The Tin Whistle or Penny Whistle

The instrument is very common in traditional Irish music

closeup of hands playing flute
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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—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. Read on to learn more about this Celtic flute.

Dynamic Instrument

Despite its relative simplicity, the tin whistle, when played by a skilled player, can be a dynamic and exciting instrument with a surprising level of nuance. It's also 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, a concert-quality tin whistle can retail for less than $20.

Alternative Names

The instrument also is known as a penny whistle, tin flageolet, English flageolet, and Irish whistle. The alternate spelling for the instrument is "tinwhistle." 

The Chieftains, Solas, The Dropkick Murphys, Flogging Molly, and most other Irish traditional and Irish traditional-inspired bands use the tin whistle regularly (or at least occasionally) in their music. Often, the bagpipers and flute players in these types of bands play a tin whistle occasionally, rather than using this instrument exclusively.