Our tin whistle courses are the most popular courses we have and cater for absolute beginners right up to the more advanced player.

Whatever stage you’re at with the tin whistle, or indeed if you’re coming from another tradition altogether, we welcome you here to the home of online Irish music learning. We hope you’ll come for the learning and stay for the craic!

If you’re just beginning start with Tin Whistle Basics, then progress to Easy Tin Whistle Session Tunes before trying Tin Whistle Foundations or moving on to the advanced courses.

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Tin Whistle Frequently Asked Questions

I can't get the breathing right, I either have too much air or not enough of it, what do you recommend?
When playing Irish music on the flute or the whistle, it’s all about incorporating the breath into the tunes. Some players have to breathe often and this means missing out notes in the reels or jigs, which can actually add great rhythm to the tunes. Other players like to go for long seamless phrases – more like a piping style. This takes stamina and a strong set of lungs. More detailed breathing instructions are given throughout the Tin Whistle Basics course as Kirsten will recommend the best opportunities to breathe corresponding to the tunes she’s teaching.

Is there any difference between a Tin Whistle and a Penny Whistle?
There is no difference. A tin whistle is the more commonly used term in Ireland at least and is derived from the fact that most were made from tin in the past. In England, the instrument became known as a penny whistle due to its low-cost price but the instrument is no different.
Is the finger setting the same as on the Irish flute?
The fingering for a tin whistle is the same for the wooden flute commonly used for playing Irish Music.
What is the difference between a Low D and D tin whistle?
Low D is a lot lower in tone than the D tin whistle played in these lessons. D whistles are recommended for beginners.
How do you clean a tin whistle?
You blow through the whistle while holding your finger over the square hole. This releases any build-up of condensation in the tin whistle which can distort the tone. Also, you can wash it through with soapy water, but make sure to rinse it very well before playing again.
Why do the notes sound the same, or sound awful?
There is probably a build-up of condensation, try covering the square hole and blowing hard through the mouthpiece. This will improve the tone.
What determines the key of a whistle?
The sound made when all the fingers are down covering the holes.
What key tin whistle should I purchase?
For the vast majority of Irish music, a whistle in the key of D will work perfectly well so this is the essential starting point. If you are playing solo, you can choose to play whatever key you want but it’s likely that this will not fly at a session. However, some other musicians (fiddle, banjo, accordion etc) may play a repertoire of tunes in “flat” keys such as G minor, F and Bb. In this case, it’s worth having a C whistle in your stash as well.
Ok, I have a C whistle...how can I play in G minor or F major now?
The key of C is one key below D (i.e. one note lower). So, if you play the exact same tune (i.e. same fingering) on a C whistle as on a D, the tune will be played one key lower. Playing in G minor on a D whistle is tough because of the amount of half-holing that would be required. Instead, you could play in A minor fingering on a C whistle and the tune will be produced in the lower key of G minor. The same applies for playing a tune in G major, where on a C whistle it would be produced in the lower key of F.
Is there any essential maintenance required for a tin whistle?
If it’s made of some form of metal then the simple answer is no. Just be careful where you store it as the metal is usually light (brass, nickel, tin, aluminium) and can easily be bent or dented. There are some wooden whistles which may require a little more maintenance such as oiling and temperature/sunlight is a bigger factor for these instruments too – especially in extreme climates. There are also carbon fibre whistles now being manufactured which have very low maintenance and are highly durable.
What is the best way to cover the holes of the whistle, with the tips of fingers or the pads?
Always cover the holes with the pads of your fingers rather than the tips.
Can I use the recorder to play Irish music instead?
The recorder is not an instrument which has developed alongside the music tradition in Ireland. The tone of the recorder is entirely conducive to an authentic Irish sound so the short answer is no. However, if you have experience playing the recorder you will find that you possess a distinct advantage in learning the tin whistle because the fingering is similar and you’ll have some rudiments in breath control.
Is it ok if the tin whistle fiffle (mouthpiece) touches your teeth?
Yes, it is, as long as you are not clenching your teeth or biting down even lightly.

More detailed questions and discussion on the course can be found in the Community Forum, available to paying members only.

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Tin Whistle Courses

Basic, Intermediate and Advanced

Learn Irish Tin Whistle Online

Expert Whistle Skills #1

with Thomas Johnston

  • Advanced

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Expert Whistle Skills #2

with Thomas Johnston

  • Advanced

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Learn Irish Tin Whistle Online

Expert Whistle Skills #3

with Mikie Smyth

  • Advanced

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Learn Irish Tin Whistle Online

Tin Whistle Basics

with Kirsten Allstaff

  • Basic

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Learn Irish Tin Whistle Online

Tin Whistle Foundations

with Kirsten Allstaff

  • Basic

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Learn Irish Tin Whistle Online

Easy Tin Whistle Session Tunes ...

with Kirsten Allstaff

  • Basic

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Learn Irish Tin Whistle Online

Cours Debutants de Tin Whistle ...

with Gwenn Frin

  • Basic

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Learn Irish Tin Whistle Online

Tin Whistle-Grundkurs

with Kirsten Allstaff

  • Basic

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Irish Tin Whistle Progressions

with Kirsten Allstaff

  • Intermediate

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Christy Barry playing tin whistle

Tin Whistle Doolin Style

with Christy Barry

  • Intermediate

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tom delany with low whistle

Low Whistle Foundations

with Tom Delany

  • Intermediate

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