Recently my inspiration for posts comes from questions from customers. Here's one that just came in today:
Friday, December 21, 2012
Recently my inspiration for posts comes from questions from customers. Here's one that just came in today:
Friday, November 9, 2012
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.
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
Friday, August 17, 2012
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.
So now those who are waiting for me to ship their whistles know what has been holding me up. My apologies. It's back to the shop today!
Wednesday, July 11, 2012
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.
Friday, May 25, 2012
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 their Baltimore 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.
Thursday, April 19, 2012
Hi Jenny and Phil,
Wednesday, February 29, 2012
Melissa, a chara,
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.
Friday, February 17, 2012
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 consonant||Pronounced||Slender consonant||Pronounced|
|bh||Eng. "w"||bh||Eng. "v"|
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 http://tg4.ie/ie/index.html.
As for learning, I think http://www.bitesizeirishgaelic.com 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
Friday, February 3, 2012
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 to Circle-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.
Friday, January 27, 2012
This is what www.historic-savannah.com has to say about this monument:
Friday, January 20, 2012
I have not made any real progress on the black whistles because while the mandrel approach does work, it is somewhat unpredictable. Maybe it's lack of practice on my part, but sometimes I get a nice looking mouthpiece and sometimes I wrinkle it as I'm trying to get it to slip over the mandrel. I think it's due in part to the mandrel not being heated and cooling the part before it's fully expanded, causing it to bind. I may try making a mandrel with passages for the hot air so I can keep the mandrel warm from the inside and possibly improve the repeatability of the forming.
But, then how to get the parts off and allow them to cool? The seem to do best when allowed to cool on the mandrel, but this will mean each mouthpiece will take a LONG time to make compared to turning and parting on the lathe. The temperature of the shop compared to the temperature of the mandrel causes varying amounts of shrinking while the part cools off the mandrel.
So this is the main technical hurdle at the moment. The other reason for a lack of progress on the black whistles is the need to make white whistles for customer and dealer orders for the holidays. At one point I had a backlog of over 100 whistles, not counting multiple bodies for most of those. I'm not complaining! But I believe existing orders come before R&D, so not much R&D has been done.
But with the holidays past I'm about to catch up - in fact I hope to ship all outstanding orders today, or at least have them ready to ship tomorrow. And then I'll get back on the black whistle project, and hopefully let you know how it's going from time to time. Maybe I'll set a reminder in my things to do to prompt me to post....