You want to learn how to play the tin whistle. That’s great! With so many possibilities for expression, it’s a fun instrument to play. Online or in a shop, you can easily find tin whistles for sale that are relatively inexpensive. It is no wonder that the whistle is one of the first instruments Irish musicians pick up. It’s also so small that you can keep one on you at all times, as demonstrated in the following clip:
When a Chieftain met a Dubliner | Banish Misfortune | The Late Late Show
If you want to learn how to play the tin whistle, there are many options available to you. A teacher would be the best option. A number of reasons make one-on-one instruction ideal for learning any instrument. Your mistakes will be corrected before they become bad habits, you will be able to ask questions about exactly what’s confusing you, and your lessons will be tailored to your strengths and weaknesses.
It should be noted, however, that not everyone has a teacher in their area. Do not fret if that describes your situation: there are lots of resources available! It doesn’t matter what your learning style is, you can find the guidance you need to get started. While you won’t get there as quickly as with a private tutor, you will make progress nonetheless.
It is important to note that most of the tin whistle learning materials focus on Irish music. Since Irish music is the most popular to play the tin whistle, this makes sense. No matter what your musical interests are, it may still be worthwhile to learn a bit about Irish music. The whistle is well-suited to it, and it will guide you through the basics. Additionally, you will have much more resources available to you. The skills you’ve learned can also be applied to whatever other games you want to play in the future.
How To Choose The Right Resource For You
One way of learning is not going to work for every player. In fact, there is no perfect method of learning for any player. You need to learn from many sources in order to make the most of your tin whistle. It is traditional that whistle players learn from the people around them, soaking up the tunes and techniques of older, more experienced players. The number of resources available online and in print today can supplement or even substitute direct instruction.
In general, learning materials can be divided into two categories: books and video-based courses. Both have advantages and disadvantages. The former are easy to access, and the latter are great for visual learners. In general, they are best suited to people with some musical knowledge, as they usually include a lot of musical notation. A number of books explore the history of the instrument and Irish music if you’re interested in learning the “why” behind the “how.” These books often feature analyses of great players and recordings.
Tin Whistle Lesson | World’s Most Popular Irish Session Tune 🎵🎵
The learning experience is vastly enhanced by video courses. They’re geared towards people who learn by ear, but you can always find a transcription of the tune on The Session or elsewhere. The majority of Irish musicians would agree that learning by ear is an essential skill. It is a valuable skill to learn when learning the tin whistle. You might find video courses too rapid-paced if you don’t stop and replay everything repeatedly. You may also find yourself wanting to fast-forward a lot.
Regardless of your learning style, one thing to remember is that you’re learning music. I know it seems like a silly thing to say, but memorizing and practicing are not the same as creating music. It is important to become familiar with the instrument and the music. You need to listen to tin whistle music a lot to accomplish that.
There is no way to overstate how important listening is to learning. The best thing you can do is listen to great play the tin whistle. Buy a few albums from great tin whistle players if you buy nothing else. By far, the best way to learn about animals is to hear how they play, where they breathe, and what ornaments they use.
Take a look at our list of 10 play the tin whistles You Should Listen To . This list is in no way comprehensive, but each and every player has something to teach. Many are competent performers on multiple instruments, which leads to another important point. You shouldn’t only listen to tin whistle players if you want to learn Irish music. There are many similarities between uilleann pipers and Irish flute players, including the use of the tin whistle. A different perspective can be gained by listening to fiddlers and concertina players.
Variety is the key to success. Listen to more than one player, one style, or one instrument. As you take everything in, you’ll get an idea of how you’d like to approach your playing. Additionally, you’ll start to get your favorite tunes stuck in your head, which is crucial for learning.
Irish music albums often feature play the tin whistles, but they’re usually accompanied by other instruments. Whistle players are often part of large groups, making it difficult to hear exactly what they’re doing. There are also many albums where a piper or a flute player plays the tin whistle on a track or two. You should listen to these and other albums, as they will give you a good sense of how Irish music sounds. However, they may not be able to teach you as much as you’d like about the tin whistle.
