Tuesday, 20 January 2015

Tin Whistle Series: Teaching Tin Whistle to Beginners (Key of D)

This is the first of a series of posts based on teaching the tin whistle to children in primary school.
Over the next few weeks, I will be posting tunes to teach beginners, intermediate and advanced students, tunes suitable for a school masses, 'child friendly' songs and some extra resources you might find useful.

This week, I will be focusing on teaching the tin whistle to beginners. 

Step 1: Holding the Tin Whistle:
  • It is important to show the children how the left hand is placed at the top of the tin whistle (whether the player is right or left handed) and how they need to rest their thumbs underneath the tin whistle to hold it.
  • It is also important to get the children to practice covering all of the holes fully before they start playing anything. Get them to practice 'going up the stairs, and down the stairs' to practice the muscle movements of playing. 
  • Emphasise the importance of blowing gently.
  • Finally, tell them that when you put your hand in the air you expect silence and tin whistles on the table ('give me 5' also works for this!).

Step 2: Teaching the notes B A G:
  • Without them blowing into the tin whistle, teach them the notes B, A, G (using their left hand). Point out how this makes the word 'bag'. 
  • Call out a note for them to show you and get them to test each other in pairs (without blowing).
  • Get them to try and play the notes, by blowing gently and covering the notes fully.
  • Put various combinations of the notes on the board and get them to play these for you slowly. You could also get them to test each other in pairs too, by getting them to write note combinations for their partner to play. 
  • Don't worry too much about funny sounds at this stage, as a lot of children need a considerable amount of practice before the notes sound 'right'. Make sure they are covering all the holes and blowing as gently as possible however.
  • When they have spent some time practicing these notes, in your next lesson you can teach them the song: 'Mary Had a Little Lamb'.

Step 3: Teaching the notes F E D:
  • Without them blowing into the tin whistle, teach them the notes F, E, D (using both hands). Point out how this makes the word 'fed'. 
  • Repeat the above activities with the new notes.
  • When they have practiced and mastered these notes, teach them the song 'Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star'.

Step 4: Teach them some more simple, repetitive songs:

Step 5: Homework Sheet:
  • As they start building up tunes, they can use a homework sheet to keep a record of the pieces they have played. 
Finally, if you are a little rusty on the tin whistle yourself and would like to brush up a little on your skills, tinwhistletutorials has some excellent lessons, for all ability levels. I hope you found this post useful and keep an eye out for future posts on teaching the tin whistle!

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