I bought an Irish Whistle on a whim….I love it (no one else does) but it has been very relaxing for me. Since I have NO sense of rhythm - I just write my own songs (rather than kill some one else’s creation)
I have had it for about two weeks (it’s a D ) I have been able to get passed the dizzy stage very quickly (not sure if it is because I have normal low blood oxygen or just because I am a talker - but either way the flute has improved my oxygen levels , my nail beds are no longer blue toned)
But, in a short period of time, I have been able to find the different octaves (some time quite by accident, but have been able to repeat them.
I have been able to play it the irish way (sharp and bouncy or the way I like it soft, flowing and mellow where the notes resonate.
But I am having troubles with my B and A - they always sound sharp and harsh. How do I get them to flow like my D, E F, G - so they are soft and flowing.
If I hold the notes a long time, they begin to sound as if they are mellow, but if I play it qucikly - the A and B are not as fluid. They don’t squeal or hiss, the notes are very clear A / B’s but not smooth like that other notes.
Is there something I can do to make my A / B sound soft and gentle or is that the way the notes are suppose to sound.
Any ideas, would be greatly appreciated as it is something I want to work as I ahve many A / B ’s in my tune


Re: HELP!!!

There are many good people here at the session who I’m sure will be helpful but here’s a couple of tips to start with.

It will be much more difficult to become competant at the whistle if you don’t learn other tunes. Everyone murders tunes when they start, but after a few months you should only be injuring them. Start with slow tunes so that you concentrate more on tone to begin with.
…is the most popular slowish tune according to tunebook rankings. It would help you greatly to try and work on maybe 6 - 10 tunes as a serious learner should try and practise an hour a day or more, and working on more than one tune at a time makes an hour easy to fill. You get the very occasional cheap whistle that doesn’t play well but it’s highly unlikely the whistle is causing the hisses and squeeks ;-(

Learning trad music isn’t as straight forward as it may seem so recognising it as a serious challange that you need determination to achieve is a big step it the right direction.

Re: HELP!!!

Good start bogman… I’m in a rush so this will be just a repeat that occurs over and over again here on site, and can’t be repeated too often ~


to the music, to all instruments, to winds, and learn from what you hear… Learn from a living source, look for one, the ability to absorb from another are amazing and priceless. Go to workshops, take a class, take classes, hopefully finding someone who ‘can’ teach you the way you learn, and will take the time to understand what you want, where you’re coming from, and where you want to go ~ and is in agreement, or can redirect you constructively… Rarely does a good thing musically rise out of a vaccum…

Also, if you hear an air you like, fast or not, you can always give it that SLOOOOWWW treatment. Play it as an air, and try to get some feeling in it, while honouring its basic rhythmic structure.

Respect your instrument ~ hey, the whistle, in part, is about that edge, those harsh bits, but you do want to gain an understanding of them and some control… If it is the high ones you’re on about, the second octave, give it a rest for a spell. Master what comes easily first, so from low D to high g, why not keep there for a spell, and you will likely find the control and udnerstanding you gain there will eventually work up to a ~ b ~ c’ & d’… ~ but ~ they do have ‘edge’, ‘presence’, ‘cut’… It is in part knowing how to craft them and gaining confidence so you don’t choke back and make them sound worse… That comes with time.

You won’t get anywhere if your ears aren’t getting at least twice the exercise your whistle gets… You’re right, learning to ‘breath’ with a wind instrument is good lung development, and I was chuffed to hear you’re getting health benefits from this. That’s cool. Best of luck.

As the bog says, there are some great folks on site here, and some characters, take the crazy stuff with a chuckle, or try to, and there will be more constructive things woven in. I’ll check back. Must rush off to the hills now to stomp around the Yorkshire Dales or the Lakes, or ~ well, wherever the wonderlust takes us this weekend…

Re: HELP!!!

