How to Play the Irish Tin WhistleWelcome to your adventure in learning how to play the Irish tin whistle. It will be a fantastic and fun journey, with an even more exciting destination. Because if you go through this course, and make sure to practice with focus every single day for at least a few months, you can go from a complete beginner…to being able to play confidently and even with added expression and decorations…

In this course I will take you from a complete beginner on the tin whistle, to a confident player. And give you all the insights into how this instrument works, the basic techniques, how to get past the most common issues you will struggle with, and when you are ready, the decorations and advanced techniques you can use to add expression and emotion into your performances. I will even show you how to play a couple of tunes on the tin whistle.

Another great point of learning this instrument, is that you don’t have to stick to traditional Irish or folk music. You can play any tune you want, if you learn how to play this instrument well, and develop your skill and technique.

You will get so much joy for years to come, so don’t hesitate, I promise you it is well worth the time to truly learn how to play the Irish tin whistle. Because playing a music instrument is one of the most creative and satisfying experiences in life.

Why should you learn how to play this particular instrument? Well, I personally love the sound of this instrument. I love its agility, its expressive potential, unique decorations and the variation you can get both from your playing style and performances, but also from using different keys and models of whistles.

Are you ready to learn this amazing instrument? Then let’s start your adventure, right now!

Learn the Basics of Playing the Tin Whistle

Introduction to the Tin Whistle

  • The Name of the Instrument (tin whistle, penny whistle, Irish whistle, or simply whistle)
  • Cylindrical Tube with 6 Holes
  • Fipple Flute vs Side Blown Flute
  • The Notes of the Tin Whistle (Diatonic Instrument)
  • Available in many different Keys (all Major)

Low vs Alto vs Soprano Whistles

  • High D = Your Main Tin Whistle
  • Low Whistles: High C to High G
  • Mid Whistles: Mid G to Mid B
  • High Whistles: Low C to Low F#
  • Tone & Color
  • Agility & Speed
  • Breath Control
  • Expression
  • Your Future Tin Whistle Collection

Tin Whistle Buying Guide

  • Which Key to Choose
  • Tunable vs Non Tunable
  • Material for Body & Mouthpiece
  • Small or Large Bore Size
  • Common Brands of Tin Whistles

How to Handle the Instrument

  • Warm up the Instrument
  • Clean out the Moisture
  • Tune the Instrument
  • Holding your Tin Whistle (angle)
  • Mouth Placement (tip on the lip)
  • Finger Placement (perfect seal)
  • Playing your First Notes

Learn all Notes on the Tin Whistle

  • All Tin Whistles are in the Major Scale
  • Other Keys = Different Notes, Same Pattern
  • Play any Tune in a Major Key by Transposing
  • The Higher the Note – The More the Air
  • 1st Octave Notes (d, e, f#, g, a, b, c#)
  • 2nd Octave Notes (D, E, F#, G, A, B, C#)
  • 3rd Octave (Extremely Rare)
  • Tip to Force High Octave (Tonguing)

Breath Control & Tuning

  • The Air Pressure affects the tuning
  • Learn the Sweet Spot for each Note
  • Tune your Tin Whistle to the Bell Note
  • Every Whistle responds Differently
  • Always Practice with a Tuner
  • Master the 1st Octave First
  • Play the Scale Up and Down
  • Focus on a Consistent Tone on Every Note
  • Play Random Intervals within the 1st Octave

Tonguing Techniques

  • Shaping the Attack of Each Note
  • Strong Accent (Tu, Du)
  • Medium Accent (Gu, Ku)
  • Soft Accent (Hu, Uh)
  • Legato (No tonguing)
  • Rhythmic (Tu-Du or Tu-Ku)
  • Practice Each Tonguing Individually
  • Practice Phrase Variation in Tonguing

Octave Training

  • Learn the Octave Transition Point
  • Octave Jump Up on Each Note
  • Octave Jump Down on Each Note
  • 2 Octave Scale Walks
  • Practice the Octave Turn

