Tuesday, October 20, 2009

How quiet can it get?

I just had to pass along this e-mail from Ben in Japan. No further comment needed.

Hi Carey,

It arrived a few days ago, and I'm loving it. Excellent whistle, great sound, very portable. The best part, of course, is the tuning ring, or silencer, or whatever. I'm living in a Japanese apartment with pathetically thin walls, and I can play without my neighbours hating me. Thanks!


Sunday, October 18, 2009

When Life Hands You Lemons...

Actually it wasn't that bad. My alternate local session takes place on Saturday about an hour away. I got there twenty minutes early to find the doors locked. No note.The calendar in the window said there was some group performing later in the day. Everything looked as it should except the doors were locked. Hmm... I sat and waited for the session hostess to arrive and see what she would have to say. It was news to her too. Then a third player arrived. We had a fiddle, a flute and a concertina. Sounds like a session to me. After one set the fiddler said "Hey, let's put a note on the door and go to your house (the host's) and have some fun. I'll stop and buy some beer on the way." 
So we did that. The three of us spent the rest of the afternoon discovering tunes that we had in common. I only see the fiddler once or twice a year, and the concertina player maybe five times a year, so it was great fun. The fiddler didn't even know I was playing the flute now, and he was really pleased. When we parted he said "That flute sounds great. Have you noticed I haven't stopped smiling since you played the first couple notes?" 
It was a good day.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Play the Music

Sometime in the past year I read a quote from an oboist for a famous orchestra. (I would credit him if I could remember who said it so let me know if you know who it was.) They said "I play music for the (famous name here) orchestra on the oboe." That simple sentence is quite profound. He didn't say "I play oboe" he said "I play music." Playing the music is key. Not playing notes, not playing the whistle, but playing the music.

Many people start playing music on a penny whistle because it is not very complicated to make notes with. This is a good thing because you can more quickly forget about the mechanics of the notes and get to the music. Once you get to where you are playing the music, you will find that music is what comes out, not just notes. It will come out of your mouth when you hum it, it will come out of your lips when you whistle it, and it will come out of your penny whistle when you play it.

It will take a little time before your body will automatically make the sound you want on any chosen instrument, and until you reach that point you will be aware of the mechanics of playing each note. This is a place we must all pass through, but we don't want to stay there and learn to play each note faster and more precisely. We want to be able to forget all about the act of making the notes and just make the music. Speed and accuracy will take care of themselves since the music will sound better and that will reinforce the learning.

There is no short-cut. You have to train your body. The younger you are when you start, the quicker it will learn, but there's not such thing as too old to learn. Maybe too old to learn quickly, but since learning is fun, it doesn't really matter how fast you learn does it?

Once you can play the music, you will gradually be able to think other thoughts while you play. Most say when they started they were aware of playing the notes, hoping the result sounded like music. It took a lot of concentration. Personally I couldn't even look at anything moving or I'd get thrown off. Then people say they listen to the music they are playing and in effect play along with themselves thinking the music. The next level is being able to think about things other than what you are playing. Things like "What tune should I follow this with?" which isn't real hard to manage when you are ready, but also "How does it go?" which was a little trickier as you are playing one tune while thinking up another.

So focus on the music. If you can't hum or whistle a tune, what makes you think you can play it on an instrument? The music has to be in you before it can come out again. So listen to your chosen music a lot, and make sure it's really in you. Really in you. All the little details that make it sound like what it is. Then it will be a lot easier to share it with others through your playing. Because that's what you are doing. You are not "performing" you are sharing the music that is in you.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

What Have I Been Doing?

Wow the time has gone by quick. It's been a month and a half since I told you about moving the lathe, and I've made some good use of it. Initially I had to make some tooling for the lathe and adapt some store-bought stuff to work with it.

I learned some limitations by breaking a mill or two, but I improved my whistle manufacturing process and shaved a little time off each whistle as well. I'm still not back to where I was before I added the step of doing RTTA graphs of each whistle body (that's three tests for a C, D, Eb set) but it's good to do the testing. I know the whistles are better because of it.

I have been a bit backed up on orders because of the lathe adventure, and that was compounded by a problem or three at the engravers where the logo and key are put on. As the saying goes, "what don't kill you makes you stronger." That applies here as well, as we now have a better process between myself and the engraver, and I am upping my stock levels of finished whistles so the larger dealer orders don't cause a bump in the system. Everything is sorted out now, and I have all whistle orders filled, with whistles on the shelf waiting for you (hint, hint.) There's only two gig bags I still owe people, and that's because they shipped them nearly a month ago but they never arrived here. The company promised me I'll have my replacement order by the start of next week. My fingers are crossed.

That's it for now. It's out to the shop to turn the tuning slides on the next 25 whistles.

Stay "tuned,"