Thursday, November 19, 2009

Flook - Pressed For Time

Live on the Blackstaff Sessions, BBC Northern Ireland, 2006.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Clodagh Holland on Whistle

Three reels: "Trip to London", "Down the Broom" and "Kitty Goes a' Milking played by tin whistle player Clodagh Holland from Eglish, Co. Tyrone. This recording was made at the Ulster Fleadh in Warrepoint, Co. Down in July 2004.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Michael McGoldrick Snow in the mountain 2009

Michael McGoldrick plays "The Mist Covered Mountain" on whistle.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Sporting Paddy

Irish music on whistle and bodhran.

Cormac Breatnach - Deiseal

Cormac Breatnach plays with band Deiseal. More Info @

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Fred Morrison, Michael McGoldrick and Donal Lunny

A selection of reels from fiddle player Katie Boyle from Glasgow, Scotland on the Comhaltas Concert Tour of North America in October 2007. The reels are "McCahill's" and "The Flood on the Road to Glenties".

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

John Kellys Jig MP3

Irish jig on tin whistle

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Tin whistle, Scottish Gaelic among workshop topics at Cape Breton festival

SYDNEY, N.S. — If you want to learn about the history of the tin whistle or pick up a bit of Gaelic, the 13th annual Celtic Colours International Festival is the place to be.
A tin whistle workshop will introduce beginners to the instrument, discussing basic scales and suitable music. And an introductory class taught by a singer/storyteller will help students understand Scottish Gaelic.
Other workshops cover subjects ranging from quilting and weaving to fabric dyeing, water colour painting and stained glass.
One session will be devoted to locker hooking - a craft that originated in Britain in the 19th century with six-ply yarn. Participants will use carded wool from a Cape Breton flock of sheep.
And a lecture by author Gerald Pocius will attempt to answer the question: What is Irish about Newfoundland architecture?
The festival, running Oct. 9 to 17, will present dozens of concerts at venues throughout Cape Breton Island.
On the web:

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Sean Ryan on Tin Whistle

Just love the way Seán plays. Fantastic exponent of the tin whistle in traditional music. Here he plays two reels with a great bodhrán player Johnny ( Ringo) McDonagh. Recorded in Taylor's Pub, Galway in 1990.

The Mason's Apron - Micho Russell

Micho Russell plays two reels, Masons Apron agus reel gan ainm.

Saturday, September 5, 2009

Tin whistle MP3 - Low F Reel

An irish traditional reel played on a Low F whistle made bu Tommy Martin (Thornton Whistles)

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Tin Whistle Mp3

Doug Goodhart plays a reel on whistle : Beamish's Goat

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

The Fermoy Lasses - Reel

Learn an Irish tune on tin whistle. Sheet music at

Friday, August 14, 2009


Talented Tinwhistle player Adrian McCarron will launch his first Solo CD 'My Own Style' at Hickeys Bar Dromahane on Sunday August 16. Its hard to imagine that anyone could make such wonderful music from a short pipe with a number of little holes in it, but this is what Adrian McCarron can do and can do better than most. Everyone is welcome to the launch where you can enjoy some great music from Adrian, from special guests 'Black Rose' and some friends of Adrian. Sean Donlon of C103 will launch the CD. Everything kicks off at 9.30pm and admission is free.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

The Boy in the Gap & Miss Hogan's Reel

Mp3 download with James Morrisson on tin whistle.

Tin Whistle and Flute, unknown - piano, Columbia 33357-F. Morrison plays tin whistle on this disc, the other side of which was on Viva Voce's 2 cassette Morrison release "The Professor." Morrison solos on Miss Hogan's, otherwise known as the Boys of the Lough. They finish with two parts of the Boys of Ballisodare. It is noteworthy that the piper Willie Clancy also didn't bother with the third part of this tune, which is more suited to the fiddle.

Colm O'Snodaigh

Colm Ó Snodaigh is a member of the traditional Irish folk group Kíla. He plays the flute, tin whistle, guitar, saxophone and percussion. He also sings with the group Kíla and released a solo album entitled Giving in 2007 where he sings in all the tracks. The album is a mixture of Colm's own compositions written in both Irish and English. He released another album in 1990 of 10 acoustic pop songs in Irish, entitled Éist.

Recording the Whistle

At some point after you begin learning to whistle, it may be beneficial to record your playing. Listening to recordings of your playing gives you a fresh perspective of your playing, and can be valuable in pinpointing areas where you need improvement.
Of course, a standard cassette recorder is perfectly serviceable to record your playing. However, you do have a few more options, thanks to current digital recording technology.

Recording Tunes Using Your Computer
Shareware/Freeware is available for downloading that works with the soundcard in your computer, allowing you to plug a microphone into your sound card and record .WAV files. These .WAV files can then be converted to the more standard MP3 files using separate software, also available for downloading from the Web. I have had great success with a freeware program called Audacity, which is availabe at

Using Audacity, I have recorded surprisingly good quality .WAV files of my whistle, fiddle (and, most recently, flute) playing using only the cheesy plastic microphone that came with my old Gateway desktop.

Recording Tunes Using Digital Portable Recorders

OK, now we get to one of the big debates: which is the best portable recorder for recording sessions, rehearsals, and MP3 recorder or a MiniDisk recorder? The basic pros and cons:

MiniDisk Recorders: Recording quality is usually either very good or excellent. Blank MiniDisks are fairly inexpensive. Unfortunately, with most MiniDisks you cant drag and drop MP3 files from a MiniDisk player to your PC (you can do this with an MP3 player)...this means that if you want to transfer 3.0 hours of music to or from your PC, you have to let the MiniDisk player run for 3.0 hours.

MP3 Recorders: Most have massive storage capacity. MP3 recorders have drag and drop capbability, allowing you to instantly move large files between the recorder and your desktop. With 20 Gigs or more of hard drive, you can also walk around with something like a bazillion CDs to listen to, and you can record for hours at a time (unlike MiniDisks, which only have an hour or so of recording time each--though rumor has it that Sony is coming out with a new format that will dramatically increase recording time on each disk).

Clips & Snips

An online collection of Irish whistle mp3s, that you can download for free. You can also participate by uploading your own recordings.

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Sean Walsh and the Comhaltas Tour musicians

From the 2007 Comhaltas Concert Tour of Ireland, flute player Sean Walsh from Co. Monaghan begins this selection of reels with a whistle solo, playing "The Silver Spear". He is joined on whistle by piper Jimmy Morrison and the full group of musicians complete the selection with "The Green Gates Reel".