Interval Training

  • Bell Tone – Every Interval
  • Hole Skipping – Scale Walks
  • 1-2-3 Note Turn – Scale Walks
  • 1-3-2-1 Turn – Scale Walks
  • 1 – 8,7,6… – Scale Walks
  • Random Intervals

Rhythm Training

  • Tap your Foot to the Beat
  • Only use Hard or Medium Accents (Tu-Du, Gu-Ku)
  • Practice Rhythm on the Same Note
  • Straight Notes (1/2, 1/4, 1/8, 1/16)
  • Triplet Notes (ex: Beat + 8th Notes vs Beat + 1/4T)
  • Rhythmic Phrases (with tonguing variation)

10 Common Beginner Issues

  • Leaking Holes (Finger Pads)
  • Overblowing (Relax More)
  • Underblowing (Be Confident)
  • Unstable Blowing (Practice Consistency)
  • Timing Mistakes (Finger/Breath Synchronization)
  • Stiff Playing (Add Variation & Expression)
  • Failed Octave (Use Hard Accent Tonguing)
  • Failed Big Intervals (Adjust Breath Pressure)
  • Condensation (Blow out the Moisture)
  • Wrong Note (Practice Scales, Phrases etc.)

Playing any Minor Key Song

  • All Major Keys have a Relative Minor (ex: C Major – A minor)
  • Option 1: Top Hole is the Relative Minor (Root Note)
  • Option 2: Start on the 2nd note (1 cross fingering)
  • Example: Davy Jones Theme in D minor = F Major
  • Method 1: F Whistle (Top Hole Root)
  • Method 2: C Whistle (2nd Lowest Hole Root)
  • You can Transpose any Minor Key Song (same as major keys)

Learn Tunes on your Tin Whistle

  • How to read a Tin Whistle Tab
  • Choose Tunes that you Like
  • Use a Metronome & Tuner
  • Practice Extremely Slow First
  • Start with the Essentials
  • Practice in Phrases
  • Gradually Increase the Tempo
  • Finally Add Expression & Emotion

Playing your First Tunes

  • Your Warm Up Routine (Whistle, Body & Mind)
  • Shrek – Fairytale Theme
  • Drunken Sailor (Sea Shanty)
  • Whiskey in the Jar

Learn the Advanced Techniques on Tin Whistle

Introduction to Advanced Performance Techniques

Congratulations once again for having learned all the essentials on playing your tin whistle. Now I will teach you the more advanced performance techniques you can use to add emotion and expression to your performances. However, I want to remind you that mastering the essentials is the most important thing. So make sure you feel comfortable with all the basics of playing tin whistle before you dive deeper. How long it will take before you can move forward into these advanced techniques depends on how much time, energy and focused daily practice you put into your learning journey. However, when you feel ready, this is where the true fun begins. Because the incredible variation, expression, emotion and soul you can put into your tin whistle performances with these advanced techniques is simply amazing. If you feel that you are ready for learning the advanced performance techniques, let’s begin, right now!

Expression & Emotion on Tin Whistle

  • Your Zero to Hero Journey (Level 1, 2, 3 etc.)
  • The Tin Whistle is More Expressive than you think
  • Examples of Adding Expression: Legato, Tonguing, Vibrato, Slides, Taps and Cuts, Half-Holes etc.
  • Demonstration 1: Stiff and Static Performance
  • Demonstration 2: Expressive & Varied Performance
  • You can become a Master of this Instrument

Playing Low Whistles

  • Lower Key = Bigger Whistle
  • Low Whistles: Deep, Warm, Soft
  • Wider Stretch and Bigger Holes
  • Pipers Grip (Lower or Both Hands)
  • Takes More Air (which is Good & Bad)

