Learn Tin Whistle Ornamentation Online

  • 13 lessons teaching tin whistle ornamentation.
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Tin Whistle Ornamentation features strongly in this course, Tin Whistle Foundations, which is a continuation from the Tin Whistle Basics course (which you are recommended to have completed if you are new to the tin whistle). This course explores simple tin whistle ornamentation, also known as embellishments, such as the cut, tap, roll and slide. Emphasis is placed on breathing, phrasing, variation and rhythm throughout the thirteen tunes taught. Jigs, Slides, Reels, Hornpipes, Barndances and an O’Carolan composition are all featured. Each tune is taught slowly, phrase by phrase – the traditional way of learning by ear. The sheet notation and mp3 files for each tune are included as a learning supplement for the tutorials.

Tin Whistle Ornamentation – Full List and Description of The Different Types

Ornaments, or embellishments, in traditional Irish music refer to changes in how a note is played or articulated. Basically, you could say it’s what you add to the melody to jazz it up by tinkering with the notes. The tinkered notes are often called ‘grace notes’. The recommendation is always to master the basics of the whistle first before even considering introducing ornamentation.

Cuts

Cuts are played by very briefly lifting the finger that’s above the note being played. For example, if playing the scale of D major you can cut the first note of D with the next note up, E. This has the effect of shifting the pitch upward for that brief moment. It’s important to remember here that you’re not sounding the full upper note, it’s just a brief interjection or hit. That’s why it’s called a cut, you’re cutting into the higher pitch very quickly. You can play a cut either at the start of a note or after the note has begun to sound.

Taps

Taps, or strikes, are like the opposite to cuts where the note below the current note is briefly introduced. For example, if you are playing the scale of D major and you play the note E, you can tap to the lower note of D by simply quickly covering (tapping) the bottom hole of the whistle. Again, like with the cuts, you are not creating a separate note but you are creating a little wobble in the note being embellished that shouldn’t be perceptible to the listener as a new note. If it is perceptible you haven’t mastered the art yet.

Rolls

Putting the cut and tap together you get what’s called a roll. A roll can also be considered as a group of notes of the same pitch and length but with different articulations. You can have a long roll and a short roll. The long roll is a group of 3 notes (really they are three variations of the one note being ornamented): first the note is played as normal, then a cut is added to the note and it is then finished with a tap. The short roll is simply a cut followed by a tap.

Cranns (or crans)

On the tin whistle, cranns are generally only used for notes where a roll is impossible, for example, the lowest note on the whistle. Cranns are actually embellishments from the Uilleann piping, Irish bagpipes, tradition. Only cuts are used creating a crann, not taps.

Slides

A slide is like a slower version of a cut and tap which is meant to be perceived by the listener.

Vibrato

Vibrato is achieved by quickly opening and closing one of the open holes normally two holes below the note being played, because of this it is only possible for some notes.

Bounces

Bounces are a way of adding some style to the transition between different notes. An analogy would be like the difference between walking and skipping. Sometimes they are referred to as double-taps. As with all ornaments, descriptions fall short of hearing and seeing them in action. Master players develop their own unique ornaments, which is then heard as their own style of playing. So while it’s nice to learn what’s possible, the goal ultimately is to develop your own original style.

In Tin Whistle Foundations, Kirsten covers cuts, taps, rolls and slides. If you’re ready for more advanced tin whistle ornamentation techniques head on over to Thomas Johnston’s Expert Whistle Skills #1.

Course Structure

The course begins with how to play “the long roll” using the tune Paddy Taylor’s Jig. An exercise is taught to demonstrate how to play the rolls fluidly and percussively. Then the tutorials move on to teaching how to introduce tin whistle ornamentation variations like, how to use slides, how to create the melodic cut, how to use triplets, syncopation and the “short roll”. The tutor also includes a discussion on the different types of whistles because as your playing improves, you’ll demand more from your instrument. Breathing issues are also discussed as are methods to master the when and how of breath-taking while playing.

All the above techniques are taught by means of a new tune per lesson, giving you a total of 13 new Irish traditional tunes to add to your, now growing, repertoire:

Paddy Taylor’s Jig
The Cat That Ate The Candle
The North Road To Tralee
The Toormore Slide
The Burren Reel
The Fairy Slip Jig
Dances At Kinvara
Aggie Whyte’s
Tam In Arrears
Maid Behind The Bar
Johnny O’Leary’s Hornpipe
Sí Bheag Sí Mhór
Tobin’s Favorite

By the end of the course, you will be more comfortable playing tin whistle ornamentation, you will have a broader repertoire and a better knowledge of Irish music and, best of all, be ready to progress to more advanced tunes and tin whistle ornamentation techniques in the next course Expert Whistle Skills #1.