The 2007 Concert Tour of Ireland features Evelyn Healy and Katie Cullen on fiddle, Peter Staunton and John Carroll on button accordion, Sean Walsh and Siobhán Ní Chonaráin on flute, Jimmy Morrison on uilleann pipes, Ernestine Healy on Concertina, Brona Graham on banjo, Cathy Potter on harp, Eimer Arkins, Joe Arlins and Bruce Scott singing and Sonny Mc Dermott as the tour manager. The dancers are Aidan Mc Loughlin (Leitrim), Teresa Donaghue (Westmeath), Laura Crossan (Leitrim), Cathal McGarrigle (Offaly) and Hannah Longmore (Wicklow).

New Tin Whistle Website has whistle information and links. 

Worth a visit.

How to build a simple Low D Whistle

This article contains 3 sections:

1 - General low D pennywhistle construction instructions
2 - Exact dimensions of my copper (water-pipe) instrument
3 - Exact dimensions of my aluminum (shower-rod) instrument



I set out one morning in early 1997 to make a low whistle in the
key of D and had it completed by noon, using only hand tools
(except for an electric drill).

There are only two components: a length of 7/8" outer-diameter
regular copper water-pipe & a short piece of 13/16" outer-diameter
hardwood dowel-rod. Both items are available at any hardware store.
Note: even though the outside diameter of the tubing measures 7/8"
and the inner diameter doesn't actually measure 3/4", this type
pipe is known in the plumbing business as "3/4 pipe". Also, there
are two types of such pipe -- Type "M", which is the desired
"thin-wall" & most commonly available variety and type "L" which
is thicker walled and best avoided. The desired wall-thickness is

If folks knew just how very easy it was to build such low
whistles, there would be more around. It's frightening how much
some of these things cost in the music catalogs -- and to think
they still have the nerve to call them PENNYwhistles! This whistle
sounds JUST as good as any of the commercially made low D
instruments I've played (noticeable better than at least one) & is
not a "makeshift" affair or "beginner-quality" instrument by any

It took far longer to write-up these instructions than it did to
construct the whistle itself.


The entire instrument remains cylindrical --- the only "flattening
or contorting is a small depression in the area just down-wind of
the mouthpiece "window" & a flattening on the top part of the
mouthpiece, upwind of the "window".


- Cut & de-burr a 2 foot length of the copper tubing.



The dowel will not quite fit inside the copper tubing & it must
be reduced in diameter a small bit. I simply used coarse
sand-paper wrapped around one end of the (still un-cut)
dowel-rod and then rotated the rod with one hand while applying
pressure on the sand-paper with the other hand. Keep testing the
fit & stop when the dowel fits inside the tube without having to
hammer it in (ie. when it can still be pushed in with strong
finger pressure). This sanding goes rather slowly & may take a
few minutes. Cut the plug so it's 1-1/16" long.




This flat creates the "wind-passageway". Mark the desired area
to be removed with a sharp pencil & sand away the wood up to the
pencil lines, according to the specs below (put the sand-paper
on a flat surface & hold the plug while sanding).


End-view of wood plug / /\ \
(much enlarged) , take off 3/32" here* ,

| |

| |

\ /
, ,
~ - ~

* IMPORTANT LATE NOTE (6/20/98): I now prefer to take AT LEAST
3/32" off. More troubles seem to occur with less taken off than
with more. Also see notes in "some hints and suggestions"
section towards the very end of this article.


This illustration is much enlarged & not necessarily to scale.

| ---------
| locate| |
| this| w |
| wooden plug cut| i | "sink"
| inserted directly| n L| area
| inside this over the| d I| (see def-
| protion of end of| o P| inition
| the tubing the| w | below)
| wooden| |
| plug| |
| ---------
plug ends
Make the "window" 3/8" by 19/32". here
Cut & file as cleanly as is possible.

Mark out the location of the window with a pencil and carefully,
using a hacksaw (or jeweler's saw if available), make the two
longer cuts. Then carefully file away the copper between these
two cuts 'til the desired "window" is created. De-bur
everything. Using a small file, somewhat "sharpen" the "lip"
(downwind edge) of the newly created "window". It shouldn't be
made anywhere near "knife-sharp".


DEFINITION: The area just downwind of the "window" may have a
name but I don't know of any, so a definition might be called
for here: This area is the roughly triangular-shaped area
adjacent to the "lip", and is that area sunk" or lowered to
achieve proper "whistle" tone & volume. Let's call it the "SINK"



I used a very small brass ball-peen hammer to depress this area
and make the "sink". An alternative might be to use a
pencil-shaped piece of hardwood, hit with a hammer.

--------- \
| | \
mouthpiece | w | \
end of | i L| \
instrument | n I| "sink" ,
| d P|
| o | /
| w | /
| | /
| | /
--------- /

The "lip" splits the airflow and creates the whistle's whistle.
I find that with this instrument, the best sound comes when the
"lip" is a bit BELOW "mid-way" when you peer into the mouthpiece
end of the instrument. Here's an attempt to illustrate this:
This "lip" should be as straight across as possible when viewed
through the wind-passageway.


note the flattened top of tube

PS: This is
supposed to * * * * * * * * *
be round * wind-passageway *
(except *______________________________________
for the * ^lip *
flattened *************top*of*wood*plug******************
top) **************************************************


If (once the next two steps have been performed) you don't get a
good sound, don't be afraid to sink the edge even lower. If you
go too far, a rod can be inserted inside the copper tube to coax
the the "lip" back up. Some experimentation bending this "lip"
up and down is inevitable. It's not that difficult however to
get a good tone that is balanced nicely between high and low
range. The important thing here is -- if you don't initially get
a good tone, do not give up! Keep diddling with the "lip"
position, perhaps even sand off a bigger "flat" on the wood plug
etc etc. Occasionally I get a tinwhistle that simply will not
toot with reasonable adjusting -- what is called for here is
persistence! Have never had one that eventually couldn't be
whipped into line!

PS - Another way to raise the "lip" a bit is to lay the shank of
a small (less than 1/8") drill-bit along the upwind, long, side
of the mouthpiece's "window' & carefully pry up on the "lip"
using a wide-bladed screwdriver. The drill-bit shank acts as a
sort-of "bridge" to help ensure that the upwind edge of the
"window" is protected & not flattened or scrunched by the
levering action of the screwdriver.



Temporarily insert the plug in it's proper position. Lay the
whistle horizontally, with holes facing up & carefully clamp the
bottom 3/4 of the mouthpiece in a vise (jaws padded with a few
layers of masking tape) & tighten fairly hard - but not hard
enough to appreciably distort the mouthpiece. Now carefully &
evenly flatten that part of the copper tube directly over the
wood plug with a hammer, until the wind-passageway is about
1/16" tall or a tiny bit more.

This flattening process may distort the rounded part of the tube
so that the dowel plug no longer fits tightly. Careful
hammer-tapping should beat the tubing back into shape while
maintaining the desired flat on top.



I use epoxy cement for this. Other types of waterproof,
"filling-type" adhesives should work nicely as well.

Important things to look for: Make sure that the downwind end of
the plug is located just below the left hand end (upwind end) of
the "window". Be sure that the plane of the plug's "flat" is
lined up with the general plane of the "lip". Use enough cement
to ensure that any potential gap between the wood plug and the
copper tube will be completely filled. Use small screwdrivers as
wedges to push the plug down hard against the floor of the
copper tube. When the cement is set, further secure the plug by
drilling, setting and cementing in two small brads, cut to about
5/16" long, through the copper and into the wood on both sides.
When set, file the protruding ends flush with the tubing.
Late ps: I now use Eric Reiswig's method of drilling a
continuous hole all the way through the tube/wood-plug & then
cementing in a tightly fit finishing nail. See link to Eric's
whistle-making article below.

Sight down the instrument by looking into the open-end, towards
the mouthpiece end, with a lightbulb at that end. Check that there
is no light coming in through cracks or spaces where the wooden
plug meets the copper. If there is, carefully plug these gaps with
adhesive or sealant and if need be, thin slivers of wood. The
only light coming through should be in the area of the



A chromatic type electronic tuner is very helpful here. If you
don't have or can't borrow one, this task can still be
adequately accomplished by very carefully comparing the low D
note to a known standard (pitch pipe, tuning fork etc).

Always start with a tube that produces a pitch below low D &
proceed by hacksawing off very small pieces of the tube - all
the time testing the pitch. When the pitch gets close to low D,
it's time to start filing. Do this evenly and carefully,
checking the pitch very frequently.

One important note -- It's really amazing just how very much
difference in pitch there is between a cold tinwhistle and a
room-temperature one! Somewhere near half the way to the next
note! Always have the whistle at room temperature and always
make sure it has been warmed by playing for at least a minute
before attempting any tube pitching or hole sizing.

All cut or drilled edges should be completely de-burred.


(For an easier method, using a photocopier, see the appendix)

Once you have the tube of your low D copper whistle cut to
the proper length to sound a low D note, carefully measure
the distance from the mouthpiece "lip" to the right hand end
(open-end) of the instrument.

The center of the 1st hole (the hole nearest the mouthpiece)
should be located 44.74% of this overall "lip" to open-end

The center of the 2nd hole should be located 52.47% of this
overall "lip" to open-end measurement.

The center of the 3rd hole should be located 60.38% of this
overall "lip" to open-end measurement.

The center of the 4th hole should be located 68.82% of this
overall "lip" to open-end measurement.

The center of the 5th hole should be located 74.93% of this
overall "lip" to open-end measurement.

The center of the 6th hole (the hole nearest the open end of
this whistle) should be located 84.10% of the overall "lip"
to open-end measurement.

How to convert these percentages into actual measurements:
- First move the percentage's decimal point two
units to the left (ie: 44.74 becomes .4474)
- Then simply multiply this number by the
"lip" to open-end distance

I have built several identical instruments and have found that
even if built to the same exact dimensions, the overall pitchs
often vary instrument to instrument! This must be due to slight
variations in tubing wall thickness, diameter etc. For this
reason I am hesitant here to give exact instrument length & hole
placement dimensions here. This "percentage" method is very
straightforward and easy to use.



- Lay a length of masking tape down the top, center of the
instrument, from near the mouthpiece "window", almost to the
open-end. Carefully draw a line representing the exact top,
center-line of the whistle. As exactly as possible, pencil where
each of the six holes are to be located. Carefully center-punch,
then, using a 1/16" drill-bit at first, drill through each of
the six fingerholes. Because of the extended finger stretch with
this low D whistle, I slightly position the 6th hole (the one
nearest the open-end) a tad off of the centerline (by no more
than 1/8"). Makes for a bit easier fingering.

Progressively enlarge each hole with bigger & bigger drill bits
until each hole is almost up to pitch. Careful tooting of the
instrument at this point will give you a good idea of what the
proper hole size of the finished instrument should be in your
case. It's always far easier to enlarge a smaller hole than it
is to reduce the diameter of a larger one! Proceed slowly -
using the "all fingers FIRMLY on" low D note as your base
reference. A chromatic type electronic tuner is of great help in
sizing the holes. Lacking that, just enlarge the holes slowly,
maybe over the period of a few days. Don't be in a hurry. Flat
notes will become apparent the more you play the instrument.

If a hole is inadvertantly enlarged too much, it's not fatal -
To correct one mis-drilled hole I cut out a rectangular piece
around the offending hole & carefully fashioned a "plug" (cut
from a piece of junk piping) to fit into this rectangular hole.
Once soldered in and filed smooth, a new hole was drilled. This
wasn't a fun proceedure, but it didn't take long and was not
that hard to do.


That about completes the low-D pennywhistle. I prefer to cut an
angle off the mouthpiece end -- like so: (this is not the least
bit critical)
_________ ___________________________________________
| ~~~
cut \
angle \
here \________________________________________________


I applied two coats of polyurethane varnish to the exposed part
of the wooden plug to soak up less spit.

When the copper is buffed and polished highly, this thing not
only plays nicely, but looks great!

One quick note about playing this large & finger-stretching
instrument -- I've seen it gospelized that that it must be
played with the mid-section of each finger covering the holes. I
am a long-time bagpiper & am fully aware of such fingerings and
their benefits, however I maintain that it's necessary to use
the mid-section part of your finger on the right hand ONLY and
not the left hand. The left hand holes can be covered easily
with the fleshy first-sections of the ring, middle and index
fingers, which should be held in a somewhat straightened

Let me know how your low D tinwhistle turns out. If you have any
suggestions after having built one, please contact me! I have
been diddling with end-blown tinwhistle making for a long time &
while by no means an expert, have had a lot of fun.

Dennis Havlena - W8MI
webpage -




- Procure a "regular" tinwhistle and carefully measure the
distance from the "lip" to the open-end of the instrument. I
prefer to use a Clarke or Cooperman whistle for this purpose.
The key is not important. It seems to make no difference if the
whistle is cylindrical or tapered (I found this fact surprising,
but it's true). Plastic-mouthpiece whistles work too -- but
their mouthpieces may not photocopy as clearly.

