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Getting Started on the Tin Whistle

Welcome to free online lessons for all of you who are just getting started with Irish tin whistle, a legendary folk instrument. If you wonder if a tin whistle is a hard instrument to play and if you should give it a try, then you came to the right place.

The simple answer is – yes, you definitely should! The tin whistle is one of the most accessible musical instruments and not hard to learn. We believe these systematic instructions across the next several pages will help with valuable information for a smooth start. Or, if you are already familiar with the basics, it may help moving forward. You’ll learn some of the slightly advanced playing techniques which you can hear from famous & experienced players.

What do I need before I start learning the tin whistle?

Besides the love for the instrument, motivation, and six fingers, below is a list of practical stuff you need to have or acknowledge before we start.

1. Own a D tin whistle

If you already have one, great! If not, feel free to check our comprehensive tin whistle buying guide and pick the one you think is best for your needs. Generally, even the cheapest one is a good starting point. Have in mind that these lessons are written with the D whistle in mind, as it is the most common whistle key. So make sure you don’t get the wrong one.

2. Understand the fingering (key of D)

Please make sure that you at least briefly study our resources section. There is a great tin whistle fingering charts guide with all of the keys and scales. As previously mentioned, we wrote this tutorial for the key of D whistle. And the best thing would be just to download and print available PDFs and keep the charts at hand while going through all of the lessons.

Also, having some knowledge of sheet music notation is a big plus, but not mandatory.

3. Get familiar with the terminology

If you come across the “strange” phrases when it comes to tin whistle sound, playing, or even construction parts, there is a tin whistle dictionary made especially for beginners. Make sure to check it out and demystify any confusions that may arise while following the lessons.

4. Use a metronome

Not a requirement, but it really is a warm recommendation and a PRO tip. Once you learn the most basic stuff and start practicing, this little tool will help you a lot in doing things the right way. It is not a recommendation for tin whistle only, but any other instrument too. If you get used to clunky playing without rhythm and tempo (such as many), everything else will be much harder to accomplish later.

Source: Wikipedia

So, please get a basic metronome and use it whenever you practice.

Practice playing the tin whistle with a metronome, as much as you can.


Wait, is this a tin whistle, penny whistle, or an Irish whistle guide?

Just to avoid confusion with the terminology: tin whistle, pennywhistle, and Irish whistle mean the same six-hole woodwind instrument. The tin whistle is the most common name. However, some people tend to call it differently.

Source: Wikipedia

Initially, the traditional Irish tin whistle was made of tin, and it consists of two pieces: a plastic fipple (mouthpiece) and a tin body (tube). However, you may already be aware of whistles made from various materials, such as ABS plastic, brass, nickel, aluminum, wood. And a plethora of its variations and combinations.

Well, that’s it, let’s get started!