By Dale Wisely
Expensive / High Quality Whistles
Note of apology: I need to update this page. If you're in the market for a high-end whistle, I encourage you to visit our message board at http://chiffboard.mati.ca for updated information on the availability of high end whistles.
Although much of the charm of the tinwhistle is its low cost, there are many high-quality, handmade instruments available. These are all made by craftsmen of great skill. The materials tend to be finer, the workmanship invariably so. The debate always rages, however, about whether the expensive whistles are worth the cost. This debate is fueled by the fact that so many famous players stick to the good-old cheap models like Generations.
Sometimes this debate gets a bit comical. Recently, a guy posting on rec.music.celtic attacked high-quality instruments, largely on the basis that they sound too good. Folk music ought to sound a little rough, he thinks. A whistle ought to sound like a whistle. Most other "good whistle" opponents argue that they're not worth the cost. The opposite view is well-represented by this quote from rec.music.celtic, used by kind permission of the writer:
As for being expensive...I intend to be playing my fancy-pants whistle till the end of me days...On the other hand, we just got back from buying my wife a new blazer for work. Guess which one costs more,and guess which one will be worn out, and out of style in a few years.
It really is all relative.
-- Robert Mouland
All that said, since we started Chiff & Fipple circa 1996, the number of makers of high-end whistles has grown tremendously and market for high-end whistles has grown accordingly. I believe the better-made whistles enjoy more acceptance in traditional circles than they did pre-Chiff & Fipple.
A note on researching various whistles, including high-end whistles:
Since these pages were originally put together in 1996 or so, Chiff & Fipple's message board community has gotten huge. That forum includes over thousands and thousands of posts about whistles. I recommend you join, it's free, and use the SEARCH function to find threads and posts about the whistle you're interested in. (Study the SEARCH system carefully, it's a bit complicated, but most useful). The address is http://chiffboard.mati.ca
Another tremendous resource is Greg Mahan's Wandering Whistle website. Greg is an active member of Chiff & Fipple and actually was writing about whistles on the internet before me. He writes thorough and thoughtful reviews. These are often published on the Chiff & Fipple message board, but there's also a complete set on Greg's website at
Here's my best effort at cataloging high-quality, and more expensive, whistles. Your comments, corrections and reviews are always welcome.
Let me encourage you to visit the following site. It’ll just take a few minutes and then you can return:
Note: A long time ago, I divided these pages into the range of whistle keys we think of as high whistles from low whistles. If I was starting again now, I'd probably put them together somehow. Just be aware that most of these makers also make low whistles. Check that page if that is your interest.
Michael Copeland. (UPDATE MARCH 2008. At present, Mike Copeland is not making new instruments and, to my knowledge, has none available for sale. We do not know if Mike will resume making instruments.)
Eb, D, C, Bb, A. E See also LOW section. Conical bore, tunable. Brass is most common material (nickel and sterling silver available for some keys). Price range $300-350 for brass & nickel; $435-460 for sterling silver.
Without question, Michael Copeland of Philadelphia is on everyone's short list of makers of the best pennywhistles in the world, and he was a pioneer in the design and production of high-end whistles. To learn more about Mr. Copeland and his work, read the Chiff & Fipple Interview. I own a Copeland high D in nickel, an Eb and Bb in brass, and a Low F in brass. All are extraordinary instruments and I'm proud to own them. The Copeland Low D, is played by Seamus Egan and favored by many. See my comments on the Copeland for more information.
(UPDATE MARCH 2008. At present, Mike Copeland is not making new instruments and, to my knowledge, has none available for sale. We do not know if Mike will resume making instruments.)
Copeland whistle . Photo courtesy of Michael Copeland
Chris Abell. A, B, Bb, C, Db, D, E, Eb & F, Low G. (A, B, Bb can share a mouthpiece, C, D, Db,Eb can share a single mouthpiece, E & F can share a single mouthpiece. African Blackwood with silver mouthpiece. Other instrument-quality woods available. Delrin also available. Prices range from $300 to $450 depending on key. Sets available. Tunable. Chris Abell makes some of the finest whistles available. They play beautifully and they are arguably the most visually beautiful whistles on the market. I have owned a few of Chris' whistles for some time and they are unparalleled in craftsmanship. See the link to a review below. The ABELL FLUTE CO. 111 Grovewood Road. Asheville, NC 28804 USA 1- 828-254-1004 vox/fax NEW AREA CODE! The new Abell website is http://www.abellflute.com. Chris formerly had some of the longest waiting lists, but these have been reduced significantly over the years.
The page includes the interview and an excellent photo of an Abell set.
UPDATE January 15, 2000: I now own an Abell A whistle. See my review at http://www.chiffandfipple.com/abella.html
OVERTON. Cylindrical, tunable or nontunable, built in fipple. Aluminum. Hand made in the full range of keys (High F down through low keys below Low D to Bass G) by Bernard Overton and by Colin Goldie. Prices range from about 125 to about 270 Euros, depending on the vendor. (For a handy Euro currency conversion utility, click here.) Overtons are the classic fine whistles, with consistently good reviews, favored by many professional players. The tone is full-bodied and the volume substantial, making the Overton among the very finest whistles for performing in groups with other instruments. The Overton Low D was probably the original Low D whistle, or at least initiated the current wave of popularity.
Bernard Overton ENGLAND Telephone: ++44 (0) 1788 832404 GMT +/- 0 hrs
Colin Goldie Email: email@example.com
Because of the wide range of offerings, including keys, playability, finishes and some non-traditional finger-hole arrangements, you'll want to check out details on the Overton website at http://www.overton.de
Colin Goldie Overtons.-- A full set
NEW! Colin Goldie is now creating some whistles which are done in special colors through an anodizing process. It's more expensive, but it looks great. He is only doing this by custom order.
For more information, see this page.
