Notes from an Attic

Learning the whistle
Stacks Image 1820
B. To the Next Level
Stacks Image 1993

Parts of my whistle
(note: not every whistle has a tuning slide)

This guide is in two sections.
PART B
Stacks Image 2316

playing a Low D whistle

Step 1: Some tips
Stacks Image 2064

This tunable whistle can be adjusted by sliding the barrel out or in.


Tips from Part A
I suggested a number of tips in Part A. Here's a quick summary.
* Buying a whistle—the first whistle you buy should be a high D,
* Grip—stick to the convention of holding the whistle with left hand above right,
* Fingering—learn to cover the holes completely by keeping fingers flat and don't allow unused fingers to stray close to open holes,
* The bottom note on a D whistle (with all the holes closed) is D. The notes going up the scale of D are:
D, E, F#, G, A, B, c#, d
* The upper register—blow harder to get these higher notes. They are usually written using lower case letters (i.e. 'e', 'a' and so on).
* Flat?—if your whistle sounds flat, try warming it up by giving it a brisk rub with a piece of cloth. Also, try blowing a bit harder to raise the pitch slightly (but avoid over-blowing).
* Spit—clear out any 'condensation' by placing a finger over the fipple and giving the whistle a hard blow.
* Adjusting the tuning—some whistles have a tuning slide on the barrel. Lengthen the barrel to lower the pitch and shorten the barrel to raise the pitch.
* Playing by ear—before worrying too much about musical notation, start off by playing a few simple tunes by ear.

For most people trying to get better at the tin whistle, the main goals are to:
- hit the notes accurately,
- to keep good rhythm and maintain a good steady tempo, and
- to develop a nice tone.

NOT INCLUDE HERE
You'll find some more useful tips here from 'sound adventurer' Peter Mitchell:
https://soundadventurer.com/ways-to-make-your-tin-whistle-sound-better/


Some more tips

Here are a few more suggestions.
Stacks Image 2346

sticky tape

1. How can I practice without annoying my neighbours?
Here's a trick for greatly reducing the volume of sound and so protecting the ears of the innocent. Take a short strip of sticky tape and place over roughly half the fipple (the little window in the mouthpiece where the sound comes out). The precise positioning is critical—cover too little and it will still sound loud; cover too much and you won't hear yourself playing at all.

Stacks Image 2364

the three keys to success

2. What is the best practice routine?
The most obvious way of developing your technique and keeping your fingers fluid is to play lots of tunes. Crucially, this will train your fingers to become comfortable with playing a wide range of musical phrases that recur in many other tunes.

When it comes to working on a new piece, I find that being able to read from a written score is a big advantage. Once I think I've got the notes under my fingers, I put the music away and work on playing it by ear. Without the distraction of following the musical score, I can concentrate on making my playing more musical.

Playing along with a recording is also helpful, particularly as it forces you to maintain a steady tempo. I use an app called Capo (Mac, iPad and iPhone only). This clever software allows the user to adjust the tempo and key and much else besides; it also lets you create short sections that can be looped repeatedly, which is handy for helping you to master a particularly tricky bit.

Stacks Image 2442

ornaments

3. Introduce variety into your playing
When you feel that your fingers have mastered the notes of a new tune, start to think about introducing a little bit of variety into your playing. In particular, when parts of a tune are repeated, find ways of making some small variations second time through. A way of doing this is to experiment with the use of embellishments known as ornamentation. Ornamentation is a particular feature of Irish music and examples are given in the next section.
Step 2: Ornaments
Ornamentation, also known as decoration, is a key element in Irish music. It is usually achieved by adding extra notes within the basic notes of a tune to make the experience more interesting.

If you wish to experiment with ornamentation, make sure that you …
… have the tune worked out in your head before starting to decorate it,
… keep a steady tempo (if you try to play too fast, your ornamentation will unbalance the basic tune).
… try to vary your ornamentation so that repeated sections still sound fresh,
… don't overdo it!

What are the main techniques of ornamentation?
There are many in which you can decorate a tune. Here are six.
1. tonguing,
2. using vibrato,
3. the slide,
4. the cut and the tap,
5. the roll, and
6. the cran.
These are explained below.


1. Tonguing
Tonguing is using your tongue when playing the whistle. You can do this by saying "Tuh" as you blow a note. Try to avoid touching the mouthpiece with your tongue—instead, touch the tip of your tongue on the palate of your mouth.

So why bother tonguing? One reason is that you may be playing the same note two or more times in succession, in which case tonguing is an easy way of splitting the note into separate notes of the same pitch. It's also a useful technique to use to avoid squeaks when when jumping from lower to upper octave (for example, try playing E followed by e, or G followed by g).
But the main advantage of tonguing is to give accent and shape to the music.

Don't overdo tonguing! Beginners sometimes try to tongue every note and this can sound jerky and unmusical. There are often parts of certain tunes where the music should flow smoothly (this style of playing is called 'legato') and to play the legato sections nicely you should try to avoid tonguing if possible.
Stacks Image 2326

My advice with tonguing is that less is more!


Stacks Image 2373

Vibrato on the note G
I'm shaking the fingers of my right hand close to the open holes.

2. What is vibrato?
If you're playing a tune containing long, sustained notes, it can sometimes sound mechanical and boring. To make a note more interesting, you can fluctuate the air coming out of the whistle so that the note vibrates in a wave—hence the name, vibrato.

There are two common ways of creating this effect.
(a) By fluctuating your blowing: some players talk about doing this using their diaphragm while others say they use their throat. You really need to watch someone using blowing vibrato and then try to copy what they do. It may be a skill that you eventually stumble upon and when you do, hang onto it!

Click to listen to a classical flute player, Matthew Roitstein, talking about how he achieves this effect with his blowing.

