POST Pennywhistle, Pentatonic Flute or Soprano Recorder

CHOOSING AN INSTRUMENT- Pennywhistle, pentatonic flute, or soprano recorder?
     I hope that this helps you choose a starter instrument that suits you and your child for your daily music classes in your home. This is my opinion and it is based on my experience as a musician and music teacher.   

     I play the Clarke pennywhistle in D, made in England, the long lasting original hand crafted of wood and tin, with the wooden fipple plug mouth piece, painted black.  My beginners use the Tin Pennywhistle by the Cooperman Company. It is made in America and is hand crafted of natural tin and wood. I play it on my video tutorials, as these pennywhistles come with my music kits with Living Music From the Heart.

       It is easy to play and that is why the pennywhistle makes a great beginning instrument, at a very affordable price, $17.  It is also called a tin whistle or Irish whistle and it is classified in the recorder family.  It only has six holes compared to the many holes on the recorder.  The fingerings easily match those of the flute, clarinet, saxophone, and recorder.  It blends well in tune with the flute, fiddle, drum, guitar, banjo or percussion. You can stay on this instrument throughout the elementary grades until the child is ready to move into a more advanced instrument, such as the silver flute.

      The pennywhistle’s unique tone has its own personality, and later on, you will find many opportunities to play the penny whistle, adding to your celebrations of the seasons, holidays, and festivals. If you become an advanced player you will find great joy in Irish music, early American music, Scottish and English. As an American, I love to play early American tunes on it like "Over the Waterfall." I also love to use American folk songs like "Shortnin' Bread," because they are written using the pentatonic notes. 

       There are many different types of pennywhistles, most having plastic mouthpieces and in many different keys.  The one that I recommend is the traditional pennywhistle in the key of D, which has a wooden fipple plug mouthpiece which gives it a warm wooden sound blended with the tin material. If you complete Living Music from the Heart, you will be amazed with how strong you can build your lungs.  This unique mouthpiece really sets it apart from all the rest.  At the tender ages of 8 through 14, the lungs and heart area are being developed and the child playing on a traditional pennywhistle will really benefit. 

     As a flutist of more than 20 years, my favorite starter instrument to play and teach is the penny whistle.  “Children's songs must make pretty and rhythmical impressions on the senses.  The beauty of sound is of greater value than the meaning,” states Steiner, The Education of the Child lecture. To me, the pennywhistle has the best tone, it is beautiful, woody and breathy.  I enjoy it so much.

   For those of us who use the Waldorf inspired approach, Rudolf Steiner says that young children should us a “blowing instrument”-not recorder, not wood- just "blowing." He insures that the blowing instrument will develop strong lungs, in which are still developing in young children. And lastly,  he states using a blowing instrument has a natural and strong connection to the soul, a pure connection to Source, as the child makes music with the breath.

fipple plug

Traditional Clarke Pennywhistle in D

 I also use the Tin Pennywhistle by the Cooperman Company made in America hand crafted of natural tin and wood. I recommend this one to beginners and you can purchase them on this website. I also use it in the video tutorials.

Cooperman Tin Pennywhistle in D

     I don't have very much experience with the pentatonic flute, but I do own one and I do play it. It has a wonderful tone and a soft warm wooden feel as opposed to the natural tin material of the pennywhistle. As a homeschooling mom of three, I didn't have the budget to afford such lovely flutes. I also planned ahead and knew that they wouldn't use them for very long until they switched instruments, so those are my reasons for not choosing this one.

    The maker Choroi has a Quinta Pentatonic Flute, which was designed as a therapeutic instrument and was introduced around the 1970s. They specifically design flutes for young children inspired by Waldorf education and toward the way children develop as humans.  They have the interval flute, the pentatonic flute and the diatonic flute as well. Each development stage of the child, there is a flute to go with it. This is a great choice if you are following the Waldorf approach.

Choroi Pentatonic flute

    About soprano recorders, because of the higher cost of the wooden pentatonic flute and switching from the all the different flutes, many teachers choose the soprano recorder. This is one of the oldest instruments dating back to the Middle Ages and it is the most popular beginning instrument. Being “soprano,” the notes are one octave higher than the pennywhistle and the pentatonic flute. When you sing songs, your vocal notes will not be the same. You and your child should sing the songs one octave lower. If you do choose the plastic recorder, please buy a higher end recorder. I recommend the plastic one in the photo, Yamaha YRS-314B Soprano Recorder, which is around $30, it gives you a more rounded sound, close to wooden sound.  You can hear me demonstrate this recorder here

Yamaha YRS-314B
          You can use the pentatonic flute or  soprano recorder along with Living Music From the Heart, but make sure you know how to finger the notes. I did make a video tutorial for how to finger and play all the notes for the Choroi pentatonic flute 

          Hear and see the differences, “Penny Whistle, Soprano Recorder, or Pentatonic Flute?” Watch the video: