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.