(b) Using finger vibrato: among whistle players, vibrato is more commonly achieved using the fingers. Try wafting your spare fingers close to the hole and experiment to get the effect you want. But as with all these effects, try not to overdo it!

Stacks Image 2391

Will Ye Go Lassie Go

3. The Slide
As the name suggests, a slide involves sliding your finger slowly across a hole so that the note slides up from one note to the next.
Listen to the audio where you'll hear me play two slides:
* from the second note (A) to the next (B) and
* from the tenth note (d) to the next (e).

Tune: Will Ye Go Lassie Go
G A B B A G E G
B d e e e d B d


Stacks Image 2400

two types of grace notes—cut and tap

4. The Cut and the Tap

Cuts and taps are also referred to as 'grace' notes.
A grace note is a single very short note inserted immediately before the main note being played.

The cut
In the case of the cut, the grace note is played above the main note. But we need to be more precise—which note should I play as the grace note, I hear you cry.
To play the simplest cut, choose as the grace note the note immediately above the main note that you are playing.
For example:
if you are playing a G, the grace note will be A,
if you are playing e, the grace note will be f#,
if you are playing a B, the grace note will be c#.
and so on

With the more traditional cut, the rule of thumb is a bit more complicated as the choice of grace note will depend on what main note you are playing. In general, it involves lifting either the third or the first finger of the left hand to make the grace note—i.e. I play the grace notes using either A or c#.
So …
… if I'm playing D, E, F# or G… my choice of grace note is A.
… if I'm playing A or B … my choice of grace note is c#.
… if I'm playing c# … my choice of grace note is d.


The Tap
In the case of the tap, the choice of grace note is much more straightforward— it is the note immediately below the main note.

Listen to the audio where you'll hear me demonstrate these two ornaments. Then I'll play them in the tune, Will Ye Go Lassie Go.

(a) the cut precedes the 4th note (B) and the grace note is c#,
(b) the tap precedes the 12th note (e) and the grace note is d.

Tune: Will Ye Go Lassie Go
G A B B A G E G
B d e e e d B d

Stacks Image 2409

the 5-note roll

5. The Roll
If you don't feel that a single grace note quite matches the extravagance of your mood, you could try playing a roll instead. Rolls are ornaments consisting of five notes. As with all ornamentation, the grace notes are played very quickly.

The choice of which notes to play can vary but here are the two most commonly used types of roll.
(a) The simple roll:
Start and finish with the main note and in between these first and last notes, play:
… up one note
… return to the main note,
…go down one more note,
before finally returning to the starting note.

Here are a couple of examples of this simple roll.
Simple roll on G: G A G F# G
Simple roll on B: B c# B A B

(b) Cut + Tap
A slightly more sophisticated form of roll is to play a cut followed by a tap. As with the simple roll, it starts and ends with the main note.
Here are a couple of examples (grace notes marked in blue).
roll on the note E: E A E D E
roll on the note G: G A G F# G
roll on the note A: A c# A G A

Listen to the audio where you'll hear me play both type of roll.
After that I'll play two rolls in the tune, Will Ye Go Lassie Go. They appear…
… on the third note (B) where I play: B c# B A B, and
… on the 11th note (e) where I play: e a e d e.

Tune: Will Ye Go Lassie Go
G A B B A G E G
B d e e e d B d

Stacks Image 2453

Tanner Bayles explains the cran

6. The Cran
The cran is one of the more advanced decorations and derives from ornamentation used by uilleann pipers. Click here for a very clear explanation by Tanner Bayles of how to play the cran.
Stacks Image 2462

Some useful YouTube links

Step 3: naming notes
In Part A, you were introduced to the 14 notes most commonly used on a D whistle, which are:
D, E, F#, G, A, B, c, c#, d, e, f#, g, a, and b

The notes in the lower register are usually written using capitals (D, E, G and so on) while the upper register notes are written in lower case (d, e, g and so on).

Writing out notes using upper and lower case letters is a good starting point with getting to grips with music notation and it is the basis of a popular computer notation system called ABC.
ABC Notation
An example of ABC notation for the Irish tune 'Saddle the Pony" is shown here. As you can see, the top four lines comprise four header fields which set up important features of the music overall. In this example, these are:
X: the tune number,
T: the title,
M: the time signature (i.e. its underlying rhythm, which in this case is a jig), and
K: the musical key that it has been written in (in this case the key is G).

The remaining lines contain the notes and their durations. As you can see, all the notes are written as letters, some in upper case and some in lower, indicating lower and higher register, respectively.

Durations are indicated using numbers.
Here's an example.
E2 d B4 g/ means:
- hold E for 2 beats,
- hold d for one beat,
- hold B for 4 beats
- hold g for half a beat.

If you'd like to find out more about ABC notation, here's a straightforward explanation of the basic features provided by The Celtic Room.

Reminder—here again are the two fingering charts introduced in Part A. Have a look at them now to remind yourself of the names of the notes. You'll be able to build on this in Step 4, Reading Music.
Stacks Image 2152

An example of a tune
in ABC Notation

Whistle Fingering Chart: basic notes
Stacks Image 2163

Whistle Fingering Chart: upper register notes
Stacks Image 2182
Step 4: reading music
Some useful musical terms
If you want to go further with reading music on the tin whistle, there are some musical terms that you should be familiar with. Have a look at the picture shown here which lists a few important musical terms. If you're unsure about what some of them are, click below to find my quick summary of what they mean and how they are linked to the written musical notation that a tin whistle player might use.
Click here.
Stacks Image 2505

Some important musical terms


Building on what you know
There are two simple ways of reading music that you may already be familiar with—using tabs and using letters.

Tabs are little pictures of a whistle indicating what notes to play according to which holes are closed and which open. This notation requires no musical knowledge, not even knowing the names of the notes, but of course tabs are burdensome to write out and rather slow to read.

