Make Your Own

If you’re into trad, you know how much a good instrument can cost. Fiddles–hundreds to thousands. Concertinas: thousands. Accordions  flutes, even whistles can be hundreds for really nice ones by known makers. There are exceptions, of course, but you usually get what you pay for.

It’s nice to buy the best instrument you can afford, but if you’re like me, you try to do things as cheaply as possible. Not that I won’t save up for months for that $2000 concertina, but if I can, say, MAKE an instrument, I will. That brings us to whistles.

I play the concertina mainly, but I’m also getting back into the tin whistle. After doing a little online shopping, I decided to make one myself. I found some excellent instructions at a gentleman named Guido Gonzato’s website ( Turns out–whistles are actually really easy to make! My first was a high ‘D’–the kind you hear most people playing at sessions. I keep that one in the car for lunchtime practice. I just recently made a low ‘D’ as well, which is a lot of fun both to make and to play. Both whistles cost me less than $3.00 each to make, I would say, including the casting resin I used for the fipple blocks. None of the materials are so exotic you have to order them online–pvc from Home Depot, casting resin from Michael’s Crafts.

So if you’re into whistle playing, and you’re even moderately handy, making your own whistle is fun and kind of addicting. Plus you get to have the only whistle with weird writing on the side–you’ll definitely stand out at sessions. :D

Pat O’Connor and Eoghan O’Sullivan


Eoghan and Pat were amazing! What a great concert, followed by a top-notch session (our own Corey and Ted in attendance.) I’m really into the idea of the tonalities of various instruments and how they blend with one another. For awhile I was sure that fiddle + concertina = the best thing ever, but then I heard the Coen brothers, Jack and Fr. Charlie, on their album “The Branch Line” and I rethought that; the flute + concertina = the best thing ever, too, apparently. The list goes on from there–but back to the concert–Pat’s fiddle and Eoghan’s button accordion were a really great match, aligning perfectly through their spot-on playing to create one richly transformative sound. Eoghan also played the flute for a few sets, and since flute is one of my favorite instruments to listen to, it’s safe to say I was very happy. I spoke with Eoghan for awhile afterward–he’s a really pleasant guy, and even though he was obviously dead tired from jet lag, he tolerated me and my questions.

Their CD was available for sale at the show, but I didn’t have the cash. Now I’m having trouble tracking it down. If anyone knows where one could get a copy please comment below.

New tunes and tune requests

NEW TUNES are up on the website! Two reels–Far From Home, and The Boyne Hunt. Nice one TJ, thanks for those.

Also, I asked each person to write two tunes they’d like to work on, requests, if you will, and here’s what we have so far:

Primrose Lass
Roscommon Reel
Na Ceannabhain Bána (slipjig)
The Whinney Hills of Leitrim (slipjig)
The Butterfly (slipjig)

and a general request for more slides, polkas, and slipjigs

Leave a comment with your own suggestions! I recommended Paddy Cronin’s slide as an unofficial third. :D

Teaching ornaments

ImageOne of our members asked me today an interesting question about whether she might be able to request specific tunes for learning, so that she could dig a little deeper into the issue of ornamenting those specific tunes. I hadn’t given that issue a lot of thought, but this is my reply:

as for teaching ornamentation–if we get TOO into that we’ll be missing the real core point of the session–to learn tunes and learn to play with other people. I agree that learning specific ornamentation for specific tunes is important, but I feel that’s more the realm of an individual lesson, and I hope to avoid too much of it. if the anchor teaches the bones of the tune with a couple suggested ornaments thrown in as he goes along that’s the way to do it i think–everyone can adapt the ornaments to their instrument. it’s hard to play a tune with NO ornaments anyway, as you often need to articulate between notes with a cut/tap/roll/tonguing/crann or what have you, so they will be a natural result of playing the tune properly anyway, i should think.

What do you think?


Well I spoke to Christian today at the Canal Gallery, and he is leaving his post there, so we won’t be able to use the space at The Guilded Brick. BUT. We can still meet at my house as long as we don’t grow just yet. So it’s more urgent that we find a space that will allow us to grow. Please ask around, especially in Holyoke and Northampton locations, though all possibilities will be considered.


Apps for tune learning and identification

tunepal imageHi folks. We talked about Tunepal, which is a great app (I hear-I don’t actually have it yet!) for identifying and learning tunes. Well worth the less-than-five-bucks–and you can use your device’s microphone to record a snippet of a tune you don’t know the name of, and it will search a number of databases to find the most likely match. :)

For the android users out there:

For the iOS users:

Also, here are two android apps for slowing down your tune files. They’re free!ASC (audio speed changer) will slow own, speed up, and loop sections of your tunes. no pitch change though so you’re stuck with the tuning of the original recording:

Audioshift will change speed and pitch up or down, and has a much more user-friendly user interface:

Both apps have a free version and a paid version with enhanced features. I personally use ASC more than Audioshift.