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Thread: Whistling Through Pursed Lips: An Interesting Phrnomenon?

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    Senior Member Strange Magic's Avatar
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    Default Whistling Through Pursed Lips: An Interesting Phrnomenon?

    An odd topic, to be sure. And maybe it belongs under Vocal Music. But it is interesting that, as one whistles a tune, one's mouth, lips, tongue, cheeks "instinctively" form just the correct architecture instantly to produce the desired note. No thought required, no experimentation; think of the next note and it's produced effortlessly.......

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    Senior Member Open Book's Avatar
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    Isn't singing the same? We don't know how we do it, but we can produce pretty much the correct pitch, most of us, when we sing. Half of what we have to do to get the whistle or sing at the correct pitch is invisible to us and we don't know how we do it. Although I'm sure there's a science to vocalization and teachers could tell us what muscles, etc. we need to use.

    Even a non-musician like me can sing or whistle reasonably well. Well, tolerably well.

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    Senior Member Woodduck's Avatar
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    Pitch-finding in whistling seems even more amazing than it is in singing. We might at least try to explain the latter by reference to our constant vocalization from the moment we come into the world. Learning to speak involves learning to produce variations in pitch. But when and how do we learn to whistle? Do we practice finding pitches at first? I don't remember ever doing so, but I know I began whistling, and whistling in tune, rather early in life, and was quite a virtuoso at it in my high school and college years. Unfortunately there was no whistling major at my institution of higher learning.

    Our brains and bodies seem wired together for the production of pitched sounds in more ways than we imagine.
    Last edited by Woodduck; Mar-07-2019 at 09:03.

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    Senior Member flamencosketches's Avatar
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    Definitely something you teach yourself how to do. For example, I can't do it at all because I've hardly spent any of my life trying to practice at it. Can barely even get a pitch let alone create a melody.

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    Senior Member Strange Magic's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by flamencosketches View Post
    Definitely something you teach yourself how to do. For example, I can't do it at all because I've hardly spent any of my life trying to practice at it. Can barely even get a pitch let alone create a melody.
    Also quite interesting! Maybe whistling is akin to bicycle riding: once grasped, never forgotten and instinctively done. Shoelace-tying and clothes-buttoning may fall into that category also. But whistling seems the greater accomplishment, in that a flute-like instrument can be mastered by children, without effort, playing by ear alone. Are there other posters who do not or cannot whistle, or who require practice and study?

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    Senior Member Larkenfield's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Strange Magic View Post
    An odd topic, to be sure. And maybe it belongs under Vocal Music. But it is interesting that, as one whistles a tune, one's mouth, lips, tongue, cheeks "instinctively" form just the correct architecture instantly to produce the desired note. No thought required, no experimentation; think of the next note and it's produced effortlessly.......
    Wow. I never thought of that, but I just tried it and it’s true: you can hear a note in your head and the lips will purse to produce that tone in a whistle. Delightful... There is a God.
    Last edited by Larkenfield; Mar-07-2019 at 14:07.
    "That's all Folks!"

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    Senior Member Strange Magic's Avatar
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    image.jpeg

    I attribute my whistling ability to my mother .
    Last edited by Strange Magic; Mar-07-2019 at 14:07.

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    Senior Member Open Book's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by flamencosketches View Post
    Definitely something you teach yourself how to do. For example, I can't do it at all because I've hardly spent any of my life trying to practice at it. Can barely even get a pitch let alone create a melody.
    I can't do one of those super loud whistles where you put a forefinger in each corner of your mouth. This would be useful for showing one's feelings at public events but I can't get any sound at all. I haven't really tried hard, though.

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    Senior Member isorhythm's Avatar
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    I do remember having to teach myself to whistle. I decided I wanted to be able to whistle when I was maybe around 10 years old, and I practiced while walking to and from school.

    My problem was just producing the sound, though. Controlling the pitch was effortless as soon as I could produce the sound.

    I wonder if it's so different from singing. Maybe there's some kind of very efficient ear-brain-muscle feedback loop that happens in a fraction of a second when we begin to make a sound, that allows us to land on the correct pitch so quickly that it seems instantaneous?
    Last edited by isorhythm; Mar-07-2019 at 21:33.

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    Senior Member Strange Magic's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Open Book View Post
    I can't do one of those super loud whistles where you put a forefinger in each corner of your mouth. This would be useful for showing one's feelings at public events but I can't get any sound at all. I haven't really tried hard, though.
    I suffer from the same disability. All the cool kids could do that, but I never mastered it. There is also cupping the hands to form an ocarina-like resonance chamber, then blowing between your bent thumbs to produce a variable whistle by manipulating chamber size and shape. Am only occasionally successful at that.

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    Senior Member Open Book's Avatar
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    Musical instruments are like tools and not all of us are tool users. We have learned all by ourselves to whistle or sing but most of us don't teach ourselves to play an instrument.

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    I have never been able to whistle on command. There will be certain times when an exhale produces the sound of a whistle, but I cannot replicate that. I haven't put any serious effort into trying to learn whistling since I was young, and I much prefer the sounds of singing and humming.

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    Senior Member KenOC's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Strange Magic View Post
    ... There is also cupping the hands to form an ocarina-like resonance chamber, then blowing between your bent thumbs to produce a variable whistle by manipulating chamber size and shape. Am only occasionally successful at that.
    My dad taught me to do that. He did a lot of climbing in the mountains and said he and his friends used that kind of whistling to signal each other, since the sound carries a long way. You can also flap the outside hand open and closed to make a warbling sound...

    Just tried it and I can still do it -- but barely and badly.


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    Senior Member Woodduck's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Larkenfield View Post
    Wow. I never thought of that, but I just tried it and it’s true: you can hear a note in your head and the lips will purse to produce that tone in a whistle. Delightful... There is a God.
    I know there is. I was out walking the other day and a powerful whistle came down from the clouds. I recognized the tune as "The Music of the Night" from the greatest opera ever written in the universal language of music. Now I know where Andrew Lloyd Webber learned THE TRUTH about music (unless it was from Puccini).
    Last edited by Woodduck; Mar-08-2019 at 01:24.

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    Senior Member TalkingHead's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Strange Magic View Post
    An odd topic, to be sure. And maybe it belongs under Vocal Music. But it is interesting that, as one whistles a tune, one's mouth, lips, tongue, cheeks "instinctively" form just the correct architecture instantly to produce the desired note. No thought required, no experimentation; think of the next note and it's produced effortlessly.......
    Ha! My question would be can one whistle through unpursed lips? An even more interesting phrnomenon!

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