Stephen Ducke: “A Complete Guide to Playing Irish Traditional Music on the Whistle”

Plus: The Stride Set, Brian Femming and the late Maeve Binchy

Learning of an instrument as a journey, rather than a destination..

286 pages with illustrated examples and also audio materials accompanying this book should  be a joy to those trying to learn the tin whistle.

I have a brief background in the recorder and it isn’t hard for me to understand the notation as well as terms that Stephen Ducke used in this book. I should tell you that even though you don’t have a musical background and have just picked up the instrument, this book is straightforward and free of any cumbersome words that might hamper the learner.

It will also give you a complete understanding why Irish music sounds that way. Learning through this book will reward you in twofold: playing the tin whistle and understanding Irish Celtic music. The rest is up to you to find out. I cached up with Steve and popped him few questions: .

I see that you are managing 9 blogs all and all. How do you find the energy to teach and blog at the same time??!!

The author: Stephen Ducke


Actually, my Blogger blogs are mostly collections of videos, and Irish traditional news stories found online (with links to the original articles) It’s a way for myself to keep abreast of the news, and there does seem to be a readership too. My principal site is Tradschool, and this is all my own work: In the blog I regularly post tune recordings on flute and whistle, band profiles and other information. There’s also a news section that I update when I can, although less so in summer for example, when there are more gigs and workshops and I’m not often at home…

You play other instruments apart from the whistle:concertina, uilleann pipes, fiddle, flute, guitar and bodhran. Man, do you even sleep? What are the challenges of playing the tin whistle for beginners?

I play the flute and whistle, and am lucky to have some colleagues who participate in sending me recordings for the website, so I am able to post concertina and fiddle tunes also, and sometimes uilleann pipes.

Please tell us more about this e-book tutorial that you are selling on your site right now.

The tutorial came from my teaching of flute and whistle, in Ireland but especially over the past 10 years in France. Many of the questions my French students have about the music and the instrument were not the type of question I was used to answering in Ireland – technical questions about the music, style and interpretation, for example. As a teacher, I feel a responsibility to at least try to answer the student’s questions, and this called for a lot of reflection on my part, and a closer examination of the music than I was used to; I realized how many things I had been taking for granted as an Irish player.

The tutorial’s format will be familiar to anyone who has taken my workshops – I adapt what I like to call a “layered” approach to playing the music, beginning with the rhythm and adding each new element little by little. I believe that, as an orally-transmitted folk music, Irish traditional music is necessarily based on a simple system, and to properly appreciate and play this music, an understanding of the system is necessary.
I feel that this tutorial is different in that I try to bring the student to an understanding of the musical style, not so he can imitate the recordings provided, but so that he can go o  to interpret new tunes and form his own style and repertoire. Where I feel many other tutorials miss out is that they provide repertoire, and descriptions of ornamentation, but very little explanation of how it all goes together. I try to examine the logic behind the music, so the student can feel confident in his understanding of the style, and confident enough to make his own choices in style or interpretation.

If I am in my 60s, do you think it is too late to master the instrument?

It depends what you mean by “master” – at 37, I’ve been playing the whistle almost 30 years and don’t feel I’ve mastered it yet; however the journey to where I am today has been immensely rewarding and gratifying. At sixty, it’s definitely not too late to start, and it’s not too late to take pleasure in playing this wonderful music. I prefer to look at the learning of an instrument as a journey, rather than a destination…

You can get your own copy though this site:


Video of the day: Beginner Bodhrán: FREE Lesson No.1 of 2 from with Brian Fleming

It is nice to be enlightened from various sources. Even though you are not going to be a serious musician, looking at these tutorials can enhance your appreciation of the music. I think that knowledge and esthetics go together. You can’t enjoy something you don’t understand right?


Today in pictures: The Stride Set

Meabh O’Hare (fiddle)
Jani Lang (fiddle)
Patricia Clark (fiddle)
Michael McCague (bouzouki)
Josie Harrington (guitar/vocals)
Kevin Jones (drums)


People: The Late Maeve Binchy

An undated handout image provided by Christine Green Authors’ Agent in London, Irish novelist and playwright Maeve Binchy passed away after a short illness at the age of 72 on 30 July 2012. Photo credit: EPA/Liam White

Her  book Circle of Friends introduced everyone to Ireland in the 50s. I like the fluidity of her prose. She can be subtle but also funny. Books like Tara Road, The Lilac Bus, The Glass Lake among others, stayed with me and I can still remember how the characters are. I think all Irish people have the gift whither it is musical, visual or literary. Their passion speaks in volumes and it can me be contagious. She will always stay in our hearts.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s