Book Reviews

Choose one of the items below to find out what the media, as well as readers, are saying about Grey’s books.

150 Gems of Irish Music for Tin Whistle

  •, November 15, 2013

    by ceolachan

    “150 Gems of Irish Music for Tin Whistle” book & 2 CDs – by Grey Larsen – Respect!

    Yes, it is that good, and it deserves the little time I’ve given this to add it to the database, a well thought out resource with a slew of good versions of tunes well played.

    While not really for the absolute beginner, if you’ve a few tunes under your belt, are taking classes, attending workshops, getting some one-on-one or following a decent tutor, book & recording(s), then this would be a great additional source for furthering your repertoire and your understanding and appreciation of both the music and the whistle.

    … Do buy this, you won’t regret it, it’s really that nicely put together, and Grey’s a lovely player. His playing is clean and easy to follow.

The Essential Guide to Irish Flute and Tin Whistle

  • The Living Tradition Magazine, Scotland, January 1 2004

    by Steve McGrail

    It’s rare that a teaching package comes out, of which it can be truly said that it represents a ‘turning point.’ But that can be claimed for Grey Larsen’s The Essential Guide to Irish Flute and Tin Whistle. The package gets off to a flying start with commendations from Matt Molloy and Joanie Madden; these are then matched by a forward from Gearóid Ó hAllmhuráin, Professor of Irish Studies at the University of Missouri, St Louis. Gearóid, no mean player himself, says that he can recommend the book to the first-time learner as much as to the advanced performer: ‘It establishes an important benchmark for future generations of Irish music students, historians and music teachers.’ Not only that, he continues, but because of its provenance it also importantly ‘fills a conspicuous void in the literature of Irish flute and tin whistle playing in America.’

    So exactly how does it achieve all this? Basically, in 479 pages and two companion CDs of tunes and instrumental techniques (198 tracks), it shows players of tin whistle, piccolo, fife, Irish flute and Boehm-system flute pretty nearly everything they need to know in order to become – well – very good performers. It looks at the histories of the flute and whistle and reflects on the legacy of the playing style of the uilleann pipes, especially the pipes’ “legato aesthetic”; at selected great performers, past and present; at the philosophical, cultural and historical underpinnings of Irish music; at pulse and metre; at the modal nature of Irish tunes; at “slurring”, “throating”, breathing, embouchure, and holding the instruments properly; at the nature of the instruments, including their strengths and inbuilt limitations; at practice techniques, and naturally, at ornamentation. There are fingering charts, 73 complete tunes plus excerpts for illustration, a bibliography with 32 references and a discography noting 32 recordings by performers like Mary Bergin, Séamus Ennis, Breda Smyth, Willy Clancy, Cathal McConnell and many more, the author himself included.

    This represents an impressive opus. Yet it might still be asked why a man born in New York City and now living in Indiana has essayed it in the first place. His name may not even be widely known on this side of the pond (although it should be), and nor has he any Irish roots to call on. The simple answer, it seems, is that he has done it essentially for the love of the thing.

    That love is seen clearly in the work. Even if the (high) production values of the material were discounted, and the quality of the writing (high, here’s a rare individual who understands subordinate clauses amongst other things!) and the teaching techniques (equally high), it would still shine for what Gearóid Ó hAllmhuráin has called its ‘abiding sense of humanism.’ And not only for that. There’s real affection contained in it for what the music represents; again, Gearóid talks of Grey’s ‘reverence for the traditional storehouse (of music),’ his book being a veritable ‘testament of deference for the tradition bearers themselves.’

    Grey, born in 1955, began piano lessons at four and seemingly enjoyed a childhood and youth exploring music from Bach to Motown. He eventually studied composition and early music at Cincinnati College-Conservatory of Music before going on to the Conservatory of Music in Oberlin, Ohio. There in 1976 he gained a Bachelor of Music degree, and then set out to explore traditional music as a performer, teacher, recording artist, record producer, author, sound editor and music editor of Sing Out! Magazine. Already interested in the music of his native Midwest, and of Appalachia, he then became beguiled by Irish music … It was from Irish immigrant musicians that he learned about the musical glories of “Conn’s Fold”. Three of the musicians in particular were melodeon player Michael J. Kennedy (1900-1978) from near Dunmore in northeast Galway, Tom Byrne (1920-2001), a flute and whistle player from Carrowmore townland, Geevagh, Co. Sligo and Tom McCaffrey (born 1916) a fiddler from near Mohill in Leitrim. To these three, he says, he owes an enormous debt: ‘They taught me many great tunes, and much more about how they played the music and what it meant to them, both in their adopted homeland and in their younger years in Ireland. With open arms, they welcomed me into their … lives … and offered me their whole-hearted encouragement and approval. They also connected me with musicians back in Ireland, such as Tom’s former neighbor, Josie McDermott.’

    Tom gave him his first flute – which some years later he was pleased to return to Tom’s youngest child, in better repair and with a case he’d made himself.

    That particular gesture is illustrative of his philosophy, actually. He wants to pass on the many insights and experience that he’s gained over the years, from the generosity of scores of Irish people, from Irish communities in Ireland and elsewhere. He makes no great claim for his own playing expertise (although he’s proud to have devised some particular teaching techniques for flute and whistle, of which more anon). He’s also modest about his relationship to Irish music: ‘Having grown up outside the rich culture that gave it birth, I have sometimes felt reluctant to claim the right to produce a work such as this.’ That’s honest. And sensible: no begrudger in Ireland can now brand him a ‘mere blow-in,’ the great Irish put-down. Yet equally, he finds advantages in his outsider status: ‘(I can) point the way for others like myself, few of whom, however, have had my good fortune of learning directly from the elders of the tradition.’

    His starting point is that Irish music is a “fine art”; and a functional one also, in that it has a role in dance and so forth. The music, he says, represents a lifelong journey of discovery, personal development, joy and fellowship. So do the instruments that make it: ‘The first time… you hold your flute or whistle in your hands, you have begun a physical relationship with it that will last years.’

    However, playing Irish flute or whistle is not “fine art” in the “classical” sense, he warns. It’s intensely personal and it belongs to a culture and specific ways of living, seeing and conversing: indeed, there’s an entire chapter (23) called ‘The Language Analogy Revisited.’ In this he reviews the parallels between playing and talking: ‘With instrumental music becoming fully “conversational” means that you are able to listen so expansively that you are completely aware of what and how you are playing, and, at the same time, you are listening beautifully to the other musicians around you… This is the ideal music session, the transcendent experience Irish musicians live for.’ The playing is at the same time collegiate as well as intensely personal. He talks of the personal element by quoting Matt Molloy: ‘The real art form… is actually playing solo, that’s what it’s all about … you stand or fall on your interpretation of that piece. It’s no good playing it like I play it, you must put your personal stamp on it, be that good, bad or indifferent.’ The music, Grey contends, becomes a mirror and projector of the soul: ‘The way you speak reveals … a great deal about what you are… When you listen to the playing of a master musician, you “know” something of their soul… and you can feel your own beautiful potential in the unique mirror that their music holds before you.’

    Spoken with truth, but how to reach that sublime state? This is where Grey and his package come in, to at least point the tyro, or even the experienced musician, in the right direction.

    After some fascinating background on the flute and the whistle, he launches into the eighteen chapters that comprise the direct teaching. What’s contained in them, he says, works for the whistle and flute and can be adapted for the Boehm-system instrument also. To make it all easier (after gently mentioning that reading music would be desirable!) he describes his own way of notating ornaments, whilst admitting that in reality ‘the full embodiment of a traditional Irish tune cannot be written down.’ He criticises the notion of the “grace note”: ‘The liberal use of “grace note” as a term, as a concept and a notation practice … has severely limited our thinking … constraining many people’s understanding of ornamentation.’ He shows how the “cut” ornamentation (although entirely different) is frequently confused with a grace note. Accordingly, he’s devised new notational symbols for the cut, the “slide” and so on.

