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What is an Irish Whistle?

The Irish whistle or tin whistle, also called the penny whistle, English flageolet, Scottish penny whistle, tin flageolet, Irish whistle, Belfast Hornpipe, feadóg stáin (or simply feadóg) and Clarke London Flageolet is a simple, six-holed woodwind instrument. It is a type of end blown fipple flute, putting it in the same class as the recorderNative American flute, and other woodwind instruments that meet such criteria. A tin whistle player is called a tin whistler or simply a whistler. The tin whistle is closely associated with Celtic and Irish traditional music, but can and has been used in a wide variety of musical genres and styles. 

Irish whistles come in a large variety of keys. The most common key for this instrument is D, which comes in either the high D or the Low D which plays an octave lower than the high D Irish whistle. The low D has a much more haunting mellow sound , while the high D Irish whistle is bright and crisp. The instrument plays a standard 7 note diatonic scale in the key of D major. Other whistles will play the major scale of their tonic note (for example a Low C would play a C major scale, and high Bb would play a Bb major scale). 

Many sharps and flats are possible through some cross fingering and half holing. Some whistles also come with a thumb hole. The thumb hole on a D whistle would play a C natural, making the G major scale playable on a D based instrument. The C natural can also be played on most whistles by covering holes 2, and 3.  (Visually represented as "x" meaning the hole is covered and "o" meaning it is open) So the C natural fingering looks like: (< = top or mouthpiece pointing this way) < o x x o o o.


The Irish whistle plays two complete octaves and a couple other notes are able to be reached into the 3rd octave by experienced players. 


The Irish whistle is a very easy instrument to learn as it s simple to blow and the fingering of the scale is straight up and down. In the hands of a more experienced or professional player the instrument is capable of playing some of the most beautiful music on the planet.   

About The Whistle Maker

Nick Metcalf Began Making Irish Whistles in 1998. His whistles are used by amateurs and professionals alike. He has made over 10,000 instruments. He used to sell his whistles under the name but eventually had to shut down the site due to being unable to keep up with the orders and having some personal issues that made it impossible to continue. The problem was that he was taking custom orders and so each order had to be made individually and with buttons up on the web site anyone could order any time as much as they wanted to. So the new business is being run in a different fashion. no longer will there be any custom orders, and all instruments will be sold through a 3rd party retailer like eBay or This will ensure that no customers have to wait any long period of time for their orders, and that only what is already made will be sold. We hope this will make the buying experience much more pleasant, and it will keep Nick from going crazy trying to catch up on orders.

Nick has also recently gotten some extensive training in precision machining and will bring that new technical training and experience to the new designs of instruments, making the new models superior and with much less variation between individual instruments.

Nick has recently started working for Union Springs academy as the Boys dean, Bible Teacher, and Basketball Coach. Whistle making is now only done with very limited time on the side, so he only has time to make 1 or 2 a month. Nick also paints and makes artwork which is for sale on his Etsy page:

we encourage everyone to support craftsmen and small businesses by buying your whistles from makers rather than mass produced whistles that are often made in China or Pakistan, where labor laws can be more easily abused, and the quality of the instruments is much lower as they are mass produced copies of handcrafted instruments. 

Nick Metcalf Whistle Maker and Player
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