- Once you have the tube of your low D whistle cut to the proper
length to sound a low D note, likewise measure the same "lip" to
open-end distance of it.

- Divide the low D instrument's measurement by the "regular"
instrument's measurement --- This will give you a number
something like 1.74 that we'll call the "enlargement factor".

ie: low D whistle's "lip" to open-end measurement enlarge-
------------------------------------------------ = ment
"regular" whistle's "lip" to open-end measurement factor

- Set the photocopy machine so it utilizes the biggest possible
paper size. Lay the "regular" whistle, holes down, on the
photocopier, then set the photocopier's enlargement control for
1.74 (or whatever figure was obtained in the above operation) &
make a photocopy of the smaller tinwhistle.

- This should yeild a copy which is enlarged to the same size as
your copper low D tinwhistle. Verify that things are OK by
comparing the dimensions of the copy to that of the real

- The copier at our library has provision for using very large
paper, but not all machines can do this. In which case, just
make two copies (left half, then right half) & carefully align
the two halves & tape 'em together.

- Cut the paper lengthwise down the instrument, cutting the holes
in half. Run a strip of masking tape down the low D whistle's
length then carefully align the paper's open-end with the
actual whistle's open-end & mark the exact hole locations.

This method also gives you a pretty good idea of what the hole
size should be. Nonetheless, you should still drill the holes
small and enlarge each carefully to the desired pitch.




I am including the info below along with the caution that due to
slight variations in the copper tubing, no "true low D pitch"
can be guaranteed when using the following dimensions. It may be
that your instrument turns out to be right-on-pitch, or it may
be a small bit high or low of low D. So - if it's not absolutely
important that you be at an exact D note, these dimensions below
will give you a very nice instrument somewhere in the very close
neighborhood of low D. If you desire a true low D pitch, ignore
this section and instead follow the instructions in the first
part of this article above.

My low-d tinwhistle measures 21-7/8" from the "lip" to the
open-end (the overall total length being 23-5/16").

I normally dislike the metric system, but find that, in this one
case, it can be used to advantage in describing where to drill
the finger-holes.

This illustration is not at all to scale.

The "O" represents the six finger-holes.

The top figure is the distance (in millimeters) from the "lip"
(down-wind edge of the window in the mouthpiece) to the
centerline of each hole.

The bottom figure shows the finished hole diameter in inches in
my case. ALWAYS make the holes several sizes smaller than
indicated here & work up in size, all the while watching the
pitch closely.

250mm 292mm 336mm 383mm 417mm 468mm |OPEN
O O O O O O |
9/32" 5/16" 5/16" 11/32" 3/8" 5/16" |

- Follow the "DRILLING THE FINGERHOLES" instructions in the
article above, using the millimeter measurements indicated in
this illustration.

- Mouthpiece, "lip", "sink" and "window" dimensions and
construction are the same as in the main article above.


RE The toxicity of copper:

Elsewhere on the net in a tinwhistle-building article it has
been suggested that copper is poisonous and should not be used
for musical instrument making purposes. The former statement is
undeniable but the latter doesn't seem based on reality. It is
completely inconceivable that anywhere near a toxic quantity of
copper could ever be leached, abraded or absorbed into the
system of a copper whistle player!

A very small amount of copper (about 2 ounces during an average
lifetime) is essential to human nutrition & there's no way that
even this small daily amount could be transferred by playing a
copper tinwhistle.

Nonetheless, not wanting to be a slave to polishing anything, &
also objecting a bit to the mild copper smell imparted on one's
hands after playing, I opted to apply a coating to the whistle.
A sprayed layer of high quality gloss black enamel followed
(when completely dry) by a spraying of a good quality clear
lacquer makes a seemingly durable & not easily chipped finish.
Makes it look rather like a giant Clarke tinwhistle.

On another instrument I had great luck by simply polishing the
copper nicely, then spraying it all with clear lacquer. I've
been assured by an experienced coppersmith that this should
prove a durable finish.


If the "low-D stretch" is just too much and you don't expect
to do a lot of playing with others, I can highly recommend
building a low whistle pitched in the key of E. This is much
easier to finger, having a finger-span some 1 3/16" shorter
than the low D whistle, and it still strongly retains the
distinctive low-whistle sound.


Last comment: Since making the above low-D pitched tinwhistle,
I have made quite a few others including very sweet toned
versions using lengths of thin-walled 1" outside diameter
aluminum shower-curtain rod ($3.79 for enough to make two low D
whistles -- at local hardware store -- The brand of the rod I
use is "Jones Stephens Corp. 5' shower rod - Part No. S02-071").
(Anyone else see this brand in their local stores?)




NOTE: The same cautions apply here as mentioned in the first
paragraph of section #2 above.

I have been doing a lot of experimenting with low D whistles
made from shower-curtain aluminum rod. The desired
wall-thickenss is.029". Although I still quite like the copper
model, I now much prefer these featherweight aluminum
pennywhistles which:

- are easier to work with (being thin-walled aluminum)
- are easier to voice "
- are easier to tune (they warm up much quicker to one's breath)
- have a very pleasing & substantial tone
- have a finger-stretch 3/16" less than the copper whistles
which, believe it or not, is noticeable
- So far don't seem to need any lacquered or painted coating

These aluminum whistles weigh just 3 ounces as compared to the
copper version which weighs 9 3/4 ounces.

My aluminum low-D tinwhistle measures 541.5mm from the "lip" to
the open-end (the overall total length being 578.5mm).

The "O" represents the six finger-holes.

The top figure is the distance (in millimeters) from the "lip"
(down-wind edge of the window in the mouthpiece) to the
centerline of each hole.

The bottom figure shows the finished hole diameter in inches in
my case. ALWAYS make the holes several sizes smaller than
indicated here & work up in size, all the while watching the
pitch closely.

243mm 285mm 327.5mm 374mm 406mm 456.5mm |OPEN
O O O O O O |
11/32" 3/8" 13/32" 5/16" 7/16" 23/64" |

- Follow the "DRILLING THE FINGERHOLES" instructions in the
section #1 above, using the millimeter measurements indicated in
this illustration.

- In general, most of the construction techniques detailed in
section #1 above can be used in building this aluminum whistle.

