Best tin whistle

Best tin whistle

Calling all you whistle gurus :)

A friend is wanting to learn tin whistle, wants to learn some Irish trad tunes on it, knows little about them, (as do I) and wants to know :

1 best brand, best key of whistle to start with
2 can you try it out in the shop? (my guess would be "no", for reasons of good hygiene).
3 is there a good tutor on the market (I know there used to be a book + cassette with a pile of tunes, played at normal and slow speed) … maybe it’s still around?

One last thing from me, a non-player … in several different sessions, I’ve noticed that sometimes the higher notes tend to sound slightly sharp, even when the tonic note of the whistle is in tune with every other instrument. Could this be anything to do with the whistle itself?

Any help would be much appreciated!

Re: Best tin whistle

Generation D. I think most shops still let you try them out. Well, they have done in my experience. Can’t remember any decent tutors, but it doesn’t take much - there are only 6 holes so, once you have access to a bunch of tunes, which you do, Jim, the rest is just practice.

As for tuning, yes, you need to be careful with whistle. Bad players will play them out of tune. It takes practice to play them in tune and well.

Re: Best tin whistle

Yes I would go with the Generation D to start with. There are some things you can do to improve the sound like removing any rags or sharp edges left by the manufacturing process, and sticking blu-tack under the airway to fill the gap there, and loosening the head in hot water to allow for tuning; but they are still the best value for money as far as I’m concerned.

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Re: Best tin whistle? Oak

Only slightly more expensive than the Generation D is The Oak Tin Whistle in D. It’s also chrome plated and looks very similar (but has a nicer finish) and it has a better mouthpiece, with a more refined air-way, so it can produce a very nice tone more easily than the Generation (in my view anyway). There’s also no need to melt the glue to make it tunable, it’s already tunable. The mouth-piece of the Oak whistle is black (rather than the blue of the Generation, or red for the brass version) and it costs about 12 euros whereas the Generation is around 8. You won’t be disappointed.

Re: Best tin whistle

I was going to recommend Michael Burke’s whistles, until I saw his current price is over $200. So, if I were buying a whistle today it would most likely be one tweaked by Jerry Freeman.
http://www.burkewhistles.com/home.php
http://www.ebay.co.uk/sch/freemanwhistles/m.html

Geraldine Cotter has a good tin whistle tutor.
http://www.mally.com/details.asp?id=612

Michael Eskin has some tunes for learning ~ played once up to speed & then slowly;
http://www.tradlessons.com/?cat=4

I had an Oak whistle several years ago & it was a good whistle. If they are the same as they were that’s a good recommendation.

Re: Best tin whistle

I heard the Chieftains perform in Vancouver a few eyars ago, and I’d swear Paddy Maloney used a Generation D whilstle. If it’s good enough for me, it’ll certainly do the job for me. (Though I kind of like my D Feadog as well)

Re: Best tin whistle

Generation, Oak, Feadog, Sweetone, and Clarke are all basically the same price. Variation in manufacture at this price point swamps variation across brands, and it’s not much of an investment, so buy any of the above or one of each and find out for yourself.

Re: Best tin whistle

Oaks can be bad. I’ve got a stinker of an Oak whistle. And the headjoints on the Oak are glued just like the Generations, so you do have to melt the glue in just the same way. (Or at least all the ones I’ve seen have been glued.)

IMO, Generations are cheaper and better. But it doesn’t matter, ‘cos all of these makes are cheap. And there’s no point in paying any more.

Re: Best tin whistle

How strange that this should come up again. I posted an answer to the self same question on another site recently. But to answer all your questions in turn………

Nickel plated Generation D would be my top choice. Reasons for this include price, musicality, tone, breath requrement, provenance (did somebody already mention that lass Bergin and that Moloney chap?), tweakability, tunability.

Not sure about trying in the shop, can’t hurt to ask though. Then again, if you don’t play one yourself, that might be pointless.

Geraldine Cotter wrote a good tutor - copies always available on Ebay/Amazon etc. I also recommend our member Michael Eskin and a certain Jesuit priest - both on utube. They both offer great tuition videos.

Heres a bit of buying advice for you as well……….

All cheap (under £40.00) whistles are mass produced. They are all made to a "price point" rather than a quality standard. The downfall of cheap whistles lies in the inconsistency of their manufacture. No two ever sound quite the same!

