How Do You Whistle?
How To Whistle: Ever since I was a kid, I’ve wanted to know how to give a commanding whistle with my fingers in my mouth. You know. The kind you see people give in old movies when they’re hailing a taxi or trying to get the peanut guy’s attention at the ballpark. It just seemed like a cool skill to have. But alas, I’ve spent my entire young and adult life frustrated that I couldn’t uncover the secret to this age-old trick.
Many of you out there reading undoubtedly feel the same way. Believe it or not, covering how to whistle with your fingers has been one of our most requested articles. Most of the emailers shared how they had a grandpa or dad who knew how to give a loud, forceful whistle with their fingers (in my case, my mom was the master of this kind of whistle). Like me, they thought it was a cool skill, but one which unfortunately hadn’t been passed onto them.
So I finally made it a goal to once and for all figure out how to whistle with my fingers so that I could create an AoM tutorial on the subject. After just forty minutes of annoying my wife with intense practice, I finally mastered the skill that had eluded me since I was eight years old. Achievement unlocked!
How To Whistle With Your Fingers
People’s pucker shapes vary. Most are roughly O-shaped, while Ullman says his expert whistle is the result of an “inverted pentagon.” For a rough idea of the right type of opening, say the word “two” and leave your lips in the position they’re in at the end of the word. Practice in front of a mirror, without trying to whistle, just to get a sense of how to pucker your lips in the right position.
“The tongue is a channeling mechanism,” says Ullman. “It helps take air that’s coming out of your lungs and focus it so there’s a constant pressure, and it’s directed right at the hole in your lips.”
To do this, press the tip of your tongue just below the bottom of your lower teeth. You’ll also want to curl the tip of it slightly upward.
Later on, once you’re able to whistle, you can use your tongue to change the pitch of the note. The tip will stay on the bottom of your mouth, but by flexing the middle of your tongue slightly and bringing it upward, you’ll be able to alter the shape of your mouth chamber, creating higher or lower whistling notes. For now, though, just concentrate on holding your tongue in the right spot.
This might be the trickiest step, and getting a feel for the right amount of air to blow is often the thing for non-whistlers to have trouble grasping.
“Blow very gently,” Ullman says. “It’s not a power thing — it’s a finesse thing.”
He compares it to playing a recorder: If you blow too hard, you’ll get no sound at all. The key is blowing a relatively small amount of air — the amount that comes out when you exhale very slowly — but pushing it through a small opening between your lips.
The big challenge in learning how to whistle is that all the action is happening inside your mouth. “If I were playing the violin, someone could look at my fingers and say, ‘Your vibrato is off for the following reason,'” Ullman says. “You can’t do that with whistling.”
Consequently, the only way to really get better at it is by figuring it out yourself. That might sound daunting, but I did it by initially making a quiet, halfway-whistling sound and noting how my lips, tongue, and breath felt when I did so.
Over the course of a few weeks, I practiced making that sound over and over, trying to replicate the exact mouth position and noting what I had to do to make it sound clearer. Once you get it, the feeling of producing a good whistle is very distinctive, and it’s easy to return to it and improve on it.
By doing consciously working on it, I eventually made the sound I could produce much clearer. I’d gone from a non-whistler to a whistler — though certainly not an expert like Ullman.
How To Whistle Loud
Your fingers do two things that allow you to create an ear-piercingly loud whistle. First, they keep your tongue pushed back, and second, they keep your lips tucked back over your teeth. The pushed back tongue and tucked lips will create a bevel which will produce a tone when you blow.
There is a myriad of finger combinations you can use to get the desired effect. I’m going to show you my two favorites.
Extend your middle and index fingers on both hands, keeping them close together, while your thumbs hold down your ring and pinky fingers.
Place your two middle fingers together, forming an “A” shape.
I feel like I get a louder and more forceful whistle using this finger combo.
One-Handed, “OK” Sign
This combo allows you to whistle with just one hand. All you need to do is form an “OK” sign with either your thumb and index finger or thumb and middle finger.
This creates an air passageway along the roof of your mouth. Be sure not to allow any air to escape through the sides. By forcing air through this channel, you will able to produce a sharp whistle instead of breathy noises.
- Position your tongue closer to the roof of your mouth by drawing the tip toward your bottom front teeth. Place the sides of your tongue alongside your molars. This will fatten your tongue, narrowing the air channel along with your palette while simultaneously creating a wider gap at the front of your mouth through which to push the air.
