one I bought at Guitar Center. I actually have recently been using a tuner app in my Android phone, which I think works much better, but it should! The phone is a lot more sophisticated.
I tune the low A to Ian's fiddle because he can't tweak the tuning on an open string, and it makes him nuts if we're out of tune with each other. Most other notes he can slip his finger around to match whatever I'm blowing.
But don't expect a whistle to be in tune all across it's range. It's not how a whistle works, and that's part of the character of a whistle.
As for tuning the whistles when I make them, there is a lot that goes into it. Since I can put each hole wherever I want I have to decide what conditions I am tuning the whistle for. What I mean by that is since the speed of sound changes with temperature, and to a lesser extent with humidity, a player will adjust the length of the whistle so it plays in tune under the conditions that exist when they are playing. I have decided that 78 degrees is a good mid-point to aim for.
Then, when I'm setting the hole locations in the shop, I have to look at the temperature there, sometimes in the 90's sometimes in the 60's and tune the whistle so it plays 15 or 20 cents sharp or flat across the board at the amount of extension I want the player to use at 78. Then I know it will play best at 78 degrees, and higher and lower temps can be accommodated to some extent.
The complication is that the holes would have to move proportionally as the temperature changes. But once the holes are drilled, they move in unison. So when you sharpen the whistle by say 2mm, the high notes move 2mm and so so the low ones. In a perfect world the high note hole would move less than 1mm while the bottom hole moved 2mm.
Another "problem" is the straight bore of the typical whistle. This causes the notes of the second octave to tend flatter than the low octave. The solution as a player is to blow the second octave harder. You are already blowing harder to get the second octave to sound, so you have to blow harder-harder to get the high A and B in tune. But go right ahead, that's what a whistle sounds like.
On top of that, if you change the size of the sound producing window, like of you were to close off the "Parks Tone Ring" a little bit to soften the sound, the whistle will play flatter. It is the same thing as making the holes at the other end of the whistle smaller.
I'm telling you all this because by definition the whistle will be in and out of tune depending on what notes you are playing and the dynamics involved. That's part of the character of the whistle, and what makes a whistle sound different than a recorder for example.
Ha, I'm sure that's way more than you wanted to know. But hopefully you have some idea what the whistle will be doing and what you can do about it.
Tóg go bog é,

Friday, February 17, 2012

Slowly Learning Gaeilge (Irish Gaelic)

I've been having fun learning Gaeilge and thought some readers might be thinking about it too, so I thought I'd mention how it's going.
In a word "mall" meaning "slow." Not so much because it is hard, the language is very organized and un-ambiguous (unlike English.) It's just very different. Spoken Irish has different sounds from English, so that takes a little getting used to, and they use combinations of letters to make some sounds we have single letters for. For example "V" and "W" which do not exist in their alphabet. (The missing letters are: j k q v w x y z. )
Broad consonantPronouncedSlender consonantPronouncedbhEng. "w"bhEng. "v"(thanks to
How do you know if the "bh" you are looking at is a broad or slender consonant? That's straightforward - if the closest vowel is a slender vowel (i, e) the consonant is slender, and if the closest vowel is broad (a, o, u) then the consonant is broad too.
They do have two ways to pronounce vowels - long and short. If it's long, it has a fada, or an accent mark like this: á or í. You have to look close at the "i" to see if it's a dot or a fada.
But that's basically it. Once you learn the rules and how to pronounce the sounds the rest is just like learning any other language, adding vocabulary as you go along.
And of course that goes better if you have people to speak it with or at least listen to. And there are Gaeilge programs on the web. A good one is
As for learning, I think has a very good approach and you can start and stop as your schedule demands. It is operated by a husband and wife team who are very nice and helpful people. Check them out.
So if you are at all interested in Gaeilge, do some wandering around the web and see what strikes your fancy.
Slán go fóill.
Is mise le mas,

Friday, February 10, 2012

Feedback Word Cloud

Looking thru some e-mails I saw a mention of this site that will create word clouds from straight text. What would anyone want to do with that? Well, after a few moments I though about tossing in the 20 or so feedback e-mails that I've received from customers which are scrolling on my home page. And here's the result:

I like it! I think it needs to go on my home page for a while.

Friday, February 3, 2012

Caloosahatchee Celtic Festival

Last Saturday the Caloosahatchee Celtic Festival was held in downtown Fort Myers. The usual Celtic goods and good food were present as was a mix of local and imported talent. Here is a long shot from the pavilion near he river:

The weather was perfect, the beer cold, and the entertainment very entertaining. Jaime, the instructor at a local Irish dance school took on one of the fiddlers in an impromptu speed contest. The applause-o-meter said Jaime won by a wide margin:

Jaime and her troop often dance for us (The Boys Of County Lee) at various events and when Wednesday is not a school day, the whole class will stop in at the pub where we have our Tuesday evening seisún and dance among the diners. Good fun! They do well in the national competitions too.
All the acts were great, but I especially enjoyed the Celtic roots rockers Rathkeltair. They did a few covers and a lot of original stuff.

So Saturday was consumed at the festival, Sunday played a brunch gig at The Bay House in North Naples from 11-2 with a group of friends (some of which were on stage at the festival but I didn't get a pic) then I beat it up US 41 to North Fort Myers to catch what I can of the seisún at T P Hoolihan's pub. Monday was a birding excursion toCircle-B-Bar Reserve. Tuesday was catch up on e-mails and play the Tuesday seisún at Ballyourney, followed by a Wednesday seisún at The Dublin Ale House.
Whew. I hope you are having as much fun as I am.