Learn How to Play the Tin Whistle

Updated on May 28, 2018
singnmiss profile image

I've been writing about music on HubPages for over six years. Singing is my greatest passion and my articles help others learn about music.

The Notes

The tin whistle is a wonderfully simple, yet soothing instrument to learn to play (although my dog may disagree--his ears are a little sensitive).

First, let's start out with how the notes are laid out on the whistle. There are 6 holes--this allows you to play the entire major scale. When you put these notes in various orders and play them, you can play a wide variety of songs. Now, the major scale starts and ends on do . You know, just like in the song from The Sound of Music --do, re, mi, fa, so, la, ti, do .

Wait a minute!? I can hear you now--that's 8 notes! There's only 6 holes--what's up with that? OK--here's how it works. When you cover up all 6 holes on the tin whistle and blow gently, you get do. Uncover one hole at a time starting at the bottom--each time you uncover the next hole and blow through the mouthpiece, you'll hear the next note in the major scale. When you've uncovered every hole and blow through the mouthpiece, you'll hear ti. How do you play the final do ? Cover up all the holes again and blow through the mouthpiece with more pressure than before--this makes the pitch go up from regular low do to high do --but more about that later.

OK--let's recap this part--6 holes on the tin whistle allows you to play all of the notes in the major scale--do, re, mi, fa, so, la, ti, do. The lowest notes are heard when you're covering up more holes and the highest notes are heard when you're covering up fewer holes.

Positioning Your Hands to Play

Let's make this as simple as possible--go get your tinwhistle and come back to follow this step-by-step.

OK--here we go--take one step at a time....

  1. Hold your tin whistle vertically with the holes all on top.
  2. Using your left hand's index, middle, and ring fingers, cover the three holes nearest the top of the whistle completely.
  3. Using your right hand's index, middle, and ring fingers, cover the bottom three holes of the whistle completely.

Playing the Notes

Let's keep going...

Once you've positioned your hands to play, you're ready to actually play.

Making sure that all of the holes are completely covered, fold your lips over your teeth to protect the mouthpiece from tooth damage and blow. (If you hear a really high sharp sound, blow more gently.) Once you hear a good, solid sound you are ready to move on to the next note.

Lift your right hand's ring finger off of the bottom-most hole on the whistle while keeping all of the other holes completely covered. Blow through the mouthpiece--you will hear the next note up. Next, keeping your right hand's ring finger lifted, lift your right hand's middle finger as well. Blow through the mouthpiece. You should hear the next note up the scale. Keep working your way up the tin whistle lifting one additional finger at a time.

Here's how it all correlates with the major scale we discussed earlier....

  • covering all 6 holes = do.
  • 5 holes = re.
  • 4 holes = mi.
  • 3 holes = fa.
  • 2 holes = so.
  • 1 hole = la.
  • 0 holes = ti.

Practice going up and down the scale until it gets easier. If you hear a strange sound, a breathy sound or an unexpected note, check your fingers--likely there's a slightly uncovered hole that's supposed to be covered.

Take a look at the note chart below as you practice.

Tin Whistle Note Chart

Finding High Do

Now that you've found most of the major scale notes, it's time to tackle high do.

For whatever reason, this concept was the most surprising to me when I first learned to play the tin whistle. As mentioned earlier to hear high do, you cover up all the holes again--you know, just like playing low do. The thing that makes all the difference here is your breath pressure. The only thing you do differently to change from low do to high do is to blow harder.

Practice playing low do ( soft breath pressure), then high do (harder breath pressure), low do, then high do. This exercise will help you to develop good breath pressure control.

Learning Songs

So now you know where to find the notes on the tin whistle and you've practiced them--time to apply all this knowledge and learn a few songs!

Mary Had a Little Lamb

Mi, Re, Do, Re

Mi, Mi, Mi

Re, Re, Re,

Mi, So, So

Mi, Re, Do, Re

Mi, Mi, Mi, Mi,

Re, Re, Mi, Re, Do

Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star

Do, Do, So, So, La, La, So

Fa, Fa, Mi, Mi, Re, Re, Do

So, So, Fa, Fa, Mi, Mi, Re

So, So, Fa, Fa, Mi, Mi, Re

Do, Do, So, So, La, La, So

Fa, Fa, Mi, Mi, Re, Re, Do.

