Whistling is a skill that many people learn in childhood and is often associated with being happy or passing time while working outdoors. However, whistling was once incorporated into performances from great entertainers such as Bing Crosby. While whistling at people in the street can often be considered offensive, professional whistlers entertain and compete to demonstrate their skills. By learning whistling techniques and practising regularly, it is possible to improve your whistling abilities, with a wide range of notes and techniques that hark back to the great days of whistling.
- Skill level:
Start by preparing your mouth. Keeping your lips and the inside of your mouth moist will improve sound and increase control when whistling. Lip balm will help to keep lips in good condition and to help repair chapped lips which can make whistling very difficult. Licking your lips before beginning a piece of music can also help to produce a good sound while having a little water shortly before a performance will help to keep your mouth moist.
Position your lips. It is essential to hold lips in the correct position to whistle effectively. Creating a small, round circle with your lips and practising in front of the mirror until the right sound is produced will help to highlight the correct lip position for effective whistling.
Practise tongue positioning. The position of the tongue affects air flow and should be held high in the mouth, although it should be a little lower than the roof of the mouth in order to create a channel for air to flow through when whistling. The overall position of your tongue should descend slightly, with the back of your tongue touching the insides of your back teeth and the tip at roughly the same level as the bottom of your front teeth.
Add a vibrato effect. With enough practise, the occasional use of vibrato will help to improve whistling skills and is particularly effective at the end of a piece of music. Moving the tongue up and down in rapid movements will cause air to vibrate as it flows out of the mouth and create a beautiful, fast vibrato while controlling movements of the diaphragm will produce a slower, more controlled effect.
Improve your range. Practise altering the position of your tongue to increase the range of notes you are able to produce. Lowering your jaw and tongue will produce lower notes while raising your tongue slightly can help to produce higher notes.
Control note length. A skilled whistler can demonstrate a range of note lengths while they perform. Longer notes can be performed by taking a breath before blowing and using the diaphragm to control the outlet of air. Short, sharp notes can be created by flicking your tongue to the backs of your front teeth as your produce a note, particularly when your tongue is held towards the roof of your mouth to produce one of the higher notes.
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