Chieftain Cylindrical, tunable or nontunable, built in fipple. Aluminum. Chieftain is the brand name of a line of factory-made whistles based on the original Overton design and manufactured by Phil Hardy. They are cylindrical, aluminum alloy. They are slightly less expensive, with reviews more mixed than Overtons, but I would say generally favorable. They are also made in the full range of high and low keys. Tunable and nontunable models. The prices are similar to the handmade Overtons, ranging from about $105 to $260.
I received a Chieftain "Gold" Low D from Phil Hardy, which is an all-brass (not gold!) model. It’s a good sounding whistle with a nice tone. It’s heavier than other Low Ds. There also was a "Gold" High D. They are now discontinued.
I've played other Chieftains and thought they were very good instruments.
Kerry Pro. This name refers to instruments which are much like Overtons and were handmade by Phil Hardy. Phil sent me a Kerry Pro Low D which is excellent and nearly identical to the Overton Low D I have that Colin Goldie sent me. The Kerry has larger holes somewhat more widely spaced. I believe Phil only makes these in Low D and in Low F. For a time, Phil had stopped making these, but I understand they are now back in production on a very limited basis.
(There is also a line of Kerry Low whistles which have black plastic mouthpieces and aluminum shafts.)
Kerry Songbird. A different model of high D whistle by Phil Hardy. I've not played one. Aluminum, cylinder, tunable. $110. There's an extensive review at:
There website is http://www.kerrywhistle.com
The confusion about the intersection of these three whistle lines: Overton, Chieftain, and Kerry is such that I try to sort it out at http://www.chiffandfipple.com/whatamess.html. You’ll learn more about all these whistles on that page.
Patrick O'Riordan. Makes a wide variety of whistles from a variety of materials. Tunable. PAT O'RIORDAN HAS A LONG WAITING LIST AND I AM HEARING THAT HE HAS STOPPED TAKING NEW ORDERS.
Put bluntly, in my opinion, no one makes finer whistles than Pat O’Riordan. He is one of the most beloved figures in the tinwhistle community. To my knowledge, his whistles are only available directly from Pat with long waiting list. I hear 16-months to 2 years. Best known as the whistles played by Joanie Madden. On 7/4/97 I received the following e-mail from Judith Lindenau: The traditional model is "thick-walled, and feels substantial in my hands...and the design makes chromatic cross-fingerings fairly easy. The holes are large (I like that). Sound Characteristics: It's clear, and quite sweet. No breathiness. Quite responsive, particularly in the upper register. I think the low D note is not as solid as I would like, but it's much better than any other whistle I've tried, with the exception of the Susato. The Traditional model comes in C, C, E-flat, and E, and available with single head joint. Each whistle is numbered and signed. I also played "The Traveler" model, which breaks down into small pieces and fits in your shirt picket. It's quite bright, and amazingly penetrating and responsive. Pat O'Riordan also makes concert models, which have hardwood key tubes and polished brass fittings. I haven't had a chance to try those. I acquired an O'Riordan D/C set. Unfortunately, I had to kill a man to get it. I love it. See below for a link to my full review. I acquired, by way of an anonymous benefactor of Chiff & Fipple, an O’Riordan Low A made of Delrin with metal rings. It’s astoundingly beautiful to eyes and ears.
Click here for my review of the O'Riordan D/C set WITH a PICTURE!
O'Riordan Music Workshop. 7516 Avalon Drive. Ft. Wayne, IN 46819. Phone (219) 747-2557.
And now....a Chiff & Fipple
Whistle Maker Colin Goldie (Overton) called from Europe with this very sensible tip. If you buy an "Expensive" whistle, and are having some problem with it, DO NOT TRY TO FIX IT YOURSELF. SEND IT BACK TO THE MAKER OR VENDOR FOR REPAIR OR ADJUSTMENT. Before buying an Expensive whistle, by the way, you should always be clear that this is an option that will be available to you. If it isn't..don't buy from that maker or vendor. Colin and I both have had many people tell us stories about ruining whistles by trying to "fix" them.
Michael Burke PennyWhistle Co. Check his website at http://www.burkewhistles.com for more up-to-date information).
Available in Aluminum, Brass, and, the original material, a very lightweight but tough composite of wood fiber & resin, with plastic mouthpiece. Tunable. Cylindrical. A variety of bore sizes available. Available in virtually any key you want from high Eb down to low C. Prices range from about $170 for high whistles to $250 for the lower-keyed low whistles. See low guide.
Mike is one of the most innovate makers we have and certainly one of the most successful. Not only does he make the full range of keys, but he has the most comprehensive set of options, in a dizzying matrix of keys, materials, bore size, and other features. He recently started offering the option of a thumbhole, used to sound the C-natural note (or the equivalent in other keys).
Mike emerged, seemingly out of nowhere, to take his place among the first rank of whistle makers. Mike's whistles have been played and favorably mentioned by Joanie Madden, Paddy Moloney of The Chieftains (who plays them on stage, along with his modified Generations), Mary Rafferty, and Paddy Kennan, among others. Because they are among my favorites, I have an extensive collection of Burkes in multiple materials and they are absolutely first-rate. My review is at http://www.chiffandfipple.com/burkereview.html.
Photo of Burkes, photo credit unknown. If the photographer contacts me, I'll happily give him/her credit. Sorry. Don't sue me.
I've posted an interview with Michael that I did at http://www.chiffandfipple.com/michaelburke.html. Michael has a website at http://www.burkewhistles.com You can now order on-line. Good pictures of Burkes are rare, but Mike tells me he is working on that.
His email address is firstname.lastname@example.org.