Note ~ learn tunes in bits, by phrasing / bars… So, you learn bar/measure 1, then you learn the next, #2, then you play those two together, you learn the phrase 1 & 2. Then leave those for now, learn #3, then learn #4, then #3 followed by #4, that phrase. Now you go back and weave 1, 2, 3, & 4 together, the first half of a standard part. More often than not you’ll discover that you already know 5 & 6, because they are the same or damned close to 1 & 2. But, learn them again, one measure at a time, then as 5 & 6 together, even if they are the usual ‘agreement’ (1 & 2 = 5 & 6). Now you tackle 7, then 8, then 7 & 8, then 5, 6, 7 & 8 together, the second half, major phrase, of the first or A-part of the melody.

There’s nothing keeping you from returning to review the first half, 1 - 4 as a single unit as you go…

Now, weave it all together, bars / measures 1 - 8, the first half, A-part, of say the most common 2-part tune…

You leave that then as you work on the B-part in the same basic fashion, everything SLOOWWWLLLLYYYY!!! Don’t rush it, whatever your ears have heard or you might want to do. Take it at the speed where you can play it reasonably comfortably with keeping a good steady beat, preserving the intended rhythm. Don’t rush it, that will only instill bad practice, bad habits… Speed comes with time and patience and should never compromise the rhythm and melody of the tune. That said, a lot of people do compromise those essential characteristics of this ‘dance’ music. I don’t know how their brain lies to them, but it sounds cack, awful. Maybe it is that they can hide their lack of control and thier bad playing in a mass of others playing along in say a session… 😎

Now I really do have to rush. I was up at 5 to do this and now it is 11… We went back to cooch in bed and passed out. It was a late night last night…

Re: HELP!!!

Also ~ make sure you don’t let tonguing use you as an excuse rather than with purpose ~ to cover up poor fingering… Try practicing without using the tongue, no toungued articulation, leaving that to your fingering ~ to learn and develop crisp and accurate fingering… With that you can then ‘choose’ to use tonguing to add interest, rather than as a clumsy way of making up for inaccurate fingering… You have to ‘breath’, but like fingering that too can be done with intention and to add interest, not just because you have to, but because those silences have as much value as sound and other variations and ornamentation…

Re: HELP!!!

But keep it basic for now… (I’m gathering up kit as I take breaks to type…) 😉

Re: HELP!!!

The Hold: Not ‘fingertips’ ~ shake your hands out and let them go limp. That is the ‘natural’ hold. Yu cover the holes with the pads of your fingers, comfortably, not forced, a natural, relaxed curve, without tension. Don’t ‘death grip’ it! ~ it is a relaxed hold and the whistle should be easily pulled from you hold at any point…

You can ‘mute’ it as well… Do a search in discussions here and you’ll find some suggestions, or someone else will add the links in my absence…

Resources ~
Chiff & Fipple ~ the fraternity of mad whistlers

Get physical about it ~ learn to be moved by it, internalize those basic rhythms and phrases ~ give dance a try…

Re: HELP!!!

(From one Greg to another)

It sounds to me like you have some basic fundamentals to sort out, which may get in the way of learning tunes. I recommend a good face-to-face with an experienced whistler. Your bio doesn’t say where you live; if you go to the Sessions tab, you can find a session near you (hopefully). There, you can connect with your local whistle community and find some kindred spirits to guide you. Then, come back here often and tell us of your progress.

Re: HELP!!!

I would suggest before you start into ITM hardcore why not play along with some pubs songs…County Down…Leaving of Liverpool…etc… the Melodies and you will begin to have a relationship with your whistle….before you know it you won’t have to remember 3 down is a G….two down’s an A…3rd down punt… will just come second nature… good luck…

Re: HELP!!!

