Did you take tin whistle lessons?

Did you take tin whistle lessons?

Hi again!
I’ve been teaching myself to play the tin whistle for a bit less than a year I think.. I didn’t know anything about music back then, I could barely play some chords on the guitar and that was it hahaha
The other day I found a guy more or less near where I live who gives tin whistle lessons, the thing is, they’re pretty expensive for me…
I was wondering, is it really necessary? I’d like to play better (not on like a professional level though!) I still have a lot to learn, most of you would cringe if you heard me play :P
So my questions are: did any of you take lessons? did you learn by yourselves? will I more sooner than later find a limit to my learning unless I take lessons or do I have still a few years to go by myself?
Thanks! ๐Ÿ™‚

Re: Did you take tin whistle lessons?

Maybe it’s relevant to point out that I’m currently taking violin lessons, so I’m pretty much covered on the music theory front!

Re: Did you take tin whistle lessons?

I did not take lessons, but my uncle is a well known flute and whistle player and as a kid I would call him up every week and ask him all sorts of questions. I took a couple workshops over the years, which were really helpful. Lessons are great (I teach every Saturday), but I’d say that going out to festivals and weeklong workshops is very helpful, too!

Tell this teacher you are a self learner and might only do a lesson every month or two. I see my concertina teacher once a year when he comes to the state, and I still have more to work on than I can get through in a year.

Posted by .

Re: Did you take tin whistle lessons?

I don’t think you need lessons for the whistle. Just listen to great players, and the understanding will start to come around. Also, if you do want to take lessons, there are some online tutors on youtube that could help with some of the basics. Or there are people on skype that are willing to give lessons, not sure who though.

Re: Did you take tin whistle lessons?

Never took a lesson on the whistle. Actually I did take one class but it was so rudimentary that I decided that wasnt the way for me to learn. I hate to say this because it’s so basic and you hear lots of people say it but really it was just practice, practice and practice. I tried to play everyday, even if it was just for 15 or 20 minutes. I was always practicing rolls and triplets and so on with a pencil or anything I could find when I was on a bus, in a waiting room, etc.

I went to sessions all the time, listened to Irish trad every day, sought out expert players and just watched and got tips. Was fortunate enough to meet up with Paddy Moloney whenever he came to town.

So are lessons necessary? Short answer - no. They are useful though to iron out trouble spots in your technique so like Daiv said, maybe once in a while get a lesson to concentrate on a particular technique/problem.

Also, make sure you have a decent whistle. I used to give lessons back in the day and more than once I had a student come in with a whistle that just sounded awful. Not all whistles are created equal. I’m not talking about getting a high end whistle, just anything that is completely in tune regardless of note or octave you’re playing and that has a consistent sound. There’s nothing worse than trying to learn an instrument that’s flawed and not knowing it.

p.s. Spend your money on the Clarke tin whistle tutor. It’ll be money well spent.

Posted by .

Re: Did you take tin whistle lessons?

I’ve taught myself, too. There are lots of internet resources and tutor books out there, and if you have a special question, there is always the chiffboard. Thinking back, with a real concept and someone pointing out my mistakes I could have avoided some minor troubles (later), but after all it’s just learning a few basics and listening and practising and listening and practising, IMHO.

Re: Did you take tin whistle lessons?

At the beginning, I attempted to learn and play the whistle through listening to tunes on albums and at sessions, and trying to play them at session speed - I mean, quite fast.

The trouble is, I didn’t know *how* to. I didn’t get, or seek, tuition from anyone who knew how to play the whistle properly. I was probably too shy to approach these lairy wizards (seriously…).

So I played it like a recorder and it sounded like rats being murdered.

Eventually (1977) I found "The Tin Whistle Book" by ex-Incredible String Band musician Robin Williamson, and it taught me both how to read music and how to do the ornaments - the crucial thing I had been unable to understand or learn as I had listened to tunes: ornaments had just been a quick blur I hadn’t been able to get any kind of handle on.

I then crucified my Planxty and Bothy Band LPs by playing them at 16 rpm (i.e., instead of 33 rpm) on the family gramophone. I could now perceive, aurally, the individual notes of the ornaments and their sequences. It was quite exciting. It was like looking through a microscope and discovering penicillin, or life-forms in one’s food. I contemplated this sub-world with enchantment and plundered it. Soon I was playing the whistle properly.