John Sindt. Cylindrical, tunable, Brass with some plastic in the mouthpiece.. : E $90, Eb $90, D $90, C# $95, C $95, B $100, Bb $100, (Low) A $100. ... John Sindt's entry into the world of whistle-making has been an exciting development . For some time I had been hearing about fine whistles made by Mr. Sindt, who lives in New York State. Ben Ford writes: "I got my Sindt whistle after coming back from Irish Week during the Augusta heritage festival. It's a beautiful thing: a brass generation-style tube, but with a heavier gauge of brass, and slightly larger finger wholes. The fipple is made of thick brass, and the part you put your lips on is hand-molded black plastic. (Actually, it's machined-DW) It's very smooth, expertly made. Sound quality is excellent! Very pure tone, very nice to listen to. Has a nice response and tone in the upper register, which is fairly easy to get to. He makes them in D and C, but I think he'll be expanding as time allows. It's every bit as good as a Copeland, in my humble whistlin' opinion. And for those of you who still think the Copeland is the Father of all whistles, go ahead, wait in line for a year, and pay 3 times as much. I'll be a whistlin' away on my Sindt. And loving it.". I've heard nice reviews on these whistles from many outstanding players. So, I was pleased to be able to receive a John Sindt brass D whistle to review. Here's my review. Since, I obtained an Eb which like even more. I also have an A, another winner.
Turlach Boylan is a flute/whistle player with the band Glen Road and with two well-received solo CDs. He is, well, picky about whistles. He likes that really traditional sound, typified by the 'good' Generation whistle. When he visited Chiff & Fipples' Central Office & Tinwhistle Repository here in Birmingham, Alabama, he had an opportunity to play lots and lots of whistles we have here in the vaults, including just about all the major high-end models. Most, at best, would get a bit of a nod or a shrug. He played my Sindts in D and Eb, handed them back to me and said, "Now, that's the stuff." In other words, he liked the Sindt. I gave him the D. I can get another one.
16 Second Ave
Nyack, NY 10960
NEW Email as of Feb 2005: email@example.com
UPDATE: I've now heard from multiple independent sources that Sindt whistles are now the preferred whistle of the legendary Mary Bergin (Feadoga Stain. If so, this is a major thing).
Thin Weasel / Glenn Schultz
Glenn Schultz died on June 8, 2005. He was one of the most beloved characters in the whistle community and a dedicated craftsman and maker of fine, fine instruments. We will miss Glenn.
Available in various hardwoods with stainless steel and brass fittings. High G thru C whistles...$290.00; C down to A whistles $320....Ab down to Low G...$350 Low F $380. "Lovely voice, with a bit of chiff, somewhat like the Clarkes," say the folks at Celtic Fire, Ltd. Wooden whistles come with fitted wooden case. These have been sold lately by Lark in the Mor ing. I've talked to a few people who have played these and they have raved positively. They look fabulous. Just about everyone who has one of these says it is their favorite whistle.
Thin Weasel Wood Whistle / Rosewood / brass tuning slide
Photo by Masami Yoshihara
Water Weasel by Glenn Schultz. PVC whistles, made from plumbing pipe.
PVC Tuneable Whistle E down to C $70 PVC Tuneable Whistle Set E flat, D & C $145 PVC Tuneable Whistle B flat or A $76 PVC Tunable Set B Flat and A $115 PVC Tuneable Whistle G to E $82
water weasel, complete with the coolest: Plumbing code. People actually trying to get rid of the plumbing code. It makes me sad.
Entirely new entry (2004).
First of all, my apologies to the good people at Sweetheart, whose entry here I allowed to get terribly out of date.
Ralph is a pioneering instrument maker who has made whistles for a long time. He makes gorgeous wooden whistles and flutes. For a long time, his whistles have been somewhat controversial because they have resembled recorders both in overall look and in sound. Now there is a new model and some other interesting products.
- First of all, there's the new Professional Model ($135), designed by Ralph's son Walter. It's made out of a laminated wood with the trademark "Dynmondwood." It looks like rosewood. It has a conical bore and a new windway design. There's a nice cork joint which allows for a bit of tuning. On their website, Walt (I presume writes): This new whistle plays like a dream! Tone quality is sweeter, response more even - more controlled on the top notes, while strong on the bottom. Can even play 3rd octave notes without injuring eardrums!
I got one of these in June 2004 and I have to say I agree. I've had trouble putting the thing down. The sound is more whistle-like that Ralph's traditional model. It falls in the family of "round-toned" whistles. It also feels great in the hands, a quality I can't quite put, uh, my finger on. But I put it down and I pick it up again.
At $135, it's an investment. But I think it's a fair price. There's also an optional fifehead for this instrument ($50). Cool.
There's a very fine and thorough review of this whistle on the message board at
- Ralph also makes a Killhoury model whistle, which is available with optional keywork. These cost $275-$425 depending on the keywork.
- And the standard Sweet whistle is still available ($95) but apparently now only in C.
Ralph's website is http://www.sweetheartflute.com
David Boisvert Whistles Wooden: D, C, Bb
My thanks to world-class whistle collector JessieD, for this fine review.
David Boisvert has been making uillean pipes for a few years. He put his first batch of whistles on the market in late May.
Davey's whistles (I have two) are beautiful instruments. They have a full and sweet tone that is not breathy. I think the volume is just about perfect. They can be heard well with lots of other instruments but are not too loud to play comfortably in more intimate musical settings. They are thick, much like O'Riordan concert whistles (though not as loud as O'Riordans), but easy to get used to holding. They are (or were when they first came to the market) slightly rugged in finish, but one would expect that, as he isn't charging the $300 that many makers of other fine wooden whistles are charging. Actually, I had some communication with Davey since I got my whistles and he said he is now sanding the holes more than he was then. This is good news. I predict that if Davey sticks to making whistles, which I hope he will, he will build up a considerable waiting list, as his whistles are one of the best kept secrets in whistledom.
The prices are as follows:
C body for above mouthpiece, $100
African blackwood is his preferred timber for whistles. Other woods are available upon request.
The whistles are available from Greenwood Pipes:
Ronaldo Reyburn. Maple head with Delrin fipple plug. Brass tubing with tuning slide. Head supplied with D and/or C body. US $110 with one body (D or C), $140 with both bodies. Ronaldo Reyburn has been making low whistles for some time now, and just introduced high whistles in 2002. These are well-made, very responsive, tunable whistles with good volume and a distinctive chiffy tone. Air requirements are above average. Chiff & Fipple reviewer Stephen Jones calls the Reyburn high whistle "a fine instrument and a very welcome addition to the ranks of maker's whistles." His splendid full review is available here.
