Irish Tin Whistle Revisited

So the other day my wife arose from an intense reorganization session in the basement, gave me a look and said “guess what I found?” in a sing-song voice. There’s a ton of things that have gone missing in our house and it was hard to guess. She beat me to it by holding out my Clarke Pennywhistle (affiliate link). Maybe a year ago I’d gone looking for it, and come up with a bit less hair but otherwise empty handed.

I’d bought it back in the 90’s, to play while hiking and backpacking. I’d gotten the Clarke book and cassette, promptly lost the cassette, and learned a few tunes before (I think) I got distracted by the guitar. This happens – I get into one instrument, and then another calls. By the way, I still pick up the guitar.

Anyway it being recently found I decided to give it a try again.

I’ve started learning some tunes, and accumulating some whistles – they’re very cheap, $20 is the high end – and a few books. I’ve discovered that copying the tunes down into my music Moleskine both puts them into a nice, easy to carry format and also prompts some learning from a different perspective. When copying the notes, I think about the melody and rhythm as I do it, which helps a bit. Having only a handful of songs available keeps me focused. I’ve found that copying them requires intense concentration (I do it in ink) to avoid mistakes, and it’s an excellent way to take a break from something.

The Chiff and Fipple, the main online site for tin whistling, is a great please to learn about the surprisingly large world of tin whistling and the forum has been a great resource.

One of the things I’d learned was that a lot of folks use stoplight waiting time to practice. While stopped at a light, it’s easy to pick up the whistle, play a few bars or a song or two. Light turns green, you drop the whistle, and on your way you go. I drive surface streets to work, through perhaps ten lights along with a set of train tracks. I now see red lights and trains as an opportunity rather than an inconvenience.

The girls enjoy tooting on them as well, but don’t yet have the dexterity or attention span to really learn music yet. Soon.

Another aspect of this is that you can make your own whistles and flutes out of PVC pipe – they have the same fingering. I’ve made a few flutes, but the main thing I’ve learned so far is that getting a clear, solid tone out of a flute is far more difficult than one would think!

If you’re looking for a cheap, simple way to bring a little music into your life, give the tin whistle a try.

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