    The thirteen chapters on ornamentation (along with their introduction and preface) cover: Cuts, Slides, Long and Short Rolls, Condensed Long and Short Rolls, etc. They represent the single largest part of the whole work, the longest chapter being on cuts. The cut, Grey insists, is not a note ‘for the simple reason that it is not perceived as a note.’ He shows by wave diagrammes how practice can turn the beginner’s initial full note into something that’s barely there at all – yet so much the more powerful for that.

    He mentions all the ornaments but recommends selectivity: it’s all about ‘finding your voice’ which ‘requires years.’ However, ‘over time, and with dedication, you will find an ever-clearer view of yourself through your music.’ He cautions against ornaments like the trill and stresses that vibrato should only ever be an ornament, in contradistinction to its classical-playing role. He describes finger vibrato, then comments that whilst breath vibrato is controversial, both Mary Bergin and Matt Molloy readily use it for slow airs.

    He has ornaments he particularly favours, like the “shake”, an alternative to the crann. ‘Lovely’, he calls it. He also likes “tight triplets”; these, apparently, come from ‘crossing noises’ or ‘crossing notes’, giving a ‘bubbly’ or ‘popping’ sound. He sees their roots in the tight or staccato playing of uilleann pipes, or of Highland pipes.

    Section 4 addresses tonguing/multiple tonguing and throating, and musical breathing. Breathing and embouchure have already been featured in Chapters 5 and 6. Unsurprisingly, he spends a good while on the topic, because ‘to breathe articulately, you must first attend to the physical requirements of deep breathing.’ Later, in an arresting phrase, he calls playing music ‘an athletic activity.’ ‘Breathe before you have to’ is his general advice. He discusses strategies to shorten a long note, say, or to omit a nonessential note completely. As an example of breathing techniques, he provides three settings of the jig The Banks Of Loch Gowna. One has no breathing guides marked, the others have, at different points. He offers various hints (‘never omit a note that falls on a pulse’) and also considers “circular breathing.” This, he says, is fine in principle but not in practice: ‘the result sounds anaemic, not to mention monotonous!’

    The work is full of good advice and explanation. Some of the latter is intriguing, like the account of the mechanics involved in reaching a high octave on the whistle. There’s discussion of ‘anchor points’ for the whistle with recommendations on using the bottom pinky. There’s debate, too, about what ‘being in tune’ signifies for whistles and old simple-system flutes. Postural advice is offered and there’s information for left-handed players as well.

    An especially interesting chapter is that on slow airs. Grey is trenchant about these: ‘… masterful playing of slow airs demands a higher level of experience and maturity … than any other aspect of this art.’ It is about creating ‘an interpretation of the song on your instrument.’ The word “song” is deliberately chosen, because he believes slow airs should emulate sean-nós songs. These are sung in a free and loosely-articulated rhythm based on the natural flow of the words; so, no two verses will sound the same and the ornamentation will correspondingly vary. Having Irish is apparently a boon for a would-be slow air performer, but failing that, Grey suggests creating slow airs from sean-nós style songs in English. He gives examples of musicians who he thinks excel at slow airs, like Josie McDermott, Paddy Keenan, Seamus Cooley and others.

    There’s really so much in the work that it’s difficult to know where to stop with it. Yet it is to have sequels – The Essential Tin Whistle Toolbox and two “Celtic Encyclopaedias”, one for Irish Flute and the other for Tin Whistle. This sounds like an embarras de richesse, but it’s likely that anybody who’s used the Essential Guide will nevertheless buy them as they appear. That’s because Grey has produced something remarkable here, at every level, and has done it with sureness, honesty, humility, insight and passion. He has called the learning of Irish music a “delightful challenge”: The Essential Guide to Irish Flute and Tin Whistle should encourage anybody to take up that challenge.

  • Keltika Magazine, Italy, February 26, 2004
    by Alfredo De Pietra
    (The following is a translation from Italian to English.)
    Just to be clear from the beginning: every lover of Irish music should consider buying this Essential Guide, and even more so if he or she is a flute or tin whistle player. It was published only a few months ago, but already I had been struck by the comments of readers who spoke of it as a reference book of unusual dimensions, completeness and accuracy.Well, when Grey Larsen, the book’s (very kind!) author, had the publisher (Mel Bay) send a copy of the book directly to me, and when I could leaf through the book’s pages myself, I easily understood the reasons for so much praise. Sure, there are other instruction books about Irish flute and tin whistle, but have you ever seen one with nearly 500 (!) A4 pages? And with two audio CDs included, containing dozens of audio examples? Here is why the great Matt Molloy (Chieftains) writes about this book: “Grey has, through his research, patience, and diligence, completed a work on Irish flute and tin whistle that I feel is essential reading for anybody interested in getting it right.”And by the way, Grey Larsen is the right person to write such a comprehensive book: a flute player and tin whistler since the beginning of the ’70s, he has learned the music from many great Irish-born musicians, both in Ireland and in his own country (he is from the Midwest, U.S.A.) where so many immigrants from the Isle of Emerald have settled. What is most striking about the Essential Guide is the overall scope of the project and the general design, which is perfect both for a beginner and for an advanced musician.The book can be divided into three main parts: the first thirty pages explore these instruments’ places in the evolution of Irish traditional music. The second section, entitled “The Instruments” (70 pages), is dedicated to the history and technical development of the flute and whistle themselves, and to various techniques of holding and sounding the instruments. But it’s in the following 300 pages that you reach the heart of the matter, with sections called “Ornamentation”, “Phrasing, Articulation and Use of the Breath”, and final chapters about the playing of slow airs and on the building of one’s own musical memory. Everywhere the pages are replete with examples, drawings, schemes and photos. Even for someone who – like me – is not a flute player, the richness of detail and completeness of the treatment are absolutely evident.And, to conclude, there are also transcriptions of some of the most important recordings in the musical history of these two instruments, plus a detailed, dedicated discography and bibliography. This is a book for musicians of course, but it is also useful, even precious in my opinion, for those interested in the history of Irish music, for it fills a gap of knowledge that has existed in these areas. This is a perfect work to become the gold standard, a reference point for whistlers and Irish flute players.
  • Global Rhythm Magazine, US, April 1, 2004

    Grey Larsen’s lifelong love of traditional music began in 1959 at age four, and he’s never looked back. Academically studying music during his time at Oberlin, in 1976 he went fully into performance, devouring the repertoire of Irish flute, tin whistle and Anglo concertina. Now a teacher, recording and touring artist and Music Editor of Sing Out!, he furthers his passion with this exhaustive, gorgeous dissertation into the ancient musics of Ireland. Perfect for beginner and expert alike, the book reads like a chronological history of these wind instruments, perfectly complemented by the two CDs to help you whistle (along) while you work.

  • Irish Music Magazine, Ireland, March 1, 2004

    by Bill Margeson

    It always seems that a good, new traditional album can offer personal and musical history lessons, in addition to the tunes themselves. Such is the case with the newly released album from Indiana flute and concertina player, Grey Larsen. Dark of the Moon is the new creation’s title. It is Grey’s twelfth album, and the second featuring guitar and bodhrán accompaniment from friend and colleague, Paddy League.

    Each of the tunes in this all-instrumental outing are traditional, and also feature two of Grey’s own titles, The Slopes of Mount Storm and the title tune, Dark of the Moon. Both cuts appear in a set divided by Hurry The Jug, originally played for Grey by friend and mentor, Tom McCaffrey. Usually set in the key of e minor,” The Jug ” appears here in g minor instead.

