In this lesson, we will learn the tap, a very simple tin whistle (penny whistle) ornament. You may come across its alternative names, as some people tend to call it “strikes” or “pats” or “strucks”. While it’s a nice decoration in Irish traditional music, it is rarely used as a standalone ornament. You will more often hear it as part of a roll, which we will cover in the next lesson.
How and when to use taps on a tin whistle?
As the name suggests, you tap the note (hole) with your finger. Two simple rules explain a tap.
- You cover the hole with the finger below the note you are playing and then lift it.
- You do it very fast. Well, literally “tap” it.
As you can see, it is the exact opposite of a cut ornament, which we learned in the previous lesson. For example, doing tap on a note G means that you play a note G, and then tap with the finger below, which is on the note F#. For a note E, you tap with the finger on D (your ring finger), and so on.
In technical terms, you use a tap after you already played one note of the same pitch. Therefore, you use it to play repeated notes, instead of tonguing, for example.
However, other tutorials may advise a tap can be played not only on repeated notes but just before you play the main note. Which is making a decoration that sounds like pronouncing “tou-a”. But, to our beliefs, that’s pretty much the same technique as a slide ornament. It’s just a very short slide. You can, however, call it a tap, but this doesn’t change the fact that it sounds the same as a slide.
Practising taps on a tin whistle
Since taps are mostly used on repeated notes, you should practice ascending and descending scales, making sure to play the same note two or three times before moving on to the next one. Obviously, you cannot play a tap on a note D (as there is no hole below). So, start with a plain E note, then tap it two times, then move to F#, and so on. And as we previously mentioned, make sure you do tap as fast as you can. Covering the hole should be very short, as we don’t want to hear the other note, we are just decorating the main one.
As always, use a metronome and play at its pace. Have in mind that taps should fall exactly on the beat, the same as you would repeat the notes by tonguing. As with cuts, a tap is not a grace note either. It’s an articulation of the principal note.