- Mouthpiece, "lip", "sink" and "window" construction are the same
as discussed in section #1 above, except substitute these

|<----- 37mm ----->|
| _ ___ _
| | |
| 13mm | | 15mm
| | |
| _ |___| _

| |<- 7.25mm

End-view of wood plug / \
(much enlarged) , ,
This plug is made from Sand off a "flat" here
a short section of 1" | that measures 17mm * |
diameter dowel rod. across the top (a to b)
See the section | |
entitled, "Sizing
the dowel rod plug" \ /
in section #1 above. , ,
~ - ~

Flatten the top of the mouthpiece til the wind-passageway's
heigth in the center measures 1.75mm. Refer to "Peering into the
mouthpiece end" in section #1 above.

* See note towards the very bottom of this article in the
"some hints and suggestions" section.



Whistlemaking, while very easy to do, is not an exact science.
Most of my whistles work fine right off the bat, but I do get the
occasional stubborn one. I have not yet had one that couldn't
eventually be coaxed into excellent playing. My very worst one was
made into probably my very best one simply by making the
wind-passageway larger! It's funny - a proceedure to correct a
particular problem might work like a charm one time, but not work
at all the next! I think this is simply because there are so many
variables with whistlemaking. Don't let all this talk scare you
from trying though, I've had far more successes than initial

A word about being brave:
I'll occasionally get an instrument that's ALMOST ok -- for
instance it might have a nice low note, be in pitch, but the
sound is too airy! it's awful tempting to leave it as it is and
settle for some airiness (Look at how nice Clarke's with their
airy tone sound!). My point here is don't settle for less than
what you want even if it means risking losing the nice low note
and/or the good pitch. It's your instrument, you made it, you
tell it what you want it to do - not the other way around. If
your ruin it, so be it! Try again using your newfound knowledge
and experience to avoid some of the earlier pitfalls. Be brave!


Any low whistle is apt to have problems with the low note or
two sounding weak. In my experience this is best cured by one
or more of the following steps:

- Enlarge the "wind passageway" from the suggested dimensions
by carefully sanding off more of the flat on the wood-plug.
Don't worry about ruining the plug as another can very
easily be made if you go too far. This step has, by far,
produced the most dramatic positive improvements for a
number of problems.

- Weak low note(s) can very often be corrected by (gonna
sound like a broken record) adjusting the lip....sink it
lower, raise it up a bit, experiment with the
straightness/curviness of the lip's leading edge, dull it,
sharpen it etc. Also, check that your window
size/dimensions are as suggested (I have found window
size/dimensions to be not THAT critical -- will work over a
fairly wide range, but none the less it's best to try to
make the window as close to the dimensions/shape detailed
in my article).

- Make sure the downwind end of wood plug is positioned
directly below the upwind edge of the window.

- Make certain that there are no metal burrs on the edges of
the window anywhere. Although not as critical, make sure
that the soundhole edges are likewise completely de-burred.

- If any low note except "D" is weak, it may be due to the
fingerhole being too small. Enlarge the hole "downwind" --
being careful not to file off any of the upwind edge of the


- Make sure that the wood plug fits the coutour of the tube's
inside closely. Any airleaks here can negatively affect the
sound/tone. Such leaks can easily be detected by covering
all the soundholes with opaque tape (like electrician's
black tape) & peering down the instrument with the
mouthpiece end held up to a bright light-bulb. Carefully
applied dabs of silicone rubber sealant can be used to plug
any such gaps. make certain that any excess sealant is
removed before it cures.

- Excessive "airiness" in tone seems to be most easily
corrected by a combination of enlarging the wind-passageway
and diddling with the lip & window.

I'm afraid these hints & suggestions are all the help I can
offer for getting a balky instrument to play properly. The key
word is EXPERIMENT! I know folks who might have a particular
problem may want some more concrete advice, but the above few
paragraphs (along with the recommendation to experiment
relentlessly) will have to do for now.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

The Dunmore Lasses

Learn an Irish tune on whistle from

Thursday, February 19, 2009

The Tin Whistle

The tin whistle is a simple wind instrument with six holes and a mouthpiece. The working principle behind a tin whistle is similar to that of a flute except that you blow directly into one end, like a referee’s whistle, and not from an angle, like a normal flute. The tin whistle is a popular instrument in traditional Irish music.

The tin whistle is also known as the pennywhistle. It is commonly made of a molded plastic mouthpiece attached to a cylindrical brass tube with six holes set in it. Different sizes of tin whistles will play in different keys. The tin whistle is also normally diatonic although accidentals can be played by half-covering the holes. Mass produced tin whistles vary a lot in terms of quality so it is wise to check out a tin whistle before you buy it. Play the tin whistle to check the tone. You can even compare it to another instrument or an electronic tuner to make sure that the tin whistle is operating at its normal pitch.

You can also opt for a more expensive handmade tin whistle with which you are guaranteed to get excellent construction, good tuning, clear tone and volume.

Notes from a tin whistle are selected by fingering combinations over the six holes. When all the holes are closed, the tin whistle gives out its lowest note. Opening the holes from bottom top progressively brings the tin whistle up in the scale. When all the holes are opened, the tin whistle produces its highest note. Higher notes on any scale of the tin whistle can be achieved by blowing harder into the mouthpiece.

Although popular in traditional Irish music, the tin whistle is also used any many other music forms throughout the world. The Kwela from South Africa is a music type that is dominated by the jazzy sounds of the tin whistle. The bluegrass is another type of music that sometimes include the tin whistle in its number as well although not as pronounced a role as those of the Irish traditional music and the Kwela.

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Irish Tin Whistle Demonstration

Feadon Irish Tin Whistle Demonstration - The best video clips are right here

How To Play the Tin Whistle

The tin whistle, also known as the pennywhistle, Irish whistle, or just plain old whistle, is an instrument with a plastic or wooden fipple, or mouthpiece, and a metal body tube. They are fairly easy to play and the fingerings are similar to that of the saxophone, clarinet, and flute. Tin whistles are a great way to introduce someone to playing a musical instrument and lots of fun!

  1. Purchase a tin whistle at a local music store or online. Whistles are available in all the major keys. The most common, a D whistle, can play in the keys of D and G major. The second most common, a C whistle, can play in the keys of C and F major. The lowest note of a penny whistle, with all the fingers covered, is called the tonic - on a D whistle the tonic is D.

