Best Tin Whistles for Beginners and Professionals

Best Tin Whistles for Beginners and Professionals

What is the best Irish tin whistle (penny whistle) to buy? Or, is there the best Irish whistle brand? Well, there’s no silver-bullet answer to that question. As Colin Goldie (one of the highly experienced whistle makers) says: “There is no perfect whistle for everyone as we all have our own idea on what is good”. Luckily, this guide will help you in making the right decision, depending on your taste and needs. And not only in terms of what to buy, but what to avoid buying in specific cases too.

Best Tin Whistles for Sale

Whether you are just getting started and looking for the best tin whistle to buy online for beginners, a loud one for sessions, or one from a professional range, this guide will get you covered. You can read about characteristics with the pros and cons alongside general recommendations and advice for each one listed here.

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Best tin whistle for beginners good-sounding and relatively cheap

If you are a beginner and looking for your first tin whistle, you probably want one just to learn and start getting used to the instrument. You want to make sure they are easy to blow but preferably good enough not to provide the squeaks. They are usually inexpensive with a price range of around $10-$20. One of the important things you should keep in mind is that you definitely want a tin whistle in the key of D. It is considered the common key, and luckily all of the whistle makers and brands offer so-called high (soprano) D whistles.

Our editors’ picks
Best soft toneBest clear soundBest non D
Waltons Mellow DDixon Trad DGeneration Brass Bb
Our editors’ picks for beginners. See more choices below.

Waltons Mellow D highly flexible beginner tin whistle

Waltons Mellow D tin whistle

Waltons brand offers several fine Irish whistle models for beginners. Yet advanced players love it too. There are standard and “mellow ” models, the later I more recommend. It’s made of a brass tube with a plastic mouthpiece. As the name suggests it has a mellow flute-like sound which is probably achieved by a slightly wider bore diameter than a standard one.

Besides brass whistles, Waltons also has coated models made of aluminum. Probably the most known is a black one with a Guinness logo. Or without it, called “A Little Black”. And to be honest, I would rather buy this whistle for a gift as it just doesn’t play nearly good as brass models in terms of tone clearness and balance.

  • Mellow but clear sound (similar to some much more expensive whistles)
  • Flexible with breath pressure (can nicely play vibrato and pitch variations)
  • Not too quiet (as most of the cheap whistles)
  • It can oxidize over time and reveal stains (as all brass whistles do)
  • Only C & D keys are available

Feadog brass D tin whistle with very low air requirements

Feadog brass D tin whistle

Original Irish whistle, very similar to Waltons (brass tube and green plastic mouthpiece), except it has a bit crispier sound. So, if you prefer a “sweet and tiny” traditional tone, then it is a go-to whistle for you. One more thing to mention is that it is very sensitive. It barely requires any air pressure to be played, but this also means that you can easily overblow the notes.

  • Crispy traditional sound (also a bit tiny)
  • Somewhat quiet
  • Can oxidize over time
  • C & D whistle keys available

Feadog PRO D well-balanced beginner tin whistle

Another decent whistle by Feadog is its latest PRO model, made of nickel. Comparing to the brass model, it has a bit richer and softer tone, similar to Waltons Mellow D. Still very traditional sounding and is slightly better balanced (which is why PRO stands in its name) and not so easy to overblow.

  • Nickel body
  • Well balanced between octaves
  • Soft & rich tone
  • Only key of D available
  • Available in silver and black coated color

Clarke original D good airy-sounding tin whistle

Clarke original tin whistle

A whistle with a very long tradition, made in England since 1843. It’s definitely a unique whistle among other beginner choices both by the sound and the look. It has a conical (tapered) bore made of tin, with a wooden plug instead of a mouthpiece. This piece of wood makes it probably the most breathy & husky whistle, which some people may love and some not.

Clarke also offers its “Sweetone” models which are made of a tin tube and regular plastic mouthpiece and are much more similar to other beginner choices.

  • Very breathy sound
  • Requires more air than other beginner whistles (but is a bit quieter)
  • Good volume balance between octaves
  • Non-tunable (can be a real issue if you are likely to play with other musicians)
  • C & D keys are available
  • Sweetone colored models are great for kids

Generation brass Bb high quality non-D tin whistle

Generation brass Bb whistle

While Generation whistles generally sound very similar to Waltons and Feadog, We’ve heard the same complaint from many people. Not every piece of Generation whistles sounds the same, sometimes neither similar. While one can be really good, the other may sound squeaky. So, my recommendation is to avoid Generation D whistle as a beginner, unless you can go to the shop in person and try 10 pieces. Then you may find the one you genuinely like.