All you need to do is avoid any you see with moulding flash (surplus bits of plastic) in either the airway (hole you blow down) or the window (rectangular hole in the mouthpiece). Make sure that the blade (the sharp edge at the bottom of the window) is a clean crisp moulding. You can remove flash with a craft knife, but its better if you don’t have to.

Regarding the tube – just make sure there are no rough edges around either the holes or bottom end and ensure there are no dents.

Wish your mate luck from me will you?

Re: Best tin whistle

I recommend Clarke whistles for beginners. I think the conical bore is a bit easier on the new player as they learn to shift between the first and second octaves. Also, it is a bit softer, which is an advantage for the folks who live around the beginner.
And there is nothing wrong with buying two or three inexpensive whistles to start with and getting a feel for what you like and what you don’t.
I the end, the work you put into learning the whistle makes far more of a difference than the whistle itself. Far too many folks miss that simple fact, and try to pursue improvement with their pocketbook rather than with playing and practice.

Re: Best tin whistle

1. Generation or Feadog D
2. Yes of course
3. Mary Bergin has a Whistle tutor book out soon. Get it! Brilliant player and teacher.

With regards to the tone of higher notes, it can depend on the Whistle sometimes but also on the player. Care and maintenance is important as is musicality and lightness in the blowing. Many whistles are now tunable. For a high end whistle the Sindt is the best although volume wise may not be the best for a session. There is a lovely Polish whistle on the market now called the Goldfinch, reasonably priced. Check them out.

Re: Best tin whistle

More info!

Most (though not all ) ITM session tunes can be played using the naturals plus either one, two or three sharps (i.e. G-Maj, D-Maj, A-Maj and the related modal keys).

The D whistle gives you two sharps with straight fingering, one sharp with cross-fingering (to obtain C-Nat) and three sharps with half-holing (to obtain G-Sharp).

That’s why you need a "D" whistle.

As to the make, a Generation (nickel) is as good as any. Cheap, and easy to play. Slightly breathy sound to it. Quality can be a little erratic, so ideally test in the shop against something of known pitch.

If the shop won’t let you test it, go to another shop that will!

Re: Best tin whistle

I started with the generation range but they can be squeaky and give out suddenly in the higher octave if you’re nervous when you first learn to play. I’ve had some embarrassing moments when at altitude there. Fair enough, it makes you learn better breath control pdq, but it was only when I bought Jerry Freeman’s tweaked mellow dog D (he does a set with D and C barrels for the same headpiece) that I could relax and really enjoy playing the whistle, because I found it so much more stable across the full range of the instrument.

Although whistles are cheap and technically not hard, time spent learning how to really master it is well worth it as they can be a lovely instrument and people do seem to enjoy hearing them.

Tweaked mellow dog for me every time, though!

Re: Best tin whistle

you get what you pay for.

Generations are fine, always have been - it’s a case of ‘paying your dues’. When you have worked and laboured to perfect your craft you will realise that there is nothing intrinsically ‘wrong’ with the cheapest instrument.

If you want a better instrument be prepared to pay for it, but and it’s an important but, be sure that you are actually prepared to lay out the required monies - quality has never, ever, come cheap, don’t blame the instrument when it doesn’t perform for you. I have no idea of how many Generations I have ‘thrown’ away for one reason or another - if it’s not you (and you are sure of this; eventually you will know through experience) get another whistle. It’s called a ‘penny whistle’ for a reason, even if in this day and age it costs more than that.
There is no such thing as a free lunch unless you are in the right place at the right time.

Re: Best tin whistle

I completely agree with Jerry Freeman whistles. Great whistles at a great price. If you want to go with the completely inexpensive ones, though, I much prefer the Feadogs over the Generations. That’s a personal thing.

Re: Best tin whistle

Well, here ya go. For someone over this side of the water, Cillian O’Briain’s tweaked whistles are fantastic. Jerry’s are fine, but O’Briain’s are brilliant.

However, plain stock Gens have been used by the best for a very long time.

Re: Best tin whistle

I agree about Cillian’s Feadóg’s

Re: Best tin whistle

"And the headjoints on the Oak are glued just like the Generations, so you do have to melt the glue in just the same way"

…I picked up on this one …I’ve seen players tune them, by adjusting the headjoint .. I didn’t realise they were actually fixed in place.

Thank you all for your replies, and in advance for any more coming in - they are most helpful. Her Ladyship will be delighted and will probably buy a few Gen Ds to start off with :)

Re: Best tin whistle

Perhaps she can play them first & buy the best of the lot.