    • The tone of the tin whistle is largely determined by its manufacturing. Clarke style rolled metal whistles tend to have an airy "impure" sound, while Generation style cylindrical instruments tend to have clear or "pure" whistle sounds. Inexpensive rolled metal whistles, such as those from Cooperman Fife and Drum (which also produces high-end instruments) may be very airy in sound, and may be difficult to play in the upper register (second octave). Often placing a piece of tape over one edge of the fipple slot (just below the mouthpiece) to narrow the fipple will improve the instrument's tone and playability significantly.
    • Whistles are pitched in different keys and octaves.
      Whistles are pitched in different keys and octaves.
       Low whistles, or concert whistles, are longer and wider and produce tones an octave (or in rare cases two octaves) lower. Whistles in this category are likely to be made of metal or plastic tubing, with a tuning-slide head. The term soprano whistle is sometimes used for the higher-pitched whistles when it is necessary to distinguish them from low whistles.
  2. Hold the whistle correctly. It should face downwards and away from you at a 45 degree angle. Place your dominant hand at the bottom and your other hand at the top of the tube. Pinkies are not used except to support the whistle while playing certain notes, or when playing the largest (and lowest) tin whistles. Thumbs hold up the whistle from below. Cover the six keyholes with your fingertips. Place the tip of the fipple between your lips, but not between your teeth.
  3. Learn how to finger the notes. The standard range of the whistle is two octaves. For a D whistle, this includes notes from the second D above middle C to the fourth D above middle C. (It is possible to make sounds above this range, by blowing with sufficient force, but, in most musical contexts, the result will be loud and out of tune.) As you go up a note on a whistle you generally lift one finger. Read the tablature for a D whistle below. White holes indicate that it is uncovered, black indicate covered, and plus signs below the fingerings indicate the higher octave.

  4. It looks easy and is easy!
    It looks easy and is easy!
    Play the lower octave notes. Hold the whistle with all the finger holes covered. (You don't need to press hard, just make sure each hole is completely covered.) Blow a steady stream of air, with your mouth shaped as if you were saying "toooo". This will produce the tonic (a D on the D whistle). Blowing too softly will make the note airy or nonexistent. Blowing too hard will produce the upper octave or a squeak. Blowing just right will create a steady, low tonic pitch. Progressively remove a finger at a time, starting by uncovering the hole at the end and working your way up to your mouth until you're playing the note with no holes covered (C#). You might need to use the pinky of your dominant hand to help support the whistle when none of the holes are covered.
  5. Play the upper octave notes. Cover all the holes again and blow harder than before to get a higher pitch. If you're having trouble hitting the note, slightly uncover the top hole (the one closest to your mouth) and try again. Doing this might help with all the notes in the higher octave.[1] Like before, uncover the holes, one at a time until you get to the highest note (C#). As the notes get higher, you'll have to blow harder to reach it. If you overblow, however, the whistle will squeak.
  6. Play music! If you don't know already, learn how to read sheet music.

    • A "D" whistle
      A "D" whistle
       If you have music transposed for a concert pitch instrument (violin, flute, piano) you can play this if it is in the right key. A player will usually play a whistle only in its tonic key and possibly in the key beginning on the fourth (e.g. G on a D whistle), but nearly any key is possible, becoming progressively more difficult to keep in tune as the player moves away from the whistle's tonic, according to the circle of fifths. Thus a D whistle is fairly apt for playing both G and A, and a C instrument can be used fairly easily for F and G.

      • To play a C natural on a D whistle or a B flat on a C whistle you can either half cover the top hole of the whistle[2] or cover the two holes below the top hole. (The latter is more practical for faster playing.)
    • Click on the thumbnails below to see a few simple tunes.

      Frère Jacques in D
      London Bridge Is Falling Down in D
  7. Practice! Not only should you be looking for clean, steady notes and smooth transitions between them, but you can also practice ornamentation:

    • Cuts - Just before you play a note, play a higher note for an instant. Snap one of your fingers off a hole momentarily to hit the next higher note. It should be so short that the listener can't determine the pitch.
    • Strikes - This is like a cut, except you go one note lower instead of higher.
    • Sliding up a note - Slide your finger slowly off a hole so that you ease into the next note. It should only take about half a second.
    • Vibrato can be achieved by varying the air speed slightly. Faster air means a higher tone, and slower air means a lower one, so by pulsing the air using your diaphragm, one can achieve vibrato. Don't blow too hard, or the instrument will play the next partial. Vibrato can also be achieved by opening and closing the second open hole counting down from the mouthpiece. For example, on the note A, play a normal A and wiggle your finger over the hole at the first finger of your dominant hand.

The meditations of Brother Steve: on learning Irish music

This is the theory (OK, long-winded rambling) section. If you're in a hurry to learn, you'll probably be tempted to skip this page in favour of the topics with practical tips. But come back some time. Distilled here is some of the wisdom - if such it be - I have gleaned over many years spent walking on the same path you are on.

Yours pedantically, Brother Steve

PS I've heard reports of people feeling discouraged after reading this page. If you're of an overly serious turn of mind, don't forget to take some of what I say here with a wee pinch of salt - or at least turn your sense of humour on.
What is it that you are trying to learn?

If you're learning the tin whistle to play Irish music, chances are you are learning two things at once: one is the tin whistle, the other is Irish music.
The good news is that the tin whistle part is easy (there can hardly be an easier melody instrument, in fact). So rest assured that with sufficient application, and maybe a little help from teachers, tutor books and other players, you can master this simple instrument.
The other news is that learning involves as much listening as playing - actually much more listening than playing. Read on!
Why all this insistence on listening?

As a beginning tin whistler, you'll find that teachers and experienced players will recommend that you spend a lot of time listening to good players. Most of you ignore this advice. So why is it given?
Each musical genre has its own conventions, its own stylistic rules. To take an example: for better or worse, you've probably heard a fair bit of country music in your lifetime. If you heard a classical violinist playing the fiddle break in a country song, or an operatic soprano singing "Stand by your man" to a Nashville backing band, you'd immediately know something was wrong. This is because you are familiar with the stylistic conventions of country music, and you can tell that the violinist and the soprano don't know them.
Irish music has stylistic features that do not occur in the types of music that most of us have grown up with. If you don't listen carefully to discover these features, and work to copy them, you could easily have the same effect on discerning listeners as the operatic soprano singing in place of Tammy Wynette - or worse, as the late Johnny Cash trying to sing opera.
That's why you have to listen, to learn the conventions.
Unfortunately, it takes time. I know you're impatient to play. You're in a hurry to learn 50 tunes or 500 tunes or 5,000 tunes so that you can sit in in the local sessions. But please, besides learning tunes, make sure you set aside time to listen to good players and absorb the "rules of the language" (see the next topic, Speaking the lingo), and hear the subtle things that are going on.
If you are lucky enough to have good players in the area where you live, listen carefully to them, learn what you can. Watch and observe. Make sure you have recordings that feature good traditional whistle playing, preferably solo. Listen actively, notice, compare.
Don't stick with the first player you are exposed to or whom you saw in concert and whose playing you have fallen in love with. Listen to different styles, different approaches. Don't just stick with whistle players. But also listen to fiddlers, fluters, pipers. They all have things to teach you. (Even accordionists.)
Speaking the lingo