However, the main benefit of Generations is they come in various keys (which is rare among entry-level whistles). Therefore, it makes them a go-to solution for any other key than C & D. Brass Bb model is especially good and I would definitely recommend Generation if you need that specific key. The Generation whistles are offered in brass vs nickel models. The nickel ones, except the silver look, sound edgier and brighter, while the brass models have a softer tone.

  • Comes in various keys (Bb, C, D, Eb, F & G)
  • Generation Bb brass model sounds close to much more expensive whistles
  • They differ from piece to piece (and some may sound squeaky)

Dixon Trad D best clear-sounding tin whistle

Tony Dixon Trad Tin Whistle

Traditional D whistle made by Tony Dixon is a bit pricey compared to other beginner whistles listed here, but it is probably well worth it. Dixon whistles are hand-finished, which means that each one you get is tested and of good quality. Thus, you cannot make a mistake by choosing it. Trad D whistle comes in nickel and it has a very bright and sweet traditional tone.

  • Hand-finished whistles
  • Easy to play (doesn’t require a lot of air)
  • Clear and bright sound on both octaves
  • Arguably the sweetest sounding whistle
  • Various keys available (A, Bb, C, D, Eb)

Dixon DX005 best plastic tin whistle

Tony Dixon DX005 Tin Whistle

Another Dixon’s option is a DX005 model, liked among both beginners and experienced players. The addition to the plastic body is the handmade brass tuning slide, excellent for smooth tuning. It’s precise in its construction and probably the reason behind a slightly higher price. It has a clear and rich tone, except for the plastic that usually lacks a bit of the traditional sound, which some players love and some not.

  • Hand-finished instrument
  • Very easy to play (doesn’t require a lot of air)
  • Clear sound, well balanced in volume between octaves
  • Only key of D available

Loud tin whistles for sessions and stage performance

When it comes to choosing a tin whistle (penny whistle) for playing with other people, loudness plays a much more important role than the sound. You want to make sure your whistle can cut through a wall of noise made by guitars, fiddles, bodhrans, you name it. Also, if you play live on a stage, you want to avoid feedback caused by the high input gain of a microphone, which usually happens if a whistle is not loud enough.

While most of the professional high-end whistles are decently loud and will serve the purpose too, here are several examples of reasonably priced whistles that can get you the loudness for a price range of around 50$ to 150$.

Our editors’ picks
The loudestBest trad soundAffordable
Susato KildareDixon DX006Woodi USA
Our editors’ picks for session whistles. See more choices below.

Susato tin whistle with lots of volume

Susato Kildare Tin Whistle Tuneable

Susato whistles are made of ABS plastic having clear and crispy sound in both octaves. The upper octave is especially shrill, maybe even too much if you practice at home. Plastic whistles, in general, have a sweet tone, but they kind of lack the traditional smoothness and may sound slightly artificial. However, they are fairly popular among some of the best tin whistle players.

Susato offers several models with a full range of keys from lowest to highest. Their most popular model is “Kildare,” and they also introduced a similar model named “Oriole”, which is an economy version of Kildare. The great thing with Susato is that they offer combo options to with a single head (mouthpiece) but with multiple tubes in different keys. Which means you get several whistles as a “3 in 1” and at a very reasonable price.

It’s also worth mentioning that Susato high whistles come in S (small bore) and V (very small bore) models. The V version is a bit quieter and not too shrill in the upper octave. However, both modes will get you the desired loudness.

  • Very loud in both octaves
  • Clear sound
  • Tunable
  • Durable ABS plastic yet really light
  • Available in many keys (Low C to High F)
  • Offers combo set with one head and multiple bodies

Woodi affordable tin whistle C & D set

Woodi USA Tin Whistle

Not only does it look like a Susato copy, people who’ve been playing it say the sound is very similar too. It seems that the only “issue” with these whistles is because Woodi USA is still not a well-known and established brand on the market.

Probably the best thing with “unknown” brands is that the price usually needs to be low, despite the quality. Thus, Woodi USA whistles are definitely worth checking out. At least if you still don’t have a loud whistle to pull out in sessions occasionally. At the moment, they are only available as a set of two and in the most common keys of C & D.