Letters simply involves writing out the letter names of each note. This method is a bit more sophisticated than using tabs—easier to write out and quicker to read but you do need to know the names of the notes.

These notations tell you about the pitch of each note but they have a fatal flaw—they tell you nothing about the duration of each note (i.e. how long to hold it for).



Stacks Image 3261

Tin whistle tabs









D D E D G F#

Notation using letters

Duration and Pitch
The two most important things you need to know about a note are:
duration—how long it lasts,
pitch—how high or low it is.

For a tune written in standard musical notation, these two elements are dealt with as follows.
- Duration is indicated by the shape of the note.
This is covered in Step 5, Duration of a note.
- Pitch is shown by the position of where the note is placed on the five-line stave—a high note is placed near the top of the stave while a low note is shown near the bottom.
This is covered in Step 6, Pitch of a note.
Standard Music Notation
No doubt you have already come across standard musical notation as shown here with the tune Happy Birthday. It is also sometimes referred to as:
- stave (UK)
- staff (US)
- music score

If you're not able to read musical notation satisfactorily, don't worry because help is at hand …

In the next two sections you'll be able to read about how notes are written (Step 5) and how the pitch of a note is represented by its position on the five-line stave (Step 6).
Stacks Image 3279

Happy Birthday in standard music notation

Step 5: reading music—duration of a note

Duration—how long a note lasts
The chart shows the note durations along with their names. As you can see, there are two sets of names, those used in the North America and those used in the UK. Although I was brought up with the UK system, I plan to follow the US terminology as it is both easier to grasp and to remember.
What are the note names?
The five most common note shapes are shown in the table, 'The Note Names'.
As is indicated by the green shaded row, these five types of note centre around the 'quarter note', or quaver, which has a duration of 1 beat.
The durations of the other notes follow from this starting point:
* the half note lasts twice as long as the quarter note,
* the whole note lasts four as long as the quarter note,
* the eighth note lasts half as long as the quarter note,
* the sixteenth note lasts a quarter as long as the quarter note.
Stacks Image 2650

The note names




What is a dotted note?
Placing a dot after a note has the effect of increasing its duration by half of the note's value (i.e. by 50%).
Some examples are shown in the table.

A whole note has 4 beats, so …
… a dotted whole note has 4 + 2 = 6 beats.

A half note has 2 beats, so …
… dotted half note has 2 + 1 = 3 beats.

A quarter note has 1 beat, so …
… a dotted half note has 1+ ½ = 1½ beats.

A eighth note has ½ a beat, so …
… a dotted eighth note has ½ + ¼ = ¾ beat.


Stacks Image 2659

a dotted note lasts half as long again


Counting the beats
Now that you can identify the five different note shapes and know about dotted notes, you should be ready to look at a collection of notes and count the beats. If you need to, then refer to the chart titled 'The Note Names' to remind you of each note's beat length.
And remember that a 'quarter note' counts as 1.

Here are a two examples to give you the general idea.
Stacks Image 3289

Example 1: 2 + 1 + ½ = 3½ beats



Stacks Image 3293

Example 2: 1½ + ½ + ¾ + ¼ = 3 beats

Quiz 1
Now have a go at the 'Count the Beats' quiz and test out your skills.



Stacks Image 3313

Note that a quarter note (i.e. a crotchet) equals 1 beat.

FEEDBACK
Correct answers in green
Incorrect answers in red

Score:

Ranking:

Step 6: reading music— pitch

Lines and spaces
As you saw in Step 3, Naming Notes, here are 14 notes that you will be able to play on your whistle.

D, E, F#, G, A, B, c, c#, d, e, f#, g, a and b.

In this section, I'll show you where these notes lie on the musical 'stave'.

A musical note on the stave will either lie on a line or on a space between two lines. Providing you know the names of these lines and spaces, you'll be able to name every note.

The names of the notes on the lines and the spaces, as well as hints for how to remember them are shown below.
Stacks Image 2225
The musical 'stave' consists of five lines and four spaces.

The Lines
Stacks Image 2243
The five lines represent the notes E, G, B, D and F.
'How will I remember that?', I hear you cry.
There are lots of mnemonics for these five notes. Here are two that I quite like. If you don't like either of these, try making one up of your own.

Every Good Boy Deserves Fries

or

Every Good Bird Does Fly

The Spaces
Stacks Image 2236
The four spaces are easily remembered as they spell the word FACE.

Notes outside the stave
You should now be able to read all the notes within the five lines and the four spaces of the stave. But what about notes that lie outside the stave—in particular, the note labelled 'D' at the bottom of the range and the three notes 'g', a' and 'b' which lie above the stave?
To notate these four notes, you just need to keep on going by extending the lettering beyond the stave. If necessary, insert a short 'ledger line' to indicate the next line (or lines) below or above the stave.
The notations for the bottom note D and for the three notes above the stave, g, a and b, are shown here.
Stacks Image 2256

Note that a ledger line has had to be inserted to indicate
the location of notes 'high a' and 'high b'.


Test your grasp of written notation
I've provided two quizzes here, one for helping you to name the notes in the lower register and a more advanced one covering all the playable notes in the two registers combined.
Have a go at these quizzes now. If you can tackle each quiz several times, then so much the better as this experience will really speed up your sight-reading when you start to learn new tunes.
Quiz 1
Learning the notation for the nine key notes in the lower register:

D, E, F#, G, A, B, c, c# and d.

Score:

Ranking:


Quiz 2
Learning the notation for the fourteen key notes in both registers combined:

Lower register: D, E, F#, G, A, B, c, c#, d
Upper register: e, f#, g, a and b.