    But, let’s not get snared too early in the technical notes. No, we stated this is a lot about history, and indeed it is. In that historical line, there is still another new creation from Grey! History lessons also abound in Larsen’s new 480-page tome with two companion CDs , The Essential Guide to Irish Flute and Tin Whistle. Cleveland and Cincinnati, Ohio are not usually considered as hotbeds of traditional music, but that may well need reconsidering!

    Grey, now 49, resides in Bloomington, Indiana. He was raised in Cincinnati and well remembers his home filled with music, including a lot of classical recordings played often by his father. Grey himself began playing piano at the age of four. He remembers what he calls a ” life altering ” moment when he first saw trad played live at the age of 15.

    As a teenager, he had become interested in the concertina. In those days, concertinas were not widely known or played in the area, so the youngster did the smart thing and advertised for one in the local papers. Stunningly, he was flooded with responses, as there were concertinas aplenty left over from their salad days in the 30’s and 40’s in a very strong German musical community and tradition in the area. The concertina he bought and still treasures is a 1934 Wheatstone. His wooden flute was made in the 1850’s by Firth, Pond & Co. in New York. More on that flute later. Sligo’s Tom Byrne gave Grey early and formative flute lessons, as well as his first flute. A major mentor for the young lad at the time, followed by Leitrim fiddle player, Tom McCaffrey, now living in Cleveland. The Cleveland scene opened to Grey when he moved to the area to attend Oberlin College.

    Before all that, however, came Michael Kennedy. In 1973, Grey met East Galway’s Kennedy, a prolific musician. He lived in Covington, Kentucky, right across the river from Cincinnati. As flute and melodeon teachers, Byrne and Kennedy surely passed on what we will call a Sligo/East Galway/Roscommon style. It accounts for the smooth, lyrical and punctuated manner of the playing. Plenty of rhythm for those seeking it, with a polished and great lift to the tunes. Says Grey, ” All these people were so important to me. ARE still important to me. Great musicians, very generous and endlessly patient.”

    Back to that flute. The album was recorded in Grey’s home between June and October in 2002. Irish Music Magazine’s readers are well aware of the growing self-produced and self-distributed phenomenon that is sweeping traditional music. The ever-increasing quality, portability and ease of production represented by the latest advances in digital recording have made a highly professional sound and ambience easily available to musicians world-round. The internet and newly emergent companies also are opening a vast marketplace, heretofore only reached through major recording companies. It still takes someone who really knows what he or she is doing to get a great sound, however. It must be concluded that the overriding impression of this album—-apart from the musicianship on display—is the extraordinarily warm sound from Grey’s 1850’s flute. Mixed with his aforementioned smooth and effortless playing technique, this warmth becomes a comfortable and welcome blanket for a cold winter’s night, indeed! The warmth of the wooden flute has seldom been heard to better advantage! Add to this mix an instinctually blended style from League’s fine guitar work and well-suited bodhrán playing, and we have a right deal, altogether. Not to be outshone, however, is Grey’s concertina work, no doubt also influenced by another of Grey’s idols, Noel Hill. ” Noel is the master,” states Grey, “all the rest of us really look to him.”

    Many of the tunes Grey describes as “rare”. The jig Haste to the Wedding is a well-known standard, but quite different here, due to the very different East Galway version taught to Grey by Michael Kennedy. It is no accident that six of the tunes on the album were originally taught to Grey by Kennedy. Another example is the unique version of Pretty Molly Brannigan, a favorite schottische of Irish musicians. More history comes forth in a lively set of reels which includes Josie McDermott’s, for a fellow musician and neighbor of Tom Byrne’s from Sligo who played often with Byrne in the Sligo-Roscommon border area. Grey’s concertina is tuned D/A, instead of the usual Irish C/D, no doubt due to its early German traditional music usage. The title track of the album must surely be one of the very few Irish reels played by a flute player in G minor!! So, there are rare ‘ould goodies, as well as a lot of never-heard versions of “standards”.

    Grey and Paddy are also proud that almost all the tunes on the album were taught directly to them by older players deeply rooted in the music. Irish immigrants Byrne, McCaffrey and Kennedy also had their fingers in inspiring Larsen to complete his mammoth book The Essential Guide to Irish Flute and Tin Whistle, published by Mel Bay. Regarding the book, Grey stated, “I wanted to give something back to the Irish people and culture that has so enriched my life.” Since few of his flute and whistle students had shared Larsen’s good fortune, i.e. learning in the traditional manner from Irish-born elder musicians, he devoted himself to creating a resource that would help everyone, regardless of their playing level, to learn about the techniques and history of traditional Irish music, as well as the crucial importance of listening to the musicians who had lived and breathed the music.

    There are no studio tricks on the album. It is played live, so to speak, though Grey does assure that there were frequent stoppings for low flying airplanes and neighborhood dogs barking! In any event, what we have here is another terrific outing for the duo. This all represents the best of the current trad scene. There is the future, as heard in Grey’s new tunes, and the emerging style of recording. But, always, always, in traditional music, there is that wonderful and full history that any great player brings to a project like this. It is Grey’s flute and concertina we hear, but there are surely a lot of other fingers we hear on those instruments, helping him along the way.

    The album is on the Sleepy Creek Music label. It is available from Grey’s website, easily found through Google. It is also available on the growingly influential and websites.

  • The Flute Network, US, March 15, 2004

    by Jerry PritchardThis long-awaited method book and compendium of information about the history, literature, and techniques of playing music on the wooden flute and whistles is a “must have” for anyone interested in this style of music. More than that, however, this book includes advice and instruction that provide a good basic introduction to flute playing for everyone just starting to study the flute.Larsen’s concise and accurate descriptions and advice on breathing, embouchure formation, tuning, technique development, musical style and phrasing will be valuable to all flutists, whether on modern silver flute or traditional instruments. With clear instructions, excellent music examples and outstanding illustrations, Bloomington, Indiana flutist and folk musician Grey Larsen presents a fine overview of traditional Irish music and a very helpful introduction on how to develop a good embouchure and tone and the fingerings for simple system flute, as well as material on tonguing, breathing and phrasing.Of special focus, of course, are the intricacies of adding the many types of ornaments (cuts, strikes, slides, rolls, and crans, etc.) and the techniques of melodic variation that make up the essence of this style. (Anyone who has started to learn a few Celtic songs or dances from a tune book quickly learns how bland these pieces sound with just the outlines of the rhythm and melody bereft of the player’s individual interpretation and personal style that comes from judicious use of ornaments.) An accompanying compact disk includes performance of 98 musical examples and excepts found through the book.

    Perhaps the most valuable portion of this 480-page manual is that devoted to musical illustrations and recordings. Larsen has written 49 original studies and examples of how to apply ornamentation to characteristic melodic situations. (Each of these studies also is demonstrated by a recording on a second CD.) The next section includes 37 complete written-out versions of well-known jig, slip jigs, reels, and hornpipes chosen to illustrate particular ornaments, styles, and interpretations, which Larsen performs convincingly on the second CD. Larsen also provides a detailed analysis of the technical and musical aspects of each tune used as example. Finally, he has included 27 transcriptions from recordings by famous and influential flute and tin whistle players from 1925- 2001.

