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Getting Started on the Tin Whistle

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

Is tin whistle hard to learn?

The simple answer is – NO. The tin whistle is one of the most accessible musical instruments to learn. Also, entry-level whistles are inexpensive, and probably the reason why many people enter the world of Irish traditional music through the tin whistle in particular. 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 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, please 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. Keep 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

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 to download and print available PDFs and keep the charts at hand while going through all 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 confusion that may arise while following the lessons.

4. Use a metronome

It’s 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 do 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.

Practice the tin whistle with a metronome
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?

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.

Tin Whistles
Source: Wikipedia

Initially, the traditional Irish tin whistle was made of tin, and it consisted of two pieces: a plastic fipple (mouthpiece) and a tin body (tube). However, you may already know about whistle models 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!

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