Score:

Ranking:





Musical words
To consolidate your grasp of these musical notes, have a go at this bonus quiz. For each question you are given a short musical phrase of three or four notes which spell a word. Ignoring whether or not the note is upper or lower case, try to identify the words.

Score:

Ranking:


Step 7: playing tunes
In Part A, I provided support for you to learn a few starter tunes: In this final section, you are invited to play a range of tunes from the Irish/Celtic tradition.

Jigs and Reels
As was explained in the section named 'ITM tune types', there's a wide variety of tune types to choose from, including the polka, hornpipe, waltz and slow air. But the most commonly played categories of tune played at Irish sessions are jigs and reels. For this reason, the 25 or so tunes that I've provided for you to play along with are all jigs and reels. Have a look now at the 'Play along with me' section of the website and have a go at these tunes now.

As well as providing standard music notation for each tune, I've included an audio recording which can be adjusted for speed.

Good luck!
Stacks Image 3322
Acknowledgements
1. Thanks to Paul Rosen for developing the excellent ABC reader. Have a look at his website:
editor.drawthedots.com
2. Thanks to Stuart Marshall for developing the great app Quizzer which I used in Steps 4 and 5. Have a look at his website: https://shakingthehabitual.com/stacks/quizzer/

Part A Getting Started
This covers the basics like buying a whistle, how to hold it and how to finger the notes. By the end, you should be able to play simple tunes by ear. I have included a few audio files of myself playing well-known tunes on the whistle and you can play along. And by the way, there's a speed controller for each tune so you can start off slowly and build up speed as you improve with practice.

Part B To the Next Level
The aim here is to learn some new tunes and to work on playing more fluently with a nice tone. You will also learn a bit about musical notation.
The following topics are included:
* blowing and fingering the whistle,
* tonguing
* naming and reading notes—musical notation,
* quizzes to consolidate what you've learnt,
* a brief explanation of basic musical terms,
* a selection of traditional tunes to play along with,
* an introduction to ABC notation.


Stacks Image 1019

Me playing a Low D whistle




What next?
Over the coming weeks, I plan to complete this page by including a tool that will let you create musical scores for yourself. It is an ABC reader which will turn ABC files into conventional musical notation. To support the use of this tool I plan to:
(a) Provide a large collection of traditional tunes in the form of short ABC text files. You will be able to copy any of these files, paste it into the reader and immediately see the tune in musical notation. The tool also has an audio player with a tempo adjuster so you can learn by playing along, if you wish.
(b) Provide support to enable you to take your own musical compositions and use the tool to turn them into musical notation.
Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, sapien platea morbi dolor lacus nunc, nunc ullamcorper. Felis aliquet egestas vitae, nibh ante quis quis dolor sed mauris. Erat lectus sem ut lobortis, adipiscing ligula eleifend, sodales fringilla mattis dui nullam. Ac massa aliquet.

L
Spare copy of Part B
Stacks Image 3253

playing a Low D whistle

Step 1: Some tips
Stacks Image 2746

This tunable whistle can be adjusted by sliding the barrel out or in.


Tips from Part A
I suggested a number of tips in Part A. Here's a quick summary.
* Buying a whistle—the first whistle you buy should be a high D,
* Grip—stick to the convention of holding the whistle with left hand above right,
* Fingering—learn to cover the holes completely by keeping fingers flat and don't allow unused fingers to stray close to open holes,
* The bottom note on a D whistle (with all the holes closed) is D. The notes going up the scale of D are:
D, E, F#, G, A, B, c#, d
* The upper register—blow harder to get these higher notes. They are usually written using lower case letters (i.e. 'e', 'a' and so on).
* Flat?—if your whistle sounds flat, try warming it up by giving it a brisk rub with a piece of cloth. Also, try blowing a bit harder to raise the pitch slightly (but avoid over-blowing).
* Spit—clear out any 'condensation' by placing a finger over the fipple and giving the whistle a hard blow.
* Adjusting the tuning—some whistles have a tuning slide on the barrel. Lengthen the barrel to lower the pitch and shorten the barrel to raise the pitch.
* Playing by ear—before worrying too much about musical notation, start off by playing a few simple tunes by ear.

For most people trying to get better at the tin whistle, the main goals are to:
- hit the notes accurately,
- to keep good rhythm and maintain a good steady tempo, and
- to develop a nice tone.

NOT INCLUDE HERE
You'll find some more useful tips here from 'sound adventurer' Peter Mitchell:
https://soundadventurer.com/ways-to-make-your-tin-whistle-sound-better/


Some more tips

Here are a few more suggestions.
Stacks Image 2761

sticky tape

1. How can I practice without annoying my neighbours?
Here's a trick for greatly reducing the volume of sound and so protecting the ears of the innocent. Take a short strip of sticky tape and place over roughly half the fipple (the little window in the mouthpiece where the sound comes out). The precise positioning is critical—cover too little and it will still sound loud; cover too much and you won't hear yourself playing at all.

Stacks Image 2772

the three keys to success

2. What is the best practice routine?
The most obvious way of developing your technique and keeping your fingers fluid is to play lots of tunes. Crucially, this will train your fingers to become comfortable with playing a wide range of musical phrases that recur in many other tunes.

When it comes to working on a new piece, I find that being able to read from a written score is a big advantage. Once I think I've got the notes under my fingers, I put the music away and work on playing it by ear. Without the distraction of following the musical score, I can concentrate on making my playing more musical.

Playing along with a recording is also helpful, particularly as it forces you to maintain a steady tempo. I use an app called Capo (Mac, iPad and iPhone only). This clever software allows the user to adjust the tempo and key and much else besides; it also lets you create short sections that can be looped repeatedly, which is handy for helping you to master a particularly tricky bit.