Ronaldo has redesigned his high whistles. Here's his description:
I have recently completed a re-design of my high D and C whistles. The new design has changed the way the air moves thru the fipple and offers a whole, round, full-bodied tone of character and richness. I have also changed the hole patterns to accommodate this new fipple design and repositioned the purturbations. The result is an instrument that plays with a more focused sound, due to less breathiness which obscures some of the subtle tones, and plays sweeter in the upper end. Due to the tighter voicing of the new design, there is also an improved balance between the octaves and one can simply flow up the scale as sweetly as a mother’s love.
I continue to use Delrin for the Head, which has that wonderful woody sound, as you all know, and I still like the warm tone of brass for the body.
UPDATE: Ronaldo sent me a sample of his newly designed high whistle in D. I am extremely impressed with this exceptionally well-made whistle. It has a gorgeous, full, round tone with deadly accurate tuning and level volume across the range. The best tuning slide I've seen since the Burke Al-Pro models. A very fine high whistle. These are available for $90, considerably less than a tank of premium gasoline.
UPDATE: Now available in Bb.
Ronaldo Reyburn's website is http://www.reyburnlowwhistles.com)
Gary Humphrey High & Low whistles. Two lines are available, the "Stealth," a less expensive line: $65-105, keys G down to Bb and the "Journeyman" line of more substantially made whistles. These are available in keys from high Eb to Low F and priced $95-135. Brass or aluminum with plastic headjoints.
Gary Humphrey is a long standing member of the Chiff and Fipple Community who started toying with whistlemaking. For some time he sold a ‘retrofit head’ to go with the tubes of cheap whistles. He has started making bodies as well as the heads of whistles and the retrofit head has since been discontinued.
Gary Humphrey whistles, "Stealth" model.
Gary makes whistles in a full range of keys from High G down to Low F.
Spare tubes for the whistles are available. Gary’s standard tuning is equal temperament but he’ll do just intonation or other tunings on request.
Up to date and complete information is available on Gary’s Website on:
Contact Information: Gary Humphrey Jr. 571 Frank Anderson Road Sparta, TN 38583 EMAIL: raindog1970 (at) hotmail(dot)com
A bit of a review.
I have a narrow bore d whistle in just intonation. The whistle is very well finished and very light. It has a feel similar to a Generation type whistle. Indeed the playing characteristics are very similar to those of a cheap whistle but without the glitches and this may well be that elusive perfect Generation type whistle. I think it is anyway. Gary tunes the whistle to perfection (mine’s a just intonation on and it suits me down to the ground). The whistle is a very light blower, it doesn’t take much effort to play it, the transition from between the octaves is very easy. The whsitle is highly responsive and the higher octave is astonishingly clear. The whistle’s tone is very consistent throughout the range, the high notes are very well balanced in volume. Sean Potts when trying my whistle said the generation he used to have, the one that recorded the early Chieftain albums, ‘was nearly as good’. Some endorsement.
Thanks to Peter Laban for this entry on Humphrey whistles. Peter Laban, Miltown Malbay, Co Clare, 25 july 2004
Contact information available on his website at http://webpages.charter.net/raindog1970/
Harpers. Photo courtesy of Hobgoblin Music
Harper. C,D. Cylindrical, aluminum alloy. $125-165. Tunable. Steve Harper’s whistles are aluminum alloy, cylindrical and come either in one piece, plain or with the head decorated, with a sleeve joint between the (decorated) head and body, making it tunable, or as a set of same head with a D and C body (I've been told he only occasionally does these sets). He uses a slightly different alloy from the Overton; this feels somewhat smoother, and is slightly darker. Intonation is pretty good, though they tend to be too low when played cold. The mouthpiece (at least the bit that actually goes between your lips) is somewhat thicker than what is usual. I don't know why he does it, but it takes some getting used to. John Waegter e-mailed this helpful info:
I use a tunable Harper D whistle which I bought at Hobgoblins in the UK (www.hobgoblin.com/flute.htm). In fact it is the Harper C/D alloy flageolet one head joint with 2 interchangeable bodies that I have, but I normally only use the D body. The whistles are handmade by Steve Harper in Gawcott, Buckingham, UK, who himself is an accomplished tin whistle player (plays in a local Ceili band called Fleece Yard). (I've also heard he is a gunsmith--D.W.)In addition to his range of Harper Classic Whistles in C and D he also produces whistles in other keys, and some lovely cases with maintenance equipment for the whistles. Unfortunately these are not normally for sale at the two outlets (Hobgoblins in the UK, Lark in the Morning in the US) where his whistles can be bought.... He tells me that his whistles are not aimed at beginners, but at those who can already play the tin whistle reasonably well. Steve strongly recommends the tunable version of his whistles, especially if you want to play together with other instruments.
Update: 4/1/2000: I acquired a nontunable Harper in D, donated to the Chiff & Fipple Collection by Thom Larson of the Whistle Shop. It is a fine instrument. The tone is clear and "open" ( I use all these vague terms to describe timbre that probably don't mean anything to anyone but me). Tuning is right on. Nice volume with no "scream." (There is another word). I can easily get the full 2 octaves and a couple notes beyond. It is an attractive whistle. I like the alternating polished vs. brushed metal, the built in center band with the little brass button. Very nice aesthetics. Physically it's really well balanced. I like the little flair at the bottom of the tube. A couple of interesting things: I have generally preferred to have smoother edges on finger holes, although some makers say that crisper edges facilitate sealing the holes and "finding" the holes because of the tactile feedback. Interesting idea. Anyway, I think it's fine with the Harper...You can still slur notes easily and it's not an unpleasant feel. See photo.
