1 – First Of All – Proper Posture
Make sure you sit/stand straight and that you do not hunch your back when you are whistling. Just like with singing, when you hunch you don't allow your diaphragm and your lungs to fully expand and fill themselves with air and therefore you are cutting drastically on your tone, resonance, and volume.
2 – Practice In Your Car Or While Doing Other Things
One of the best things about whistling is that you can always practice it and get better while you are doing other things – this can't be said on any other instrument because they all need specific practice time in your day. Whistling in your car while you're on your daily commute is a great idea, especially while listening to your favorite music and trying to accurately whistle along.
3 – Start by Whistling Simple Tunes Directly From The Original Recordings
Listening to the melody directly from the original song and only then trying to whistle it (instead of recalling it from your mind) will do wonders with making sure that you are whistling on-pitch and sound accurate to other people as well.
You can either whistle simultaneously while listening OR listen, stop the recording, and then whistle it without the backup which will be better because you will hear your fuckups much better and you'll be able to correct them.
4 – Record Yourself!
Recording yourself trying to whistle along the melody of a song can be a very shocking experience, especially for the more arrogant-ish persons who think that “this is all just BS, whistling is super easy and takes no practice it all.” Sometimes you'll be amazed at how off-pitch you are and this should give you some great motivation to start working on it. Keep recording yourself regularly to see your progression over time.
Later, record yourself whistling along while playing the rhythm on the guitar, this will give you a great feeling for staying on pitch relatively to another instrument.
John Mayer uses whistling in some of his solos
5 – Plan Ahead And Never Run Out Of Air
Again, just like with singing, make sure to BREATHE between the lines and when you can. Do not run out of air in the middle of your solo, this will definitely not sound good… Also, taking a big “sip” of air just before a challenging very high or very low note will help you nail it without that ugly sound break-down that might happen when you are just starting out with whistling.
6 – Do Your Best To Get Rid Of The “Hiss” And Improve Sound Cleanliness
If you are not sure which “hiss” I am talking about, listen to a recording of yourself and you will probably notice that very fast. The hissing is a “side effect” of blowing air but can be almost completely eliminated with some focused practice – usually, it will be about your lips not being puckered tight enough or your tongue needs an adjustment – play around with some trial and error and see how you sound best.
7 – Get Some Beautifully Crafted Notes By Using VIBRATO
A vibrato sound can add a lot to your whistling, especially for notes that you want to stand out such as the last note of a solo. If you ever played any reed instrument, recorder, flute, trumpet, etc. So the vibrato technique is similar for whistling, it is about slowly “bouncing” your diaphragm, or at least feeling like you're doing it. Here you can see a different technique that also works well and will be easier for a lot of people.
8 – Work On Your Range And Flexibility By Playing Around With A CAPO
9 – Learn From The Best!
Pay attention to whistling solos when you come across one! Usually they are a joy to listen to. See what these artists are doing, how they use it, get their vibes, and work on reproducing those solos yourself. Also, check out my article about the 10 best whistling solos for some sweet whistling action.
10 – Use A YouTube Whistling Tutorial
As Always – YouTube can come to your help. If you clicked on the vibrato link so you already saw it, but if not – there is a great Channel by a dude who's known as “WhistlersBrother”. He put together a whole whistling tutorial for free and I highly recommend checking it out.
Another good place with great tips is this website by “Whistling Tom” – A professional whistler.
Yep, that's his actual job.
Check out a lovely whistle solo that opens this beautiful Bob Dylan cover…
~ Golden Performing Tip ~ When Whistling To A Microphone – STAY FAR:
When you come to your next Open Mic show, or any other show that you are going to play, and you are ready to blow people away with your beautiful new whistling skills, make sure your mouth stays at a “safety distance” of at least a few cm/inches away from the mic. Otherwise, this solo will be a huge “hissing” solo and not a whistling solo because mics tend to catch on the hissing very well and this obscures the whistling very badly.
No worries though because from a few inches afar the mic will do a great job of catching your whistling sound and leaving the hissing outside.
This is it, use those techniques and you will notice benefits starting from today!
I would be happy to hear in the comments about your playing around with whistling.
Thanks for reading, peace, have fun!
* Photo is from John Mayer “Where The Lights Is” Live in L.A concert.