    The Appendices contain useful material on how to adapt Irish music to the Boehm system flute, fingering charts, an extensive bibliography for further reading and study, and a discography of important recordings and by influential performers. (Be sure to remember to click on the index of each CD to get access to the useful software and links included on the disks.) All-in-all, this brilliant new release is informative to read, a pleasure to hear, delightful to play through, and inspiring to ponder. It is sure to become a standard method and reference work in the U.S. (You will find more resources on Irish flute playing and information on Grey Larsen at his website:

  • Flute Talk Magazine, US, March 2004

    by Brad Hurley

    When Boehm-system flutes gained popularity in Europe during the late 1800s the classical simple-system flutes used during the previous century began to lose value. Some ended up in pawnshops and some eventually were sold to traditional Irish musicians. The simple-system wooden flute has six open holes and was excellent for Irish dance music because it could use the same fingering system as the tin whistle or penny whistle. Irish Gaelic speakers referred to the flute as the fheadog mhor or big whistle, and it has since become a mainstay of the tradition. Today the simple-system flute is so popular among Irish musicians that antique instruments by famed English makers, such as Rudall and Rose, routinely sell for more than $5,000. Modern versions are made by some 50 flute makers worldwide, and several of the top makers have waiting lists of five years or more.The owners of these flutes, along with players of Boehm-system flutes and tin whistles will appreciate this indispensable guide to learning to play traditional Irish music. Larsen’s 480-page manual covers nearly everything that players of all levels need, from how to hold and blow the instrument through the intricate details of ornamentation, phrasing, and articulation. Most of the book focuses on the simple-system flute and tin whistle, although Larsen includes six pages of advice on adapting traditional Irish flute techniques to silver flute.An Ohio native with a degree from the Oberlin Conservatory, Larsen writes about Irish music with care, humility, and with a firm command of the subject gained from over 30 years of listening, learning, and playing. The book takes a thorough and systematic approach, with nearly 150 pages that discuss the various orna mentation forms used in Irish dance music. These include cuts, strikes, single and double rolls, and cranns. Players soon discover that ornamentation and rhythm are the most difficult aspects of Irish music, and the clear detailed explanations in this book surpass most other manuals. Most Irish ornaments should be played so quickly that listeners don’t hear the note, but rather the articulation effect. Larsen devises a new ornament notation system that does not mislead students into playing these as distinct notes.

    Irish music is an aural tradition at heart, and newcomers find it almost impossible to learn tunes from a book and play them in an authentic manner, because the written notes merely indicate the basic melody. To understand how the tune is played requires attentive listening to traditional musicians. Accordingly, two CDs covering all of the examples, studies, and tunes in the book come with the guide, a combination that is the next best thing to having an experienced teacher at your side. Transcriptions of 27 great performances on flute and tin whistle, recorded by leading Irish musicians from 1925 to the present are also included although the performances themselves are not included on the CDs. Larsen’s transcriptions and commentary on the performances are invaluable to anyone who has struggled to figure out what a virtuoso musician was playing in a tricky passage or a flurry of ornaments.

    While several other popular tutors and manuals are available to learn how to play traditional Irish music, Larsen’s is the most thorough, although he advocates tonguing instead of what he calls “throating,” or glottal stops. Classical and jazz flutists learn tonguing as a standard technique, but many traditional Irish players prefer glottal stops and use tonguing sparingly if at all. Larsen describes the glottal-stop technique and mentions it frequently when analyzing other musicians’ playing but says that “a far greater degree of nuance and agility” is possible with tonguing. However, the glottal stop is arguably an intrinsic part of traditional Irish style playing flute. Larsen insists that tonguing was more widespread among older players than purists believe, but a close listen to today’s most respected Irish flutists reveals that many of them employ glottal stops more frequently than tonguing. Examples of both glottal stops and tonguing on the CDs might have helped students distinguish between the two styles of articulation. Once past this small quibble with an excellent book, players will find a remarkably complete guide, which will provide enough material to keep many a flute or whistle player busy for years. I recommend it highly for anyone who wants to learn Irish music on flute or whistle, and for intermediate players who want to improve and develop further.

  • The Irish Herald, US, March 1, 2004

    by Paul Carr

    This is a comprehensive guide for the beginner to the highly advanced player of Irish flute, tin whistle, or Boehm-system flute (with keys).What sets this extensive book apart from others on learning Irish music is that it’s the first really complete guide that includes Irish flute, Boehm-system flute, and Irish tin whistle.It also has a simple and new approach to understanding and notating ornamentation. The book also explores ornamentation techniques that don’t appear in other printed sources.

    The 480-page book comes with pretty much everything you could need, including fingering charts and a raft of studies for ornamentation practice. The book also includes adaptations for Boehm-system flute players, guidance on breathing and phrasing, history and theory of traditional Irish flute and whistle music, and 27 meticulous transcriptions of recordings from 1926 to 2001 by Irish flute and tin whistle players like John McKenna, Séamus Ennis, Willie Clancy, Josie McDermott, Matt Molloy, Cathal McConnell, Mary Bergin, Joanie Madden, Kevin Crawford, and Catherine McEvoy, to name but a few.

    Grey Larsen is an American-born musician who had the great good luck to spend many hours with Irish musicians who emigrated to the vicinity of his home in Ohio.

    This guide also comes with two CDs, which contain many tunes from the book. This is essential to a learner, who may not otherwise have music CDs with versions of the tunes used in the guide.

  •, US, January 10, 2004

    January 10, 2004

    Congratulations to Grey Larsen for creating a classic study and guide to playing the Irish flute and tin whistle. This is the essential guide, and a perfectly crafted book of instruction for learning the instruments. The large paperback comes with two play-along CDs.Grey Larsen is a fine writer and performer, and his love for Irish flute and tin whistle is readily seen and felt in this fine book.The book is divided into eight sections. Each section is detailed, in-depth, and there are numerous excellent illustrations and photographs. Section 1 covers first matters necessary to beginning the study of the instruments. Section 2 covers the instruments and how to hold them properly. Section 3 covers ornamentation and section 4 covers phrasing, articulation, and use of the breath. Other sections contain tunes and 49 studies for ornamentation practice.

    Section 8 contains transcribed material, and is a reference guide that is one of the most complete available anywhere. Bibliography and discography is also detailed, and fingering charts are covered.

    This is a classic in the making, a fine, wonderful and essential guide to the Irish flute and tin whistle. Highly recommended.

    This is a must-have reference for the home music library, a book to savor and enjoy often! This is the perfect essential guide to Irish flute and tin whistle.

  •, US, March 1, 2004

    by Philippe VarletGrey Larsen’s new book … is a remarkable resource for flute and whistle players … With 480 pages and two companion CDs (and weighing in at 3 lbs!), this is as comprehensive a study of Irish traditional flute and whistle playing techniques as one might wish for. Larsen’s descriptions of ornamentation and phrasing are most thorough, and all of his teaching is put in context with a wealth of historical information about the instruments and their players. Perhaps most remarkable is the final section of the book, nearly 80 pages of complete transcriptions (including variations) of recorded performances, including some by early players like John McKenna and Tom Morrison, as well as by other luminaries like Paddy Taylor, Paddy Carty, Matt Molloy, Willie Clancy, Mary Bergin, etc, etc. Truly a major achievement, and one which should be extremely helpful to students of the genre. Rating: four stars.

  • The Midwest Book Review, US, February 1, 2004

    The Essential Guide To Irish Flute And Tin Whistle by master musician Grey Larsen is a combination history and instruction book which is enhanced with the inclusion of a set of two audio CDS intended to aid the reader in mastering both basics and advanced techniques to playing the Irish Flute, Tin Whistle/Pennywhistle, Boehm-System Flute, and/or Piccolo. Black-and-white photographs; meticulously detailed instructions concerning everything from rhythms to finger placement; a fascinating and informative body of history and tradition concerning the Irish Flute; a veritable wealth of musical transcripts; as well as the music playing of masters recorded and released from 1925 to 2001 on the CDS, mark The Essential Guide To Irish Flute And Tin Whistle as a “must-have” for dedicated musicians and performers determined to make the most of their talent with these tradition and folk music instruments.