Tony Dixon makes flutes and whistles in PVC and a newer model with a PVC top and an aluminum shaft. Low D and high D and other keys available. See his website for price details.
Tony Dixon lives in England and makes whistles, flutes, piccolos and
bagpipes. He has a nice website, by the way, complete with good pictures,
Tony has pioneered offering whistles with optional flute/fife/piccolo heads or, you could say, flutes/fifes/piccolos with optional flute heads. But, he also makes nonconvertable whistles & flutes. He employs polymers and metals for the whistles, in this kind of configuration:
tuneable whistles and flutes
one-piece polymer whistles and flutes
Tony's whistles range from Low D to High D with all the significant keys in between. Tony tells me that his aim is to provide instruments that are well-made, well-tuned, and well-voiced at reasonable prices. One of his goals is to "encourage students of all ages and abilities." He works primarily with PVC but will also make whistles of wood and alloy. Tony supplied me with a Low D and High D for review. Both are black plastic with some gloss in the finish. The plastic looks and feels like that used by Susato. Both whistles have a hardwood fipple. Both have substantial and fully usable tuning slides. The high D tuning slide, in particular, is probably about the best I've seen in a relatively inexpensive whistles.
Both whistles are well-made, nicely finished, and attractive. They are trimmed with a tasteful trademark decal and some restrained use of gold paint trim. Both whistles have a pleasant sound, a bit mellow-breathy. The air requirement is a bit high, not quite as much as the Shaw whistles, but close.
I like this Low D and would consider it an good choice for anyone and an excellent choice for a beginner. The finger spread and hole size are very forgiving and so I would rank this whistle very high for ease of playing. Similarly, in spite a somewhat greater air requirement, it behaves well, remains in tune, makes the octave change easily, has a very level tone over the 2 octaves.
The high D is an especially nice whistle and a real value. Priced closer to the mass-produced instruments, it has some features more typical of high-end instruments, including the exemplary tuning slide. The tone is
airy and it does require a good amount of air because of relatively low back pressure.
So, Tony Dixon is making fine instruments in England. I recommend the Low D with special note to beginners that this is an excellent choice. The high D is an excellent value in a well-made and good-sounding instrument.
Update: For awhile now, I've had one of Tony's whistles with a plastic mouthpiece and a metal shaft. I play it a lot. Lovely work.
LAUGHING WHISTLES by NOAH HERBISON. Low D (tunable and nontunable available, high D and high C (tunable). Noah is selling the Low Ds for $80 and the high whistles for $50 (US). Noah sent me a low D and a high D to review. What blew me away was the high D. I absolutely love it and I am certain it is going to be a major hit. The reason for this is that Noah has successfully designed a telescoping whistle. As many of you know, this concept has been around for a while and there are even some plans somewhere on the Internet for how to build a telescoping model. I never took this seriously...I figured it would be a novelty at best. But Noah has NAILED a design that works on every level. The telescoping feature is way cool. It makes an wonderfully tidy and light package that I slip into my pants pocket and don't even know it's there. So, then you extend this thing out and it looks sleek, well-proportioned, and thoroughly professional. Then you play the darn thing and it sounds great. I mean, great. Sweet, pure tone. Clear and beautifully balanced across both octaves. Noah’s website is http://members.tripod.com/nherbison
Laughing whistle in high D, collapsed
Mack Hoover, of Colorado, USA, makes polished brass whistles, and CPVC tunable D's which he sells directly and takes orders only by email. firstname.lastname@example.org
While "quiet" is his "signature sound" he makes whistles with more volume as well.
See his website for updates, new items and prices. http://home.bresnan.net/
Hoovers, in various keys.
Tully by Erik Tullberg. Handcrafted Sterling Silver whistles. All whistles are available in the keys of C and D. The Eb and others are forthcoming. Each whistle is built and voiced by hand. Maker will work with purchaser to fulfill custom requirements. Three standard models are available. One for solo and light accompaniment, one for session play, and one for extra volume. All are tuneable.
A Double Whistle is also available. The links above have more detailed information and photographs.
Erik has an excellent website at http://www.tullberg.com/tully/index.html
I have one of Erik's whistles in D and it is a beauty. Absolutely professional in look and terrific sound and playability. It is also one of the most professionally presented packages I've ever seen, complete with written materials and a set of polishing clothes. Erik, who lives in Germany, is a long-standing contributing member of the chiff & fipple community.
Update: From Erik's website:
22 June 2005
As many of you know, my primary vocation is as a stay at home father. I am at home with our three children: Madelyn (6), Nathan (3) and Leah (1). My secondary vocation is instrument making. I enjoy whistle making and have developed prototypes for flute and bodhran.
Several weeks ago my wife and I learned that she will be deployed with the United States Army to Iraq. Her skills as a pediatrician will be put to use in working both with other deployed soldiers and with Iraqi children.
After some serious soul searching I have come to the conclusion that during this time I need to focus on my primary vocation of childcare. I will be taking a hiatus from production instrument making for 2 years. I'm very sorry that I need to do this and I feel particularly bad for those that have been waiting for some time. Please accept my apology, but I feel that I must postpone all orders (or cancel, at your option).
WHEN I begin production again, my plan is to continue on with the orders that I have received. I'll begin at the top of the list, check with the customer to see if they are still interested, and work my way down. If you know that you will still be interested, you are welcome to keep me posted with current contact information so that WHEN I do start I will be able to contact you.
Thank you for the support and prayers that many have already offered; my wife and I greatly appreciate it.
With warm regards,
Erik, as you can see, is a class act.
Alba. Alba whistles are made in Scotland Stacey O'Gorman in the full range of keys and out of aluminum. A newer line made from a composite material is available. These range in prices from 55 to 90 pounds, so do check conversion rates. I have played a variety of Albas in various keys over the years. They are visually very attractive and have a solid, substantial sound with very good tuning. Some models are quite loud.
