What is the Pennywhistle?

As a flutist of more than 20 years, my favorite choice is the traditional penny whistle.  The penny whistle is a great starter instrument.  Otherwise known as the tin whistle and classified in the recorder family, the penny whistle is very easy and fun to play.  It has only six holes compared to eight holes on the common recorder; therefore, it is easier for a young child to play.  The fingerings easily match those of the flute, clarinet, saxophone, and recorder. It is and has been used by many professionals to entertain people. I love the tone, it sounds very similar to a piccolo. It blends well in tune with the flute, fiddle, guitar, banjo or percussion. The penny whistle’s unique tone has its own personality. I find myself gravitating to the song Yankee Doodle as a model song to demonstrate it.  Many folk tunes have been written on this little flute.

Please take notice of the many different types of penny whistles, many having a plastic mouthpiece.  The one that I recommend is the traditional penny whistle in the key of D, which does not have a plastic mouthpiece, but a wooden fipple plug mouthpiece which gives it a warm wooden sound blended with the tin material.  With this instrument choice, it requires much breath.  As you begin your musical training on this penny whistle, you will be amazed with how strong you can build your lungs as you learn how to hold out the notes.  This unique mouthpiece really sets it apart from all the rest, including recorders.  At the tender ages of 8 through 14, the lungs and heart area are being developed; therefore the child playing on a traditional penny whistle will really benefit.

The common pentatonic scale is easily played on this whistle by simply playing the notes D, E & G, A, B.   You could start by using only three notes, B, A, G in a playful style for your 6-year-old. For your 7-9-year-old, you can teach him pentatonic songs and games, still strictly by ear.  At age 9, you can begin to teach reading music and continuing to play songs by ear using diatonic folk songs.  You can do this in a creative fashion and in a sing song way. 

We, as parents and as teachers, have the opportunity to teach our children living music coming from our souls. We also have the freedom to choose what works and what is best for them. The traditional penny whistle is a great alternative to the wooden/plastic recorder.  After a great deal of experimentation, I have found it to be the best choice for my children and students.

Lauri Bolland, an experienced Waldorf home educator of 21 years states, "Steiner also said that young children should use a "blowing instrument" (not recorder, not wood, just blowing).  He also gave one golden rule which MUST be followed by teachers: loud playing should be prevented form the very first moment.  The pennywhistles Jodie included in the kit are old-fashioned beginner's tin whistles. One of the things that makes these pennywhistles unique from other whistles on the market is the wooden fipple and the "large bore", meaning the windway is large.  The pennywhistle is thick, so it takes a lot of air. Did I say a lot of air?  I meant a loooooooooooot of air. :-)
While this was a little bit of an irritation to me when I first began playing, NOW here I saw the great wisdom in it.  These tin whistles almost can't be overblown or blown too loudly, thereby teaching the children breath control from the very first day. Brilliant."
Read her full review