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Whistle Information and FAQs


An end blown flute with a fipple. all kinds exist around the world.


The Tin or Penny Whistle is a diatonic instrument with simple fingering, and it's very easy to learn to play - easier than the recorder. Whistles generally play two octaves, and you can easily play in two keys on any whistle, for example on a D whistle you can play in D and G. Because many tunes go down below the key note, you will often find that the tune is easier to play in G than D on a D whistle, because D is the lowest note. This means you should also consider the alternative key of the whistle when choosing the key. C goes to F, A to D which is useful, F to Bb, G to C and so on.


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The Flageolet or Tin Whistle is an end blown flute with mouthpiece and a fipple (the wedge shaped bit that sets the air vibrating), and belongs to the same family as recorders. In its present form, it has developed from the flageolet, popular in the last century. Its origins of course are far older than that. The fingering is the same as a wooden flute. D is the most useful key for folk music


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Choosing a Whistle

If you're thinking about beginning the whistle, it is advisable to begin with a whistle in the key of D. It is generally considered to be the easiest to play, and pretty much all of the tutor books you can buy are for whistles in D (although they can be used for any key).

A whistle with a conical bore (Clarkes, Sweetone, Shaw) generally has a fairly breathy sound, while a straight bore gives a clearer sound. (All the rest)

If you are a beginner, and want to play a high whistle, the cheaper makes are ideal (Generation, Waltons, and Sweet Tone). They do not have as good a sound as the more expensive whistles, but they are great to learn on. Generation whistles are available in all keys, in nickel or brass, and the others are available in C and D. The Sweet Tone whistles come in a variety of colours and have a good tone.

Whistle Makers

Susato whistles, made of plastic, and available high or low, in several different keys are excellent value. Because they are plastic, they are never out of tune, and they have a clear, loud and focused tone, ideal for sessions or recording. They are available in one piece, or two (tuneable), so that the tuning can be adjusted if you are playing along with others.

The Clarke's whistle (high C or D) has a wooden block in the mouthpiece, which gives a breathy tone. The Shaw whistle, a hand made cousin of the Clarke, has similar properties, and is available in most keys, high or low.

The Sweetheart wooden flagolets have a beautiful recorder like sound, and are easy to play.