Paul Busman- D, C, Eb whistles, variety of exotic hardwoods. Prices around $250-$265. Paul Busman is a long-time Chiff & Fippler who sent me a whistle he made out of hardwood a long time ago. It impressed the holy heck out of me. Since then, I've been hoping Paul would be able to offer these to a few other players, at least on a limited basis. And so he is. Paul writes to us: I bought my first Thin Weasel a long time ago. I was, and still am, an avid recorder player and was used to fine quality instruments. When I branched out into Celtic music, I was very dissatisfied with the commercially available whistles. I found a Rosewood Weasel during a trip to Andy's Front Hall, but had to think long and hard about spending a whole $125 on a whistle....
I had some techincal questions about the whistle that the nice people at Andy's couldn't answer, but they put me in touch with Glenn Schultz, thus starting a long correspondence first by snail mail ( no internet back then), later by phone and e-mail. Under Glenn's long distance tutelage, I have been making D whistles out of a variety of exotic hardwoods. Some of my favorites are Bocote, Rosewood, Blackwood, Tulipwood, and Bloodwood. I'm always on the lookout for some interesting new timber. The fittings on the whistles are either brass or stainless steel, with brass tuning slides. Fipple plugs of black Delrin look sharp and are very stable. I don't have cases for my whistles at present, but am looking at several options. The whistles are fairly light in weight, making them easy to play for long periods of time. Large fingerholes make for a nice, open sound and easy half holing. C natural works either half holed or cross fingered. The sound of these whistles is pretty loud, and will hold their own in a moderate sized session, but won't blast your ears out. I have showed my whistles to 2 other whistlemakers and 2 VERY well known professional players and have received very favorable comments from them. This is all extremely gratifying to a newbie whistlemaker. I am very excited about the response I have had from my initial offering on C&F. This is a VERY part time venture for me, but I will do my best to supply whistles in a timely fashion.
CONTACT: Paul Busman at BREWERPAUL@AOL>COM
New! Website for Paul's work is http://www.Busmanwhistles.com
Sullivan (New!) High D, wood with metal fittings. Scott Sullivan is a new maker and I'm listing him here in August, 2001. I'm awaiting reviews from readers. In the meantime, here's a message from Scott:
I've been making high-end whistles for a few years now. I've been selling them privately ,as well as to Elderly Instruments out of Michigan, USA. Everyone who's played one has good things to say about them. I currently make a high D in either rosewood or African Blackwood. It also comes with a fitted wooden case with Celtic knots wood- burnt in, and a small Irish scene painted on the top. When taking a private order, I ask if there is a specific Irish scene he/she would like. They are tunable, and sound quite good, no "shrillness", little or no breathiness, and excellent volume. Both octaves are easily achieved as well. .... I charge around $125-140 depending on the wood ,or any custom requests. Thanks, Scott J. Sullivan
Scott can be reached at SSull87111@aol.com
Syn Available in E,Eb,D,C#,C,B,Bb,A and low D
Syn Whistles are made in Australia by Mr. Bartlett. He offers wooden and metal (aluminum) whistles. The metal whistles are made out of aluminum for the body and delrin for the headpiece, in a sort of delrin/aluminum sandwich. The most unusual thing about the metal whistles is that he offers a one-head-fits-all deal. That means one head can fit on all of the whistles from E to Bb (he also offers the A, but says it really is too low for that bore size). Each key is slightly different in feel. I have all but the C#, and my favorite is B. The whistles cost $30 USD for the head, $5 for each body, and $5 for shipping. ($70 for 7 whistles!)
He has also made a few wooden whistles in D and is making low whistles in D
He can be reached by email at: synwhistles @ yahoo . com . au (remove spaces to make it work...)
Dale Wisely thanks Nicolas Brown for this listing and to Bernard Cawley for the photo.
Black Diamond. New whistle by Erle Bartlett. A very nice Generation-style D whistle at $75. Reviewed here.
Jonathan Swayne C, D, Bb, A, G, F, Low D. Wood & brass
I've heard nice things about Jonathan Swayne's work, but haven't had the pleasure yet of seeing or playing his whistles. I wrote him to inquire about his work and here is his reply:
From: Jon Swayne
Dear Dale, Thanks for your interest in my whistles. I have been making them since around 1980, as well as renaissance recorders and flutes, folk flutes and bagpipes of various types. As you might expect I started with a normal D pitch, and gradually introduced lower pitches over the years as demand arose. For a year or two I've had customers looking for low C and Bb instruments, but haven't yet been able to set aside the necessary development time. Over the last 5 years I've reduced my range to bagpipes (border pipes), 'Irish' flutes (unkeyed) and whistles.
Greater power, truer intonation and a fuller and more interesting tone than the tin whistle, but otherwise similar. Brass tuning slide. Range optimised to one octave and sixth, but usable over two octaves. Some cross-fingerings other than the usual flattened seventh can be obtained, especially on the larger sizes. Pitches available are: high G, D, C, Bb, A, G, F, low D. Materials: boxwood; brass mounts and tuning slide; pencil cedar block. (Occasionally I make Ds and Cs in african blackwood to special order.)
Prices in UK Pounds high G 115, D and C 135, Bb and A 190k, G and F 250, low D 350
I don't have a decent photo of them at the moment, but will send you one when available. I am always happy to carry out any servicing that may be needed on my instruments.
Fred Rose. African blackwood, gold-plated brass ferrules and mouthpiece, cedar plug. Brass tuning slide. D - 165 pounds Sterling
This whistle has become one of the most often-cited "favorite" whistles among collectors. This whistle has a beautiful pure and full tone and is easy to play in either octave, even a little higher if you dare. It sounds clear as opposed to breathy and is quite responsive. It has a low air requirement and is loud enough, but not too loud for comfort. (Cats love it.) With subtle curved turning on the outside, this blackwood whistle is beautiful to look at. The part of the mouthpiece that goes into the mouth is curved, making it comfortable to play. This whistle deserves a place among the best, and the price is quite reasonable.