Additionally, there are quite a few albums in which solo play the tin whistle is prominently featured. Here are ten of them, in no particular order. Both in physical and digital form, they are widely available, as well as on many of the major streaming services. There is a wide range of music on these albums, from old-school traditional to fairly modern.
- Feadóga Stáin, Mary Bergin
- Feadóga Stáin 2, Mary Bergin
- Song of the Irish Whistle, Joanie Madden
- Ireland’s Whistling Ambassador, Micho Russell
- Rarities & Old Favorites, Micho Russell
- The Ravishing Genius of Bones, Brian Finnegan
- Tin Whistles, Paddy Moloney and Seán Potts
- Minstrel’s Fancy, Seán Ryan
- Ceol Ar an bhFeadóg Stáin, Donncha Ó Briain
- The Quiet House, Noreen O’Sullivan
A visit to an Irish session
Concerts and festivals featuring Irish music are common, but listening to Irish music at a session is one of the most common ways to hear it. An informal session is a gathering of musicians, usually in a pub or similar place, where everyone plays along with each other. In today’s world, you can almost always find an Irish music session. You’re almost guaranteed to run into another play the tin whistle when you go there.
Keep a few etiquette rules in mind when you go. All participants are expected to know the tunes if they wish to participate. While many tunes are nearly universal, there are many more that are only popular in particular regions. Don’t worry if you don’t know what is being played. Just sit back, relax, and enjoy the music. The same applies if you feel that the session is moving too quickly for you. The players at a session are usually more than happy to have someone sit and listen intently, and prefer that to someone failing to keep up.
Be friendly to your fellow musicians whether you’re playing or listening. You can learn a lot by sitting and listening, as well as chatting with your neighbor during lulls in the action. Fellow players are usually more than willing to show off their whistle collection or talk shop. As a result, use common sense and avoid talking too much. It’s all about having a good time and enjoying the music at the end of the day. Being curious is great, but being courteous is essential.
Let’s slow it down
Things can get confusing when an expert player plays at full speed. You should slow everything down when you’re starting out so you can hear every nuance in the music. As anyone who has played a vinyl record can attest, simply playing a record slower will also lower the pitch. You want to slow down the recording while keeping all the pitches the same, so that you can play along.
YouTube videos can easily be sped up or slowed down without altering the pitch.
It is really easy to do this on YouTube videos. Simply click on the gear icon in the lower right, and then click on “Speed.” You can cut playback to half speed, 3/4 speed, or even speed it up if you want.
Another popular recording technique is the Amazing Slow Downer. It’s an interesting piece of software that lets you slow things down without changing the pitch, and it’s fairly easy to use. Audacity will play with audio and much more besides if you want to learn more about it. There’s a little learning curve, but it’s quite versatile when it comes to editing and recording. The software is also free, which is always a plus.
Here’s a basic tutorial on slowing down audio using Audacity:
How To: Speed Up And Slow Down Audio in Audacity
Tin Whistle Lessons Online
In recent months, several video-based courses for tin whistle have appeared online. A typical lesson is based on breaking down tunes phrase by phrase, at the learner’s pace, into manageable chunks. The lessons teach a variety of techniques using certain tunes and range from very basic beginning notes to some very advanced tutorials.
If a student does not have access to a teacher locally, these can be invaluable. Due to the direct instruction you’ll be receiving from a great play the tin whistler, you’ll be able to see and hear what the “pros” are doing. You won’t get the same sort of feedback you would get from a live teacher, but you will still have much more interaction than with a book or audio recording.
The courses, however, are usually available only through subscriptions, unlike books. It seems like the going rate is $15-20 a month, but there are sometimes options to buy in advance and save. The length of time you stay subscribed is up to you, and they do promise periodic updates. However, $20/month is still a lot less expensive than weekly or even monthly private lessons.