Further basics ~ you have time behind you when your ears have picked up various little ditties, like, as one possible example, “Mary Had a Little Lamb”, or adverts off of the radio or tele, pop songs… Use those, play what you know already, what is inside you. Draw from what’s already there inside you, that is in part what ‘tradition’ is about. You listen, you respond, you practice listening and paying, skill develops, understanding grows with your repertoire, things evolve… Without some ‘connection’, ‘tradition’, it is unlikely that your ‘creations’ will have any value beyond your own amusement. Hey, that’s OK, but mostly this music is about sharing it with others….

So ~ connect, step outside of yourself and become part of this tradition, or another, your choice. Begin first with what you already have inside you, play with those little melodies, then move out and expand your exposure, exercise your ears, listen, and intently, carefully, playfully… Find someone to take lessons from, to avoid bad practices and habits that will likely get in the way of your playing in the future.

There are signs I have become familiar with, over time, that make me wince, precursors, usually, to the likelihood of a ‘bad student’ ~

* They don’t own any of this music or are completely unfamiliar with it…but want to play it?
~ there are cures for that…

* They crave the ‘speed’ ~ want it NOW! ~ to play reels, and fast and NOW!
~ potentially hopeless…

* They’re interests tend to be primarily toward huge multipart tunes or complex twisted modern creations ~ NOW!
~ pretty much guaranteed hopeless…

* They COMPOSE ~ NOW! ~ and are quite enamoured with their own output ~ “aren’t I great!”
~ guaranteed to be hopelessly deluded…

All things that require skill require time to develop and acquire it, including also patience and a want to understand, and an empathy, in this case, for the music and the process, the ‘tradition’. That is the essence of true passion about this thing music. When the passion is about yourself, turned inward, it ain’t generally healthy, not where music is concerned.

You have at least come here asking “HELP!!!” ~ and that is a good first step forward…

Best of luck ~ ‘c’

Too late, we went hiking elsewhere. Tomorrow it is up early and away to the Yorkshire Dales or the Lakes… 🙂

Re: HELP!!!

Definitely listen … but also play, play, play.
Learning any instrument can be hard on other people, but it is equally important to feel comfortable with your instrument. You must listen, listen, listen to yourself. You have a voice & should start finding it as soon as possible.
Pennywhistles are great for taking on a hike to the beach. (Out of earshot).

Playing slow is good for hearing individual notes & developing intonation. When you hold the high notes you are making minor adjustments to get a good sound. Eventually you will find it when you 1st blow the a or the b.
Come up on some higher notes. You can slide your finger off the hole (or holes) below the intended note. Try playing a slow air with this technique (glissando). It helps in the learning process. Later, as you start playing faster music, you will need more control. Keep relaxed. You actually should not be blowing harder just changing the shape of your mouth. The higher notes require a smaller aperture for the air coming out of your mouth. That is what you are doing now when you hold a sustained a or b. Once you hear the note (in tune) just relax. That’s it!
Some good pennywhistle instruction here;

Posted by .

Re: HELP!!!

Muting the Whistle

Well, I did a search regarding muting the whistle but only found the blue tac method. Somewhere I’m sure I’ve described alternate other ways, or maybe I’m just remembering how many times I’ve made one for someone else and showed them how to use it. Here’s a few links ~

Discussion: practice practice practice
# Posted on July 10th 2004 by swearbox

Discussion: Practicing
# Posted on March 19th 2007 by Ravyn

Discussion: Problem with the Noise
# Posted on January 18th 2003 by slainte

And here is a short description of one method I favour, because you don’t stick anything to the instrument, and you can add and remove it easily, and it is portable, and cheap, and easily replaced…

Any bit of old plastic, like a margarine tub, cut a strip out as wide as the window of your whistle, because that is where it needs to fit. For an average D-whistle, approximately 7mm wide and 6 or 7cm long. About a centemeter and a half down bend it, and you could bend it again another centemeter down from that, so the long end hangs straight down in line with the whistle when you place the shorted end into the window of the whistle and hang it over the knife edge. The thicker the plastic the more it will mute the sound. I have had mutes where I could actually play two octaves on a public bus where only I could really hear it ~ that quiet ~ quieter than a mobile phone or an MP3 or CD player bleeding from earphones. Really! Anyway, that’s one way to quiet it down and not risk losing friends or having someone threaten your life while you learn or practice some tune for the umpteenth time…

approximately ~
7mm ~ 1/4 of an inch
7 cm ~ 2 1/2 inches
1.5 cm ~ 5/8 of an inch

Re: HELP!!!