Stacks Image 2783

ornaments

3. Introduce variety into your playing
When you feel that your fingers have mastered the notes of a new tune, start to think about introducing a little bit of variety into your playing. In particular, when parts of a tune are repeated, find ways of making some small variations second time through. A way of doing this is to experiment with the use of embellishments known as ornamentation. Ornamentation is a particular feature of Irish music and examples are given in the next section.
Step 2: Ornaments
Ornamentation, also known as decoration, is a key element in Irish music. It is usually achieved by adding extra notes within the basic notes of a tune to make the experience more interesting.

If you wish to experiment with ornamentation, make sure that you …
… have the tune worked out in your head before starting to decorate it,
… keep a steady tempo (if you try to play too fast, your ornamentation will unbalance the basic tune).
… try to vary your ornamentation so that repeated sections still sound fresh,
… don't overdo it!

What are the main techniques of ornamentation?
There are many in which you can decorate a tune. Here are six.
1. tonguing,
2. using vibrato,
3. the slide,
4. the cut and the tap,
5. the roll, and
6. the cran.
These are explained below.


1. Tonguing
Tonguing is using your tongue when playing the whistle. You can do this by saying "Tuh" as you blow a note. Try to avoid touching the mouthpiece with your tongue—instead, touch the tip of your tongue on the palate of your mouth.

So why bother tonguing? One reason is that you may be playing the same note two or more times in succession, in which case tonguing is an easy way of splitting the note into separate notes of the same pitch. It's also a useful technique to use to avoid squeaks when when jumping from lower to upper octave (for example, try playing E followed by e, or G followed by g).
But the main advantage of tonguing is to give accent and shape to the music.

Don't overdo tonguing! Beginners sometimes try to tongue every note and this can sound jerky and unmusical. There are often parts of certain tunes where the music should flow smoothly (this style of playing is called 'legato') and to play the legato sections nicely you should try to avoid tonguing if possible.
Stacks Image 2794

My advice with tonguing is that less is more!


Stacks Image 2808

Vibrato on the note G
I'm shaking the fingers of my right hand close to the open holes.

2. What is vibrato?
If you're playing a tune containing long, sustained notes, it can sometimes sound mechanical and boring. To make a note more interesting, you can fluctuate the air coming out of the whistle so that the note vibrates in a wave—hence the name, vibrato.

There are two common ways of creating this effect.
(a) By fluctuating your blowing: some players talk about doing this using their diaphragm while others say they use their throat. You really need to watch someone using blowing vibrato and then try to copy what they do. It may be a skill that you eventually stumble upon and when you do, hang onto it!

Click to listen to a classical flute player, Matthew Roitstein, talking about how he achieves this effect with his blowing.

(b) Using finger vibrato: among whistle players, vibrato is more commonly achieved using the fingers. Try wafting your spare fingers close to the hole and experiment to get the effect you want. But as with all these effects, try not to overdo it!

Stacks Image 2819

Will Ye Go Lassie Go

3. The Slide
As the name suggests, a slide involves sliding your finger slowly across a hole so that the note slides up from one note to the next.
Listen to the audio where you'll hear me play two slides:
* from the second note (A) to the next (B) and
* from the tenth note (d) to the next (e).

Tune: Will Ye Go Lassie Go
G A B B A G E G
B d e e e d B d


Stacks Image 2830

two types of grace notes—cut and tap

4. The Cut and the Tap

Cuts and taps are also referred to as 'grace' notes.
A grace note is a single very short note inserted immediately before the main note being played.

The cut
In the case of the cut, the grace note is played above the main note. But we need to be more precise—which note should I play as the grace note, I hear you cry.
To play the simplest cut, choose as the grace note the note immediately above the main note that you are playing.
For example:
if you are playing a G, the grace note will be A,
if you are playing e, the grace note will be f#,
if you are playing a B, the grace note will be c#.
and so on

With the more traditional cut, the rule of thumb is a bit more complicated as the choice of grace note will depend on what main note you are playing. In general, it involves lifting either the third or the first finger of the left hand to make the grace note—i.e. I play the grace notes using either A or c#.
So …
… if I'm playing D, E, F# or G… my choice of grace note is A.
… if I'm playing A or B … my choice of grace note is c#.
… if I'm playing c# … my choice of grace note is d.


The Tap
In the case of the tap, the choice of grace note is much more straightforward— it is the note immediately below the main note.

Listen to the audio where you'll hear me demonstrate these two ornaments. Then I'll play them in the tune, Will Ye Go Lassie Go.

(a) the cut precedes the 4th note (B) and the grace note is c#,
(b) the tap precedes the 12th note (e) and the grace note is d.

Tune: Will Ye Go Lassie Go
G A B B A G E G
B d e e e d B d

Stacks Image 2841

the 5-note roll

5. The Roll
If you don't feel that a single grace note quite matches the extravagance of your mood, you could try playing a roll instead. Rolls are ornaments consisting of five notes. As with all ornamentation, the grace notes are played very quickly.

The choice of which notes to play can vary but here are the two most commonly used types of roll.
(a) The simple roll:
Start and finish with the main note and in between these first and last notes, play:
… up one note
… return to the main note,
…go down one more note,
before finally returning to the starting note.

Here are a couple of examples of this simple roll.
Simple roll on G: G A G F# G
Simple roll on B: B c# B A B

(b) Cut + Tap
A slightly more sophisticated form of roll is to play a cut followed by a tap. As with the simple roll, it starts and ends with the main note.
Here are a couple of examples (grace notes marked in blue).
roll on the note E: E A E D E
roll on the note G: G A G F# G
roll on the note A: A c# A G A

Listen to the audio where you'll hear me play both type of roll.
After that I'll play two rolls in the tune, Will Ye Go Lassie Go. They appear…
… on the third note (B) where I play: B c# B A B, and
… on the 11th note (e) where I play: e a e d e.