Rose whistles can be purchased directly from Fred. His e-mail address is email@example.com and he has a website at http://fredrose.co.uk
(Thanks to Jessie Kislin for this entry and to Mick Woodruff for the image).
Desi Seery key of D. Made from a black Delrin, a high-quality polymer often used in good whistles, and has "Nickel Silver" accents.
From the Shanna Quay website : It requires a lot of 'blow' and has a breathy tonal quality not unlike the keyless flute that Desi Seery also makes. It has been described as 'a loud whistle that has a strong pure tone with a lovely richness but no raspiness.' It comes complete with a wooden case.
The only vendor I know of, to date, is Steve Power's Shanna Quay: The prices there:
prices: IR£118.00 (incl. postage to Ireland)
£120.00stg (incl. priority shipping to UK/Europe)
US$155.00 (incl. priority shipping to USA)
CAD$230 (incl. priority shipping to Canada)
The Lon Dubh by Pat O'Dwyer & Aidan McNamara
This new high end whistle has sort of been under the radar. There's a single dealer in the USA, Whistle & Drum, by permission of whom, to construct an awkward sentence, and then to make it even more awkward by continuing to comment on this sentence instead of the content of the sentence, I am including the photo.
Legendary whistle collector Jessie Driscoll provided this review:
I just got this "Little Blackbird" d whistle (made in Ireland by Pat O'Dwyer - I wish I knew more about the maker) today, but it was sitting outside my house since probably Friday afternoon (three days ago - geez - UPS). I let it thaw in its case before taking it out. Before I go into my opinion, I will mention that I ordered it from Whistle and Drum. Blayne said I'd be the first, other than himself, in America to have one. They are not cheap ($299), but this is a unique whistle, different from any other I have played (and that's a lot), and, though very lightweight (I will be careful with it), it is simply beautiful to look at. The holes are sanded very nicely, as if played for years. It is dark rosewood, which surprises me - I thought rosewood was heavier than this whistle is. I was enchanted by Blayne's recording (posted on his site on the page for this whistle), and I listened to it a whole bunch of times before ordering one, because my priorities have changed, blah blah blah, I am getting ready to have a baby and all that. But I went ahead anyway, and I am glad I did. I agree with everything Blayne wrote about the whistle except one thing: I think it is NOT loud enough for a session. It is a quiet whistle, perfect for a living room or for recording (and, hopefully, for putting babies to sleep - the cats sure love it). You can hear the tone on Blayne's site - http://www.whistleanddrum.com - in his recording. It is simply beautiful. It has, seriously, the easiest and smoothest second octave I have ever encountered on a whistle. The first octave is not as rich as some other whistles, but it's fine, and better than many. The volume is extremely well balanced between octaves, and I really enjoy the sound and ease of the high notes. One has to hold back less on this than on inexpensive whistles, but it's kind of similar, and, as demonstrated by Blayne, the tone is much less finicky. The volume is similar to a Rose whistle, maybe a little quieter, but better balanced (the high octave isn't much louder than the low). It feels a bit more woody (I don't know if that makes sense) than most other wooden whistles. The tone has a pleasant graininess (I made up that word) - not breathy at all, but, um, woody. I am going to take some time to get to know it better, but I am impressed, especially by the fact that someone has produced something different from anything else out there.
Update: 10/2004: Dale, please update my review of the Lon Dubh....My blackwood Lon Dubh is louder than the original rosewood one I reviewed, and it is perfectly loud enough for a session and perfectly quiet enough for my living room (and recording). Other than worrying about it breaking from sheer thinness, I think it is the perfect whistle.
Note from Dale: Always take note of Jessie's reviews. She is one of the great whistle collectors and has played 'em all.
The "Lon Dubh" (meaning "Blackbird" in Gaelic) is handmade in Ireland by Pat O'Dwyer. Available currently in African Blackwood. Key of D only.
It has a curved windway, Delrin Fipple (Plug), a brass tuning slide, and comes in an excellent hardwood box.
I hope to get a chance to lay hands on one of these soon.
TWZ Whistles. D. Andreas Joseph makes a line of whistles in Germany. He has a webpage at http://www.tinwhistle.de . His product line has changed and I've not sampled the new ones. A previous line of whistles, with which I was familiar, received mixed reviews.
LARK’S WOODEN PENNYWHISTLE—D, Maple, $50.
Lark in the Morning is California-based company which is arguably the largest seller of world instruments in the, uh, world. The proprietor sent me a D whistle in maple, which is believe is currently the only available model. It’s a very nice whistle, generally reminiscent of Ralph Sweet’s work. but, frankly, not as good. It’s got a very bright tone and very assertive volume. The tuning is very good. There is a somewhat piercing quality to the tone.
Available only from Lark in the Morning shops, website, mailorder.
Weltmeister Wooden Whistles. Key of D, tunable. Made by the respected Adler-Heinrich company, a European maker of wooden wind instruments, these whistles are manufactured on woodworking equipment. Made of either pearwood or boxwood. Complete with a velvet sack and swab rod. Colors available: black, dark green, burgundy, purple, gold and pink. These precision made whistles are being offered as an introductory price of only $38.00 + $3.20 postage = $41.20 total. The Box Office is an Authorized Weltmeister Dealer. Frank Claudy, an excellent and highly experienced whistle player made me aware of these whistles. From his review: " Bottom line: for players of some experience, who like lots of chiff in their lower octave and crave the opportunity for some controllable polytonal effects, this is the best bargain on the planet, only 41.20 shipping included, which also gets you a cunning cloth case and a cleaning rod. I would not recommend it as a starter instrument. Those with WHOA - you know who you are - will simply have to get one.In conclusion, a Weltmeister should probably not be the only whistle in your stable, but it will make a unique tonal addition for both solo play, and should blend nicely with other instruments because of the complexity of its sound."