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Sheet Music and Mp3s available to Download for each Tune

Sample Sheet Music

Download Paddy Taylors Jig ABC Sheet Music.
Download Paddy Taylor’s Jig Standard Notation Sheet Music.

Sample mp3 of Paddy Taylor’s Jig

Download Mp3 of Paddy Taylors Jig.

Recommended Tin Whistle

Kirsten recommends Cillian Ó’Briain’s D tin whistle for this course.

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Advice Progressing with the Tin Whistle

It is highly recommended to be familiar with the tune you are learning before learning how to play it on the tin whistle, so download the mp3 file for each tune and listen to it frequently first before picking up the whistle to learn to play it. This is particularly true when it comes to developing your style and adding embellishments and ornamentations. You have to be comfortable playing the simple melody first before adding style. If you need a refresher playing the tin whistle, we recommend going back to the Tin Whistle Basics course before jumping in at this level.  

Your Tutor
Kirsten Allstaff, co-founder of OAIM, is an acclaimed flute and tin whistle player that has played throughout Ireland, Europe, North America and Asia with various Irish dance shows and groups. She has a First-Class Honours Master’s Degree in Traditional Irish Music Performance from the University of Limerick, Ireland. She previously tutored flute and whistle at The Irish World Academy of Music and Dance where she was involved in early online lecturing initiatives. Kirsten’s opening lesson of the Tin Whistle Basics course to date has reached over 600,000 views on YouTube, and consistently ranks in the first position for those searching for tin whistle lessons, a testament to the quality of her teaching and popularity as a teacher. Read more.

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?<br />
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?
Tin whistle and penny whistle are two different names for the same instrument.
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 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.

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 Foundations Lessons

Level

Paddy Taylor’s Jig

Tin Whistle Foundations Lesson 1

  • D Major
  • Level 1
  • Melody
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Ornamentation: Rolls

Jig

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The Cat That Ate The Candle

Tin Whistle Foundations Lesson 2

  • E Minor
  • Level 1
  • Melody
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Melodic Variation

Reel

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The North Road to Tralee

Tin Whistle Foundations Lesson 3

  • D Major
  • Level 1
  • Melody
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Ornamentation: Cuts. Tongue Articulation

Slide

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The Toormore Slide

Tin Whistle Foundations Lesson 4

  • B Minor
  • Level 1
  • Melody
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Melodic Cuts

Slide

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The Burren Reel

Tin Whistle Foundations Lesson 5

  • D Major
  • Level 1
  • Melody
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Ornamentation: Triplets. Melodic Variation

Reel

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The Fairy Slip Jig

Tin Whistle Foundations Lesson 6

  • D Major
  • Level 1
  • Melody
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Syncopation

Slip Jig

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Dances At Kinvara

Tin Whistle Foundations Lesson 7

  • G Major
  • Level 1
  • Melody
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Ornamentation: Short Rolls / Half Rolls

Barndance

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Aggie Whyte’s

Tin Whistle Foundations Lesson 8

  • G Major
  • Level 1
  • Melody
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Ornamentation: Rolls and Cuts. Tongue Articulation and Variation

Reel

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Tam in Arrear’s

Tin Whistle Foundations Lesson 9

  • G Major
  • Level 1
  • Melody
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Comparing and Contrasting Various Types of Whistles

Slip Jig

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Maid Behind The Bar

Tin Whistle Foundations Lesson 10

  • D Major
  • Level 2
  • Melody
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Long rolls, cuts and taps

Reel

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Johnny O’Leary’s Hornpipe

Tin Whistle Foundations Lesson 11

  • E Minor
  • Level 1
  • Melody
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Phrasing and Breathing

Hornpipe

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Si Bheag Si Mhor

Tin Whistle Foundations Lesson 12

  • D Major
  • Level 2
  • Melody
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Focus on short rolls

Waltz

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Tobin’s Favorite

Tin Whistle Foundations Lesson 13

  • D Major
  • Level 1
  • Melody
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Ornamentation: Rolls, Short Rolls, Cuts and Taps

Jig

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