Tune: Will Ye Go Lassie Go
G A B B A G E G
B d e e e d B d

Stacks Image 2852

Tanner Bayles explains the cran

6. The Cran
The cran is one of the more advanced decorations and derives from ornamentation used by uilleann pipers. Click here for a very clear explanation by Tanner Bayles of how to play the cran.
Stacks Image 2861

Some useful YouTube links

Step 3: naming notes
In Part A, you were introduced to the 14 notes most commonly used on a D whistle, which are:
D, E, F#, G, A, B, c, c#, d, e, f#, g, a, and b

The notes in the lower register are usually written using capitals (D, E, G and so on) while the upper register notes are written in lower case (d, e, g and so on).
ABC Notation
The use of upper and lower case letters to represent notes in the lower and upper register is the basis of a computer-based language for writing out tunes, known as 'ABC notation'.

An example of ABC notation for the Irish tune 'Saddle the Pony" is shown here. As you can see, the top four lines comprise four header fields which set up important features of the music overall. In this example, these are:
X: the tune number,
T: the title,
M: the time signature (i.e. its underlying rhythm, which in this case is a jig), and
K: the musical key that it has been written in (in this case the key is G).

The remaining lines contain the notes and their durations. As you can see, all the notes are written as letters, some in upper case and some in lower, indicating lower and higher register, respectively.



Reminder—here again are the two fingering charts introduced in Part A. Have a look at them now to remind yourself of the names of the notes. You'll be able to build on this in Step 4, Reading Music.
Stacks Image 2872

An example of a tune
in ABC Notation

Whistle Fingering Chart: basic notes
Stacks Image 2883

Whistle Fingering Chart: upper register notes
Stacks Image 2889
Step 4: reading music
Stacks Image 2900

Dancing at the crossroads

Why bother learning conventional musical notation?
Well, this is an important question. Back in the day, not many tin whistle players ever bothered with musical notation—they simply learned tunes by ear or from friends and family or at the local crossroads dances which took place to the accompaniment of music from live musicians.
Well, times change. I can't tell you how many wasted Saturday nights I've spent standing at the crossroads of my local High Street with my whistle in my hand just hoping to get the chance to learn a few new Irish tunes. In the end I gave up, taught myself to read music and bought a couple of great tune books!

Seriously, though, you don't have to learn to read music to become a pro at the whistle but in my experience it certainly helps.

Some useful musical terms
If you want to go further with reading music on the tin whistle, there are some musical terms that you should be familiar with. Have a look at the picture shown here which lists a few important musical terms. If you're unsure about what some of them are, click below to find my quick summary of what they mean and how they are linked to the written musical notation that a tin whistle player might use.
Click here.
Stacks Image 2906

Some important musical terms


Duration and Pitch
The two most important things you need to know about a note are:
duration—how long it lasts,
pitch—how high or low it is.

For a tune written in modern musical notation, these two elements are dealt with as follows.
- Duration is indicated by the shape of the note.
- Pitch is shown by the position of where the note is placed on the stave—a high note is placed near the top of the stave while a low note is shown near the bottom.
Modern Musical Notation
No doubt you have already come across conventional musical notation as shown here with the tune Happy Birthday.
If you're not able to read musical notation satisfactorily, don't worry because help is at hand …

In this section you'll be able to learn the note names from their position on the musical stave. I've also included two fun quizzes to help you practise your grasp of the notation.


Stacks Image 2919

Happy Birthday written in
Conventional Musical Notation



Duration—how long a note lasts
The chart shows the note durations along with their names. As you can see, there are two sets of names, those used in the US and those used in the UK. Although brought up with the UK system, I plan to follow the US terminology as it is easier to grasp and to remember.
What are the note names?
As is indicated by the green shaded row, the five types of note centre around the 'quarter note', or quaver, which has a duration of 1 beat.
The durations of the other notes follow from this starting point:
* the half note lasts twice as long as the quarter note,
* the whole note lasts four as long as the quarter note,
* the eighth note lasts half as long as the quarter note,
* the sixteenth note lasts a quarter as long as the quarter note.
Stacks Image 2934

The note names

What is a dotted note?
Placing a dot after a note
Stacks Image 2943

a dotted note lasts half as long again

Lines and spaces
As you saw in Step 3, Naming Notes, here are 14 notes that you have a good chance of being able to play on your whistle.

D, E, F#, G, A, B, c, c#, d, e, f#, g, a and b.

In this section, I'll show you where these notes lie on the musical 'stave'. A musical note on the stave will either lie on a line or on a space between two lines. The names of the notes on the lines and the spaces, as well as hints for how to remember them are shown below.
Stacks Image 2952
The musical 'stave' consists of five lines and four spaces.

The Lines
Stacks Image 2972
The five lines represent the notes E, G, B, D and F.
'How will I remember that?', I hear you cry.
There are lots of mnemonics for these five notes. Here are two that I quite like. If you don't like either of these, try making one up of your own.

Every Good Boy Deserves Fries

or

Every Good Bird Does Fly

The Spaces
Stacks Image 2965
The four spaces are easily remembered as they spell the word FACE.

Notes outside the stave
You should now be able to read all the notes within the five lines and the four spaces of the stave. But what about notes that lie outside the stave—in particular, the note labelled 'D' at the bottom of the range and the three notes 'g', a' and 'b' which lie above the stave?
To notate these four notes, you just need to keep on going by extending the lettering beyond the stave. If necessary, insert a short 'ledger line' to indicate the next line (or lines) below or above the stave.
The notations for the bottom note D and for the three notes above the stave, g, a and b, are shown here.
Stacks Image 2985

Note that a ledger line has had to be inserted to indicate
the location of notes 'high a' and 'high b'.