I live in Quebec, and I often think it's a shame to hear French-speakers who express themselves very well in English but totally spoil the effect because they don't pay attention to the rules of English pronunciation. (The same is of course true of English-speakers speaking French.)
For example, French-speakers tend to say things like "I 'ave to do dis and dat". Why? Simply because the sounds "h" and "th" don't exist in their language. So they've never learned to make these sounds. Also, in many cases they will not even hear these sounds, because their ear is not attuned to them. So it's natural that they never think to make them.
In the same way, you can listen to Irish music but not hear things that are blindingly obvious to "native speakers" of Irish music.
Here's an example from my own experience. I had been playing fiddle enthusiastically for some time and thought I was doing pretty well thank you very much, when a top-class fiddler from Donegal, after hearing me play a jig, kindly took me aside and gently let me know that I had the rhythm all wrong. At first I was mortified, and couldn't understand what he meant, but eventually, by listening hard, and after a couple more hints, I began to get the picture. But it took me months before I started to play jigs in a more acceptable fashion. With the right accent, if you like.
Now when I hear enthusiastic beginner fiddlers playing jigs exactly the way I used to, I give a prayer of thanks to that kindly fiddle player. And with my students, I ram home the importance of learning to hear these subtle rhythms in a jig by constant, conscious listening. Because until you hear them, you won't be able to reproduce them in your playing.
On learning from sheet music

As far as Irish music is concerned, I think that learning to play through reading music is rather like teaching a baby to read before it can talk, and then expecting it to learn to speak by reading the newspaper.
OK, I'm exaggerating slightly. I do use sheet music in my classes at Siamsa, because some students -- mostly those who have played a classical instrument -- can't seem to get on without it. But it's like learning Spanish from a book: at some point, you have to lay down the book, get out into the street, and start listening and talking. There's so much stuff that's not on the page that you can't afford to miss. And as long as you're staring hard at the paper, part of you isn't listening to the sound you're making.
If you can only learn from sheet music, do yourself a favour. Start learning to develop your ear now. Throw away your crutches! Yes, you'll be hobbling for a bit, but soon you'll be walking and then running.
Your best teacher

I know a prominent fiddler who gives lessons but actually believes that teaching is a waste of time. He is self-taught, and thinks that those who are unable to teach themselves never really get anywhere.
I agree and disagree. I think that teachers can be useful: a good teacher can help you along, save you time, tell you when you're on the wrong track. But I also believe that you must become self-motivated, and not depend on a teacher. (This means becoming a True Believer.) Ultimately we all teach ourselves to play an instrument, and how do we do this? By using our ears.
Learn to trust your ears. They're your best teacher. You may read about a certain technique in a book, or have someone explain it to you. But you'll never make it sound right unless you hear it right. If you can hear the sound or the effect you want in your mind, sooner or later your fingers will find a way to do it.
On rhythm and ornamentation: the good cake theory

One of the first things you'll notice about Irish traditional music is the infectious dance rhythms. Another thing you'll probably notice is the unusual quality of the melodies, which is often the result of their "modal" nature (the scales they use, if you like).
But when you start playing the whistle you will surely start to notice the intricate ornamentation that most good players use. And in tutors, and workshops, and talking to other players, you'll soon hear terms like "cuts" and "rolls" and "crans" being tossed about. You'll quickly form the idea that these devices are an essential part of playing Irish music. And so they are.
But -- and this is a very big but -- rhythm is far, far more important than ornamentation. Make no mistake about this. By and large, ornamentation should serve to enhance rhythm. But it is no substitute for rhythm. It don't mean a thing if it ain't got that swing!
Put time into mastering all the ornaments, by all means. But make sure your rhythm is good. And that means, one: make sure your rhythm is steady (you keep a constant beat, without speeding up or slowing down), and two: make sure your rhythm is acceptable for the type of tune you are trying to play.
You can play great Irish music with next to no ornamentation. There are many fine players who do. But you cannot play good, or even mediocre, Irish music without good rhythm. If your rhythm is good, everyone will enjoy listening and tapping their foot, even if they know nothing about Irish music. If your rhythm is not good, nobody, but nobody, will enjoy listening to you.
I often compare the situation to a cake. Your rhythm is the basic cake, your ornamentation is the icing. A good cake can be delicious without any icing at all. But putting icing on a bad cake won't hide the fact that it tastes awful.
So make sure your cake is good. How can you be sure? If you've done enough years of listening, you'll know. If you haven't been listening for years, politely ask good players to give you feedback. Ask them in private, so they'll feel free to give you an honest opinion. ("So, Joanie, how is the rhythm of my jigs coming along?")
The apparent-speed paradox

Have you ever listened to a recording of top Irish musicians playing a dance tune at a nice speed and decided to play along, only to discover that they are playing much faster than you thought? The music is fast, and yet it doesn't sound hurried, which lulled you into thinking you could keep up with it.
At other times you might be listening to less experienced or less skilful players, and notice that their playing sounds rushed, hurried. They may not be playing especially fast, and yet the tune seems to be tripping over itself. This is not very enjoyable to listen to.
Part of the art of playing Irish music -- and most types of music, in fact -- lies in creating a feeling of space inside the tune, so that the notes fall in just the right place, no matter what speed you're playing at, and nothing is hurried. Largely this is a matter of being very sure of the rhythm you want to create, and feeling confidence in your ability to do so. Of course you need appropriate technique, too.
Strive for this feeling. When it comes, you'll really start to enjoy the music you're playing, and so will others. You won't sound hurried. In the meantime, and afterwards, resist the temptation to play too fast for yourself.
Are you a True Believer?

