Folk & Acoustic Musical Instrument Specialists

FAQ Main Menu > Low Whistles

Low Whistle Information and FAQs


Describes any 6 hole whistle pitched lower than A. Late 20th century instrument.


We normally refer to whistles as low whistles if there is one available an octave higher. The G is the highest pitch commonly sold, so from G downwards we call the big ones Low whistles.
The Low Whistle, so popular today as a result of the success Riverdance, was first made in the early 1970s by Bernard Overton, from aluminum tube. The instrument is usually tuned to D, an octave below the usual small D penny whistle, and twice as long (more or less the same size as a flute).


All Metal Low Whistle | All Plastic Low Whistle | Metal Low Whistle With Plastic Mouthpiece

All Metal Low Whistle

   Back to Top
Introduction: Alloy whistles with an integral metal mouthpiece and metal block tend to be hard blowing powerful and loud instruments. They are capable of a wide range of tone and sound.

All Plastic Low Whistle

   Back to Top
Introduction: All plastic whistles with plastic mouthpiece and block are usually made of ABS resin and are usually sweet and mellow in sound. They tend to be easy to get a good tone and are hard to break.

Metal Low Whistle With Plastic Mouthpiece

   Back to Top
Introduction: Whistles with a cylindrical metal tube and a plastic mouthpiece tend to give a bright sound and are easy blowing. They can't be played as hard as an all metal alloy whistle.


   Back to Top
Some instruments are made with a sliding head joint, which allows the instrument to be fine tuned. Not all players prefer this, and the most popular models are not tuneable.


   Back to Top
The Tin Whistle in its present form, has developed from the flageolet, popular in the last century. Its origins of course are far older than that. The fingering is the same as on the wooden flutes and piccolos, D is the most useful key for folk tunes, but most tunings are available.


   Back to Top
Where to Start?

The whistle is a diatonic instrument with simple fingering, and it's very easy to learn to play - easier than the recorder. If you're thinking about beginning the whistle, it is advisable to begin with a normal (high) whistle in the key of D. It is generally considered to be the easiest to play, and pretty much all of the tutor books you can buy are for whistles in D (although they can be used for any key).

What Keys Can I Play In?
Whistles generally play two octaves, and you can easily play in two keys on any whistle, for example on a D whistle you can play in D and G. Because many tunes go down below the key note, you will often find that the tune is easier to play in G than D on a D whistle, because D is the lowest note. This means you should also consider the alternative key of the whistle when choosing the key. C goes to F, A to D which is useful, F to Bb, G to C and so on.

Are My Hands Big Enough!
Some low whistles have a bigger stretch between the finger holes than others, so if you have small hands it is advisable to choose a whistle with closer holes, so that you won't have trouble reaching them. The Chieftain has been redesigned to bring the little finger hole closer in, and the Shaw Whistles have a smaller stretch too.

Materials & Shape
Most low whistles are made from aluminum alloy tube, others from brass tube (which is the traditional material for small tin whistles, and in recent times also from plastic tubing. The alloy ones usually have the mouthpiece as an integral part of the tube, with a metal block inserted. Others have a plastic mouthpiece separately moulded.

A whistle with a conical bore (Clarkes, Sweetone, Shaw) generally has a fairly breathy sound, while a straight bore gives a clearer sound. (All the rest)

Chieftain, Overton and Alba are all whistles of a similar good quality. They are all hand made, with a straight bore. There are differences in tone between the whistles, but it is generally a matter of personal preference.

There are differences in tone between the whistles, but it is generally a matter of personal preference.