Learning to play the Tin Whistle

There are dozens of teachers, tutors, videos, books and more which you can use to learn to play the tin-whistle (aka pennywhistle).  The following recommendations are for people who want to learn the whistle to play hymns or spiritual songs - either in church, or just as part of your own prayer and worship.

Find a teacher

It's always easiest if you have an experienced guide who can tell you what to do, listen to what happens when you try and give you targetted advice based on what they hear.   So if you can - find a person to get at least a few lessons from.

Where to find a teacher :
  • Local music shops - check out their noticeboards
  • People who already plays the whistle at your church or another local church:  maybe they teach themselves, maybe they know someone else who does
  • Community education / night classes - you might just find a whistle-class on their timetable (this is how I got started)
  • Local Irish or Scottish societies.   But be aware that teachers here will generally be focussed on using the whistle within traditional music, and may not be sympathetic to using it for religious music
  • Other local music teachers:   even if they don't teach whistle themselves, they might know someone who does.   Or if they teach related instruments, eg the flute, they may know enough to give you some lessons about technique.
  • If you're comfortable learning on-line, you might get lessons from WhistleTutor

It's important to tell your teacher what your goal is.   Some music teachers assume that they are setting the goals for their students.   So especially if your aims are a little different (eg to accompany "Amazing Grace" in church) - you need to be up-front about what you are aiming for, and you need to accept their advice about what is possible given the instrument itself and your aptitude and willingness to work at the whistle.

Tutor books or videos

If you can't find or afford an in-person teacher, then you may have to work from a book or on-line tool instead.

I haven't found any books which teach only using hymns - most of them are about learning to play Irish or Scottish style.  The best ones I've seen are

Geraldine Cottor's Traditional Irish Tin Whistle Tutor

Like it says on the tin, this book is very focussed on traditional Irish music.

But it has a solid section about how to read music, as well as detailed instructions about how to play the whistle.


The Complete Irish Tin Whistle Tutor

L.E. McCullough

Labhras O Murchu's "Traditional Irish Tin Whistle tutor." The book is perfect for a true beginner, and has an excellent study in the art of reading music. The songs and styles contained are very well explained in a friendly, but direct way. Although it is not necessary to have the accompanying CD, it is immensely helpful. Sadly the book and CD are sold separately. For a true beginner I would sincerely recommend buying the CD as well. It has excellent sound quality, it follows the books lesson plan precisely, and it is wonderfully narrated.

Grey Larsen's "Essential Guide", June McCormack's "Fliuit", and Conal O Grada's "An Fheadóg Mhór"#

Tin Whistle for Beginners - Volume 1: Irish Songs, Gaelic Songs, Scottish Songs


The Clarke Tin Whistle Handboo
, by Bill Ochs,
 is a better book for beginners, and is really the definitive tin whistle tutorial. Advanced beginners or intermediate players who have worked through the Ochs book might enjoy Cathal McConnell's book. I'd also look into the Grey Larson Irish Flute & Tin Whistle book before buying Mr. McCullough's book.

Learn from yourself

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