When you start playing Irish music late in life (say over the age of twelve!), you're taking on a tough assignment. You can start slowly and gently, but sooner or later, if you want to break through to a higher level, you're going to have to become a little obsessed. There'll be a period of at least two years, and maybe much longer, when you start acting a little strangely. You'll be found listening to Irish music all the time (when you're washing dishes, walking the dog, driving your car). You may lock yourself in your room and practise the whistle the rest of the time, with an intensity that your friends and family just cannot fathom.
You will probably take to attending sessions with devout regularity, and sooner or later, festivals. You'll start coming home with obscure recordings of people with names like Willie, Miko and Tommy. Pretty soon you'll be making pilgrimages to Doolin and Miltown Malbay and other holy sites in the west of Ireland. You have become a True Believer.
There are two types of people who take up Irish music. Those who become True Believers, and those who imagine that they will crack this music without going through a period of obsession. In my experience, it is very hard for the latter to reach the promised land. Camels going through needle's eyes have an easier time of it.
For the classically trained

Here's a note for anyone who has played an instrument in another style of music, and particularly for those who are reasonably accomplished classical musicians. My thoughts are based on my own experience -- I learned classical violin as a child before taking up Irish music on the fiddle -- and on observing a number of players who were already proficient or highly skilled classical players before they came to traditional music. Some of these players have been students of mine.
Classical players usually have an excellent command of their instrument and can easily rattle off any traditional tune they put on the music stand. Many traditional players, particularly fiddle or flute players, may have what classical musicians may see as faulty technique, and many read music slowly or not at all.
Seeing this, many trained players, as I did myself, fall into a simply enormous trap, which is this: they imagine that since reading traditional tunes is easy for them, and that since they have excellent technique, they will automatically play traditional music well. In other words, apart from memorizing tunes, they have nothing much to learn. Folk music is simple, and classical is sophisticated, right?
The truth is that there is a huge amount to learn, and also a lot to unlearn. Folk music may be relatively simple, but it has its own rules and subtleties. You will have to learn to hear rhythms that don't exist in classical or rock music, and then to find a way of reproducing them on your instrument. You will have to realize that the written music is only the barest guide to a tune, and makes no attempt to notate rhythmic subtleties. You will have to understand that the tune on the page is only one example of how this tune can be played -- an "instantiation", if you like. And so on and so on.
If you're a violinist, you'll have to learn to bypass, suppress or unlearn ingrained bowing instincts, and learn new and counter-intuitive bowing patterns. If you're a recorder or flute player, your tonguing, phrasing and breathing instincts will require similar reevaluation. And so on and so on.
The sooner a classical player realizes all this and -- forgive me for being blunt -- learns to eat humble pie, the better. Sadly, some never seem to get the point, even after many years. (If you're in any doubt, a trip to the Holy Land and a conversion to True Believer status is in order.)
Here are a few examples to make you smile and illustrate my point:
Long before I came across genuine traditional music, I heard the folk-rock popularized by bands such as Fairport Convention and Steeleye Span. In the early 1970s my brother gave me a Steeleye Span record for Christmas containing a set of reels beginning with Dowd's favourite played on fiddle by Peter Knight. I bought a Steeleye Span music book and found Dowd's favourite and, with the sheet music and the record, set about trying to play the tune. (Some beginner reel, I hear you saying.) I remember thinking to myself, "If I work at this, in six months I should be as good as this Knight fellow!" Twenty years of fiddle playing later I put that record on again and realized I would probably never be able to equal that performance of that tune. A humbling experience! But it had taken all those years of learning and listening for me to understand just how well "that Knight fellow" had mastered the style.
A few years ago a conservatory-trained violinist started appearing at sessions in our city. Seeing that, despite his enormous command of the violin, he hadn't really understood what traditional music was all about, someone suggested he consider taking classes at the Willie Clancy summer school in Co. Clare, which he was planning to visit with friends. After attending an opening concert at which many of the fiddle teachers performed, he reportedly announced that he hadn't signed up for classes because he "couldn't find a teacher who could play in tune."
Yesterday (18 February 2001) I heard a young violinist aged about 19 busking in my local métro (subway or underground) station. Since I had to wait for a connecting bus, I could listen to him for about 10 minutes. Among other things, he played The teetotaller's fancy at a quite incredible speed -- like Nomos on steroids. Of course, his rendition had zero swing, no ornamentation, and varied not one iota in repetitions, etc. He then proceeded to play a piece of Bach, languidly and quite beautifully. No doubt he imagined his performance of The teetotaller's was masterful. I considered whether to tell him that though his Bach was lovely, his travesty of Irish music was actually offensive to my ears. But then the bus came...
Put some croutons in the soup!

Nearly a quarter of a century ago I was consorting with an accomplished classical flautist in London. Seeking to impress, I took her along to see "The Mulligan Roadshow", a concert in Fulham or somewhere featuring Matt Molloy and other artists of the Mulligan label on a promotional tour. To my consternation, she stayed resolutely unimpressed, snooty almost, with the playing of the king of the wooden flute. But when Kevin Burke came on and started to play fiddle, accompanied by Micheal O Domhnaill, playing sultry cuts from "Promenade", she was utterly captivated.
A week or so later, hurtling down the Bayswater Road in her car (she was an insane driver) listening to a cassette of "If the Cap Fits", she exclaimed, "I love this violin playing. It's so wonderfully smooth and flowing, and then all of a sudden there's these little crunchy bits that are just delicious!" Now I was pretty big into that album at the time, but I hadn't thought of Kevin Burke's playing in quite that way. Somehow her description brought to mind a thick velvety soup, with crusty croutons floating in it...
The "crunchy bits", of course, were the explosive ornaments in the fiddle playing - short, rapid-fire "trebles", rolls, cuts and so on. Ever since then I think I've associated shaping tunes with the art of cooking. Without wishing to flog the analogy to death, a tune is something like a recipe. You need to try it and practise it and see how much savour you can put into it, flavour it to suit your own taste. The techniques of traditional playing that you acquire become like so many jars of spices and flavourings that you can stir in whenever you want to give the tune the flavour you want. This is what I mean when I sometimes refer to your "ornamentation spice-rack".
The best recipes are always slightly improvised. Who wants to serve up exactly the same dish every time? When you first learn tunes, you'll be keen to "get them down pat", to learn them exactly as you heard them on a record, or from a tune book, or from another musician. This is good! But as you develop, and are exposed to the playing of more and more players, you'll start to realize that....
...A tune is quite a fluid thing

The tune is present, is represented, in any performance of it, in any written version of it. But the tune is generally much more than any one performance. Especially the old, well-worn traditional tunes that generations of musicians have loved and shaped and made their own. I always enjoy listening to master players of an older generation, like Séamus Ennis and Bobby Casey. Very often you'll find the same tunes on several different recordings by such a player, and the various performances will be surprisingly different. Listening to musicians like these taught me to see that any playing of a tune as what you might call an "instantiation" - an example, an incarnation, a rendering, of something that could be very different played by a different player, or by the same player on another occasion, and yet remain unquestionably the same tune.
So, as you develop, use all your croutons, spices, flavourings, all your understanding of a tune, to play it with a certain freedom, with the joy in creating a new dish every time, never quite the same, even if it always bears your signature.