Re: Best tin whistle

Generation D, brass. Maybe the nickel ones sound a tad better and fuller, but I’ve found personally that any sweat at all on one’s fingers makes them slip about in a way that is a nuisance and an impediment to playing them. Though some people who don’t have this problem definitely prefer them. The brass ones come with a thin shiny patina, which may well present the same problem (it’s so long since I bought one…), but this quite soon frays off and you’re left with the true brass underneath on which the fingers find a firm purchase, whether the instrument is held tightly or relatively loosely.

I think you’d be unlucky to buy a whistle blind that didn’t function properly. Way back I destroyed more whistles by trying to "improve" them than I ever brought home as actual duds. Whistle freaks do endless things to them, no doubt to better effect than I did, and no doubt they will be submitting their tips here.

An ordinary well-functioning brass Generation is for me as good as any whistle gets, and I’m not looking out for any other kind. And I assume they’re still (relatively) very cheap, and that it doesn’t cost much to acquire the range of different sizes / keys. Every so often a tune crops up that’s not in the basic D-G-A range that the D whistle handles.

An Irish whistle called the ‘Feadog’ was in circulation decades ago that seemed very like the Generation. I never bought one though I believe it was quite popular with players. I don’t know if they’re still being made.

I’ve found the black Clarke ‘Meg’ in D an inferior thing. Its very top notes don’t come out properly, I’ve found - I just get squawks on mine. I’ve got two, and they’re both like that.

I don’t like Susatos. I find their sound over-loud and insensitive and "plastic-sounding", if you know what I mean.

Lots of individuals are making and marketing whistles of various kinds, made of various materials. I’ve heard some that are impressive, but the prices might be that too, and I have not as yet felt stirred to buy one.

Re: Best tin whistle

Jim, is there someone in your session who plays whistle & might help your friend get started with a few tunes? Also, there may be a half decent whistle one of your mates is willing to loan …

Re: Best tin whistle

nicholas, While I have played a Clarke for years, I am not a fan of the plastic fipple Clarkes myself—the good old wooden fipple version suits me just fine.

Re: Best tin whistle

I’ve never had a problem with the Meg/Woodstock/Sweetone line. I’ve owned several, they’ve been consistent and easy to play in tune. A bit quiet is the only problem I’ve had, but they’re louder than the classic ones.

Re: Best tin whistle

"An Irish whistle called the ‘Feadog’ was in circulation decades ago that seemed very like the Generation…. I don’t know if they’re still being made."

Feadogs are still around. I’ve found in recent years that they are better than Generation whistles - and much the same price. Feadog introduced a new fipple design about 10 years ago, giving a tone much closer to that of the Generation (the older design had a slightly ‘mushy’ sound, as opposed to the ‘poppier’ sound of the Generation), and they seem to be quite consistent in quality. Meanwhile, Generation whistles have become very inconsistent tone and quality - a couple of years ago, I sorted through a box of Generation D whistles and out of about 10, I found 3 that were, to my ear, acceptable (all those I didn’t buy were duly cleaned with antiseptic wipes).
So, I’d probably plump for Feadog over Generation nowadays.

Clarke’s Sweetone and Meg whistles (which are identical, as far as I can tell) have never done it for me - the tone doesn’t have enough ‘edge’ for my liking. The old style Clarke whistles, with the wooden block, can be nice, but they are temperamental, as the wood expands and contracts as it takes on and loses moisture (eventually, if it dries out too much, it starts to leak air around the edges, or may fall out altogether.)

Shaw whistles are a slightly up-market, better-made cousin of the old-style Clarkes. I had a high D that had a lovely tone - great for playing at home, but was much too flat to play in a session, even after it was warmed up.

I’m with Nicholas on Susato whistles. They sound like what they are - plastic. I have occasionally heard people make them sound sweet, but those players are few and far between. Beginners should go nowhere near them.

Re: Best tin whistle

Hmmmm,

I have 2 of the new Feadog’s and don’t rate them. Mind, my favorite whistle of all time is a 25 year old Feadog (with the square-ish head profile).

I notice nobody has mentioned the Clare whistles. I think they deserve a look. They seem a bit on the quiet side but would come second to Generations in my book.

Then again, nobody has mentioned the Dixon "trad". I have one that I don’t like but I know other whistlers who do like them a lot.

There, now thats confused everybody!

Who are we kidding anyway? If your mate sticks with the whistle, I’d be prepared to bet that in 5 years time he will probably own 20 or 30 !!!