Test your grasp of written notation
One entertaining way of getting these note names into your head is to take a quiz.
In fact, I've provided two quizzes here, one for helping you to name the notes in the lower register and a more advanced one covering all the playable notes in the two registers combined.
Have a go at these quizzes now. If you can tackle each quiz several times, then so much the better as this experience will really speed up your sight-reading when you start to learn new tunes.
Quiz 1
Learning the notation for the nine key notes in the lower register:

D, E, F#, G, A, B, c, c# and d.

Score:

Ranking:


Quiz 2
Learning the notation for the fourteen key notes in both registers combined:

Lower register: D, E, F#, G, A, B, c, c#, d
Upper register: e, f#, g, a and b.




Score:

Ranking:


Step 5: reading music—duration of a note
Stacks Image 3014

Dancing at the crossroads

Why bother learning conventional musical notation?
Well, this is an important question. Back in the day, not many tin whistle players ever bothered with musical notation—they simply learned tunes by ear or from friends and family or at the local crossroads dances which took place to the accompaniment of music from live musicians.
Well, times change. I can't tell you how many wasted Saturday nights I've spent standing at the crossroads of my local High Street with my whistle in my hand just hoping to get the chance to learn a few new Irish tunes. In the end I gave up, taught myself to read music and bought a couple of great tune books!

Seriously, though, you don't have to learn to read music to become a pro at the whistle but in my experience it certainly helps.

Some useful musical terms
If you want to go further with reading music on the tin whistle, there are some musical terms that you should be familiar with. Have a look at the picture shown here which lists a few important musical terms. If you're unsure about what some of them are, click below to find my quick summary of what they mean and how they are linked to the written musical notation that a tin whistle player might use.
Click here.
Stacks Image 3020

Some important musical terms


Duration and Pitch
The two most important things you need to know about a note are:
duration—how long it lasts,
pitch—how high or low it is.

For a tune written in modern musical notation, these two elements are dealt with as follows.
- Duration is indicated by the shape of the note.
- Pitch is shown by the position of where the note is placed on the stave—a high note is placed near the top of the stave while a low note is shown near the bottom.
Modern Musical Notation
No doubt you have already come across conventional musical notation as shown here with the tune Happy Birthday.
If you're not able to read musical notation satisfactorily, don't worry because help is at hand …

In this section you'll be able to learn the note names from their position on the musical stave. I've also included two fun quizzes to help you practise your grasp of the notation.


Stacks Image 3033

Happy Birthday written in
Conventional Musical Notation



Duration—how long a note lasts
The chart shows the note durations along with their names. As you can see, there are two sets of names, those used in the US and those used in the UK. Although brought up with the UK system, I plan to follow the US terminology as it is easier to grasp and to remember.
What are the note names?
As is indicated by the green shaded row, the five types of note centre around the 'quarter note', or quaver, which has a duration of 1 beat.
The durations of the other notes follow from this starting point:
* the half note lasts twice as long as the quarter note,
* the whole note lasts four as long as the quarter note,
* the eighth note lasts half as long as the quarter note,
* the sixteenth note lasts a quarter as long as the quarter note.
Stacks Image 3048

The note names

What is a dotted note?
Placing a dot after a note
Stacks Image 3057

a dotted note lasts half as long again

Lines and spaces
As you saw in Step 3, Naming Notes, here are 14 notes that you have a good chance of being able to play on your whistle.

D, E, F#, G, A, B, c, c#, d, e, f#, g, a and b.

In this section, I'll show you where these notes lie on the musical 'stave'. A musical note on the stave will either lie on a line or on a space between two lines. The names of the notes on the lines and the spaces, as well as hints for how to remember them are shown below.
Stacks Image 3066
The musical 'stave' consists of five lines and four spaces.

The Lines
Stacks Image 3086
The five lines represent the notes E, G, B, D and F.
'How will I remember that?', I hear you cry.
There are lots of mnemonics for these five notes. Here are two that I quite like. If you don't like either of these, try making one up of your own.

Every Good Boy Deserves Fries

or

Every Good Bird Does Fly

The Spaces
Stacks Image 3079
The four spaces are easily remembered as they spell the word FACE.

Notes outside the stave
You should now be able to read all the notes within the five lines and the four spaces of the stave. But what about notes that lie outside the stave—in particular, the note labelled 'D' at the bottom of the range and the three notes 'g', a' and 'b' which lie above the stave?
To notate these four notes, you just need to keep on going by extending the lettering beyond the stave. If necessary, insert a short 'ledger line' to indicate the next line (or lines) below or above the stave.
The notations for the bottom note D and for the three notes above the stave, g, a and b, are shown here.
Stacks Image 3099

Note that a ledger line has had to be inserted to indicate
the location of notes 'high a' and 'high b'.


Test your grasp of written notation
One entertaining way of getting these note names into your head is to take a quiz.
In fact, I've provided two quizzes here, one for helping you to name the notes in the lower register and a more advanced one covering all the playable notes in the two registers combined.
Have a go at these quizzes now. If you can tackle each quiz several times, then so much the better as this experience will really speed up your sight-reading when you start to learn new tunes.
Quiz 1
Learning the notation for the nine key notes in the lower register:

D, E, F#, G, A, B, c, c# and d.

Score:

Ranking:


Quiz 2
Learning the notation for the fourteen key notes in both registers combined:

Lower register: D, E, F#, G, A, B, c, c#, d
Upper register: e, f#, g, a and b.




Score:

Ranking:


Step 6: reading music— pitch
Stacks Image 3128

Dancing at the crossroads

Why bother learning conventional musical notation?
Well, this is an important question. Back in the day, not many tin whistle players ever bothered with musical notation—they simply learned tunes by ear or from friends and family or at the local crossroads dances which took place to the accompaniment of music from live musicians.
Well, times change. I can't tell you how many wasted Saturday nights I've spent standing at the crossroads of my local High Street with my whistle in my hand just hoping to get the chance to learn a few new Irish tunes. In the end I gave up, taught myself to read music and bought a couple of great tune books!

