The tin whistle is one of the most fun instruments to play. Small enough to put in your pocket, it has a sweet, chirpy tone that is perfect for a variety of music. Often, it’s the first instrument someone picks up when they start learning Irish music. There are many places to find tin whistles for sale, online and in person. Whether you’re looking for a new or used tin whistle, here are the best places to find your perfect instrument!
Where To Find New Tin Whistles For Sale
One of the best ways to buy a new tin whistle is directly from the maker. Most makers nowadays have websites with the models they offer, prices, and other information. You can often get them to customize your order.
There are way too many makers to list them all here. Checking out forums like Chiff and Fipple or The Session will give you a sense of what other players recommend. Youtube is also a great place to hear various makes of whistle being played, as well as to see which ones your favorite tin whistle player prefers. You’ll find that there are almost as many makers as there are players, with lots of opinions about who is best!
Tin whistles are quite inexpensive compared to other instruments, and there are many mass-produced brands for sale for under $20. Most local music shops will have at least one brand of whistle lying around somewhere, and online retailers often will as well. However, there are also a number of specialty shops that not only carry whistles, but are knowledgable about them. If you’re unsure about what you’re looking for, going through one of these shops is a great way to get guidance.
Yes, the biggest online retailer in the world sells tin whistles. Their selection mainly consists of less expensive, mass-produced brands like Generation, Waltons, and Clarke. They do also carry Dixon and Chieftain whistles, and every so often another make pops up. While they don’t have the expertise or ability to answer questions that smaller, more focused shops do, there’s a big convenience factor. Returns are fairly straightforward, and if you’re a Prime member, you can take advantage of free two-day shipping.
The Irish Flute Store is based out of Colorado, USA and run by Blayne Chastain. Chastain is a wonderful flute and whistle player, and knows a lot about the tin whistles he has for sale. He sells both new and used whistles from a variety of makers, including some very high-end and custom whistles. If you’re new to the tin whistle, check out his online lesson series. When you enroll, you get a free Dixon whistle!
Hobgoblin is a large online retailer of folk instruments. They mostly carry mass produced brands like Generation, Clarke, and Tony Dixon. However, their low whistle selection includes Howard and Chieftain, and they often have Chieftain high whistles for sale as well. The above link is for the US site; there’s a UK site as well. If you’re outside the US, that’s the best site to order from.
Based in England, Big Whistle Music has possibly the largest whistle collection of any online shop. They run the gamut from the cheaper mass produced brands like Clarke and Generation to some very high-end makers like Colin Goldie. Prices are in British pounds, which means that they will fluctuate for American/European buyers based on exchange rates. The owner, Phil Brown, is very knowledgeable about the whistles he sells. One thing to keep in mind is their “Special Offers” section. You can get some good deals there, but you have to buy your whistle from that section to get the discount. If you find it elsewhere on the site you’ll end up paying full price.
Lark in the Morning is another large online dealer of folk instruments. They have a good selection of tin whistles for sale, including Dixon, Susato, and Chieftain.
Directly From Makers
There are far too many tin whistle makers to list every one here. In addition, many makers build each whistle to order. This means that you may wait a while between ordering and receiving your whistle. There are obvious benefits to this process, including the fact that you can customize your order to get exactly what you want. However, there are a number of popular makers who have tin whistles ready-made and easy to order online. With these, you’ll usually only have to wait a week or two for your new whistle to come in the mail. That’s great for the impatient whistle player!
- Killarney (Co. Kerry, Ireland) – Made by the very talented Buckley family, the Killarney is a whistle made by great whistle players. It has fast become a favorite on the traditional Irish music scene.
- Burke (Illinois, USA) – Burke whistles have long been prized by players for their pure tone and consistency. It’s not unheard for professional musicians to have a roll of Burke whistles in every key from high to low D, since each one will sound and play very similarly. They also offer louder “session bore” whistles which you’ll often find being played at big Irish music sessions where other whistles may get drowned out.
- Chieftain/Kerry (Sussex, UK) – Phil Hardy learned whistle-making from the father of the low whistle, Bernard Overton. He has two makes: a more affordable line (Chieftain), and a custom-finished line (Kerry). Chieftain high whistles are known for being some of the loudest whistles available.
- Susato (North Carolina, USA) – Like Chieftains, Susato whistles have a reputation for being loud. They’re made of ABS plastic, and come in every key from high F to low C. Susato also makes a variety of historical wind instruments.
- Jerry Freeman (Connecticut, USA) – Freeman isn’t exactly a whistle maker. He takes mass-produced whistles like those made by Generation and tweaks them to correct for the imperfections and inconsistency of the production process. This is something whistle players have been doing for a long time at home, but Freeman is a professional. His tweaked whistles are quite affordable and sound much better than off-the-shelf whistles of the same brand.
Where to Find Used Tin Whistles For Sale
There’s a fairly robust market for used tin whistles out there. Much of it driven by what whistle players call “WOAD,” or “Whistle Over-Acquisition Disorder.” You may suffer from it yourself! Luckily, it means that there are usually plenty of used tin whistles for sale at a discount. If you’re looking to try something out, buying used is a great way to do it. If you don’t end up liking your whistle, you can probably sell it for around the same amount as you paid.
As with any online interaction, you should do your due diligence when buying a used tin whistle. The vast majority of people offering a tin whistle for sale are fellow players who are just looking to sell on an instrument they don’t use. But as with anything, there are also people out there looking to make a quick buck. Ask lots of questions, and don’t be afraid to back out if something doesn’t feel right. Also, using Paypal or a credit card may give you more protection in case of fraud.
EBay is the go-to for most used things nowadays, and whistles are no exception. You can find a lot of used whistles on eBay, and a lot of new ones as well for that matter. The Buyer Protection program is a definite plus for anyone worried about fraud, and eBay makes international sales easier with currency conversion and shipping charge calculations.
Chiff and Fipple is a site dedicated to the tin whistle and Irish music. The discussion forums are very active, and hold a wealth of knowledge about tin whistle playing, buying, and even making. If you have a question about a particular maker or model, you can probably find the answer on Chiff and Fipple. There’s also a “Used Instrument Exchange” where people post tin whistles for sale. Even if you don’t see what you’re looking for, it’s worth posting a “want to buy” notice just in case someone has one sitting around that they’d be willing to sell.
The Session is another great site centered around traditional Irish music. It houses a remarkable database of tunes, and is a great resource for learners and experts alike. It also has an active discussion board. The site’s focus is a little broader than Chiff and Fipple, since it’s not mainly about whistles. But there’s still lots of information available in the archives, and it has many active and helpful posters. “For sale” postings for tin whistles come up regularly, and a “want to buy” post is a great idea if you’re looking for something specific.