The tin whistle is a simple wind instrument with six holes and a mouthpiece. The working principle behind a tin whistle is similar to that of a flute except that you blow directly into one end, like a referee’s whistle, and not from an angle, like a normal flute. The tin whistle is a popular instrument in traditional Irish music.
The tin whistle is also known as the pennywhistle. It is commonly made of a molded plastic mouthpiece attached to a cylindrical brass tube with six holes set in it. Different sizes of tin whistles will play in different keys. The tin whistle is also normally diatonic although accidentals can be played by half-covering the holes. Mass produced tin whistles vary a lot in terms of quality so it is wise to check out a tin whistle before you buy it. Play the tin whistle to check the tone. You can even compare it to another instrument or an electronic tuner to make sure that the tin whistle is operating at its normal pitch.
You can also opt for a more expensive handmade tin whistle with which you are guaranteed to get excellent construction, good tuning, clear tone and volume.
Notes from a tin whistle are selected by fingering combinations over the six holes. When all the holes are closed, the tin whistle gives out its lowest note. Opening the holes from bottom top progressively brings the tin whistle up in the scale. When all the holes are opened, the tin whistle produces its highest note. Higher notes on any scale of the tin whistle can be achieved by blowing harder into the mouthpiece.
Although popular in traditional Irish music, the tin whistle is also used any many other music forms throughout the world. The Kwela from South Africa is a music type that is dominated by the jazzy sounds of the tin whistle. The bluegrass is another type of music that sometimes include the tin whistle in its number as well although not as pronounced a role as those of the Irish traditional music and the Kwela.