Cross Fingerings

  • Cross Fingerings – Play Notes outside the Major Key
  • Tone & Tuning – Depends on the Tin Whistle
  • 3 Common Cross Fingerings
  • bVII/#VI (C nat on a D whistle)
  • bV/#IV (G# on a D whistle)
  • bVI/#V (A# on a D whistle)

Half-Holing

  • Half Holing: Access all 12 Notes
  • Half-Holing is not exactly Half
  • Easier on the Upper Holes
  • Big Holes are easier to Half Hole
  • Exceptions: III – IV, VII to Octave
  • Version 1: Roll Up/Down
  • Version 2: Angle Out
  • Always Practice Half-Holing with a Tuner
  • Practice Closed to Half-Hole (Slowly)
  • Advanced: Practice the Chromatic Scale

Playing other Scales and Keys

  • Relative Keys (Major vs Minor)
  • I Major – vi minor (D Maj, B min)
  • ii minor – IV Major (E min, G Maj)
  • iii minor – V Major (F# min, A Maj)
  • v minor – bVII Major (A min, C Maj)
  • i minor – bIII Major (D min, F Maj)
  • II Major – vii minor (E Maj, C# min)

Slides

  • Slide-Ins
  • Slide-Outs
  • Multi Note Slide

Bends

  • Adding Expression with Pitch-Bend
  • Bend Into Note
  • Bend During Note

Cuts

  • Cuts = Quick Grace Note above
  • Same Hole Cut
  • High Hole Cut
  • Multi Hole Cut
  • Bounce Cut
  • Bounce Into Note

Taps

  • Taps = Quick Grace Note below
  • Single Hole Tap
  • Multi Hole Tap

Rolls

  • Rolls = Quick Turn Decoration
  • Rolls =Combination of Taps and Cuts
  • Version 1: Cut – Tap
  • Version 2: Tap – Cut

Runs

  • Run = Quick Note Sequence between 2 Notes
  • 1 Note Run
  • Multi Note Run

Flutter-tonguing

  • Flutter-tongue = Rhythmic Air-Stream
  • Rolling R
  • Accent + R

Finger Vibrato

  • Finger-Vibrato = Expressive Pulsing Pitch
  • 1 Finger Vibrato
  • Multi Finger Vibrato
  • Slide Shade Vibrato

Air-Flow Vibrato

  • Air-Flow Vibrato = Emotional Pulsing Pitch & Volume
  • Depth = Light vs Strong Vibrato
  • Speed = Slow vs Fast Vibrato
  • Vibrato Variation
  • No Vibrato to Vibrato

Tremble Vibrato

  • Tremble Vibrato = Stuttering the Air Stream
  • Imagine that your are Freezing Cold
  • Stutter the Air-Stream: hu-hu-hu

Tin Whistle Tabs for Learning Tunes

Congratulations – You have now learned all the foundations and essential techniques for playing the Irish tin whistle, plus the advanced decorations and expressive techniques to add emotion into your performances. Are you ready to play some tunes on your tin whistle. There are so many tin whistle tabs you can find online by simply searching for the song name + tin whistle tabs. But I will provide you with some tabs as a good starting point. Since these are tabs, you can choose any key of tin whistle to play them on. Pick and choose which tunes you want to learn, and then practice those until you can play them well. Good luck as you continue your journey on this amazing instrument. I can promise you it will bring many years of joy. Explore the world of music on your instrument, and keep on playing my friends! =)

  • Amazing Grace
  • Morning has Broken
  • Danny Boy
  • Scarborough Fair
  • Simon & Garfunkel – The Sound of Silence
  • Jeff Buckley – Hallelujah
  • Blind Guardian – The Bard’s Song
  • Star Wars – The Force Theme
  • LOTR – May it be
  • Star Trek – Inner Light
  • Titanic – My Heart will go on
  • The Hobbit – Misty Mountains
  • Pocahontas – Colors of the Wind
  • Alladin – A Whole New World