Whenever I've searched for Tin Whistle and Penny Whistle songbooks and sheet music, I've found a lot of Irish Folk music. I love the sound of the Whistle, and would love to be able to play some classical music, songs from movies and theatre, pop ballads, and more mainstream music I am more familiar with. Is it possible to play these genres on the Tin/Penny Whistle? And can I get sheet music for it in these genres?

If not, is there any other musical instrument sheet music that I could easily play on the Whistle, without it having notes I cannot play on the Whistle?

I have found the Fife or Irish Flute is the same instrument with a different mouth piece, and uses the same fingerings so I could use music for that, but again, I have seen mostly Irish Folk songs.

3 Answers 3


Yes - tin and penny whistles make a lovely sound. And yes - you can play music of any genre, though some tunes will work better than others.

The problem is those whistles can only play in a couple of keys.

Do you understand keys? Baa Baa black sheep can start C C G G, but it doesn't have to. If it starts D D A A it'll be the same tune but in a different key: the same song but a bit higher. In fact it can start on any note.

If you bought a book (ie the sheet music) of, say, songs from shows and movies, you would probably find they were mostly in keys your whistle can't play. So you'd have wasted the money. Unless you had a friend who was a musician! A musician could look at the songs and write them down for you on notes you CAN play. In fact, if you gave them a list of your favourite tunes, then - as long as they knew them - they could write them down for you even without a book. It's surprisingly easy to do.

  • 2
    Where in the world did that least sentence come from?
    – Aaron
    Jun 13, 2022 at 22:46
  • I don’t doubt the part about mistakes, but any request like that would be immediately closed as off topic
    – ojs
    Jun 14, 2022 at 0:30
  • @Aaron:: Sorry. No more gags. Jun 14, 2022 at 1:40
  • 1
    @OldBrixtonian Aha! As I suspected. Anyway, for another SE user, I would certainly keep the price down to only a few hundred pounds. ;-)
    – Aaron
    Jun 14, 2022 at 2:35
  • 1
    Transposing would only work for pieces that don't modulate, and don't have any non-diatonic notes; that would be quite limiting.
    – gidds
    Jun 15, 2022 at 12:57

You should be aware of the limitations of your instrument. Like a tin whistle usually has 2 octaves range and is diatonic, so has only 7 of the 12 notes that a chromatic scale would have per octave.

So pieces that you want to play should also stay within 1 or 2 octaves and shouldn't leave the key. If that is the case you can transpose them from one key to another. Which essentially just means that you move every note up or down a few half or whole steps, keeping the intervals between the notes (aka the melody) the same but changing the start. So it will sound a little higher or lower, which only really becomes relevant if your audience has perfect pitch or if you're playing with other instruments or have people sing to it otherwise people usually focus on the melody which stays the same.

If that is not the case then you need to be a little resourceful. If it has more than 2 octaves you might be able to get away with folding it back to 2 octaves so playing the note but an octave higher or lower than indicated. That will sound different as you change the direction of pitch (high-low to low-high or vice versa) but usually still somewhat pleasant as you keep the interval between notes. Need to see if that works for you and it's often just a few notes for which that is necessary.

If you have key changes within the music you might track whether they are random or whether you can identify sections and then transpose each of the sections to your favorite key and then figure out how to transition between the section, like idk a pause, a common note between the keys, just the root note of the new key to establish that or something like that.

You can also try to play just idk every second note just the ones that you can play and see whether that's already similar to your expectation or not, or doodle along to a recording trying to find the essential parts of the piece that make you go "ah that's ...".

It's not impossible to play sheet music for a different instrument or genre, but it usually involves some tinkering.


There's loads of music available on the Internet in various text-based formats.

I use abc, but there is also lilypond and no doubt others. The advantage is that there are software packages available for these file formats which will let you change the key of the music (which is called 'transpose' or 'transposition') to move the music around to make it a better fit of the whistle.

There's a bit of a steep learning curve associated with these formats (abc is, I would suggest, easier to get into than lilypond for the non-technical user); but there's a wealth of material which will open up to you as a result.

The open source music editor MuseScore also has a library of material associated with it, and again will allow you to transpose the music to a whistle key.

There are probably others that I've temporarily forgotten. All will involve downloading some software, a bit of Googling, and a bit of trial and error.

And once you've exhausted all that, there's all sorts of material in proprietary formats like Sibelius, but then you're starting to get into membership forums and commercial paid-for software.




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