  • Loud in both octaves
  • Clear and rich tone
  • Tunable
  • Durable ABS plastic
  • Available as a set of C & D keys

Busker (ex Chieftain) great volume and rich sounding tin whistle

Chieftain Tin Whistle D

Made by Phil Hardy also known under the Kerry whistles brand (for low whistles). However, as the name says, the Busker high D whistle seems to be the successor of the well-known Chieftain thunderbird whistle (which can still be found in lower keys). They are handcrafted whistles made of aluminum and have a rich sound and mellow tone. And they are loud too! It seems that the only “issue” with them is they need slightly more air in the upper octave, but some players prefer that actually.

  • Rich and mellow flute-like sound
  • Tuneable
  • Great volume but requires more air pressure in the upper octave
  • Has a narrow mouthpiece hole which may clog sometimes

Dixon DX006 mid-priced tin whistle with a great balance

Tony Dixon DX006 Tin Whistle

Another good model by Tony Dixon, DX006 is made of an alloy body with an ABS plastic mouthpiece and has the wider bore that naturally provides more sound volume. Definitely the loudest Dixon’s model at the moment. It has a very rich tone and is also tunable, which makes it well suited for recordings and playing alongside other traditional instruments.

  • The rich and mellow sound
  • Tuneable
  • Not the loudest in the category, but loud enough
  • C & D keys are available

Professional tin whistles high quality and hand-made

Not only do they sound amazing, but their playing capability is also almost limitless. Advanced players love high-quality whistles mainly because they can express those nuances in ornamentation and airflow, which can hardly be achieved with inexpensive whistles. And that’s a significant difference.

All of the professional tin whistles are hand-made and thoroughly tested, and you can be sure you get a well-balanced instrument. Their price goes from $200 and up, but since they are usually expected to last for a lifetime, they are definitely worth it.

Our editors’ picks
Best rich toneBest clear soundBest wooden
Check availabilityCheck availabilityCheck availability
Our editors’ picks for professionals.

Goldie (ex Overton) professional rich-sounding tin whistle

Colin Goldie D tin whistle tuneable

These fine whistles are made by Colin Goldie, who was learning his craftsmanship from legendary Bernard Overton for many years. Overton whistles were originally made as low whistles only, but soon they became available in higher keys. Colin now offers various keys all the way from Bass G to High E which is an amazing range.

Goldie whistles are made of aluminum and provide both sweet and mellow flute-like sound, especially in lower keys. Colin offers three types of whistles: medium, soft and hard blowers. In respect of breath pressure you want, soft blowers require less air than standard and hard models.

  • Handmade with a lifetime warranty
  • Thick aluminum, strong in its construction
  • Soft and very rich sound
  • Both tuneable and non-tuneable options
  • Comes in all keys (low and high)
  • Multiple models by breath pressure (soft, medium and hard)
  • A narrow mouthpiece that may clog up frequently

Burke clear-sounding professional tin whistle

Burke Tin Whistle aluminum

Made by Michael Burke in the USA, these whistles are arguably the purest sounding ones. They are very focused and responsive, similar to plastic whistles. But opposite to plastic shrillness, they are very balanced and creamy at the second octave.

Burke comes in a few different types. There are “session”, “wide bore” and “narrow” models, which are similar in classification to Goldie’s easy, standard and hard blowers. And to be honest, I would avoid a narrow model unless you have a good reason to get a quiet whistle rather than a louder one. Also, Burke offers brass vs aluminum models, where brass naturally produces a traditional mellow sound while aluminum sounds a bit edgier.

While a whole range from low to high whistles is available, most of the players choose Burke for high whistles. Their low whistle models are not significantly (if at all) better than other (usually less expensive) brands.

  • Arguably the purest sounding whistles
  • Handmade
  • Tunable
  • Brass and aluminum options
  • Narrow, session and wide bore options (by loudness)
  • Comes in all keys but usually used as high whistles

McManus wooden tin whistle

MacManus Tin Whistle

Not the whistle material which first comes to mind when one thinks of the Irish traditional whistle, but its distinctive sound and unmatched sleek and elegant look made them many players’ choices. Made by Roy McManus (MacMaghnuis) in Belfast, these whistles are favored by professional musicians who prefer wood. They are loud and clear sounding, with a full, rounded textured tone in both octaves.

