Questions that should be asked, if they haven't...


Are pennywhistles good instruments for children? 

Pennywhistle (aka tin whistle, Irish whistle, flageolet) is an excellent starter instrument for kids.  It is easy to learn and teach, very inexpensive, and makes real, honest-to-goodness music.  A grade-school age child can begin to play tunes with some instruction and a couple hours of practice.  Since the first hurdles are easy to get past, the child can experience success quickly, and this serves as motivation to learn more.

Unlike some gimmicky "children's" instruments, however, the pennywhistle offers an amazing expressiveness and range of repertoire as a player advances.

Also, at a few dollars a whistle, it's not the end of the world if the whistle gets used to for batting practice with rocks (hypothetically speaking, of course).  


What makes pennywhistles easy to learn and play? 

The pennywhistle has very simple fingerings and doesn't require learning embouchure.  The pennywhistle plays straight up the major scale simply by lifting one finger, then the next from the bottom to the top.  Since the whistle has a mouthpiece, or fipple, creating the tone is as easy as blowing gently into the whistle.

One of my favorite things about whistles is that they are easy and rewarding to get started with, but there is no "ceiling" - a person can work for years becoming a better whistler, and still have room to learn. Just listen to Paddy Maloney, Joanie Madden, James Galway, and some of the other world-class whistle players.


What about sharps, flats, and other keys? 

Pennywhistles are made in many keys - the most common are C and D.  D is the more traditional key, especially for folk and Irish traditional music.  I have transposed all the music on this website for D whistle (two sharps in the key signature).  The musically-inclined among us will notice that some of the songs are actually in G (one sharp in the key signature)..

Playing notes that aren't part of the scale (accidentals) is a more advanced skill.  The beginner can learn many songs before having to learn a couple of accidentals.

Many songs on this site do require accidentals. The Teaching Resources page has a handful identified as starter tunes, advanced beginner, and so on.


Why tablature - isn't it better to learn to read music?

It is very useful to read music, and I encourage the endeavor. Fact is, music existed long before we had a note and staff system to write it down, and people learned by ear, which is also a useful skill to develop.

Folks (especially kids) may not have the time or inclination to learn to read music. Tablature provides another way to transmit a tune over time and distance, along with the music staff and midi files. Here you can learn a tune by ear, by music staff notation, by tablature, or any combination of the three.

My hope is that the learner can also use the sheet music to begin associating the music staff to notes played on the whistle.


What software do you use to create the sheet music?

I use Noteworthy Composer, and a whistle tablature font that I created. I create the pdf files using PrimoPDF, which is freeware. If you're really curious, e-mail me, and I'll describe the process in detail.


Where can I get the whistle tablature font?

Right here. It's a zip file with the font and a pdf file that shows the keyboard equivalents.


Why doesn't the sheet music display correctly on my computer? 

Hmmm, hold a printout close to your monitor, and maybe I can see what's wrong... 

The software to create the pdf files embeds the fonts needed into the music. It should work on most current PCs or Macs. I have had a couple of reports of people with either very old computers, or very old versions of Adobe Reader, having trouble. Upgrade if you can. Don't feel bad, the sheet music is all wonky on my brand-new Blackberry, too.

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