  •, US, January 5, 2004

    by Steven Digman

    Format: Book (480pp) & 2 Companion CDs that gives the reader, listener and player a once rarely explored (until now) complete history of the Irish Flute and Tin Whistle. An excellent historic and ‘how to play’ teaching guide for the aspiring young Irish musician, and the professional musician as well.”In this art, the key to all insight is listening.” – Chapter One, Grey LarsenAnd in truth that is what this book requires. The reader must not only listen to the well-played companion CDs, but must also listen (between the lines), of well-written (musically voluble) historical text.

    An encyclopedia of Irish musicology that at times borders on scientific musical anthropology, which covers such topics, as (just to name a few): the physical relationship on holding and blowing the tin whistle, warm-up exercises, long tone exercises, clearing the windway, articulate and inarticulate breathing, circular breathing, heavy breath pulsing, breath slides, breath vibrato, and the subtle breath pulse … and now I’m out of breath, but there’s more: equal-tempered intonation, ascending rolls, double-cut rolls, long rolls, short rolls, slides, melodic ornaments, traditional materials, nontraditional materials, strikes, trills, staccato, and yes, somehow (and I’m not sure how) – the polka, and there’s still much, much more!

    Enhanced with numerous photographs (both historical and instructional), and containing over 190 pages of musical notationŠ plus 2 CDs. The Essential Guide to Irish Flute and Tin Whistle offers to the reader, listener, and player, a library of ‘musically Irish’ information that has been condensed into one informative book!

    And one final note: On the last page Mel Bay Publications has a circular emblem that simply states “Excellence in Music Since 1947.” And now after “listening” (reading) this book, I’ve become (and hopefully you will become) a “Mel Bay” believer!

  • World Music Central, US, October 6, 2003

    Grey Larsen and Paddy League: the Essence of Irish Fluteby A. Romero

    Bloomington, Indiana, USA – Irish Flutist Grey Larsen has teamed with Paddy League to record a new CD titled Dark of the Moon.Any bird expert will tell you, there is no such thing as a cuckoo’s nest. The cuckoo is one of the few birds that lays its eggs in another bird’s nest and leaves its young to be raised by someone else. Grey Larsen learned the old traditional Irish tune called “The Cuckoo’s Nest” when he himself had fallen into a surrogate nest rich in Irish tradition. Larsen learned the tune in Ohio and transcribed it for his unprecedented 450-plus-page tome The Essential Guide to Irish Flute and Tin Whistle, to be released on November 3, 2003 by Mel Bay Publications.

    Beginning in the ’50s, a dozen blue-collar immigrants met weekly in Cleveland to play Irish music. Once farmers or coalminers, they came to America for a better life. The Cleveland Irish Musicians’ Club was not a public affair, so it was a bit of a surprise in 1974 when a few longhaired Oberlin students appeared.”When we walked in, there was this stone cold silence,” remembers Larsen. “Politically we were miles apart, but once we started playing together, we became great friends.”

    The weekly 40-mile trip to Cleveland was when Larsen-whose CD with Paddy League, Dark of the Moon, will be released on Sleepy Creek Music on November 3, 2003-first began his musical migration to the Irish flute.

    The cuckoo’s nest is like a metaphor for Larsen’s own musical rearing, as if dropped into a nest of Irish immigrants and given the task of preserving old melodies and playing techniques.Larsen learned one tune on Dark of the Moon in 1979 at the home of County Sligo flute player Josie McDermott. “That was my first trip to Ireland and I wanted to learn everything the same way traditional musicians had in the old days,” recalls Larsen. “So I didn’t bring a tape recorder. I thought I could be so focused I would remember it all. Josie McDermott played me these great tunes. But, in the end, I only remembered one. I hummed it to myself over and over as I got a lift on the back of a tractor.” For years Larsen called the tune “Ride on the Tractor.” On the new CD, it is listed as “Josie McDermott’s Reel.”

    Larsen learned other tunes on the new CD from melodeon player Michael J. Kennedy (1900-1978), a former Irish farmer who settled in Larsen’s hometown of Cincinnati. He gave Larsen his first taste of “crooked tunes” or melodies with extra beats added to their structure. “Crooked tunes are very uncommon in Ireland today,” Larsen explains. “Some of the older players had a lot of tunes like that. I think there was a lot more crooked Irish music 100 years ago. Somehow the music got kind of tamed.”

    A highlight of Larsen’s new book is the final chapter of 27 transcriptions from some of the most important flute and tin whistle players. Interestingly, both the earliest and latest transcriptions are crooked. The first one, “The Corry Boys” (also on Dark of the Moon), was transcribed from John McKenna’s 78-rpm record issued in 1925. “Fire Patrolman McKenna”-as he’s listed on the first of 30 recordings he made in his adopted home of New York City-established the flute as a prominent instrument in Irish music. The last transcription is of Grey Larsen’s own playing of “The Cuckoo’s Nest”-which he learned from Michael Kennedy.

    Larsen’s book covers everything from history to playing techniques. But the bulk of it is dedicated to ornamentation, a major element of Irish music critical to the flute player’s unique expression. These embellishments descend from the Irish bagpipes. Since a bellows powered these pipes, the only way to initiate a repeated note was with a special finger articulation. This led Irish pipers to evolve an elaborate vocabulary of fingered embellishments. This language was inherited by the Irish flute and whistle, and never before Larsen has anyone so thoroughly explained on paper the complete range of these ornaments and how to play them. One chapter is dedicated to the artistry of knowing when to take a breath, since, as the only human-blown Irish instruments, the flute and whistle must create breathing places by thoughtfully omitting notes. Larsen combines the highly technical and his spiritual tie to the instrument.

    “The flute is really magical,” Larsen exclaims. “Your breath is producing the sound. Not wood. Not a metal string. You can’t see what is making the sound. It is very ethereal. It’s such a direct route into your soul.”

  • World Music Central, US, February 22, 2004

    Musician Grey Larsen has written an impressive 480-page book dedicated to the art of the Irish flute and the popular tin whistle. Divided into eight chapters, The Essential Guide to Irish Flute and Tin Whistle (Mel Bay Publications ISBN 0-7866-4942-9, 2003) is an effective book that begins with a basic introduction to Irish traditional music. The chapter includes music notation and the tunes can be learned thanks to a set of two CDs that come with the book. Even though The Essential Guide to Irish Flute and Tin Whistle contains numerous sections of music notation, Irish music aficionados that can’t read music can still make a good use of the book by following the music on the accompanying CDs.

    Section 2 of the book, which includes chapters 3 through 6, focuses on the instruments: their history, how to hold them and how to breathe. Larsen has collected many vintage photographs that show old instruments and the book also includes numerous drawings that clarify some of the details.

    Section 3 is the longest and is dedicated to ornamentation, a major element of Irish music critical to the flute player’s unique expression. These embellishments descend from the Irish bagpipes. Since a bellows powered these pipes, the only way to initiate a repeated note was with a special finger articulation. This led Irish pipers to evolve an elaborate vocabulary of fingered embellishments. This language was inherited by the Irish flute and whistle, and never before Larsen has anyone so thoroughly explained on paper the complete range of these ornaments and how to play them. Section 4 centers on articulation, phrasing and the use of breath.

    The sections at the end of The Essential Guide to Irish Flute and Tin Whistle include complete versions of several traditional Irish tunes: jigs, reels and hornpipes; 27 transcriptions from some of the most important. “The flute is really magical,” Larsen exclaims. “Your breath is producing the sound. Not wood. Not a metal string. You can’t see what is making the sound. It is very ethereal. It’s such a direct route into your soul.”

    Grey Larsen discovered Irish music in the early 1970’s and then embarked on a passionate and devoted journey that continues to this day. In the ensuing decades he has become one of America’s most highly regarded flute players. His accomplishments in the field and compositions in the tradition are equally respected by musicians in Ireland, America, and across the globe.