McManus whistles are available in all keys, low and high, and also offered in many various wood materials, each giving its own specific character to the whistle. From boxwood and hornbeam, all the way to blackwood, cocobolo, or other exotic woods.

  • Loud and full sound, rich & textured tone
  • Handmade, tuneable & well balanced
  • Various wood materials available
  • Comes in all keys, low to high

Sindt professional trad tin whistle

Sindth Tin Whistle

Made by John Sindt in the USA, these whistles have a very long tradition, especially among the Irish players. And that’s probably because of the way these whistles sound, traditionally beautiful. While they are slightly quieter among professional whistles, advanced players love them because of their clear tone and great balance between octaves. They are made of brass and produce a sweet mellow tone similar to cheaper traditional ones (i.e. Feadog or Waltons), but they are handcrafted and perfectly balanced, as a professional instrument should be.

The only “minor” issue at the moment (besides the price) is because they are so rare to find and the waiting list is huge to acquire new ones, as John doesn’t produce them massively.

  • Made of brass, clear and mellow traditional sound
  • Well balanced between octaves
  • Slightly quiet
  • Very rare to find (which increases the price)

Tin whistles for children (colored whistles)

To put it this way, kids simply love colors! They rather create a bond with the look than the actual sound quality. And that connection will eventually lead towards more passion for playing. While many of our beginner’s choices will serve the purpose too, most popular whistle brands offer their special production line, aimed for children or just anyone who prefers colors more than the original “metal” look.

Don’t be concerned if they play nicely. They surely do, and are decent entry-level instruments and make sure to get an additional piece for your kids when buying a whistle for yourself.

Clarke Sweetone

Clarke Sweetone tin whistle

Besides its original model (with a wooden plug), Clarke offers colored models named “Sweetone”. They are made of tin with a black plastic mouthpiece and sure are fun and easy to play. It also follows the original Clarke shape, having the conical bore. Some players prefer the sound of Sweetones as it is not too airy as the original Clarke model. Unlikely other similar colored brands that usually come in the key of D only, Sweetone has the key of C available as well.

  • Made of tin, with a plastic mouthpiece
  • Sweet sound
  • Available in green, blue, red, black, gold and silver colors
  • Available in C & D keys

Waltons Rainbow

Waltons Rainbow tin whistle

Waltons model named “Rainbow” is all about light colors. They are made of aluminum with a plastic mouthpiece that matches the body color. They have the sweetnes, they have the traditional chiffy sound, and kids love them.

  • Made of aluminum, with a plastic mouthpiece
  • Very lightweight, sweet-sounding
  • Available in light green, light blue, red, pink, and yellow
  • Only key of D available

Generation Aurora

Generation Aurora tin whistle

Generation brand also offers colored models, with exactly the same sound as the traditional Generation brass. It’s for those who want a splash of full saturated, metallic lookalike colors, opposite to Walton’s lightness. So, it’s up to your taste!

  • Made of brass, with a black plastic mouthpiece
  • The same sound as on the traditional Generation brass model
  • Available in teal, yellow, and violet colors
  • Only key of D available

Feadog colored

Feadog colored tin whistle

Feadog has its own production line of colored whistles too, quite similar with the sound of original brass model.

  • Made of brass, with a black plastic mouthpiece
  • Available in blue, green, red, pink, and black colors
  • Only key of D available

Generation Boho

Generation boho tin whistles

Boho is a rather fresh and specially designed model by Generation and it’s something completely different. As the company stated, the design was inspired by “musicians, artists, poets, beats & freaks, and the revolutionary energy”. We can say it plays nicely, while its elegant look can make it a perfect gift for someone who doesn’t only love whistles, but music & arts in general.

  • Brass tube, with a black plastic mouthpiece
  • The same sound as on the traditional Generation brass model
  • Available in Gaslight red, Kerouac black, Bohemian blue, and Macdougal green designs
  • Only key of D available

Wrapping up

As in most cases, the more money the more music when it comes to musical instruments. Luckily, the entry-level tin whistles are among the most affordable and perfect for an easy start. Besides the whistles listed in this article, there are plenty of other less-known whistle makers who can possibly create fine instruments for a reasonable price. If you are interested in more options, you may want to check Chiff and Fipple forum for the acquisition and exchange of used whistles and also, there is a whistle marketplace Facebook group with the same purpose.

If you have any concerns or need advice, do not hesitate to ask through our contact page. And feel free to share your experience so far and suggest any whistle that you think should be added to the list.