- The positioning here is crucial. To produce a whistle, you must force air around a sharp bend, which in this case is created by your front teeth and tongue. Forcing the air higher along your palette makes this bend even sharper. This reinforces the sharp bend in the air passageway produced by your front teeth. Resist the urge to just your lips out, which will produce a breathy sound.
- Pout your lips outwards like you are kissing and form a small hole, smaller than the size of the circumference of a pencil. Your lips should be kind of hard and tense with lots of wrinkles – especially your bottom lip. It should protrude out a little more than your top lip.
- Don’t let your tongue touch the top or bottom of your mouth. Instead, let it hover in your mouth around the back of your front teeth.
How To Whistle With Fingers
To whistle, the air needs to stay along this path – it cannot rest in the sides of your cheeks. If anything, they should be slightly caved in on the sides as the result of your pursed lips. Imagine sucking through a straw – that’s the look you should have at all times.
- When you inhale, it should be difficult to get your breath – that’s how small the hole formed by your lips should be. You will then be able to control your breath through this hole, making it last much longer than you would if you were speaking or singing.
- Though you want the air passage along your palette to be narrow, too little space produces just as breathy a sound as too much. Similarly, you must work to find the ideal distance between the front of your tongue and your teeth. Once you strike a balance between these two, you will be able to move your tongue back and forth in your mouth to produce different pitches.
- It’s all with the tongue and the cheeks. When you “blow” air through your lips, the main problem is either you’re blowing too much air, or the pucker is not quite right.
How To Whistle With Two Fingers
ave you ever been wrapped up in an intense game of kickball or tag on the playground? You’re having so much fun that you don’t even notice that it’s time to head back to class. You don’t even hear the teacher telling you it’s time to go.
So what gets your attention? It’s that shrill, loud sound that cuts right through to the center of your brain. What are we talking about? A whistle, of course!
From the beginning of time, teachers and principals have used a loud whistle to get the attention of kids on the playground. There’s just something about the sound of a loud whistle that will stop you in your tracks!
Can you whistle? A whistle is simply a high-pitched sound made by forcing air through a small opening. For example, most people whistle by forcing air through a small hole they form by puckering their lips into an “O” shape.
Now, if you pucker your lips and blow air through them, you probably won’t hear a whistle. There’s a little more to whistling you need to know about. You’ll need to get your tongue involved, too. And your lungs. Your tongue and your lungs help to regulate the speed of the airflow and the exact direction it takes as it passes by your lips.
If you’ve never whistled before, it might seem a little too complicated. Trust us, though. Everyone can learn to whistle. It just takes time and a lot of practice! Learning to whistle takes a lot of trial and error, so don’t give up.
How To Whistle With One Hand
Ullman — who’s performed with the National Symphony Orchestra, on the court at NBA games, and in the Oval Office — treats his whistling much like an opera singer treats her voice. Ultimately, he says, it’s not all that different from proficiency with another musical instrument: It takes a lot of hard work.
Maintaining the proper pucker position can tire out the lip muscles, so he keeps them in good shape by whistling for long periods of time. “I once went on a road trip where I whistled for five hours every day,” he says. “By the end of the day, I could barely even talk.”
Getting lots of practice at switching between different notes — by flexing and altering the position of the tongue — is also essential. “One of the things that really make for quality whistling is the ability to move between notes while keeping the air at constant pressure,” Ullman says. He develops this ability by trying out new songs, stretching his range.
But he also has a few specific rules that he follows to maximize each performance. He brushes his teeth before professionally whistling, in order to clear out any possible debris that might interfere with a clear noise. He also drinks ice water right before performing, in order to constrict his lip tissue, so it provides a smooth surface for air to flow over.
Finally, he has one particularly unusual habit aimed at keeping his lips as firm as possible. “I have a no-kissing rule for 24 hours before every performance,” he says. “It helps to sustain a crisp pucker.”
Can you teach yourself to whistle?
With a little effort and practice, anyone can whistle. The following are some methods to help you teach yourself to whistle. First, place the tip of your tongue on the roof of your mouth. The air flowing between the roof of your mouth and the top of your tongue is what dictates the note that will exit your pucker.
How do you teach a child to whistle?
- Use a Mirror. It will be easier if you can model whistling while your child watches.
- Lick Those Lips. Lips get into better formation when they’re slightly moist.
- Pucker Up. Tell your child to pucker his lips, but not as tightly as he would for a kiss.
- Tuck the Tongue.
- Blow, Baby, Blow.
- Be Patient.