So you want to learn how to play the tin whistle but don’t know where to find tin whistle lessons? Well, you’ve come to the right place…

Is The Tin Whistle Easy to Learn?

Yes. The basics of tin whistle playing are easy to learn. Like all musical instruments however it takes time, patience and hard work to master. Breath control, good quality tone, and ornamentation can take time.

Is The Tin Whistle Easier Than The Recorder?

This is a question I get asked a lot but not one that has a definitive answer. The short answer is, it’s subjective. Personally (and this is a very biased answer) I find the tin whistle both easier and more enjoyable to play.

The tin whistle is of course better suited to traditional Irish music while the recorder is typically used to play Early Music as well as Baroque, Renaissance or Classical music.

How Can I Learn to Play the Tin Whistle?

The short answer is, find a teacher. One to one tuition offers many benefits when it comes to learning music.

If you can’t find a tin whistle teacher however, there are alternative solutions.

Choose the Right Resource for You

Some people work well as independent learners. If you’re one of those people then I suggest getting your hands on a good quality tin whistle tutor book and following its instructions. These tutorial books are perfect for those who can already read sheet music and can rely on it to learn to play a tune.

If you struggle with self motivation however, or need to rely on learning by ear, or reading ABC notation, then I have just the thing for you.

Online Tin Whistle Lessons

Online tine whistle lessons offer the benefits of one to one classes, with the added bonus of being able to learn entirely at your own pace, whenever or wherever you want.

McNeela Ultimate Tin Whistle Lessons Course

The McNeela Ultimate Tin Whistle Course is one of the best online tin whistle courses on the market today. This innovative course promises to challenge you in fun and exciting ways. The boring lessons of your school days are behind you!

The course is divided into three sections – beginner, intermediate and advanced – each specially tailored to help you get the most out of your learning experience.

Beginner Tin Whistle Lessons

The Beginner Course will equip you with all the skills and tools you need to sound good right from your very first note. In fact, you’ll be session ready in just ten weeks! Learn everything you need to know about the tin whistle, including basic technique and ornamentation and your first six session tunes. 

These ten structured video lessons will teach you everything you need to know to be session ready. Learn basic technique, ornamentation and your very first Irish session tunes all in a fun, relaxed environment. Follow John’s expert guidance to establish a good practice routine and in just ten weeks you’ll be a competent, confident player, ready to progress to the next level. 

Why stop there? Once you’ve completed the beginner lessons, you’ll be ready to move on to the intermediate and advanced courses too!

Intermediate Tin Whistle Lessons

The Intermediate Course promises to help you unlock your inner musician. Develop your musicianship skills, unlock musical literacy, master advanced ornamentation and of course, learn the best session tunes going. After just ten short weeks, you won’t even recognise your playing!

Advanced Tin Whistle Lessons

Finally, for the truly motivated, there’s the Advanced Course. These lessons are suitable for even the most experienced whistle players – we guarantee you’ll learn something new! The final series in our tin whistle course will transform you into a master tin whistle player, while challenging you in fun and exciting ways. 

So what are you waiting for? Whether you want to be the next Mary Bergin, or just want to show off at your next session, let us help you get started on your musical journey.

What you’ll learn

This complete lessons package will teach you everything you need to know about the tin whistle. Under John’s expert guidance you’ll learn basic tin whistle technique, unlock staff notation and even learn your very first Irish session tune. He’ll show you how to establish a good practice routine that will help you reach the next stage of playing in record time!

These lessons will give you access to a treasure trove of information. You’ll discover the tricks of the trade as John draws on his vast knowledge and experience as a professional musician and shares his insider knowledge. Best of all, you can learn entirely at your own pace. Press pause, replay – you’re in full control. Set your own schedule and learn anywhere, any time.

How You’ll Learn

Learn at your own pace in the comfort of your own home. Our experienced teacher John O’Brien creates a friendly, relaxed environment, making the learning process highly enjoyable for players of all ages.

Traditional Irish musicians are renowned for their musical ear. Follow John’s teaching method of ‘sound before symbol’ and you too can develop your aural skills. Soon, you’ll be the envy of musicians the world over. 

Follow a structured course that builds on each previous lesson. Increase your cognitive and motor skills through recap and repetition. Grasp new concepts easily as John provides you with the building blocks you need for learning. Each new skill is reinforced with a specially tailored practice exercise designed to help you develop muscle memory and commit tunes and techniques to memory.

Your Teacher

John O'Brien Setanta Whistles

How do you get to Carnegie Hall? Take up the tin whistle!

John O’ Brien hails from one of Ireland’s most prominent musical families. Immersed in the culture from birth, he grew up surrounded by traditional Irish music and began playing the tin whistle at a young age. Today, John is one of the greatest Irish tin whistle players in the world.

John has toured extensively in the US, Europe and Japan and has performed in venues from Carnegie Hall and Radio City Music Hall in New York to The Apollo Theatre in London and the National Theatre of Ireland. In 1997 he joined Riverdance – The Lagan Company before becoming the uilleann piper with Riverdance on Broadway in 2001. 

A versatile player, John has played and recorded with a variety of international acts including Celtic Woman, Celtic Thunder, Heartbeat of Home, the Irish Film Orchestra, The Celtic Tenors, The Irish Tenors, Dolly Parton, Ragús, Sessions from the Hearth and Bill Whelan.

John is also a qualified primary school teacher and has delivered workshops and masterclasses in traditional Irish music as far afield as New Zealand. What better way to learn than under the instruction of an experienced teacher who is also a seasoned professional? Draw on his decades of experience and lifelong immersion in traditional Irish music. Under John’s expert guidance you too can become a master tin whistle player. 

Transform Your Tin Whistle Playing With These Easy Steps

Regardless of which learning method you choose, following the steps below will help accelerate your playing and bring you to the next level of music making in no time at all.

Listening to Irish Music

It may seem obvious but the importance of learning through listening cannot be overstated. Listen to the many great tin whistle players that have paved the way for today’s musicians.

There’s no shortage of brilliant Irish music to listen to. If you’re looking for a little inspiration make sure to check out the McNeela Tin Whistle Blog – it’s packed full of handy hints and tips for seasoned pros and beginner musicians alike.

Discover the tin whistle playing of Mary Bergin 

Learn About the Great Revolution of Modern Tin Whistle Playing


We’ve all familiar with the old adage ‘practice makes perfect’. It’s mostly true. Slow, deliberate practice, with focused intent will make perfect – or at least pretty close.

So make sure to slow down, take your time, and don’t be afraid to repeat yourself over and over again. Make sure to be patient and give yourself the time it takes to master a new skill, and for your fingers to learn new movements.

Source a Quality Instrument

You’re only as good as the instrument you play, so make sure to get your hands on a quality tin whistle. For advice on buying a tin whistle make sure to check out the McNeela Tin Whistle Buyer’s Guide.


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  1. Hello,

    I have a 5 year old girl that is interested in tin whistle lessons. As we live abroad, do you offer or can recommend where I can get online private lessons?

    Thanks in advance if you can help.


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