I have a tutorial group made up of 4- and 5-year-olds this year.  One of our fine arts segments involves learning the whistle.  (It's also an opportunity to teach them basic music theory.)  Our biggest difficulty is that their tiny fingers are so small, and their hand span so short, they can't keep the finger holes covered long enough to play a note.  We've practiced B, A, G, and C-sharp a lot.  :)  We're practicing the first bit of a Christmas song (Jolly Old St. Nicholas), starting on B.  Even those top notes are difficult for them.

I wondered if anyone here has experience and advice for helping young children.  They disengaged pretty quickly yesterday.  Is learning the first few notes of the song too much for them, you think?  Maybe there's something even simpler we could do?  I always open the session allowing them to doodle freely on the whistle for a minute or so before we go on to learn about notes, etc.

(They will be covering tin whistle yearly, so this is mostly an introduction...but I'd like them to feel they accomplished something so it will be fun for them.)

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Well, if you can stand the shrillness, maybe a F-whistle would be easier for the kids, finger/stretch-wise? The fingering is the same from soprano G all the way down to the mighty low whistles anyway so it's not like it's a waste of time learning on anything else than the "standard" D-whistle.

The attention span of a 4-5 y.o. would be a bigger problem to me :D

Yep, attention span factors in.  ;)  It's only about 15-20 min. per session, but they tune out quickly!  Not easy to speed-teach music!

Our program recommends and sells the inexpensive D whistles, but I might suggest this to our director for the future.  Maybe we could recommend parents buy high-F for our "abecedarians."  Or, we could stock some.  It would come out of program funds as an extra, likely.  Know anyplace that sells them cheaply in bulk?  I'd need around 10, I guess.

what whistle? A high D? Maybe switch to a F whistle, they're more suitable for kids hands I suppose.....maybe you can have them sponsored. I know Guiness have promotional whistles, But on the other hand, they're not really that expensive. I bought my F Generation for 7 or 8 euros....

Hello Susie, children like to watch other children and children can pick up instruments at a very early age. In the USA, PBS did a documentary on children in Venezuela that was amazing. Here is the children, although its aimed at Classical music training it can be adapted. Its children learning music. Browse around for ideas.


Another approach is thru movies, especially Brave and The Hobbit. YouTube is your friend for ideas.

http://www.youtube.com/artist/julie-fowlis?feature=watch_metadata (Julie sings and plays the pennywhistle)

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Tsuji72LBmg (kids with whistles)

http://www.youtube.com/user/inspirationalflute (Elizabeth Urie covers a lot of the movies)


And a very good resource in every way is Comhaltas http://comhaltas.ie/ 

And let the children help with the research... you'll learn a lot!

Source for pennywhistles. There are many brands suitable for children and they'll grow into the whistle. I am sure if you contact any of the music stores they'd help with a discount. My suggestion is the Generation nickel in key D


Browse around in here as there are other brands too.


I forgot how to read music many years ago. Children are where I get MY inspiration from! Especially on the pennywhistle.

Best to you and the children!


Oops, forgot to include a source for pennywhistles. There are many brands suitable for children and they'll grow into the whistle. I am sure if you contact any of the music stores they'd help with a discount. My suggestion is the Generation nickel in key D


Browse around in here as there are other brands too.

Kerry Whistles has a "tutorial" section teaching Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star, Mary Had A Little Lamb etc. that may be helpful. http://www.kerrywhistles.com/movie.php?groupID=48

Whistle & Drum sells pennywhistles and has a tutorial section. Blayne Chastain is a member here Tradconnect.


Sorry for the multiple posts. I love the children learning the pennywhistle. Here is a simple tutorial that the 4-5 yr olds should be able to learn. I realize its only an introduction for the children. http://www.tinwhistletutorials.com/lessons/tutorials.asp?CatID=1


Be sure and let the children listen to a few tunes just to perk their ears up.

Kids around here love this tune http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eS3J-rHpuag&feature=results_vide...

Have fun!

Wow, thanks for all the great info!  Maybe I can bring the iPad and show them some videos, just to give them a little vision.

Susie, I agree with much of what Bernard and Lars had to say. The Generation High F is a really meat little whistle and would probably fit most tiny hands much better than a high D, as well, the tone holes tend to be a bit smaller aiding in coverage.

As Bernard stated kids love watching other kids and would certainly be inspired on some level by seeing others their age playing with success. The key at the ages you are dealing with is to make it fun. Keep the lessons short at first maybe 10 minutes with
lots of praise involved for incentive. End each lesson with the kids wanting more as
opposed to yawning, staring out the window, picking their nose, etc.... They are
certainly capable of learning and doing so as their brain is still being "wired" on a
developmental level ( a great opportunity ). Keep it simple and fun.

You might try to contact Jerry Freeman as a possible source of Generation high F whistles in a bulk order.


I actually teach young children for a living, and I know exactly what you're feeling with the short attention span, Susie. Since the lesson is only twenty minutes, I say that they have no excuses to lose focus. However, they don't know that. My advice is to just accept no wandering minds. Keep them super busy. I would say even rush them, as in don't take the tune too slowly. If they're struggling, work on it with them with more care and understanding. But their hands can cover the holes with practice (I've seen it myself) and it they start getting discouraged, that's when they'll stop paying attention. Don't let them get discouraged, and over celebrate small victories. My advice is basically just keep running drills of small (2-4 note) sections of the tune until they can start stringing it together. This way you're drilling them with lots of practice and over time they'll improve. But just keep moving. Don't let them stop, because that's when they'll stop losing confidence. :)


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