One one *has* the ornaments, one can of course adapt or omit them ad lib. But in my case, learning them - indeed, even realising they were there - was a crucial stage to go through. Actually, someone in a session first pointed out to me (in a friendly manner, I would add) that I really needed to know about ornamentation, and demonstrated some with, well, a quick blur…

Re: Did you take tin whistle lessons?

I started out with the clarkes tutor…like mimicabin said ,,, money well spent , it’s all there and if you had nothing but that ,you could still become a really good whistler…….listening to great player’s is the key, providing you have the fundimentals in place , ie fingering and such ,which the bill oak’s / clarkes, tuter will give you,and more ,of course there are many other’s ,lot’s of which i have ,but for me that was the one !!!

practice!!!
practice!!!

good luck !!!!!!!

Posted by .

Re: Did you take tin whistle lessons?

I didn’t have any whistle lessons but I was taught highland bagpipes, and merely transferred what I had learned to the whistle — no easy task as I recall. The main, or even only, reasons for taking lessons IMO are to hold the instrument properly — by which I mean in such a way as to sound notes clearly with the least effort, and to learn the basics of ornamentation.
I’m a straight-finger man myself, being a piper, as I have found that it is easiest to move the fingers when they are not curled. The disadvantage is that the middle joints (or whichever part of the finger covers the hole) is less sensitive than the tips
Once you can hold the instrument and sound the notes, teachers are simply an expensive way of learning new tunes.
There is a wealth of how-to videos out there. The rest is up to you.

Posted by .

Re: Did you take tin whistle lessons?

I don’t know whether I can answer the question of if you need a teacher or not, but I have just started the tin whistle too and I have found this really great series of tutorials on you tube. There are various tutorials he gives for differing levels of ability. Hope this helps:

http://www.youtube.com/user/RyanDunsSJ/videos?view=0

Re: Did you take tin whistle lessons?

I learned what I learned by listening and watching. I could figure out the various articulations, but in restrospect I could have used (and could still use, many years later) some guidance on embouchure and breathing.

The whistle is a wonderful instrument for getting in touch with the range of expressivity in this music.

Re: Did you take tin whistle lessons?

expressivity !

Cool word !

Posted by .

Re: Did you take tin whistle lessons?

These were exactly the answers I was hoping for!
@nicholas yes, finding out about ornamentation was a huge thing for me too! I wasn’t able to figure out just what all those little sounds were before, but now I hear them everywhere. Actually I started this thread because I was getting pretty frustrated with the ornaments, like I’m at a "learning plateu" ( that’s the frase we use here), but I guess all it takes is more practice ;)
Thanks everyone, you’ve given me some hope! :P

Re: Did you take tin whistle lessons?

I had some group lessons at musical weeks, but never any individual instruction. So I am largely self taught (and I agree that the Clarke tutorial book is a good one, even if you don’t play a Clarke), but my advice is, don’t do what I did.
A teacher can do so much good for you, and give you feedback about how your playing sounds and what you can do to improve it. Teaching yourself, you can get into bad habits, and before you know it, you have practiced those problems to the point where they are hard to break free of. You don’t have to take weekly lessons, as someone else pointed out above, but by all means, if a good teacher is handy, take advantage of that.

Re: Did you take tin whistle lessons?

You don’t need weekly lessons, but if you do it completely on your own, you’ll be missing some things. Lots of practice, when you’re doing something wrong in the first place, just means you’re getting better at doing it wrong….

Re: Did you take tin whistle lessons?

Mhh that’s true, I was thinking of maybe taking just a couple of lessons to get on the right track and have the teacher point out any bad habits, I probably have a few. Then I could just return when I feel like I need it.
Definitely won’t be taking weekly lessons though, it’s way to expensive, but a just a few classes won’t do too much harm to my finances
And another thing while we’re at it, the only thing closest to a session I could find here was a irish music ensemble, which *surprise!* is also kind of expensive to join, but I think it could be worth it, I’d really like to play with some other people…
That IS a good investment, right? what do you think?

Re: Did you take tin whistle lessons?

So you have to pay to play with people? Hmmm lol. If you have no other way of playing with people though I would go for it (if it’s good). Different aspect when playing with live people than playing along to a recording.