The Irish Music Academy Online
Beginner Irish TIN WHISTLE Lesson 🎵🎵 ‘The Kerry Polka’
The Online Academy of Irish Music (OAIM) is based in Doolin, County. County. Clare is one of the epicenters of Irish music. These lessons are taught by some of the most accomplished musicians in the world, and are quite comprehensive. There are 5 courses for tin whistle, each with 13-17 lessons/tunes. They also have over 50 play-along videos so you can get a sense of what it’s like to play with others.
With the Online Academy of Irish Music, you can access lessons for every instrument with just one subscription. Those who wish to learn several instruments will find this useful. It’s also a great way to see how other instruments play the same tunes you’re learning on the tin whistle. Listening to other instruments is crucial for getting a sense of the overall sound of Irish music. Plus, it will add some variety to your playing style if you learn a fiddle or accordion version of a tune.
Tin Whistle Lessons from Bleayne Chastain
Blaine Chastain runs the Irish Flute Store online, where he plays the whistle and the flute. In addition to video-based courses, he offers monthly subscriptions. Each lesson goes through tunes phrase by phrase, adding ornamentation and variations to teach various techniques. Besides learning by ear and working with PDF sheet music, you can also download sound files to listen to and play along with when you’re not near a computer. An interesting feature is the accompaniment track provided for each tune, so even when you’re alone you have something to play along with.
The price for lessons is about $15/month, but there are discounts for paying quarterly or annually. The Irish Flute Store is run by Chastain, so he offers a free Dixon whistle if you subscribe for a longer period of time. This can be a great deal if you’re just getting started and are looking for a new whistle anyway.
A Tin Whistle Lesson Book
For people who want to learn the tin whistle, there are dozens of books available. Many are tune books, usually containing sheet music, but some offer instructions as well. Several of them are written by accomplished, well-known players with years of experience teaching beginners and advanced players alike. There are a few things you should know before buying one of these books.
It is important to note that there is no standard nomenclature for play the tin whistle technique. If you read a few of these books, you’ll see that the same things are described in many different ways. When talking about the same technique or sound, it almost seems as if two books are contradictory. Your mileage may vary with any particular book, as what works for one person may not work for another.
You won’t get anywhere if you read words and notes on a page. There’s an old saying that “writing about music is like dancing about architecture.”.
The Irish Tin Whistle Tutorial by Mary Bergin
Mary Bergin has been widely recognized as one of the greatest play the tin whistle in Irish music. She has influenced countless other whistle players, and her recordings are essential for anyone interested in Irish music or the tin whistle. The tutorial books are divided into three parts, starting from the basics and working up to very advanced concepts and techniques. In addition, they come with CDs that demonstrate the techniques.
She sells her books exclusively through her website and not on Amazon or any other major online retailer. Irish music shops may be able to assist, but it isn’t otherwise widely available. There is only one other option, and that is to go to a music festival that Bergin plays; she usually has a few copies there. It might be easier to find her than you think, since she is a pretty active teacher and performer.
A Clarke Tin Whistle by Bill Ochs
As a player, teacher, and researcher, Bill Ochs was a giant in the world of tin whistle. His book has been in print since 1988 and is one of the most popular suggestions when the question “where do I start?” comes up. The great thing about this program is that it assumes nothing and walks the learner through every step of the way, including learning to read music. The book offers clear explanations that other books sometimes lack, which is invaluable if you don’t already know something.
Many of the tunes in The Clarke Tin Whistle go outside of the Irish tradition as well, and it is a great book to start with if you’re more interested in the instrument than Irish music. A CD is included in the “Deluxe Edition.” I’m not sure if the “non-Deluxe Edition” is still available, but the CD is crucial and should not be missed.