Man you are amazing!!! Most helpful!!!
And practice I do - I know I am not going to always be able to do an hour a day ( I would like more if I could) - but I find the sound Inviting and uplifting.
I like the fact that it is so portable - it fits in with my lap top very easily. I am being foolish this year, and trying Fall camping ( it will be cold where I live by then, but as long as I have my Whistle - I will be happy. I can’t wait to see what it sounds like in the middle of a forest with hills surrounding us and the leaves will be off the tree’s by then.
This sounds silly, but I take my whistle in the can with me and I play at all the red lights that I can - or will sit in the parking lot for 10 min and just let it rip….the sound quality in side a van is almost as good as a bathroom.
I just started listening to music a few years ago - that explains the lack of rhythm , etc etc etc.
But, I enjoy the Celtic / wiccan music as it is heavy with the flute. I like to listen to them breathe with flute as they play.
YouTube - is a great web site for info on the Irish flute!!!!
ANd you can ‘take’ lessons from there as well. It is really worth checking out. I know I was amazed when I got the amount of info from there as I did.
Thanks for all the info, it will take me several days to go thru it. This is such a warm and friendly site.
As for dealing with the ‘character’s ’ around here , not a problem for me, as I am ONE of THOSE guys ( I just happen to have a 7 inch flute in my pants -and if anyone wants me to whip it out, that shant be a problem and flute envy is something I won’t have. I know several people turn their noses up at something so cheap and unrefined as That!!! - but it is something not to be over looked. It has good range for the price, not going to break the bank, it doesn;t need reeds and it is so portable and easy to whip out …..I like to see some of those bigger flutes whipped out as quickly! ANd the irish flute needs no real special care or attention.
Thanks again Ceolachan!!


Re: HELP!!!

“warm and friendly” ~ ??? ~ what have you been smoking? 😉

The whistle is one of the best starts for anything, getting your fingers going. It is a good start for the fiddle, the pipes, the flute, the accordion, the concertina, anything… You get the lubrication of the digits but you also digest the rhythms and the melodies and as you said ~ you can take it anywhere… Also impressive, I’ve seen both a fiddle and a whistle backed over by a car… The whistle still played… Say no more…

Best of luck Greg, you have definitely been bit, just try not to drive too many of those you love up a wall with your passions. Use the mute, and now and then let generosity of spirit light and consider picking up a gift for on special reason for those that allow you this musical addiction…

a friend in the digital smog ~ ‘c’ (“warm and friendly” ~ ? I just know I’m going to lose my cred as a hard a*s… )

Re: HELP!!!

yes, warm and friendly!!! IF you think you are a hard a*s then man on man, you need to hang out with me and mine!
We can shame a sailor into blushing and we can be as stubborn as Mrs Forbes cow and as mean as her bull.
But at the same time, you have a crisis we are there so fast, you’d think someone said ‘Free Bar’ to a Scott man!
But, if you want me to call you ‘Mr. Hard A*s’ , I can - would that make yo feel better??

As for the fiddle being run over - hopefully the fiddle player wasn’t still holding the fiddle (now that would have been impressive)…but the driver of the car, must have felt sick.

Re: HELP!!!

Greg theres a very good lesson plan on youtube done by a priest called RyanDunsSJ look it up! It brings you back to the basics of playing whistle which should help. Like how to cut and hit a note and how to roll a note. Its useful if your refreshing your memory aswell! i definatley recommend it.

