The aim of this page is to build into a useful intro for beginners playing the tin whistle.
The Irish seem to lay claim to it these days, but there are also a number of other, different, ‘claimants’, including the English and French. Playing remains particularly strong in Brittany.
If you haven’t already started playing, I’d recommend a few books. Maybe you don’t have a whistle yet either? No problem – in fact why not kill two birds with one stone. You can find introductory sets of whistle and simple music books quite easily – even in the departure lounge at Irish airports.
I started with a Waltons Tin Whistle and book. something must have worked!
I then bought Claire McKenna’s Complete-Guide-Learning-Irish-Whistle
Ensure that you get the CD version – the whistle is very much an instrument to learn by ear. unfortunately I’m not so gifted as to pick it up just by listening, so I had to learn to play note by note. If you don’t (like me) play by ear, then eventually it helps to learn to read music – particularly since the fingering charts run out pretty quickly, but as a fully qualified musical philistine, previously, if i can do it so can anyone!
I’m now several years into regular whistle playing and have a number of other books that I could recommend, but I’m still playing through Claire’s book. Take things slow, and don’t be afraid to go back to (near) the start and begin all over again, implementing what you have learned all over again with ornamentation, improved breathing and finally your own innovation in improvisation.
Claire’s book can take you from zero to hero, if you have the time and patience. It doesn’t take much time, so the essential question is: do you have the patience?
Now go whistle!