The Chieftain High D whistle is one of the most popular “mezzo*” tin whistles on the market. The whistles are made by Phil Hardy, who also makes the Kerry brand low whistles. He learned from Bernard Overton, and many of his early whistle designs were similar to Overton’s. In today’s Chieftain High D whistle, Hardy’s decades of whistle-making experience inform the designs.
It was primarily for the purpose of having something loud that I purchased the Chieftain High D whistle. This whistle is very wide bore, and it packs plenty of volume. This tin whistle takes a lot more air than most others, so some people might find it a little difficult to play. Despite the volume requirements and air requirements, it still produces a nice, sweet tone with a rich lower octave. Check out the full review!
*Note: Chieftain uses the term “mezzo” to describe what most other whistle makers call a “soprano” or “high D whistle. Chieftain whistles are in the same octave as other high D whistles, and one octave above low D whistles. For this whistle in the review, I will use the term “high D” rather than Chieftain’s “mezzo.” That is more standard.
All of Phil Hardy’s whistles are made from machined aluminum, including the Chieftain High D whistle. The whistle is very heavy, heavier than a lot of others. The whistle also feels larger, thanks to a wider bore than the typical Generation whistle. The whistle is extremely durable. My whistle has been busking many times, and I have often joked that I can fend off muggers with it if necessary.
Due to its all-aluminum construction, it can withstand just about anything. No matter what the weather is, the Chieftain High D whistle will keep you comfortable. It may take you a minute or two to warm it up if it’s extremely cold (like winter here in New England). Apart from leaving it in salt water, the only way to destroy this whistle is to leave it sitting in salt water.
The tuning of a whistle is by far the most important aspect to me. When it’s out of tune with itself, it doesn’t matter how good the tone or how easy it is to play. The Chieftain high D whistle is well-tuned. From low D to the third octave D, the octaves are well balanced and the tuning is very good.
Tuning slide included with the Chieftain High D whistle. I highly recommend you do the same if you plan on playing with others. Additionally, Chieftain makes non-tunable whistles that sound quite nice. The ones I have tried have been more or less perfectly in tune, both with themselves and with the standard A=440 concert pitch.
However, there are a lot of things that can affect that. You will be out of tune if you tune up a little higher or lower than normal. Temperature plays an important role in tuning. When it is cold outside, you feel flat. When it is hot inside, you feel sharp. Since you usually play alone, it shouldn’t be a problem for you. Otherwise, a tuning slide is definitely the best option.
The tuning slide of the Chieftain High D whistle has a synthetic cork lining and is pre-greased so you can start playing right away. When pushed all the way in, it sounds almost like an Be whistle, and when pulled all the way out, it sounds almost like a C# whistle. It’s flexible enough to adjust to any tuning situation.
The Breadth Requirement
After coming from a Killarney high D whistle, the Chieftain took some getting used to. The whistle takes a lot more air than many of the other whistles I’ve played, such as the popular Generations and Dixons. Once you get used to it, you may notice that you are breathing a lot more than you are used to. The upper end of the second octave is especially challenging. Initially, I had difficulty getting those notes to sound. But after a little practice and some re-calibration of my breathing, I was good to go!
There is a lot of noise. A lot of noise. The Chieftain is by far the loudest high D whistle I’ve ever played, and it’s not even close. This octave is quite strong, and can hold its own even when the volume is fairly high. I actually wear hearing protection indoors, since the sound bounces off the walls. Although it’s not strictly necessary, the top of the range does get remarkably loud.
When you blow the whistle outside, it carries quite well. Whether you are playing outdoors, busking, or competing with banjos, accordions, or pipes, this whistle is great. The whistle has plenty of power and has the strongest first octave I’ve ever played.
It is difficult to discern the tone of a tin whistle. Two tones are heard simultaneously: those heard by the player and those heard by the listener. Especially in the second octave, the Chieftain high D whistle can sound harsh because it’s so loud. It is actually a little uncomfortable for me to play at the very top of the range without some hearing protection.
Listeners, however, hear a completely different sound. I can hear the Chieftain’s sweet tone when I listen to myself play the whistle, or when I hear someone else play it. The power is still there, and you can hear it clearly across a crowded room. When you’re not directly next to it, however, it doesn’t sound shrill or harsh. The phenomenon is bizarre, but it’s worth keeping in mind. What you hear might not be what everyone else is hearing!
This is an excellent example of the tone (not me playing):
Clare jig Chieftain High D whistle
Let me start by saying that this is not a great whistle for beginners. While the second octave can be quite stiff, it takes a lot more breath than a normal whistle. Furthermore, it’s loud, which may not be the best thing for the marriage/family relationship of a beginning whistle player.
The Chieftain high D whistle, however, is a fantastic instrument. The volume, tone, and appearance of the whistle make it unique in the whistle world. It is perfect for any outdoor application due to its all-aluminum construction, which makes it durable and durable, and the power will help you be heard clearly.
Also unlike many high D whistles, the Chieftain is a session powerhouse capable of matching up with any other instrument. I particularly appreciate the strong lower octave, since low D, E, and F# tend to be very quiet on whistles. If you’re looking for a high D with that extra bit of oomph, Chieftain is your best bet.