I wouldn’t get too stressed about ornaments. Some of the old great whistle players used very little ornaments. Micho Russell comes to mind. Cathal McConnell also goes on about not worrying too much about ornamentation. I would also recommend his tutor book and CD. A bit more of a barebones approach but well worth it if you combine it with the Clarke book.

How is your playing overall? From my own opinion (and I’m sure everyone else will have a different opinion) it’s really important to have a solid foundation down (clear notes, clear tone, ease of moving up and down the whistle, etc) before tackling all the fancy ornamentations. You’ll find rolls, crans, triplets, cuts, etc so much easier.

Posted by .

Tin whistle lessons & workshops can be a great and welcome help and eye and ear opener

Take one lesson with this person, if you like the way they play. Even a short exchange of ideas and constructive criticism with direction can mean a big step forward from teaching yourself. Catch the workshops at festivals, when touring luminaries are around to share their light and understanding. ‘Tradition’ is just that, it doesn’t happen in a closet or merely listening to recordings, it is an exchange, and if it is called a class or a workshop or a simple tune sharing between friends, that is tradition.

The hardest thing to undo are bad habits and misunderstandings. It’s best to get some guidance early on. Some of those bad habits can end up being serious pain, and can in the end ruin it all for yourself. That doesn’t mean you have to pay a fortune, just asking for some small directions can make a huge difference, as long as the person you’re asking actually knows what they’re talking about, but that can be in part evident in their playing and their passion for it all.

Re: Did you take tin whistle lessons?

With any instrument, a beginner’s progress will be much faster if he is taking regular lessons from a good teacher, and is able to spend a lot of time practicing what has been taught.

Yes on your own you will probably eventually figure everything out, but life is short!

I had the great good fortune, when I was beginning to learn Irish flute and whistle back in the 1970s, to meet a really good player who became a teacher or mentor for me. He had no formal/classical background at all, and the "theory" I was taught had nothing to do with ordinary music, but was strictly concerning the structure and style of Irish music. He would teach me the bare bones of a tune, then proceed to reconstruct the tune over and over again in various ways. He said "better to learn 20 ways of playing one tune than to learn 20 tunes" and that’s how I learned Irish music.

This allowed the traditional style and underlying structures to be perceived, so that in the future any tune I learned from any source could be absorbed and made "my own".

I have striven to pass along that approach whenever I’ve had students. Beware of teachers who don’t understand the music, and are merely spoonfeeding you some prefabricated tunes for you to parrot.

I suppose it’s the "give a man a fish" v "teach a man to fish" thing.

About evaluating a teacher based purely on how they play, I will say that I’ve attended classes and/or workshops by some of the world’s top Irish musicians, and some of them are absolutely hopeless as teachers.

Line up ten decent Irish fiddlers and the best of the ten might be the worst teacher, the worst of the ten, the best teacher.

When you take music lessons you’re not only learning how to play, you’re also learning how to teach. People, such as classical musicians, who have been brought up through a well-thought-out process of instruction, usually make good teachers.

A person who never took a lesson, but with a load of talent and an excellent ear and a fanatical dedication to practice has become a great player, might not have the first clue how to teach.

Re: Did you take tin whistle lessons?

Richard you’re right about the best musicians not always being the best teachers. Though when a top player is also a good teacher the fish jump out of the water & land in your lap. But you need to pay attention.

Posted by .

Re: Did you take tin whistle lessons?

Yeah take a few lessons to help cover the basic technical aspects of the instrument, then at a point further down the road take a few for the technical aspects of the music.
And play…. lots. ๐Ÿ™‚

Re: Did you take tin whistle lessons?

I’ve been playing the whistle for over 20 years and thought i was doing pretty well being self taught an all that. It was only when i went along to the feis in Ullapool and booked into the two whistle tutors, one being Clare Mann and the other Brian Finnegan that I got the ‘thirst’. There’s nothing wrong with lessons and in any walk of life, from skiing, mountaineering, golf or learning a language it’s stimulating to learn from experienced, enthusiastic ‘players’.
Go book into some lessons and you’ll reap the rewards ten fold. From a few hours learning from someone who knows the score you’ll be fired up and your passion, technique, enthusiasm and style will take off.
As someone said, life is short so go do it.

Re: Did you take tin whistle lessons?

Thank you to whistle teachers everywhere.

We appreciate your work.

There are enough poor and below-average untaught whistlers in the world.

Please don’t be a part of the problem.

My apologies for the thread necromancy.