A musical pipe (no reed) about a foot and a half long with six holes that generally plays in the key of D, though other tunings are available. Popular with folksingers and small children. Produces a tone somewhat like a flute but much less rich, and requires great breath control to avoid sounding shrill. Practiced players however, can produce beautiful tones and intricate sounds from the simple whistle. Renowned flute virtuoso James Galway started out as a penny whistle player as a boy. Much of the playing style of the penny whistle, for example traditional ornamentation, was adopted from the bagpipe.

Two years ago, I picked up a penny whistle that I found in the bottom of a chest at my workplace in Smithers, BC. I asked if I might borrow it, and was given conditional acceptance (that I give it back). I practiced at it for a year, and became very good at it. It was my property at this point, as I had long since left Smithers behind. I could play anything, with it, though I did particularly well playing anything in minor keys. I brought it to Camp Howdy this Summer, and became famed for my playing. It was either lost or stolen near the end of the Summer, which challenged my views on possession of property. It meant that I could no longer play it. I became desolate. Lost. If anyone finds my beloved penny whistle, please let me know.

Also called tin whistle or simply whistle. It is a common instrument in Irish traditional music where some experienced players can do amazing thing with this seemingly simple instrument.

Whistles are categorized by the note you get when you cover all the six finger holes and sound the instrument. The instrument used in Irish and Scottish traditional music is keyed in D5, but whistles are made ranging from G5 all the way down to D4. Below D4 special designs with keys and levers are needed, and D4 itself requires quite large hands to play easily.

The most common brand of whistle is the Generation make. It will set you back approximately USD 10, plus several years of your time while you try to make it sound good. Some players swear by it and they can make it work, how they do it is beyond me.

There is a large number of makers that make hand crafted instruments using materials as diverse as wood, PVC, brass and silver. The better makers (Abell, Copeland, Burke, Sindt) have waiting lists for their instruments, and you will have to spend well in excess of a penny to buy a whistle from these sources.

Some gifted players of the instrument include: Mary Bergin, Laurence Nugent, Paddy Moloney.

The Irish whistle, a simple 6-hole end-blown flute, is also known as the "penny whistle" (although they cost more than a penny) or the "tin whistle" (although they are not all made of tin). A folk instrument with origins dating back hundreds of years, the Irish whistle is presently making a comeback. This renewed public enthusiasm is primarily inspired by the emergence of Irish music into American popular culture. Movies such as Titanic and talented musical performers such as Riverdance and The Corrs have been at the heart of this movement.

Perhaps one of the most appealing aspects of the penny whistle is its simplicity. You can purchase a perfectly excellent whistle for as little as $5. This very minor investment will last for years and, in truth, you will be playing the same sort of whistle that many professionals are using.

Of course, if you feel thusly inclined, you can purchase an expensive hand-made whistle made of materials such as sterling silver or brass. These are very beautiful instruments that are works of art in themselves. But many traditional players feel that a $300 whistle goes against the entire purpose of playing a folk instrument and that too sweet a tone doesn't sound like a proper penny whistle at all.

The penny whistle easy to play but a difficult instrument to master. A child can play basic tunes easily enough, but when a master picks up his/her whistle there are likely to be tears during the slow ballads and a whole lot of people dancing to the jigs. For such a basic instrument, the breadth and beauty of the possiblities are simply astounding.

Another plus is that it's small enough to take anywhere you like (including far away from intolerant people who can't bear to hear you practicing). Speaking from my own experience, the first notes you achieve with a whistle will sound a bit like a dying cow. But the whole purpose of learning and practicing is not to start out perfect..but to make mistakes and gradually improve.

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