Re: Best tin whistle

I think the old Clarke in C is a fantastic characterful instrument when it is in good playing order. But its tendency to idiosyncratic decomposition and sonar waywardness, not to mention its being in C and F rather than the more usual session keys, rather militate against it being a newbie’s best buy for sessions.

Mine ceased to play long ago.

I imagine them being played by pixies on Dartmoor to lure wayfarers into bogs.

Re: Best tin whistle

They definitely have that eldritch vibe.

Re: Best tin whistle

Sigh… Just as much difference of opinion here as at Chiff and Fipple. For even more (and just as confusing) advice of this sort go there and do a search. You’ll find many more comments than you want to read.

The uneven quality of the common cheap whistles (Feadog, Generation, Oak, Clarke, etc.) make buying one "blind" difficult. Good players who play those models/brands have searched to find the one they play. If you can go to a store and someone with you is a decent player and you can try them out that is a way to go. But if you can not meet all three of those conditions buy a Jerry Freeman tweaked whistle. You can find them on eBay, and he has sound clips of all his offerings well recorded by fine players to help you decide on the tone quality you like. A bit more money, but you’ll get a solid well adjusted instrument. If by some strange chance you don’t, Jerry will take it back and either fix it or replace it. Well worth the little bit of extra expense for a beginner seems to me.

Re: Best tin whistle

"And the head-joints on the Oak are glued just like the Generations, so you do have to melt the glue in just the same way"

Nope! The head-joints are movable, and not just on the ones I bought: it says they’re tunable on the box they come in, and they are tunable. The head-joint is not glued, so don’t put the head-joint of Oak whistles in boiling water. It takes a bit of pressure (so they don’t slide around) but they’re ready-tunable.

Re: Best tin whistle

I think cboody’s right. the chances of finding a good generation are pretty slim. However, it’s well worth it. I’ve two high Ds that are spectacularly good whistles, Admittedly, one is a 1960s model I inherited, but the other I only bought a couple of years ago after spending obout an hour going through a shop’s entire stock of about 100.

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Re: Best tin whistle

I had a lovely red-top brass D Generation - I don’t remember how, when or where I acquired it. Through years of use, it was full of dents, and bent into a subtle banana-curve, yet it still played beautifully. Eventually, from too much tuning - and probably being packed into confined corners of rucksacks and so on - the head cracked and fell off. After a few attempts to glue it together, the head eventually broke in two and it was a lost cause. I tried putting a different head on the body but, of course, it’s the fipple that makes the sound, so it wasn’t the same. I think I still have the decapitated body somewhere, waiting for the right head to come along. But no whistle I’ve had since has matched it (except possibly the nickel Generation C, complete with child’s teeth marks on the mouthpiece, that was, I think, bought from our neighbours at a car boot sale when I was a nipper, before I ever envisaged myself playing it.)

Re: Best tin whistle

I don’t understand the attraction to the Generations, unless the contributors are playing older one, or the ones for sale in the States are c**p.

To the post, the clark conical bores are a nice place to start, but be aware that the student will probably want to move up once they get to playing the upper octave.

After wandering the whistle wilderness (still have coffee mugs full of whistles that squak and cant get much above the high A) I dropped for the Burke (though it was $100 at the time). I still like my Feadog though. A very servicable whistle.

I suspect Paddy Maloney’s is a vintage whistle so may have been made back before the Chinese started making them.

Re: Best tin whistle

"I don’t understand the attraction to the Generations"
You’ve just never had a shot on a good one

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Re: Best tin whistle

The whole spiel of ‘the older ones’ is smoke and mirrors. The old ones were as variable as the present ones. The narrower window made them quieter and slightly better balanced. The new design gained some volume. Each had their pros and cons.

Posted .

Re: Best tin whistle

The problem of the generations is that it is difficult to find a good one. All generations aren’t built in the same quality.
I think you must go to the shop and try them until you find the good one.
If you are looking for an expensive tin whistle you could buy a burke or a sindt.

Re: Best tin whistle

that’s interesting prof, and explains why i have a good old one and new one.

I think there’s a thing that works the same for any instruments of age … the good ones survive ‘cause they get looked after.

Posted .

Re: Best tin whistle

… and the bad ones get chucked in the bin.

Re: Best tin whistle

I have just got a Syn High "D" Whistle and it is just brilliant beyond measure. The tuning and tone is just truly awesome. Well worth the $75 Australian Dollars.

The Syn "D" would play as well as any other Top Makers "D" whistle. No questions asked.

Erle has a back order for the Low "D" whistles. :(

Cheers.