  • Cleveland Magazine, January 1, 2004

    by Jennifer Haliburton

    We’ve all been warned not to judge a book by its cover. Still, is it so wrong to assume that Grey Larsen – a man who’s made nearly a dozen CDs of Celtic music, wrote a 480-page book on Irish musical instruments, took a couple of trips to Ireland and hangs out with a guy named Paddy – is Irish?”Actually, I’m not,” says Larsen. “I might find a few drops of Irish blood in me if I were to dig back deep enough, but I have a pretty mixed-up ethnic background – a typical American.”I’m not Irish ethnically, but that’s never mattered at all,” adds the Cincinnati native. “What mattered was the love and respect for the music.” (And after all, his Scots and Welsh roots are still indisputably Celtic.)

    That love of the music proves a powerful driver for Larsen. In the last two months alone, he’s produced two books dedicated to classic Irish instruments – The Essential Guide to Irish Flute and Tin Whistle and The Essential Tin Whistle Toolbox – and a CD of Celtic tunes, Dark of the Moon, with musician Paddy League. Larsen also has two tune books coming out this year from Mel Bay Publications’ Celtic Encyclopedia series.

    He developed his admiration for Gaelic culture long before he made his first trip to Ireland in 1979. “For me, Irish music is rooted so much in Ohio,” he says. Larsen was already musically minded as a teenager in Cincinnati, having inherited his father’s affection for classical and folk music. He was studying piano and cello when a friend introduced him to the sounds of the Irish flute and fiddle.

    “I heard it and it just grabbed my heart,” recalls Larsen, who describes the Irish flute – which is traditionally wooden and has exposed tone holes that come in direct contact with the player’s fingers, similar to a recorder – as having a “deeper, darker sound” than a standard flute. “It was so soulful and intricate and beautiful,” he says. “It really hooked me right there.”

    He nurtured interest in the Celtic sound with fellow folk-music devotees while a student at the Oberlin Conservatory of Music in the ’70s, and honed his skills on the traditional instruments with a weekly, 40-mile trip to a basement in Lakewood – the meeting spot of the Cleveland Irish Musicians’ Club. The club, comprising older Irish factory workers who’d immigrated to Cleveland to find work, gathered every week in a member’s house to play traditional Irish songs. It was an unlikely hangout for Larsen and his long-haired, bellbottom-wearing friends from Oberlin.

    “I imagine they thought, ‘Oh God! We’re being invaded by hippies!'” he says, laughing. “But as soon as we got on the instruments and started playing together, and they realized we actually knew some of this music and had come because we loved it and wanted to learn from them, from that moment we were all just good friends.”

    Today, Larsen incorporates the Irish music learned in those session into the films he scores and the CDs he records, produces and masters. He also continues to pass on the traditional sound, teaching others through his books and an online Irish Tune Bank: a repository of Irish recordings that includes insights, background and commentary from Larsen on how to play better.

    “The thing I love about traditional Irish music is that it just draws people together because it’s so joyful,” he says. “It’s all because it’s so joyful,” he says. “It’s all about sharing and welcoming and having a good time.”

  • The Bloomington Herald Times, Bloomington, Indiana, November 16, 2003
    by Andy GrahamShades of Grey:
 Bloomington musician Grey Larsen shows mastery of traditional Irish music in new book, album.Grey Larsen’s new album, Dark of the Moon, reconfirms the man can really play. And the 480-page book Larsen has written that is due in stores later this month, The Essential Guide to Irish Flute and Tin Whistle, should help a lot of others learn how to really play.Larsen, a master musician who has graced the Bloomington scene for most of the past quarter-century, has rarely seemed more active.He continues to serve as a recording and mastering engineer. He teaches. He has an ever-expanding Internet site (, now including a repository of Irish traditional melodies called “The Irish Tune Bank”). He plans to release further publications and CDs in the upcoming year.Larsen also continues his decade-long practice of leading weekly Irish music sessions in Bloomington. The current incarnation is from 6:30 till 9 p.m. Tuesdays at Michael’s Uptown Cafe.”I’m really busy,” Larsen confirmed during an interview at his westside home last week, “and happy about it.”Dark of the Moon is the second straight album Larsen has recorded in tandem with Paddy League, who adds bodhrán (the Irish goatskin-wooden frame drum) and guitar to Larsen’s Irish flute, tin whistle, concertina and harmonium playing.”I’d say it’s more of an upbeat album than its predecessor (2001’s The Green House),” Larsen said. “The repertoire we chose to include lent an overall feeling that is a bit more high-spirited.”Larsen composed the new album’s title track, but said he got the title itself from Joe Dawson, an old-time fiddle player who lives in Larsen’s neighborhood and has taught Larsen “about 100″ Monroe County and Brown County fiddle tunes.”Joe has talked often about the phases of the moon, about how many old folktales there are pertaining to that,” Larsen said. “The gist of it is that during the waning moon – the dark of the moon – things are more stable and settled, and then more volatile during the waxing of the moon.”Larsen is accustomed to utilizing what he learns from musical elders such as Dawson. He’s done it his entire career as a Celtic-oriented musician, which started during his teen years in Ohio.”I already had access to really good Irish traditional musicians at that age,” Larsen said. “I instantly connected with the music, and felt I had to learn to play it.”I was just very lucky to find elderly, expatriate Irishmen to guide me – Michael J. Kennedy in the Cincinnati area and Tom Byrne and Tom McCaffrey in Cleveland.”The late Kennedy, born in 1900 in County Galway, was featured in some bonus tracks from the 1970s added to The Green House, and tunes collected from Kennedy adorn Dark of the Moon. “His influence has been a constant thread through all the albums I’ve made,” Larsen said.Influences abounded when Larsen moved to Bloomington in 1981, too. He found Dave Molk and Malcolm Dalgish, friends from days at the Oberlin (Ohio) Conservatory of Music. He found Tom Sparks, Dillon Bustin and Chris Smith.And he was introduced to Lotus Dickey, the musical/folklore savant from Orange County for whom Bloomington’s Lotus World Music and Arts Festival is named.Serving as a co-editor of The Lotus Dickey Songbook was one of Larsen’s first forays as an author. The first of his forthcoming books, The Essential Guide to Irish Flute and Tin Whistle, has occupied a lot of his attention for the past eight years.The Essential Guide to Irish Flute and Tin Whistle sports, among other things, two accompanying CDs, 49 ornamentation exercises and 27 transcriptions of recordings by important flute and whistle players from the last century – such as Matt Molloy.

    Molloy was in the Bothy Band, perhaps the most prestigious Irish group of the 1970s, and now plays with an even more legendary aggregation, the Chieftains. Molloy wrote the following for the back cover of Larsen’s book:

    “Grey has, through his research, patience, and diligence, completed a work on Irish flute and tin whistle that I feel is essential for anybody interested in getting it right.”

    Larsen tried to get it right, across the board.

    “There’s a lot of history in the book about the players, the music and the culture,” Larsen said. “It had started out as a book about how to play and how to understand the music.

    “Now, with all the history and transcription and accompanying CDs, I don’t believe there has ever been a book this comprehensive about any instruments in traditional Irish music.”

    Larsen is also issuing, again through Mel Bay Publications, The Essential Tin Whistle Toolbox, a more beginner-oriented work with 160 pages and one companion CD.

    Planned for 2004 release are The Celtic Encyclopedia for Irish Flute and The Celtic Encyclopedia for Tin Whistle, each at about 100 pages, with one CD containing tunes mentioned in the text.

    Larsen figures his books will find some willing readers and students in Bloomington.

    “I think the awareness of Irish music has risen quite a bit here, over the years,” he said. “The number of people learning to play the music has really grown.

