Known also as the penny whistle, the tin whistle is a woodwind instrument most commonly heard in Celtic music and in Sydney Recording Studios. This small instrument has six holes, a mouthpiece, and is played by blowing air into it and using your fingers to cover different holes to produce different notes. The tin whistle is known under several different names, depending on the region, including the tin flageolet, English flageolet, Clarke London flageolet, Irish penny whistle, Scottish penny whistle, and the feadog stain. While unique in its own right, the tin whistle shares many similarities with other instruments including the Native American flute, the recorder, and even the clarinet when it comes to fingering and playing style. In Sydney Recording Studios it is usually known as the Tin Whistle.
Most traditional musical compositions by musicians in Ireland and Scotland contain this beautiful instrument, and it has become a huge part of their culture since its inception in the mid-to-late 19th century. Even today, whenever this fipple flute is heard in a musical composition, it is almost always associated with Irish and Scottish traditional music. With the surge of the Celtic revival in the 1960’s and 70’s, this woodwind instrument has become more and more recognisable worldwide thanks to bands like the Clancy Brothers, the Chieftains, and the Irish Rovers.
Sydney Recording Studios: History of the Modern Tin Whistle
Modern tin whistle in the key of C
In the same year Charles Dickens’ classic A Christmas Carol was published, another fantastic piece of history was conceived by a young Robert Clarke in 1843. His invention, the modern day tin whistle, was made using a small piece of wood, some solder, and a tinplate in a small, humble village in Suffolk, England. Unbeknownst to Clarke, an uneducated but hard-working family man, the instrument he created would eventually become the staple of a very popular musical genre. As mentioned, the tin whistle has become indistinguishable from Celtic music and is a beloved instrument of Celtic musicians and fans alike.
Robert Clarke eventually started manufacturing his invention and by the early 1900’s the instrument became so common within households it considered much like the harmonica in its commonality. It was eventually called the “penny whistle” since it could be bought for a mere penny in most stores. Thanks to his entrepreneurial efforts, Clarke’s tin whistle made its way all over the world where it became incredibly important within several musical genres including those of Ireland, Scotland, England, Sydney Recording Studios and even South Africa.