Penny Whistle

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The penny whistle is a woodwind instrument made from metal and consisting of six sound holes for the player to use. The penny whistle has many other names including tin whistle, irish whistle and celtic whistle, which mostly refer to the genres it is most famous for playing and the regions of Ireland and the united kingdom where it originates.
History of the Penny Whistle
The penny whistle started its ancestral history as early as the 15th century when smaller whistles began to emerge from the fipple flute family of instruments, including the recorder. These small, portable instruments used finger holes to allow the player to change the pitch. The larger English flageolet invented by William Bainbridge, may have been one of precursors to the modern pennywhistle. During the 19th century, variations of these portable flutes were sold cheaply by instrument makers which might establish where they got their name as they would have been worth little more than a penny to English and Irish people of the time. In the 1840s, Robert Clarke of Suffolk, England developed a new and simple kind of whistle from tin and wood that he sold on the streets of London. Also allegedly for a penny. These instruments became popular as simple instruments used in folk and celtic groups which is why they became so associated with the genres. Nowadays, the penny whistle is often constructed from nickel and brass.
Inventor: Unknown

Where to Buy

£7 - £21

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How to Play

A small, simple wind instrument with six finger holes and a distinctive, high-pitched sound. It's played by blowing into the mouthpiece and covering or uncovering the holes on the body of the instrument to produce different notes.

In Popular Music

The penny whistle was played by Morris Goldberg on Paul Simon's 'You Can Call Me Al'. Saxophonist LeRoi Moore of Dave Matthews Band has also played this instrument. Irish bands The Pogues and The Cranberries have also incorporated the penny whistle for its celtic history.

Famous Players

Mary Bergin, Paddy Moloney

Close Relations

Tin Whistle, Irish Flute
Video Credit: 0rkithewhistler
Understanding the Penny Whistle




19th century






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