SILKSTONE WHISTLES BY PAUL HAYWARD C, D, Bb, Low G/A whistles, PVC with lacquered finish. around $75-90. Aluminum models now available. Along comes Paul Hayward, of the UK as a new maker of high whistles. He has a website at http://www.silkstone-whistles.com/. Paul sent me a high D whistle. He also makes them in C. It's PVC with an overall configuration very reminiscent of the Susato. These are not tunable. They are painted and lacquered and Paul is taking great care to create interesting and attractive finishes. I like the sound and playability of this whistle and it is painstakingly built and professional-looking. Another great choice for PVC fans!
NEW! Paul just introduced an INCREDIBLE alloy whistle in D. Tunable. Beautiful. Great sounding! (thanks to Thom Larson at The Whistle Shop for the sample!).
Silkstone Whistle in D
Wooden tuneable whistles individually hand-made and voiced by Andrew DeWitt of the UK. Visit website below.
Low D - £195 High D - £95
Andrew De Witt 51a Station Rd New Barnet Barnet Hertfordshire UKEN5 1PR
Tel/Fax: +44 (0)208 364 8090 http://ourworld.compuserve.com/homepages/KAD_Info/
Available in D, C, E, Eb, F and High G ). Cost: $80 (High G $100) includes priority shipping. He will sell you shafts for $35 and mouthpieces for $45. Dave is a uilleann and highland piper who has caused quite a stir with his polished copper whistles. Available with fipple plugs in several hardwoods (maple and black walnut at the present) or an artificial material in various colors, his whistles are made to order only. Decorative rings and bands are turned into each one, and he engraves the
body with his symbol (dp). The headsleeve is engraved with the initials of the owner if desired. Each whistle is fully tunable. Described as "the eye candy of whistles", the tone is friendly and open, and moderate in volume. A regular visitor to Chiff and Fipple, he welcomes questions about piping and whistlesmithing, and can be readily bribed with flattery or a Guinness. David studies whistlesmithing under the infamous Glenn Schulz. David can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or at email@example.com , his address is 781 Apricot, Winters, Calif. 95694. You are welcome to phone him at
530-795-5719. NEW! WEBSITE! http://www.geocities.com/parkhurstwhistles
I have received a report and photos from Chiff & Fipple’s Australian Bureau on beautiful whistles made from wood by flute maker Michael Grinter. See the report here.
P. G. Bleazey
P. G. Bleazey, of Nottinghamshire, makes very photogenic flutes, percussion instruments, and whistles. I've not seen or played these yet, nor have I had a major review submitted. But, the website photos look impressive and so I look forward to learning more about these instruments. From the website:
Currently available in the keys of high D and C, these excellent whistles are made from quality hard woods with a brass or silver plated tuning slide, which allows adjustment of a semitone either side of concert pitch, and a tapered bore. Superb tone and volume combined with accurate tuning make these very popular instruments.
Key of D: Boxwood with brass slide (A) £80.00; Blackwood with silver plated slide (B) £95.00; Mopane with brass slide (C) £80.00
Key of C: Boxwood with brass slide £90.00; Other woods when available P.O.A
P.G Bleazey 62 Chestnut Drive, New Ollerton, Newark, Nottinghamshire, NG22 9SJ Tel(01634) 836814
by Sandy Jasper, West Coast Whistle Co., British Columbia, Canada. This is an interesting line of whistles, available in D, C, E, F, F#, and G. High keys only. The mouthpieces are made of polished copper (standard) or brass. The shafts are available in a dazzling array of colors and patterns. I've only played early Elf Song whistles, not the newer instruments, which have generally gotten good reviews. Price: $75.00. Various combos (1 mouthpiece and 2 shafts) are available.
Jubilee Music Instrument Co. From Low-Low A to High-G, Cylindrical, tuneable/nontuneable, both brass & copper instruments, Delrin Block, Lacquer or Shellac finish, Curved windway. Available with minor keys and a number of other modes used in folk music. Also there is a Chromatic keyed Low-D model and a Low-G Nickel-Silver model. Prices range from $15 to $190
Daniel Bingamon of Kings Mills, Ohio makes whistles and flutes, some have interchangeable heads and bodies. He does a number of custom instrument requests, like putting keys on the bottom holes for small hands. They’re available with clear finishes, colors or decorative alternating of metal color and paint. Website is at http://www.tinwhistles.us/
O'Brien Whistles. Handcrafted pennywhistles from copper, by David O'Brien. Tunable, separate head joints ($45) and bodies ($20 each) with interchangeability. Keys: D, C, E, E flat and B flat. Available nickel-plated. All bodies interchangeable except E. Set of one mouthpiece and bodies for D, C, E flat & Bb: $110.
David O'Brien's whistles recently were very positively reviewed by Chiff & Fipple Senior Whistle Reviewer Jessie Driscoll. This is good. From Jessie's review:
...this whistle, shockingly, plays very similarly to my favorite Abell, which is still my favorite whistle of all time. I am seriously impressed and pleased with this whistle and I think, for the price David charges, this is a wonderful mid-range choice....
For Jessie's full review, click here.
David O'Brien's website is right about here.
Silberton whistles by Foky Gruber, D,C,Bb. "Silvered Brass." Tunable. I received e-mail from Marcus Hans Metz, from Germany, I gather, telling us of the Folkie Gruber whistle. "Hungarian flute maker Folkie Gruber," writes Marcus, "makes a superb tin whistle (ca. US$ 180). Please add his new homepage (under construction...but finished soon!) which is athttp://www.uni-mainz.de/~metzm000/gruber.html. It's available, allegedly, from Musik in Bewegung Nackenheimer Strasse 21 65428 Ruesselsheim Germany. Swing by there next time you're in Ruesselsheim and grab one up!!
UPDATE: I haven't heard anything about these in six or seven years. They're veering off into Loch Ness territory. I'm not sure they are still being made. I'm wondering if they ever existed. I just can't bring myself to delete the name "Foky Gruber" from this site. If you ever meet me someplace, please call me "Foky."