The low D whistle has a wonderfully evocative sound, perfect for haunting melodies. It’s one of the most popular instruments in Irish music, and has made its way out of Ireland onto many world music and folk recordings. The best low D whistles can bring tears to even the toughest of eyes.
While you can spend hundreds of dollars on handmade whistles, there are some great options to fit every budget. Read on to find the best low D whistle for you!
Summary: A low D whistle with plenty of power
Best for: Someone who needs a lot of volume
Whistle maker Phil Hardy learned his craft from Bernard Overton, the father of the low whistle. Hardy’s Chieftain line of high and low whistles are entirely made out of an aluminum alloy. The only non-alloy component is the synthetic cork tuning slide on the tunable models, which works remarkably well. Overall, there’s very little you have to do to maintain Chieftain whistles, besides possibly adding a bit of grease to the slide every so often.
The Chieftain Thunderbird is one of the loudest low D whistles out there. It has a husky, full bodied tone with a nice balance of chiff. While the low whistle isn’t a great session instrument because of its volume, the Thunderbird can hold its own in a smaller gathering. It’s one of the few low D whistles that can say that.
That big tone comes with big air requirements. The Chieftain low D certainly doesn’t sip air. It also has a fairly wide bore, and might be hard for those with small hands to fully cover its holes. Beginners will probably find it a tough instrument to start with, but the rewards for sticking with it are well worth the work.
Chieftain whistles come in both tunable and non-tunable models. Since they’re made entirely out of metal, their tuning can be greatly affected by changes in temperature. You’ll find that, especially in a cooler room, they’ll slowly rise in pitch as your hot breath warms them up. Because of this, I’d highly recommend getting a tunable model. This is especially true if you’re going to play a lot with others.
- Powerful tone
- Lots of volume
- Sturdily built
- Takes a lot of air
- Big reach might be tough for small hands
Susato Kildare Low D Whistle
Summary: A polymer whistle with a strong, pure tone
Best for: Anyone who prefers the purer, recorder-like tone to chiff
Susato whistles are made by the Kelischek family in Brasstown, North Carolina. They make a variety of historical and folk instruments, and are well-known by musicians in many genres. Their whistles have a unique, recorder-like sound that sets them apart from many other whistles out there. Susato whistles also have a reputation for being some of the loudest whistles you can get.
The Susato Kildare low D whistle has many of those same characteristics. In fact, one of the great things about Susato’s Kildare line is that you can buy a whistle in every key from high F to low C and get a remarkably consistent playing experience. The Kildare low D has a very strong lower octave, which can often be weak in low whistles. It’s not quite as loud as the Chieftain Thunderbird, but it has a purer tone which helps it project.
The Kildare also requires a bit less breath than the Thunderbird, although beginners will need some time to adjust. That said, it’s a fairly forgiving whistle, and both octaves are very stable and well in tune.
Made out of polymer, the Susato Kildare is lighter than many metal whistles. That plus the provided thumbrest makes it fairly comfortable to hold. Like many low D whistles, though, the reach may be tough for smaller hands. It’s a bit more comfortable than the Thunderbird, but still a stretch.
- Strong, pure tone
- Great as part of a set with other Susato whistles
- Somewhat tough reach for beginners
Dixon Polymer Low D Whistle
Summary: A great value low whistle with an easy grip and a soft voice
Best for: Anyone with small hands or a small budget
Tony Dixon has been making whistles in England since 1997, and you can find his whistles in shops around the world. They are made through a process that combines mass production and hand-finishing. The result is a well-made, professionally finished instrument that is still very budget-friendly.
It’s that budget-friendliness that has made the Dixon Polymer Low D whistle one of the most popular low whistles for beginners. But that’s not the only point in its favor. The small holes and slightly tapered bore also make the Dixon polymer whistle fairly easy for even the smallest hands to wrap around. If you’re looking for something with an easy grip, the Dixon polymer low whistle is a great choice.
The small holes do mean that the Dixon has a softer, quieter voice than other low whistles. It’s not a whistle that will be heard in anything but the smallest sessions. The lower octave in particular is very quiet, although the tone is lovely. You’ll definitely need a mic to be heard in a crowd.
Like the Chieftain Thunderbird, the Dixon polymer low D whistle comes in both tunable and non-tunable models. Tunable is always recommended, but given the very budget friendly price of the non-tunable model, it’s worth considering if you’re just planning on playing alone. Dixon also makes a “flute/whistle combo” with one body and two heads (one whistle, one flute).
- Easy reach
- Low breath requirement
- Low volume