I’ve never played a whistle before. Where do I start?
The whistle is a simple instrument to play. We advise that you begin on a High D Whistle (try and avoid first learning to play on a Low Whistle). We have many Tutor Packs designed to ease you into the wonderful world of whistling. If you search under ‘category’ you will see Tutor Packs listed. There are many to chose from to fit in with your budget. Make sure that you check out Special Offers as we always have a bargain on offer.
Which whistle should I buy?
Big Whistle stock the best tin whistles for any budget range. If you’re a beginner or just starting out, we recommend a high D from Feadog, Generation, or Clarke. Once you’ve got to grips with one of these, you might want to try your hand at a low D. Dixon and Howard both offer excellent quality options in the mid-range price bracket. For experienced whistlers looking to branch out, try MK, Goldie, and Carbony.
I love the sound of the low whistle and I want to buy one right away! Tell me what to do.
The Low Whistle is a specialist instrument and the finger spread required is physically demanding and is usually only developed with considerable practice. Unless you already play a traditional flute (the type with no finger keys) our advice would be not to make a Low Whistle your first whistle. Buy a High D first, learn how to play that, and then you can think about how to progress from there!
I want to learn how to play the whistle but I cannot read music. What should I do?
Many people who play the whistle cannot read music. You can if you wish just learn to play by ear; some players do this quickly almost by instinct. Others prefer hearing a tune on a Whistle Tune or Tutor CD and learning that way – avoiding reading any type of music at all.
Alternatively there is s good book by John Ryan who offers an alternative way of learning the whistle that does not involve reading music from the stave. This book can be found under Whistle Tutor Books ‘How To Play Irish Tin Whistle Book. 2nd Edition’. The second edition includes a CD and represents very good value for money.
I want to play the whistle and I am a fairly competent musicians. What should I do?
Many people who learn to play the whistle already play other instruments, chiefly Recorder, Flute, Clarinet and many more. Selecting the correct whistle in this case can be tricky. Competent musicians can soon become frustrated on entry-level instruments. In this case you may want to consider a professional level instrument. We stock a range of excellent quality whistles to suit experienced musicians with a budget of £50 and upwards.
My fingers are really big. Is it possible to learn to play a whistle?
People with very large fingers occasionally struggle with playing the high whistle. If your fingers are big it is difficult to cover the holes properly as the spacing on high whistles is close together.
It is, however, rare that your fingers are going to be too big though! Generally most players can cover holes easily and have adequate sensitivity to be able to feel and control navigation up and down the scale.
Having large hands is often a bonus when playing lower whistles. The difficulty arises as tutor material is written for High D whistles.
So don’t be put off – people with smaller hands would love a bigger reach to be able to play a bigger whistle.
What is the difference between a tuneable and a non-tuneable whistle?
A tuneable whistle is one that can ‘marginally’ sharpen or flatten its pitch. Most instruments are pitched in what is known as ‘Concert Pitch’. However, playing in ensemble your pitch may need to vary slightly, depending on ambient room temperature or the type of other instrumentalist you play with.
To facilitate being tuneable, the whistle head or a slide (depending on model) is used to lengthen or shorten the whistle, to alter the pitch.
Many whistles are ‘fixed pitch’ (non tuneable) so unless you intend to play with others, when pitch may need to be adjusted, having a tuneable whistle is not necessary. The decision is yours – but if you are starting off, don’t bother. Choose a non tuneable.
If you think you may need to ‘fine tune’ to facilitate accurate tonality whilst playing with others, then choose tuneable.
What key or type of whistle should I start off with?
All tutor material is based around the D Whistle – often called a High D or Soprano D. Do not, when starting off, be tempted to buy whistles in keys different than D – one key, D! A good High D Whistle to start off with will cost not much more than £5.
Get familiar with it, build your confidence and repertoire and then consider investing more. Look under Tutor Packs to see our combined packages, which include Whistle, Tutor Book & Soundtrack CD.