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Holding the Tin Whistle

In this lesson, we’ll talk about how to hold a tin whistle correctly. While it may sound like a no-brainer, it’s often neglected. And we believe it’s essential to figure out how to do things right at the very beginning.

How to hold a tin whistle

First of all, take a deep breath and relax. Do not hold the whistle too tight and do not bite the mouthpiece. The most important rule, if you are not feeling comfortable, then you are not doing it right. So, here are the basics:

  1. Cover six holes of the whistle with the top parts of your three middle fingers of both hands. Make it feel comfortable and natural, do not intentionally flatten the fingers.
  2. Use your thumbs on the backside of the whistle to make a grip and balance. Make sure you are holding it tight just enough that it doesn’t drop, but do not press too much.
  3. Put the mouthpiece tip into your mouth and make sure that the windway of the whistle is between your lips. Avoid touching your teeth.
  4. The angle between your chest and the whistle body should be at around 45 degrees. Again, it should feel natural.
  5. Always sit upright or stand, to make sure you can comfortably breathe while holding the whistle.
Holding the tin whistle correctly
Holding the tin whistle correctly

Holding the tin whistle incorrectly
Incorrect ways of holding the whistle

Right hand vs left hand

The general rule is that your dominant hand should be used to cover the bottom three holes. So, if you are right-handed, the right hand should go on the bottom and the left hand on top.

However, since you only need six fingers, it really does not make any difference, and you can’t be wrong if you pick the opposite way. Probably 99% of the people play with the right hand on the bottom and left on top, but our suggestion is to choose the position by what feels more natural to you.

If you are not feeling comfortable while holding the tin whistle, you are probably not doing it right.


Covering the holes correctly

To create a clear sound out of any note you play, we need to make sure that the fingers cover the holes completely. It means that you shouldn’t use the tips of your fingers, but the pads. So, flatten your fingers comfortably to align them with the whistle surface, and let the finger pads seal the holes.

You should keep in mind that hole diameter varies from whistle type to type, and also, you will notice that whistles with lower keys sometimes have significantly larger holes. If you are about to play a low whistle, for example, you will usually want to use the so-called “piper’s grip”. This basically means that you need to stretch and rotate your hands across the whistle body in order to cover larger holes with larger parts of your fingers.

All right, enough with the whistle holding. Let’s continue with tin whistle blowing techniques and start producing the sound.

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