I've found a whistle teacher in the Columbus area: Brian McCoy. So after teaching myself for four months I'm finally getting formal instruction. We spent a lot of time in our first meeting trying to figure out where I was and what I need to work on. He seemed pretty happy with what I'd learned by myself and my ability to hear the mistakes I make. There were a few specific things he suggested I practice:
- An alternate way of tonguing the repreated notes in the Blackthorn Stick. I had been playing it sort of like Brother Steve's method 3. I say "sort of" because I sometimes tongue the first note in the triplet as well. Of this, Steve says, "Let's immediately rule out the idea of tonguing every note. (There are traditional players who make a jig sound good this way, but we'll make it easier on ourselves!)" Brian wants me to try Steve's method 2. Not Steve's favorite, that, but then again Steve is using a different tune. I think it's important to not get married to a single method — I should be able to use the best variation for a particular passage as I play rather than getting muscle memory for a single method ingrained.
- Regarding cuts, Brian agreed it's important to learn to play the tune in time before trying ornamentation. But that's becoming much easier for me as I practice; I don't have to think about fingerings for individual notes as much as I used to. Still, learning a tune with cuts is in a sense like learning a new tune, and necessitates additional attention to staying in time. Brian suggested that I try playing scales up and down with cuts and taps. It's a way of practicing the movements without having to think about a tune while doing it. Hopefully I'll get it down well enough that I won't have to do that very long, since tunes are more interesting than scales.
- Brian also suggested I try slides. That may be because I played Sheebeg and Sheemore (just for fun, I'll spell the title of that tune differently every time I mention it), and slides sound really good in that one....
Update: I forgot to plug Brian's upcoming shows with The Kells (not to be confused with "The-less" Kells). They'll be playing Saturday 30 July at Byrne's Pub in Grandview, OH, and at a house concert in Columbus on Sunday 31 July.