Tin Whistle

Tin Whistle (or Penny Whistle)
Tin Whistle (or Penny Whistle). Getty Images / Stockbyte


A tin whistle is a simple instrument in the woodwind family. With just six finger holes, the tin whistle has a two-octave range and is tuned diatonically (i.e. containing all seven notes -- and no others -- of a major or minor scale). The tin whistle is a very common instrument in traditional Irish music and related genres of Celtic music.

Despite its relative simplicity as an instrument, the tin whistle, when played by a skilled player, can be a dynamic and exciting instrument with a surprising level of nuance.

That said, it's a great instrument for a beginner because of the relative simplicity of both producing sounds (the mouthpiece is simple... you just blow!) and picking out melodies. Additionally, a factory-made concert-quality instrument can retail for under $20.

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Also Known As: penny whistle, tin flageolet, English flageolet, Irish whistle

Alternate Spellings: tinwhistle

Examples: The Chieftains, Solas, The Dropkick Murphys, Flogging Molly, and most other Irish trad and Irish trad-inspired bands use tinwhistle regularly (or at least occasionally) in their music. Often, the bagpipers and flute players in these sorts of bands will play tin whistle occasionally, rather than being exclusively tin whistlers.