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Whistling: Wikis


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A metal whistle

Human whistling is the production of sound by means of carefully controlling a stream of air flowing through a small hole. Whistling can be achieved by creating a small opening with one's lips and then blowing air out of the hole or sucking air into the hole. The air is moderated by the lips, tongue, teeth or fingers (placed over the mouth) to create turbulence, and the mouth acts as a resonant chamber to enhance the resulting sound by acting as a type of Helmholtz resonator. Whistling can also be produced by blowing air through enclosed, cupped hands or through an external instrument, such as a whistle or even a blade of grass or leaf.


Musical/melodic whistling

Whistling can be musical: many performers on the music hall and Vaudeville circuits were professional whistlers, the most famous of which were Ronnie Ronalde and Fred Lowery. Both had several notable songs featuring whistling.

Pucker whistling is the most common form of whistling used in most Western music. Typically, the tongue tip is lowered, often placed behind the lower teeth, and pitch altered by varying the position of the tongue body. In particular, the point at which the dorsum of the tongue approximates the palate varies from near the uvula (for low notes) to near the alveolar ridges (for high notes). Although varying the degree of pucker will change the pitch of a pucker whistle, expert pucker whistlers will generally only make small variations to the degree of pucker, due to its tendency to affect purity of tone.

By contrast, many expert musical palatal whistlers will substantially alter the position of the lips to ensure a good quality tone. Venetian gondoliers are famous for moving the lips while they whistle in a way that can look like singing.

The term puccalo refers to jazz whistling.

Functional Whistling

Apart from being used as simply a method of calling the attention of another (or others), or a musical endeavour, whistling has long been used as a specialized communication between laborers. For example, whistling in theatre, particularly on-stage, is used by flymen to cue the lowering or raising of a batten pipe or flat. This method of communication became popular before the invention of electronic means of communication, and is still in use, primarily in older "hemp" houses during the set and strike of a show. Traditionally, sailors were often used as stage technicians, working with the complicated rope systems associated with flying. Coded whistles would be used to call cues, so it is thought that whistling on-stage may cause, for example, a cue to come early, a "sailor's ghost" to drop a set-piece on top of an actor, or general bad luck in the performance.

Popular culture


In Russian and other Slavic cultures, whistling indoors is superstitiously believed to bring poverty ("whistling money away"), whereas whistling outdoors is considered normal. [2]

In Serbia, it is said that whistling indoors will attract mice,[citation needed] while in Korea and Japan, whistling is thought to bring snakes.[citation needed]

Whistling on board a sailing ship is thought to encourage the wind strength to increase. This is regularly alluded to the Aubrey-Maturin books by Patrick O'Brian.

In Hawaiian lore, whistling at night is considered bad luck because it mimics the sound of Nightmarchers.

See also


  1. ^ Telling Stories, an interview by Greg Davis for Tonic, WUKY, April 28, 2008. Retrieved July 16, 2008.
  2. ^ Passport Magazine article

External links



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