    “The scene isn’t competitive, like you might find in cities with a large Irish contingent, but is vibrant and nurturing.”

  •, October 20, 2003

    American-born Grey Larsen has written the book on Irish piping and tin whistle playing… literally. This fine all-instrumental album is a companion to Larsen’s new instructional/historical tome, Essential Guide To Irish Flute And Tin Whistle, which may be one of the definitive works on the subject. By itself, however, the album is quite lovely and impressive, a beautiful set of flute and tin whistle tunes, with a grace and melodic depth to match other recent masterpieces such as Joannie Madden’s solo work… A lovely and very listenable set… Highly recommended!

  • Quotes from Matt Molloy and numerous others

    “Grey has, through his research, patience, and diligence, completed a work on Irish flute and tin whistle that I feel is essential reading for anybody interested in getting it right.”

    – Matt Molloy, flute player with The Bothy Band and The Chieftains


    “Holy sweet Moses, Grey. Absolutely unbelievable. Obviously, I haven’t been able to do anything other than look through it. But, it is scholarly, beautifully written, loaded with fabulous pictures and and diagrams. Nothing, and I mean nothing, approaches it in any of the tutors. And the idea of combining the flute & whistle this way is a real innovation. This is a triumph. Grey Larsen, if this weren’t already guaranteed, has just earned his place in Irish Trad history.”

    – Dale Wisely, Chiff and Fipple


    “Got the book! Looks terrific, sounds good, too! Will take a while to wade through it all the way! Best of luck getting it out and about!

    – LE McCullough, author of The Complete Tin Whistle Tutor


    “Grey writes with great clarity, saying the most in the fewest words possible. This is the most important work on the traditional flute to appear in over 150 years … ‘required reading’ for the Irish flute playing community, and as well for the Irish music community at large…”

    – Casey Burns, Casey Burns Flutes


    The Essential Guide to Irish Flute and Tin Whistle is a momentous body of work. It is a large book consisting of 480 pages and two companion CDs including 27 meticulous transcriptions of recordings from 1926 to 2001. The title is apt; a good teacher notwithstanding-, this book is clearly “essential” for anyone looking to learn or improve on his or her technique in playing Irish Music on the Flute or Whistle.

    “I personally view this body of work as the first and only complete Irish Flute treatise. This treatise advances a clear and concise understanding of the styles of Flute and Whistle used in the playing of Irish traditional music. Irish Flute player, Grey Larsen, began to formulate the ideas and concepts set forth in this book over the course of many years. The kind of energy invested into a book of this size and scope does not come quickly, it requires many years of playing, teaching, and being steeped in the tradition. Grey Larsen is not only a wonderful musician, but a good teacher and communicator as well. For all of the students of the Irish Flute and Whistle, from beginner to advanced, the wait for a definitive text is over. I don’t believe we’ll ever see another book written with this amount of insight, deliberation, and attention to detail. This kind of diligent work will live on for many long years to come.”

    – Steve Cox, Tallgrass Winds


    “Grey, your book arrived today – in record time!! What a tome!! Excellently presented, and having dipped into a few of the chapters at random I know I will be using it as a resource for years to come in the teaching of ornamentation and many other general aspects of Irish music. Congratulations.”

    – Garry Shannon, Ireland


    “Grey – I just started Chapter Six and wanted to drop you a line. So far, this appears to be the very best, most comprehensive, focused and well-explained book I’ve seen in this area. Although the only real new information I gleaned from the first five chapters was the section on Irish trad musical modes and some of the history of flutes, the rest nevertheless served as tremendous reaffirmation and focused what learning and experience I already have. This is indeed the perfect must-have reference for one who also comes to this music as an outsider (although you are certainly no longer an ‘outsider.’) This is very well-written and presented in clear and concise terms and logically. Chapter Six is perfect for me as I am now considering taking up flute in addition to whistle. Perhaps you will demystify the transverse embouchure for me and highlight the additional joys of flute playing.

    “In sum, a great work for all, including and perhaps particularly beginners. I read music and have been playing whistle for years and am still in search of some mastery of that ‘lilt’ that you and teacher Bill Ochs refer to. I’ve seen some comment on C&F [] that the book is perhaps not good for beginners who haven’t yet learned to read music. I disagree. There is so much pivotal info re the really important approach to the instrument and music that I simply can’t imagine any beginner not taking advantage of this work.

    “I look forward to the ornamentation section because you just happen to explain things in a way that is easy for me to intake (we each take in learning differently).

    “Terrific job. Thanks again.”

    – Phil Osattin


    “Grey Larsen heeft bereikt wat – tot nu toe – onmogelijk leek: het leren spelen van Ierse traditionele muziek op fluit en whistle zonder hulp van een leraar! Tijdens mijn vijfentwintigjarige loopbaan als fluitdocent heb ik al aardig wat methodes onder ogen gehad. Geen van hen waren zó omvangrijk, diepgravend en toch gemakkelijk te begrijpen. The Essential Guide to Irish Flute and Tin Whistle is een juweel.”

    English translation:

    “Grey Larsen has achieved something that – until now – seemed impossible: learning to play Irish traditional music on flute and whistle without the presence of a teacher! During my twenty-five year career as a flute teacher I’ve seen quite a few methods. None of them were as extensive, profound, and comprehensive as this book is. The Essential Guide to Irish Flute and Tin Whistle is a gem.”

    – Bart Wijnen, Leeuwarden, the Netherlands


    “The book is fantastic and I am excited about delving into it (Kate [Chris’ wife] thought you must have been a university professor to have written such an all encompassing work.) I still think there is a place for you somewhere as a professor – you already have your text-book and credentials as a player and teacher (Have Book, Will Teach).”

    – Chris Abell, Abell Flute Company


    “Looking forward to the book and cd’s. I can’t believe you can offer it at that price. I paid $40.00 for a cd-room tutor with no book last year only on the whistle.

    “I’m continuing to go through the book and find it just full of great information. One of my favorite parts is the section on each player you have transcribed. Just great to get a sense of who these great players are, and in some cases were.”

    -Stephen Brown


    “The hardcore traditionalists reckon the only way to learn ITM is to immerse yourself entirely in the music and the culture. Maybe they’re right, I don’t know, but I live thousands and thousands of miles away from the nearest hotbed of Irish culture, so that ain’t gonna happen. Fortunately with Grey’s new book, previously impenetrable mysteries of Irish fluting have opened themselves up to me, and together with a lot of listening my playing has improved in leaps and bounds in the few months since I received the book. Tome, I should say. In particular, Grey’s examination of ornamentation, and the new notation system he’s developed to describe ornamentation, have been invaluable to my whistling and flootin’. I look forward to future publications using this notation system, whether they’re further analyses of the playing of the pro’s, or tune-learning guides. Landmark stuff.”

    – Matthew Du Plessis, South Africa


    “Mi è arrivato oggi il libro di di Grey Larsen ,se tutto quello che promette nell’introduzione è vero ,sarà un calvario di delizie.”

    English translation:

    “Today Grey Larsen’s book arrived. If everything written in the preface and in the introduction is true, it will be a ‘Calvary of delights.'”

    – Stefano Zucchi, Italy


    “Grey, I just wanted to let you know that I’m very pleased with your Essential Guide to Irish Flute and Tin Whistle. The title for this book is certainly apt. It is indeed an ‘essential’ book for anyone wanting to learn to play the Irish flute and tin whistle. I was especially appreciative of the chapters on cuts and rolls. Your explanation of the timing and rhythm for this ornamentation was a real epiphany for me. To be honest, I’d given up on playing tin whistle, not to mention even attempting the flute. But your book has inspired me to give it another go and to stick with it.”