The Essential Guide to Irish Flute and Tin Whistle by Gray Larsen
At 480 pages, this book offers a fairly thorough look at playing techniques, tunes, and other aspects of the instrument. It’s also a great opportunity for play the tin whistle to learn the flute at the same time. Since a lot of the techniques are transferable between the two, there isn’t a lot of “wasted” space if you’re just interested in learning one of them.
While Larsen is a well-known player in his own right, he also breaks down the playing of various influence flute and whistle players to teach different styles. The Essential Guide includes a companion CD, as do many of these books.
This is the Essential Tin Whistle Toolbox by Gray Larsen
As opposed to the above book, this one focuses exclusively on the tin whistle. There are some overlaps between the two, however. This book covers most of the same techniques, ornaments, etc. as the other. The book focuses mainly on beginner and intermediate techniques, and it misses some of Larsen’s more advanced concepts from his other book. Likewise, it includes audio samples, although they are in the form of an online download rather than a CD.
The Flute/Whistle book is probably more valuable to people interested in Irish music in general because it has more content. You might find the other book more useful if you already know how to blow the whistle. Having said that, this book is a good option for someone who is only interested in learning to play the whistle.
Geraldine Cotter’s Traditional Irish Tin Whistle Tutor
Gerry Cotter is a well-known musician and teacher from County Clare, and her tin whistle tutor has become a classic since it was published in 1983. Since then, she has updated it a few times, but the basic principles that made it one of the most popular books on tin whistle have not changed. There is a large collection of tunes in the back, and a CD with all of them played through for the learner so he can get a sense of how they sound.
This is the Complete Irish Tin Whistle Tutor by L.E. McCullough
McCullough has been a play the tin whistle and teacher for many years, and his book is a popular introduction to the instrument. The book covers all the most common ornaments and techniques, but is on the short side at 74 pages. The book comes with a CD that features McCullough playing the tunes and exercises in the book. Although it’s geared towards beginners, I have read complaints that it doesn’t adequately explain how to read staff notation. If you don’t have experience with other instruments, you may want to brush up on staff notation before diving into this book.
The Complete Guide To Learning The Irish Tin Whistle by Clare McKenna
This is another great book for the complete beginner, since it walks through very basic musical concepts early on. McKenna explains everything in a clear and concise manner. Like Ochs, she doesn’t assume anything about the learner. It comes with a CD playing through various tunes and exercises.
A Complete Guide To Playing Irish Music On The Tin Whistle by Stephen Ducke
Yet another book that takes things slow and easy, but does a very thorough job. At 300 pages, it’s a good bit thicker than most of the other books on this list. And rather than including CDs, Duke has over 400 files available for download with the purchase of this book. The first part of the book discusses playing the whistle in very broad terms, with some simple children’s songs to demonstrate. The rest of the book dives specifically into Irish music.
Additional Online Resources
The Session contains a massive database of tunes, both in ABC notation and staff notation. You will often find that a tune will come with many different settings and variations, giving you many options to choose from. There is also an active discussion board, a database of recordings, an events listing, and a session finder. You can probably find an answer to any question you have about Irish music by searching the site. The knowledgeable people who post on this site will be able to help if you ask a question.
Chiff and Fipple began as a website dedicated to the tin whistle. There are still a number of knowledgeable posters on the play the tin whistle forum, even though it has since expanded to include other instruments. As on The Session, you can probably find an answer to any question you’ve asked by searching through the archives. It’s a great resource for finding reviews of different whistle makes and models. Usually, posting a question yourself will generate an answer from other users if you do not find the answer you’re looking for.
Ryan Duns’ YouTube Channel
Marquette University’s Irish Tune of the Week: Kitty Goes a-milking (Reel)
In addition to being a Jesuit priest, Duns is a play the tin whistle enthusiast. Among the many videos he has are lots of tutorials on various bits of technique. He probably knows a version of a commonly played tune, and he may even teach you the tune phrase by phrase.