How to make paper whistles

Updated April 17, 2017

If you want a cheap, easy sound-maker, then paper whistles may be the answer. They work like a clarinet or saxophone reed does. When you blow air on the mouth piece where the reed is mounted, the reed vibrates and makes a sound. Unlike musical instruments that have keys to regulate the air passing through them that creates a variety of tones, a paper whistle can only make one tone. A paper whistle is a fun, simple, man-made reed.

Cut a piece of plain paper to 75 by 150 mm (3 by 6 inches). Fold the 150 mm (6 inch) length in half. Now the paper measures 75 by 75 mm (3 by 3 inches).

Position the paper so the fold is parallel with the edge of the table and facing away from it. Take the top layer of paper and fold it up and over, placing its edge even with the fold created in Step 1.

Flip the paper over and repeat Step 2. The paper is now 75 by 37.5 mm (3 by 1 1/2 inches).

Let the paper unfold slightly to create an accordion shape. Take a scissors and cut a 18 mm (3/4 inch) slit, perpendicular to the first fold--the middle fold--created in Step 1.

Place the folded paper between the index finger and the middle finger. The fold with the slit cut into it is positioned above the knuckles of the two fingers. A 37.5 mm (1 1/2 inch) paper flap sits over the bottom side of the index finger, and the other 37.5 mm (1 1/2 inch) paper flap sits over the bottom of the middle finger.

Bring the hand up to the mouth. Rest the two 37.5 mm (1 1/2 inch) flaps against the lips. Blow air so it enters the paper being held between the two fingers and hits the slit cut into the paper. The paper whistle will make a sound.


Make a number of these whistles and vary the length of the cut slit to achieve different tones.


Beware of paper cuts.

Things You'll Need

  • Thin paper
  • Ruler
  • Pencil
  • Scissors
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About the Author

Robert Gray has been writing full time since 1995. His first photography book took seven years to research and publish. He specializes in writing on photography and the arts. He's written for Photography Magazine, Large Format Camera Magazine and many online art and photography websites and blogs.