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Thursday, 20 June 2013

Learning the Tin Whistle

Tin Whistle
I have just started to learn the Tin Whistle and I am finding it much harder than I expected to! As a child I had ear trouble and consequently never learned to play a musical instrument like the other kids. My singing voice was so bad I was asked to mime at the school concert so as not to let down the other choir members! I had corrective treatment when I was a teenager and I now enjoy almost normal hearing so I thought I'd attempt to master one of the many musical instruments we sell at Toyday.

I began with the mini accordion but the noise that I was making was scaring the seagulls outside, let alone the customers, so I decided instead to try the Xylophone. I had a bit more luck with this and after an hour or so I was competently playing the music to Tetris which goes like this:

Tetris

E B C D C B A A C E D C B C D E C A A

D F A G F E C E D C B B C D E C A A

I decided to up my game a bit and moved onto the Tin Whistle as I remember my class mates having recorder lessons in primary school. I also remember my father throwing mine on the fire so I proceeded with caution, not wanting to frighten any passers by. The scales and fingering technique are slightly different to the Recorder so I spent a few minutes getting used to the feel of it. I then set about playing Tetris again as I have now memorised this tune and found it was way too hard to get the tempo right. I searched on line for more music for the Tin Whistle and found a number of resources. I eventually settled on Annie's Song by John Denver because it has a nice easy tempo and it is after all my song (I'm Annie, and I'm ok thanks Michael).

Annie's Song

D    D  C   B  D  C
You fill up my senses
B     B B     C D  A   F
Like a night in the forest
A     A   A     B     C  D       C
Like the mountains in spring time
B      B B     C D   E
 Like a walk in the rain
D     D D     C  B   D   C
Like a storm in the desert
B     B B     C D    A   F
Like a sleepy blue ocean
A     A  B C   D   C
You fill up my senses
B        C  D  E D
Come fill me again

One of the important things to know about playing the Tin Whistle is it plays in two keys, depending on how hard you blow down it. Annie's song is in high D which is the key you get if you blow hard, (not very hard, just like saying P or T) if you blow softly (this is more like breathing out than blowing) you get a C key which is softer.

I found it easy to get the right notes but the whistle had a slightly airy tone so I covered the air hole very slightly with a piece of sellotape, experimenting with this is a great way to create a clearer or more broken sound. This song is a great beginners tune because it requires some extreme fingering, I found it very difficult to get all 6 fingers covering the holes in time.

I accidentally discovered that if you keep your last 3 fingers over the holes the whole time, it makes no difference to the high notes, this makes it a lot easier to manipulate. I can now finger my way through some much more complicated songs. I am currently practicing 'Take On Me' by A-Ha, however I cannot find a tin whistle fingering chart for this so I am relying on my ears to guide me to the right notes. So far I think it goes a little something like this;

G G D B B E E E F F
A B A A A E D G G G

But if anyone knows the right notes I'd very grateful if they could post them below for me.

As you can tell from my music selection I was a child of the 80's, but if your children are practicing the Tin Whistle today, here is a more timeless classic which your kids will love. Rather than a list of notes this is a finger chart, i.e. the 6 dots below each note show which holes on the Whistle to cover. Black = covered hole, white = open hole.

Twinkle Twinkle Little Star

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