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Old 05-27-2022, 05:33 PM
Merak Merak is offline
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Default Penny Whistles

Can someone fill me in on penny whistles? Much difference in quality? Recommend a brand?
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Last edited by Merak; 05-27-2022 at 06:05 PM.
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Old 05-27-2022, 07:36 PM
Chipotle Chipotle is offline
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You can actually pay an awful lot for a "penny" whistle these days! I have a couple Generation whistles that are decent starters at around $10-15. They're not tunable, although a bit of hot water on the mouthpiece and you can sometimes tweak them a few cents if needed.

I'm no expert, but have seen/played a few higher-end models. Yes, you do get what you pay for, although paying over $100 seems pretty expensive. High-end whistles are smoother and easier to play, with better tone (the cheap ones can sound shrill and squeak or break up if you're not careful). They are also often adjustable, so you can to with other instruments.

A quick search of "best penny whistle" turned up quite a bit, including this buying guide. Apparently, for some reason the "mid price" of $25-75 doesn't seem to have much; you get beginner for $15 and then it's up to $100 for nice ones.
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Old 05-28-2022, 04:07 AM
ifret ifret is offline
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I had a Susato tunable whistle for awhile. I was happy with its tone and easy of play. I think they are around $50.
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Old 05-28-2022, 10:17 AM
guitarman68 guitarman68 is offline
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I have some very cheap ones and I have one Overtone. I don't know if they are still in production, but I can highly recommend their whistles: Tunable and great sound.
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Old 05-29-2022, 08:58 AM
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kkrell kkrell is offline
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I can't say I'm pleased with any of the real cheap whistles (and not even some of the expensive ones). The cheap ones are not always good players. If considering that route, I'd make sure they are auditioned by someone who is already a good whistle player.

For Irish music, key of D is most common. If you are going to play with others, a tunable whistle is desirable, and here are some below. Merely as a matter of personal preference. I'd rather buy brass bodies than aluminum. While I have some wood whistles, I tend towards Delrin for the easier care (no need to humidify).

-My thought for best value is a Jerry Freeman tweaked Generation D. Jerry is a full-time whistle tweaker. He sells them on eBay, for around US $55. I have a couple of his other models (Bluebird & Blackbird).
https://www.ebay.com/itm/275186718087

Want to hear one of Jerry's played by a pro musician (Kevin Crawford of Lunasa)?:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VqBmgziAFlI

-I've tried a couple of Susatos, found them sounding too much like the plastic they are, and sold them on.

-Also in this reasonable price range are whistles by Tony Dixon, but I have never had one in my hands. Reports on the Chiff & Fipple forums seem to indicate that beginners are often pleased with them as starter instruments, but then eventually graduate up his line of products or into other whistle makers. Available from a number of online vendors, including eBay.

-Killarney whistles have a decent rep, used in a lot of competitions. It started out as a sort of John Sindt clone, but I think now has its own voice. About US $100. I have an early nickel one, and switched the head onto a brass Feadog body.
https://killarneywhistle.com

-A bit of a wait, a genuine whistle from John Sindt. Available via email to John. Not sure of the current price direct, possibly a little higher than the Killarney. They are selling used for ridiculously high prices, which is what I did with mine. The fingering for an in-tune C natural is a little inconsistent from other whistles. Also seen in competitions.

-Next up, Gene Milligan (I have one in all Delrin). Somewhere around $185. Actually one of my favorites.
https://www.milliganwhistles.com/

-MK Whistles has just begun releasing their new Midgie high D. US $200. They make a very flute-like low D (the MK Pro model), and we're all anxious to see how this high whistle plays.
https://mkwhistles.com/

-Roy McManus whistles, generally wood. Lovely, and a current favorite in Irish music. Somewhere around US $250 or so, I think. I have one in african blackwood. Very good whistles, definitely highly crafted. There are also videos on his website of Kevin Crawford playing them.
http://www.roymcmanus.co.uk/

-Bit more expensive, those from Michael Burke. My preference is the brass Session DBSBT (key of D, Brass, Session bore, Black [Delrin] Tip). Some complain that these are too smooth in tone, somewhat sterile. Consistent & reliable, though, and available in many, many keys with similar playing characteristics. US $270. Sold my last.
https://www.burkewhistles.com/D-Brass-Session_p_74.html

-Carbony Carbon Fibre whistles (conical bore, lightweight) from Celtic Winds are about $280. Pretty nice, comfortable because of the taper, but a non-traditional look with the material. I have a high C & high D.
https://carbony.com/

-Phil Bleazey wooden whistles. Wood with a conical bore. I have one in boxwood. Around US $280.
http://www.bleazey.co.uk/whistlepage.html

