Brother Steve's links page
Here is a list of sites related to this one or maintained by Brother Steve.
Roger Millington Publishing. Books by Packie Manus Byrne, a traditional singer and whistle player from Donegal.
Siamsa School of Irish Music, Montreal. The crucible in which these pages were formed.
Jean Duval's one-handed whistle suites.
Before I get onto links outside this domain, let me reiterate (in case you were under any illusion) that Brother Steve's pages are far from a complete guide to whistle playing. To acquire the "intangibles" of good style requires familiarity with the playing of fine players. To help you with this, I have assembled a series of transcriptions of fine players, the primary contributor being Peter Laban, a piper and photographer living in Miltown Malbay, County Clare. I hope you'll find many hours of useful study there.
As I say in the Introduction, this site does not aim to cater to complete beginners. There are no note charts, advice on blowing the whistle for the first time, or tunes such as Frère Jacques. So if you are a total beginner on the whistle, you will find basic information and pointers at the following sites. Take them as you find them.
- The Chiff and Fipple website has some stuff for total beginners. This site is mentioned in more detail below.
- There are video lessons by Sean Cunningham at whistletutor.com.
- The Whistle Workshop by Dave Auty has some teaching material.
Off the web, tutor books for the whistle abound. Here are a few that you may want to check out.
- The Clarke Tin Whistle Handbook by Bill Ochs. Bill is a very good teacher, and his book seems to be one of the few that thoroughly addresses the needs of the beginner.
- The Complete Irish Tinwhistle Tutor by L.E. McCullough. L.E. McCullough is a fine player, but I must say that what I have heard of his book and some of its devotees makes me think that it may be more confusing than helpful in the early stages.
- Grey Larsen's Essential Guide to Irish Flute and Tin Whistle is a monstrous tome, with two accompanying CDs, recently published by Mel Bay. The core of the book is a massively detailed exploration of ornamentation. This is sandwiched between some early chapters with good basic information and a later section of transcriptions, similar in intent to the ones on this site referred to at the top of this page (but minus the sound clips, which undermines their usefulness in a very serious fashion).
Grey Larsen's extremely thorough treatment of ornamentation is a little too left-brain for my taste. I would say that this book especially well suited to people who come to Irish music from another background, such as classical music, and those who like complex systems of nomenclature - and exercises. A smaller work derived from the above is The Essential Tin Whistle Toolbox, which I have not seen. Grey Larsen also sells what he calls "tune packets" for a modest sum: you get a downloadable transcription, commentary and recording.
Multimedia tutorials (with text, music and video clips) are available.
- The Online Academy of Irish Music, launched in 2010, offers tin whistle tuition by Thomas Johnson. Thomas is a fine player, but since I have not sampled the lessons and have heard no reports from people who have, this is not an official Bro. Steve recommendation for the moment!
- No longer available new, but you might be able to find a second-hand copy of the CD-ROM tutorial from MadForTrad. The teacher is Brian Finnegan, virtuoso whistle player (and a serious exponent of triple-tonguing) who came to prominence with the excellent but now defunct band Flook. I've had a chance to browse the package and I think it's a fine job of work.
Much more valuable than websites, books, and multimedia tutors, however, is tuition from a skilled teacher. If you don't have a good teacher nearby, and even if you do, you should consider going to summer schools. In the US, there is a fine one in the form of the East Durham Irish Arts Week in the Catskills mountains of New York State - where the great Mary Bergin teaches advanced classes, along with other very fine teachers for other levels. Another place to get tuition from top players is the Willie Clancy Summer School held every July in Miltown Malbay, Co. Clare.
From time to time readers write to ask me what whistles I think they should buy. I always reply that I don't do whistle recommendations, for lots of reasons - among them the fact that there are dozens of makes I have never tried, the fact that everyone has different tastes and purposes, and the fact that people have to work out what suits them.
However, I may as well come clean. I like good old-fashioned cheap whistles, mainly. Generation whistles are my perennial favourites in the high-whistle department. If you aren't sure you can pick out good ones or "tweak" them to suit your needs, then you won't go wrong with Jerry Freeman's tweaked whistles. His Generations are as good as they get, and his other models may suit people very well. You can get them from Jerry's own site or from various retailers.
The only low whistles I play are those made by Colin Goldie, which are truly superb.
And that's all I have to say on the matter! (Other makers, please don't ask me to link to your sites. Thanks.)
I don't feel inclined to construct a comprehensive list of tinwhistle links. I told you already, I'm lazy. Also, plenty of people are doing that very well already. If you want such an article, visit The TinWhistle WebRing and browse the many sites there. Some have very good lists of links.
If you've never been there, you must visit Chiff and Fipple, a sprawling, whimsical website run by the resourceful Dale Wisely, who modestly calls himself "the Undisputed King of Internet Tinwhistle Journalism." There is also a messageboard on which you can ask all manner of questions. (And get all manner of answers.) You can also subscribe to an e-newsletter compiled by Dale.
There's a page of whistle links at the Open Directory project, maintained by Sue Peterson.
Packie Manus Byrne. This man is not just a gifted tinwhistler. He's also
a fine traditional singer and storyteller, and has had a varied and eventful
life including spells as an actor, circus hand, steeplejack and smuggler.
He has also published a few jolly fine books. (With a little help
from Brother Steve and others.) The most interesting of these, for
whistle players, is his new tunebook,
A Dossan of Heather. Read all about him, and his books, at the above links.
If you're at all interested in the Irish flute, you must call in at Brad Hurley's flute page. Lots of very useful practical information and pointers to all places else.
Gordon Turnbull's The Flow is another fine and beautifully designed site for flute players.
Rob Greenaway's Irish Flute Pages have much that is of interest to whistlers.
Brother Steve's site grew, in a sense, out of Montreal's Siamsa School of Irish Music. You can find out about the school here. This site maintains a useful set of links, particularly relevant to anyone living in Eastern Canada.
Nothing to do with whistles or traditional music, but exceedingly beautiful,
is the Celtic enamelled jewellery of
Catherine Crowe, a fine artist and
craftswoman who is also a fine traditional singer. Her pieces make wonderful
gifts to others or to yourself.
Updated 14 October 2004