Row, Row, Row Your Boat

Do, Do, Do, Re, Mi

Mi, Re, Mi, Fa, So

Do (high), Do (high), Do (high)

So, So, So

Mi, Mi, Mi

Do, Do, Do

So, Fa, Mi, Re, Do.


Submit a Comment
  • singnmiss profile imageAUTHOR


    8 years ago from Southern US

    Thanks, Susan! :)

  • Just Ask Susan profile image

    Susan Zutautas 

    8 years ago from Ontario, Canada

    Great instructions on how to play the tin whistle. You make it seem so easy and fun to learn. Thanks for sharing and Welcome to HubPages.


This website uses cookies

As a user in the EEA, your approval is needed on a few things. To provide a better website experience, spinditty.com uses cookies (and other similar technologies) and may collect, process, and share personal data. Please choose which areas of our service you consent to our doing so.

For more information on managing or withdrawing consents and how we handle data, visit our Privacy Policy at: https://maven.io/company/pages/privacy

Show Details
HubPages Device IDThis is used to identify particular browsers or devices when the access the service, and is used for security reasons.
LoginThis is necessary to sign in to the HubPages Service.
Google RecaptchaThis is used to prevent bots and spam. (Privacy Policy)
AkismetThis is used to detect comment spam. (Privacy Policy)
HubPages Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide data on traffic to our website, all personally identifyable data is anonymized. (Privacy Policy)
HubPages Traffic PixelThis is used to collect data on traffic to articles and other pages on our site. Unless you are signed in to a HubPages account, all personally identifiable information is anonymized.
Amazon Web ServicesThis is a cloud services platform that we used to host our service. (Privacy Policy)
CloudflareThis is a cloud CDN service that we use to efficiently deliver files required for our service to operate such as javascript, cascading style sheets, images, and videos. (Privacy Policy)
Google Hosted LibrariesJavascript software libraries such as jQuery are loaded at endpoints on the googleapis.com or gstatic.com domains, for performance and efficiency reasons. (Privacy Policy)
Google Custom SearchThis is feature allows you to search the site. (Privacy Policy)
Google MapsSome articles have Google Maps embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
Google ChartsThis is used to display charts and graphs on articles and the author center. (Privacy Policy)
Google AdSense Host APIThis service allows you to sign up for or associate a Google AdSense account with HubPages, so that you can earn money from ads on your articles. No data is shared unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
Google YouTubeSome articles have YouTube videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
VimeoSome articles have Vimeo videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
PaypalThis is used for a registered author who enrolls in the HubPages Earnings program and requests to be paid via PayPal. No data is shared with Paypal unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
Facebook LoginYou can use this to streamline signing up for, or signing in to your Hubpages account. No data is shared with Facebook unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
MavenThis supports the Maven widget and search functionality. (Privacy Policy)
Google AdSenseThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Google DoubleClickGoogle provides ad serving technology and runs an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Index ExchangeThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
SovrnThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Facebook AdsThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Amazon Unified Ad MarketplaceThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
AppNexusThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
OpenxThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Rubicon ProjectThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
TripleLiftThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Say MediaWe partner with Say Media to deliver ad campaigns on our sites. (Privacy Policy)
Remarketing PixelsWe may use remarketing pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to advertise the HubPages Service to people that have visited our sites.
Conversion Tracking PixelsWe may use conversion tracking pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to identify when an advertisement has successfully resulted in the desired action, such as signing up for the HubPages Service or publishing an article on the HubPages Service.
Author Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide traffic data and reports to the authors of articles on the HubPages Service. (Privacy Policy)
ComscoreComScore is a media measurement and analytics company providing marketing data and analytics to enterprises, media and advertising agencies, and publishers. Non-consent will result in ComScore only processing obfuscated personal data. (Privacy Policy)
Amazon Tracking PixelSome articles display amazon products as part of the Amazon Affiliate program, this pixel provides traffic statistics for those products (Privacy Policy)
ClickscoThis is a data management platform studying reader behavior (Privacy Policy)