-Paul Busman wooden whistles. Actually, I have one in Delrin. Had one in african blackwood but sold it. I liked the Delrin one better. My experience was that his whistles vary a lot in terms of fit/finish & (wood) stability. Around US $300.
https://www.busmanwhistles.com/

-Chris Abell whistles. US $500. I have a C/D set in Delrin (1 interchangeable head). I found the Delrin played just as sweet as my blackwood ones, so sold those off. What I don't like is that the beak is not as comfortable as other whistles that have the back scooped out for a more comfortable fit around the lower lip. The Abells generally have a purer tone that is particularly appreciated by Boehm flute players who dabble in whistle-playing.
https://www.abellflute.com/whistles/

As you see, there are plenty of whistles available across an entire range, either standard stock or bespoke.


Now, don't get me started on Irish flutes!
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Old 05-29-2022, 10:07 AM
CoastStrings CoastStrings is offline
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If I were just starting out, I would just get a Susato. You’ll see pros playing them from time to time. And my advice to my younger self would be to ignore any other penny whistles that are within +100% of Susato’s price range.

I have five. Some are in different keys. I haven’t seen any value yet in upgrading.

Susato works just fine until you build enough skill and determine what direction your tastes take you.
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Old 05-29-2022, 10:32 AM
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kkrell kkrell is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by CoastStrings View Post
If I were just starting out, I would just get a Susato. You’ll see pros playing them from time to time. And my advice to my younger self would be to ignore any other penny whistles that are within +100% of Susato’s price range.

I have five. Some are in different keys. I haven’t seen any value yet in upgrading.

Susato works just fine until you build enough skill and determine what direction your tastes take you.
I can't really disagree. Especially if you're not sure whether you're going to stick with playing the whistle.

I suppose my suggestions are more for the enthusiast who may already be seeking a particular sound, or intends to play at sessions. Some of the Susatos are quite loud, too loud.

Personally, at that same price point, I still think the Freeman tweaked is a better choice. And if +100% of the Susato price is acceptable, then the Killarney, better Dixons, & maybe even the Sindt are within reach.
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Old 05-29-2022, 04:22 PM
CoastStrings CoastStrings is offline
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I actually got a Susato set that came with one head joint and three bodies. That allowed me to have 3 whistles in C, D, an Eb.

It sells for about $120 these days. I got it a whole lot cheaper years ago. It was perfect for studying pieces from different methods that were in different keys.

I’ve found Susatos to be consistent, easy to maintain and clean, and less affected by temperature changes.
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Old 05-30-2022, 04:22 AM
Merak Merak is offline
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Great information, many thanks!
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Old 05-30-2022, 07:00 AM
menhir menhir is offline
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I actively enjoyed and pursued playing the penny whistle in the past...an activity that I have drifted away from over the years.
I probably should get back into it...it was a fun instrument.

Since they are diatonic instruments, you'll need different whistles to play in different keys.
Traditionally, you'll want to get one in the key of D first.

They are also dirt cheap, so buying and trying won't set you back much.
I have quite a few.

I'm going to go against the grain here a bit, but if you're just starting out, I'd recommend not spending a lot of money on more expensive instruments.
Rather, get a Generation (quality control on these is a bit sketchy, so you'll learn how to tweak them if needs be) or something similar...I liked Waltons and Clarkes.

A lot of iconic tin whistle music was recorded and performed on whistles no more expensive than these. High end whistles are a relatively recent phenomena.

A good resource...

https://forums.chiffandfipple.com/

More info here...

https://learntinwhistle.com/resources/best-tin-whistle/
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Last edited by menhir; 05-30-2022 at 10:46 AM.
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Old 05-30-2022, 02:27 PM
TobyB TobyB is offline
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Some of the very cheap'n'cheerful whistles can also sound and play really well ... the trouble is quality control ... and getting a shop to let you play through their box of 30 isn't going to be easy!
Dixon & Susatto are possibly worth the consistency?
Expensive and beautifully made tunable metal whistles can be lovely ... but I sold one that was just horribly shrill and unpleasant, regardless of name, reputation and cost!

A good whistle to learn on doesn't need a lot of breath, is not overly sensitive to how hard you blow, but is easy to play across the break as you over-blow into the second octave and back ... a great many tunes need this transition to be smooth and effortless, and fighting to control this is disheartening in the same way as a cheap acoustic guitar with rubbish intonation and an action you can drive a truck under. Someone lent me a Dixon whistle at a session... and it just played so easily compared my green and gold Walton (though some of theirs are very good)
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Old 06-05-2022, 08:16 AM
Maryc-k Maryc-k is offline
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Kevin, thanks for the great info!
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