    – Greg Laing


    “I just wanted to send a note of thanks and congratulations your way…your new book is absolutely fantastic! I’ve been playing Irish music for about two years (having come from 15 years of classical flute playing), and already within two weeks of owning (and voraciously reading) your book, aspects of my playing have begun to improve, and my awareness of various elements of my playing and of Irish music has increased.

    “So thank you for this wonderful gift to the music community, and congratulations on a most marvelous testimony to your musicality and teaching abilities.”

    – M.S., Wisconsin


    “Got the book. WOW!! I had no idea that you had made something so comprehensive. This is just what I’ve been looking for for quite some time.

    “Gotta run, holidays and all that, but I think I’m going to be in a room away from the family with your book and the other prize that showed up today: my Olwell blackwood six key. Yes, they did show up at the same time.

    “I should say that I have been living with [your book] since it’s arrival and, as a sign that it is well used, it now can stay open on my music stand without any ‘secondary weights’ holding the pages open. I have learnt many a thing, and have RELEARNED many more. BRAVO!”

    – Dave Weiss, NYC Studio Musician


    “The first of the books I ordered arrived today. It’s super! Thanks for turning out such a great resource, Grey. Thanks as well for using the female third person singular. As a linguist and English teacher, the overuse of the ‘generic’ male (when research tests show over and over again that it’s clearly not neutral) has long perturbed me.”

    – Tommy Kochel, Harrisburg Area Community College


    “The book, by the way, is FABULOUS; you’ve done a marvelous job, and I am looking forward to spending a lot of time exploring its pages in the days/weeks/months (years?) to come!

    “It’s a HUGE thing you have done, and you have my sincere ‘Attaboy!’ (or, in keeping with the book itself, my sincere ‘attagirl!’) for your effort. Bravo!!! May this book of yours bring you both monetary and spiritual riches untold!”

    – Rebecca Deryckx


    “I have received The Book and whew! I’ve dived in already! Thank you, thank you, thank you for such a comprehensive compilation of comparative composition that I hope to comprehend. :-)”

    – Judi Stewart


    “I’ve just gotten my copy of your new book, it is excellent. It helped me immediately resolve a problem I was having with my flute grip.”

    – Mark Thompson, woodwinds and pipes for the Burnt Haggis Band


    “This is a really astounding work which I think will benefit Celtic wind players hugely. I think your new notation for ornaments makes a world of sense. I came to whistle via classical music (my wife and I remain avid recorder players) and it truly does not make sense to use the classical notation to write out Celtic ornaments. I looked briefly at your discussion of cuts which is terrific. If that teaches people to play this ubiquitous ornament as a mere interruption of or between notes, rather than as a discrete note, that alone would be worth the price of the book. I suspect the rest of the book will be similarly insightful. More after I delve deeper….”

    – Paul Busman


    “I just got your new book and it is a great addition to the history of the instrument. I will be back after the holidays to get another book for my nephew. Thank you for your hard word and inspiration!!”

    – Laura Monagle


    “Grey: arrived today! already can tell its an incredible piece of work…. looking forward to learning from it and also want to use it to explain stuff to others…”

    – Tim Smith


    “There’s no substitute for hearing how something should be played, no matter how good the explanation, so the CDs are a great addition to the book.”

    – Claire Farra


    “I have your new book on the Flute & Tin Whistle — Wonderful effort! Thanks for writing this. I … am diligently working on embouchure. Once I get a little more advanced, this well help tremendously.

    “I’m looking forward to The Essential Tin Whistle Toolbox.”

    – Dan McFeeley


    “I consult the Chiffandfipple web site from time to time, and saw your book advertised, as well as knowing about your flute exploits. I’m an Irishman and started the flute and whistle about a year and half ago and need good resources, as there are no Irish flute teachers here in China. I take courses through Scoiltrad but also need a good book that is comprehensive on all aspects.”

    – John McCormack


    “Wish you an outstanding Christmas and New Year. As we say in india, your stars are shining bright these days with the new ground-breaking book and new CD.”

    – Greg Collins, India


    “I just purchased The Essential Guide to Irish Flute and Tin Whistle, am only about 1/3 of the way through, and am totally entranced. This is a great book! I am a tin whistle newbie, but not to music (trumpet, guitar for many years).

    “I have been teaching myself from the material that was packaged with the whistle I bought and was having some fun, until I got this book. It just opened up sooooo much more to me on so many levels.

    “The book is written well and flows logically and smoothly. It has tons of detail and pictures, right down to how to sit and how to hold the whistle (…I needed that). It also has tons of exercise and song transcriptions. But it is still real easy to navigate through all the detail you may not need.

    “The CDs add a 3rd dimension to the package and really help to flesh out the real thing, in addition to all the fine historical and cultural info.

    “I can’t say enough good about the book. It’s the complete package and the real deal.”

    – Fred, Austin, Texas


    “I received the book on Tuesday, and I’m very, very impressed with it. Thank you very much for an amazing piece of work.

    “I’m self-taught on the flute and pennywhistle, and I really appreciate this book’s detailed step-by-step instructions on every aspect of technique. The depth and breadth of this work really do make it ‘essential’ for any player who’s interested in moving to the next level of playing Irish traditional music. And the historical background and discussion of controversies are enlightening for those who like to understand what they’re hearing and doing.”

    – Mitch Imhoff


    “You have created an important, monumental work. I am unaware of any other treatise for any instrument that so accurately and clearly deconstructs an entire musical idiom. I find your fully notated tunes including ornaments, articulations, breath pauses and alternate phrasings particularly useful.”

    – Robert Yarbrough


    “The first few chapters, in which Larsen covers the basics of Irish traditional music, are required reading for anyone wanting to participate in this musical culture, especially if not born into it. The rest of the book is a must have for fluters and whistlers, and will also prove extremely helpful to Uilleann pipers. There hasn’t been as thorough an examination of how Irish music works, from any perspective. He introduces a new, clear way of notating tunes that will become the standard. As technical and scholarly as the content is, Larsen is never dry or academic. The two CDs are an added bonus.

    “Five stars. Excellent, and not just for fluters.”

    – An customer from Burton, Washington, United States, March 8, 2004

The Essential Tin Whistle Toolbox

  • Cranky Crow World Music, May 2004

    by Patty-Lynne HerleviSo you want to learn a musical instrument, but you’re short on cash? Why not learn the Irish tin whistle? Considered the least expensive instrument of Irish music, one can easily pick up a mass produced tin whistle for very little money. And for less than the price of one lesson, a budding musician can also pick up Grey Larsen’s instructional manual, The Essential Tin Whistle Toolbox complete with a CD, musical notations, photographs, diagrams and everything a musician would need to learn to play the tin whistle properly. Of course, professional tin whistle and flute players could also glean expert advice and savvy know-how from Grey Larsen’s multi-media manual. This includes correcting poor posture, working with the air stream, as well as executing ornamentation. After all, this seemingly simple instrument can get quite complex.Although I have no desire to learn tin whistle, I find Grey Larsen’s chapters on music theory, history and techniques useful. The author and musician has written an extremely comprehensive companion manual to his The Essential Guide to Irish Flute and Tin Whistle, which came out a few months ago. Larsen has an open and friendly approach to the instruments and to his readers. The chapters are set up in such a way that it almost feels like the author is in the room teaching a workshop. Besides the book and the CD, a tin whistle player could also visit Larsen’s web site and download exercises, sound recordings of the author demonstrating the exercises and complete versions of Irish tunes.This multi-media project was put together by an expert with a passion for the Irish musical tradition as well as teaching others how to play Irish flute and tin whistles. His books are highly recommended by professional Irish musicians and the author has also released several of his own recordings.You can learn more at and

  • Joanie Madden, whistle and flute player with Cherish the Ladies
    “An essential set of tools for the beginning and intermediate tin whistle player. I highly recommend it!”