Buying your first tin whistle

TLDR:

  • Buy a Generation D whistle.
  • Stop worrying and start to learn to play it.
  • Buy a Generation C and B flat whistle for even more fun.
  • Now you can play and have formed an opinion.

A tin whistle is a simple instrument, they can be made pretty cheaply and work well.

Which brand should I buy?

This is where the daftness comes out on web forums etc. Anonymous posters will declare this or that instrument to be “worthless”, along with all the second-hand myths and urban legends about certain brands of whistle.

When starting out, buy a cheap whistle. Expensive whistles are not easier to learn on, often they’re actually harder.

The cheap whistles listed below are also generally quieter than more expensive whistles. You really don’t want to start out on a loud instrument.

You’ll not go far wrong with the following whistle brands:

  • Generation.
  • Feadog.
  • Waltons.
  • Clarke (Sweetone model).
  • Oak.
  • Clare.

My personal preference out of these is a Generation whistle. Widely available, sweet sounding, easy to play and cheap.

But, if all you can find is say, a Feadog or a Clarke Sweetone, then don’t worry. You’ll be fine with any of the whistles on that list.

There’s something to bear in mind. These may be whistles that I’d start beginners on, but they are not generically “beginners whistles.”

Similarly there are no “professional whistles”, just people who may play the tin whistle professionally.

Do I need to start with a D whistle?

The soprano (“high”) D whistle is the one most played in British and Irish folk/traditional dance music. That’s the music that’s played in traditional music sessions also.

It fits in well with the fiddle keys this music is generally played in. That is D, G, A, E Dorian & A Dorian (minor sounding modes).

The soprano D whistle is pitched an octave above the pitch that the fiddle plays in, meaning that they are bright-sounding and because of the fundamental physics of a tin whistle, get rather louder at the top of the second octave.

For this reason, you might like to try practising with lower pitched C or B flat whistles too. The fingering is exactly the same as on a D whistle, just the key changes.

A number of manufacturers produce cheap C whistles, Generation produce a very good B flat whistle.

Avatar
Andrew Wigglesworth
Melodeon and whistle player

Slightly obsessed with playing traditional music.

Previous

Related