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The Low Whistle Book "Steafan Hannigan & David Ledsam"
Sin E Publications 09525 30511

This is a very nicely presented book. The soft bound copy I received is extremely professionally typeset, with lots of half-tone graphics, including a hit-and-miss cartoon series and a veritable rogue's gallery of low whistle players. It runs to 113 pages complete with discography, bibliography, and around fifty tunes. There's even an accompanying CD which takes you through all the lessons, and an additional CD of more advanced tunes is apparently available.

The lessons are clear, the diagrams are useful, and the general tone hits the right note between serious and frivolous. The authors have a great deal of experience teaching and playing whistles, and it shows. They take you smoothly through the basics, and on to simple ornamentation. There are also plenty of good traditional tunes to learn and practise. Not all the techniques work on all low whistles, which is not surprising: Hannigan and Ledsam list dozens of whistle makers, and some makes behave very differently from others. The CD is essentially a concise spoken version of the lessons, for those who can't read and play at the same time. I was disappointed that there was no top-class whistling to provide inspiration: the examples are all rather mediocre, perhaps to avoid intimidating the learner. Once you get past the basics, it may well be worth getting the advanced CD.

My only criticism of the book is that it takes thirty pages of lessons before you start playing tunes. Most learners want to play tunes as soon as possible, and in my own teaching I generally start with tunes, even for absolute beginners. Admittedly you have to put all the basic information somewhere in a book, and learners with some knowledge of music or of other woodwind instruments can probably skip much of the basic material. I still think that it would be good to throw people a few musical crumbs earlier on, and perhaps even avoid the need for them to read music before they play their first tune.

Alex Monaghan

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This album was reviewed in Issue 45 of The Living Tradition magazine.