Ryan Dun’s Introduction to the Irish Tin Whistle ~ in the beginning 😎

Nice catch Lolly. Yes, recommended! My memory doesn’t always respond to my request when there’s a need…

Fordham University ~
Ryan Dun’s Introduction to the Irish Tin Whistle (D)

Tin Whistle Week 1 (Redux)
Scales & Mary

Tin Whistle Exercise: Breathing

Tin Whistle Week 2: March: The Dawning of the Day

Tin Whistle Week 2: Supplemental Tunes
Marches: Roddy McCorley / Boolavogue (& as a waltz) / The Song of the Chanter

Tin Whistle Week 3 ~ Polka: Peg Ryan’s / Egan’s

Tin Whistle Week 4 ~ and more, including intermediate lessons…

Three Jigs ~ intermediate
The Blackthorn Stick / The Frost is All Over / Donnybrook Fair

Re: HELP!!!

Yes, he is amazing - but I find learning from the video - hard as my fingers want to do the mirror image of him- which means I move my right hand instead of my left and vice versa - but I know with a lot of work, I can follow his lessons (my brain has never been quite the same since my stroke, so it takes me a little (or a lot) longer to get on to something. It get’s frustrating when I know what I want to do - but it comes out backwards - so I just have to keep plugging along with it.
That is another good reason to learn the whistle - it is re-programing my fingers and my brain.
There is so much info out there, it can be a little overwhelming. Now trying to find a private teacher in my area is another problem, and at 40 some odd years I am not taking lessons with a bunch of kids - I would be older than some of their parents - and if the little brats turned out better than me - my flute may make it to some places it should never be!!!!
Greg 🙂

Beginner Whistle / tin whistle / Irish whistle / penny whistle

That header is added with the hopes it will facilitate any searches…

One-to-one will always better a video or recording.

I’m older than you, bald, what hair that is left is white, and I have been in a workshop full of kids, and I had a great time and learned quite a bit. The children present were there to learn, with a real interest in the subject being taught ~ Irish music, an instrumental workshop… I was the oldest kid but there was a youngun or two in their 40’s and a couple in their 20’s… Don’t miss out on a good oportunity if it comes your way. Don’t let ageism limit you chances for further understanding…

Best of luck Greg…

Re: HELP!!!

I would over look a good lesson - however - when I am with kids (though I hate them terribly) I become one and I am usually the worse behaved 🙂 — as for hating kids, I don’t really- I like to scare the little buggers, but we have my daughters friends over all the time and some nieces and nephews who would rather be with Uncle Greg…..I love being with kids, as they bring so much innocence and energy to life.
We stopped at two, but I would have been happy with 5
but on a good day we end up with that many extra at t he dinner table. But, I kind of put my food down, when the kids weren’t home and their friends were bringing over friends for dinner….I know they are like stray animals, feed them once and they come back. But, one night, those in my family who were home, we were out numbered by double.
I know some of the kids will come around, because they like the food, but others are interested in seeing what I am up to next ( I am a white light healer on my spare spare time) and so many kids want a foot massage, or they have a sore shoulder or my one nephew has a sore quad and hip from hockey - or some one’s hands hurt from baseball - because that is the only ‘touch’ they get in their lives….that is so sad, that things have come down to that ( and don’t worry, I never do this, wiht out some one else being present) or they like being the test person for a new oil blend, or what gem stone is good for what - or can I do their cards……or so they can have a hot chocolate in front of the fire place and warm up before they go back out in the winter weather…and maybe, I will find a young mind who wants to take over for me, while I am still interested in teaching them.
But, that is a another reason to play the whistle - it drowns out all the other noise!!!!!! (and when you have two kids of your own (both teen age girls) and 7 other kids, their is alot of noise to drown out.
I got a C note generation whistle - I am not sure what I think about it yet- but it has a nice sound, just a little more temperamental to play