Seriously, though, you don't have to learn to read music to become a pro at the whistle but in my experience it certainly helps.

Some useful musical terms
If you want to go further with reading music on the tin whistle, there are some musical terms that you should be familiar with. Have a look at the picture shown here which lists a few important musical terms. If you're unsure about what some of them are, click below to find my quick summary of what they mean and how they are linked to the written musical notation that a tin whistle player might use.
Click here.
Stacks Image 3134

Some important musical terms


Duration and Pitch
The two most important things you need to know about a note are:
duration—how long it lasts,
pitch—how high or low it is.

For a tune written in modern musical notation, these two elements are dealt with as follows.
- Duration is indicated by the shape of the note.
- Pitch is shown by the position of where the note is placed on the stave—a high note is placed near the top of the stave while a low note is shown near the bottom.
Modern Musical Notation
No doubt you have already come across conventional musical notation as shown here with the tune Happy Birthday.
If you're not able to read musical notation satisfactorily, don't worry because help is at hand …

In this section you'll be able to learn the note names from their position on the musical stave. I've also included two fun quizzes to help you practise your grasp of the notation.


Stacks Image 3147

Happy Birthday written in
Conventional Musical Notation



Duration—how long a note lasts
The chart shows the note durations along with their names. As you can see, there are two sets of names, those used in the US and those used in the UK. Although brought up with the UK system, I plan to follow the US terminology as it is easier to grasp and to remember.
What are the note names?
As is indicated by the green shaded row, the five types of note centre around the 'quarter note', or quaver, which has a duration of 1 beat.
The durations of the other notes follow from this starting point:
* the half note lasts twice as long as the quarter note,
* the whole note lasts four as long as the quarter note,
* the eighth note lasts half as long as the quarter note,
* the sixteenth note lasts a quarter as long as the quarter note.
Stacks Image 3162

The note names

What is a dotted note?
Placing a dot after a note
Stacks Image 3171

a dotted note lasts half as long again

Lines and spaces
As you saw in Step 3, Naming Notes, here are 14 notes that you have a good chance of being able to play on your whistle.

D, E, F#, G, A, B, c, c#, d, e, f#, g, a and b.

In this section, I'll show you where these notes lie on the musical 'stave'. A musical note on the stave will either lie on a line or on a space between two lines. The names of the notes on the lines and the spaces, as well as hints for how to remember them are shown below.
Stacks Image 3180
The musical 'stave' consists of five lines and four spaces.

The Lines
Stacks Image 3200
The five lines represent the notes E, G, B, D and F.
'How will I remember that?', I hear you cry.
There are lots of mnemonics for these five notes. Here are two that I quite like. If you don't like either of these, try making one up of your own.

Every Good Boy Deserves Fries

or

Every Good Bird Does Fly

The Spaces
Stacks Image 3193
The four spaces are easily remembered as they spell the word FACE.

Notes outside the stave
You should now be able to read all the notes within the five lines and the four spaces of the stave. But what about notes that lie outside the stave—in particular, the note labelled 'D' at the bottom of the range and the three notes 'g', a' and 'b' which lie above the stave?
To notate these four notes, you just need to keep on going by extending the lettering beyond the stave. If necessary, insert a short 'ledger line' to indicate the next line (or lines) below or above the stave.
The notations for the bottom note D and for the three notes above the stave, g, a and b, are shown here.
Stacks Image 3213

Note that a ledger line has had to be inserted to indicate
the location of notes 'high a' and 'high b'.


Test your grasp of written notation
One entertaining way of getting these note names into your head is to take a quiz.
In fact, I've provided two quizzes here, one for helping you to name the notes in the lower register and a more advanced one covering all the playable notes in the two registers combined.
Have a go at these quizzes now. If you can tackle each quiz several times, then so much the better as this experience will really speed up your sight-reading when you start to learn new tunes.
Quiz 1
Learning the notation for the nine key notes in the lower register:

D, E, F#, G, A, B, c, c# and d.

Score:

Ranking:


Quiz 2
Learning the notation for the fourteen key notes in both registers combined:

Lower register: D, E, F#, G, A, B, c, c#, d
Upper register: e, f#, g, a and b.




Score:

Ranking:


Step 7: playing tunes
In Part A, I provided support for you to learn the following 7 starter tunes:
They are:
- Twinkle Twinkle Little Star (in D and G)
- Au Clare de la Luna (in G and D)
- Frère Jacques (in D)
- Egan's Polka (in G)
- You are my Sunshine (in G)

You were given:
(a) the notes written out in ABC notation format,
(b) a set of recordings of the tunes, along with a controller to adjust the tempo.

You can now repeat this exercise but this time reading the notes from conventional music notation. And again you'll have access to my audio recordings to play along with.

xxxxxxxxxxxx
The final step
You've now reached the final step in the process of learning to play the whistle both by ear and from musical notation. I have provided a link to 24 Irish tunes—12 reels and 12 jigs—along with my own audio recordings as well as the written music. The 24 tunes are well known in Irish musical circles and often feature in pub music sessions.

As was the case with the three starter tunes, the tempos are adjustable so start off slowly and gradually pick up the pace when you feel ready. Good luck!

Link to 12 reels and 12 jigs.
Acknowledgements
1. Thanks to Paul Rosen for developing the excellent ABC reader. Have a look at his website:
editor.drawthedots.com
2. Thanks to Stuart Marshall for developing the great app Quizzer which I used in Steps 4 and 5. Have a look at his website: https://shakingthehabitual.com/stacks/quizzer/