Frequently Asked Questions
What key should I get?
- The best whistle for someone just starting
out is one in the key of "D". The keys of D and G are the most popular for
Celtic music - a D whistle will play easily in both of these keys. D and G are also the
keys that almost all tutorials for whistle are written in.
An exception to getting a D whistle to start out with might be if a young child is
having trouble covering the holes on a D whistle. A smaller whistle may be a good idea in
this case, such as a "G" or an "F". One nice thing about whistles is
that the major scale is fingered exactly the same on any key whistle. This means that you
could still properly play the tunes in any tutorial, but the pitch would not match if
you're playing along with a D instrument (or a tape or CD). See the next question for more
on different keys.
Most instruments seem to be in the key of
"C" - why is whistle different?
- The question of keys is very confusing,
because there is not any real consistency in how the "keys" of different
instruments have been named over the years.
In orchestras and bands, the instruments are named by the pitch that they make when
playing the note "C" (this is called the "German System"). An example
of this would be a Bb clarinet. The Bb clarinet plays a Bb when you finger a C on the
instrument. This means that if a clarinet player tries to play along with a piano or
guitar (both can be considered "C" instruments), they will have to transpose
every note they play one full step up.
With whistles (and many other open-hole instruments) the note that you're reading
is the actual note you're playing. The key of a whistle refers to the lowest note in the
major scale for that instrument (which also happens to be the lowest note playable with
For instance, with a D whistle the lowest note playable is a D, and the
whistle plays a D Major Scale (see our Online
Tutorial for more information on the D Major Scale).
As you can see, if we used the same method to name whistles that we do to
name orchestra instruments, every whistle would be a "C" instrument - because
when you play a C, it comes out as a C!
Luckily for us, this means that a whistle player can play right along with the same
sheet music used for piano, guitar (or other C instruments) with no need to transpose!
The matter of Keys is very confusing, and can cause fits even with very experienced
contact us if you have any questions about which key of whistle will best fit your
Just to confuse you further, there
are exceptions to the above rules. A good example is a Bb drum corp fife. The fife is
keyed as above (playing a Bb sounds like a Bb), but sheet music for this fife is written
as if the instrument was a D instrument - in other words, if the sheet music says to play
a D, you would play the note with all holes closed (however, the actual sound of this note
would be Bb).
It's a Low D whistle that I'm really interested in,
why shouldn't I just get one of these right away?
- Low D whistles truly sound beautiful, but can
be very difficult to master! We always recommend that you start out with a
Soprano D, and get a Low D after you are very familiar with the fingerings. Soprano D and
Low D whistles are fingered exactly the same, but the finger holes on the Low D are very
large, and spaced very far apart.
If you start learning armed only with a Low D, there's a very good chance that
you'll get frustrated right away. This won't happen with a Soprano D! See our Low D Section for more on
this. If you're bound and determined to get a Low D to start with, it's highly recommended
that you order a Soprano D at the same time.
It may be a good idea to get a Lower
whistle that is not quite as large, to get used to a larger instrument. Low G is a good
"in-between" whistle for this (for example, Susato's Dublin Low G
would be a good choice).
Which whistle is the best one that you sell?
- Well, if there was a good answer to this one,
this website would have been alot easier to put together - 'just one whistle to keep in
stock! There is no good answer to this question. Every whistle that we stock is probably
on the top of someone's List of Favorites. You can get some recommendations from us for
good whistles to start out with by visiting our
Is whistle easy to learn?
- It's our opinion that whistle is one of the
easiest instruments to learn, mainly because as you raise each finger in order, you're
going right up the major scale. This makes it very simple to "visualize" where
the melody is going. There is no better choice that we know of for a child's first
What's even more exciting than its playability, is the amount of expression that a
simple whistle is capable of. For example, many singers play whistle because their vocal
expressions can also come out when they're playing.