Throughout this study and my research of whistling since 1990, I have made use of several terms which, while drawn from common music terminology, have specific meanings as applied to whistling but not covered in the musician’s usual arsenal of references. In addition, I felt that some entries regarding non-artwhistling approaches to the medium would help the reader grasp the discussion more fully.
These are the terms I have chosen to use for my study. To the best of my knowledge, and unless otherwise stated, these entries are consistent with standard musical references (The New Grove, Die Musik in Geschichte und Gegenwart, etc.) and with those used by the International Artwhistling Philharmonic Society in its symposium and archives. Some terms have also been borrowed from linguistics, particularly articulatory and acoustic phonetics; while in other cases neologisms – upon which no two people will ever agree – were necessary in order to facilitate discussion. I wish to thank Jack Cohen (CAN), Ugo Conti (ITA), Hacki Tamás (HUN), 李貞吉 (ROC), Martin Spaink (HOL), Joe Wolfe (AUS), Peter Ladefoged (UK), and the many other musicians who have helped me establish the terminology necessary for this study.
Performed whistling is only now beginning to attract the attention of researchers. With the help of your suggestions, additions, and corrections this dictionary continues to evolve and grow accordingly.
Preface to the Second Edition (February 2013)
It is said that the more you know, the less you know. This dictionary originally began as an appendix to a dissertation proposal I wrote in 2006. To my surprise, I started receiving inquiries and the work began appearing in other references. Horrified, I hastened to finalise entries and make additions, eventually resulting in a short but independent dictionary.
In the intervening years since then, I’ve had the privilege of giving international workshops, performances, and writing numerous articles about performed whistling – including the New Grove‘s first-ever entry on ‘whistling’ – and these experiences have led to a wealth of more discoveries and ideas. An ensuing need to create new entries and revise old ones became harder to ignore, until after some seven years I felt the project deserved a completely new revision. For this edition I’ve also begun adding images and sound samples (an ongoing task), and tried to aim for a slightly more user-friendly format.
Though now hosted on its own website, the work still remains, at its essence, a glossary to help my readers understand terms I’ve used in both past and forthcoming studies on whistling. Any use beyond this is completely at the reader’s own discretion; I only ask that proper credit be given for any definitions quoted (to myself, unless there’s another author mentioned) or media used. On every page, readers are also welcome, if unsatisfied, to suggest changes and additions.
Indeed your input is highly valued, and I’d be remiss not to mention those who have emailed me, made suggestions, or simply asked questions – which nearly always results in new ideas, further research, and more entries. Their names appear within the entries themselves. I also wish to reiterate my gratitude to the individuals mentioned in the First Preface, as well as the Dresden Royal Conservatory and its archives, the ROC National Library of the Performing Arts, family and colleagues of Ron McCroby, new friends in the Artwhistling Society, and all of my colleagues who offered suggestions and made corrections.
General editing policy
The general criteria I follow for terminology and definitions are in the First Preface, above.
In addition, because this dictionary was created as a musical reference, its scope deals primarily with artwhistling. Hence whistled languages, ornithology, mentions of whistling in fiction or poetry, entertainers who whistled, etc. are not discussed in great detail. For the non-musical aspects of whistling, I would instead suggest looking instead to the appropriate disciplines (sociological, anthropological, historical, etc.) as more likely and far better sources of information.
For a variety of reasons, I have also opted not to include entries on living persons.
Tips for users
• This dictionary is ever-expanding. Check the Changelog (bottom of this page) to see what entries have been added, and other significant changes.
• Try clicking the images. Many can be enlarged.
• Only text in blue (except this text) is clickable.
• Terms in yellow have their own entry within this dictionary; but they are not linked because finding the entry is a simple matter of clicking on the appropriate letter in the A-Z Menu.
• Terms in green are entries that will be added in the future. Or, if you have information, I’d be happy to add it and give you due credit (see below, Improve This Dictionary).
• Terms in parentheses ( ) are terms that are inconsistent with standard music terminology, or which I’ve rejected for other reasons mentioned.
• The A-Z Menu now has a “Studies” section, which contains complete articles, appending material, and links to important off-site sources.
Improve this dictionary
• On every page, you can make suggestions, additions, corrections, or simply ask questions. I always give credit where credit is due, unless you request anonymity.
• If you have something to contribute to the Studies section, please contact me directly because you will likely need special access.
Quoting this dictionary
J.M. Schlitz (and other authors, if mentioned)
~ and/or ~
… provide a link to this dictionary.
Nothing further is needed unless you want to alter something or make money from it (contact for permission).
quoting for students & scholars
Schlitz, J.M. “[entry title]” in Dictionary of Whistling, 2nd ed. <http://www.synthonia.org/dictionaryofwhistling> (published February 2013, accessed [dd mm yyyy]).
Exact format, however, ultimately depends on your professor or editor. Professors tend to have their own specific rules about these things, so you should ask him/her about citation/footnote form vs. bibliography form; MLA vs. APA style manuals; musicology vs. ethnomusicology formats, etc.
CHANGELOG (top = most recent, except for stickies)
• [sticky] At last, the earliest music written for whistling can be seen and heard online. See “Chanson à siffler” in this dictionary’s Studies section.
• “The Magic Formula” has been slightly renamed “Whistler’s Magic Formula” (under Magic Formula, Whistlers).
• Added a video under humwhistling.
• Users can now choose to quote these pages by either mentioning the author or simply linking to this dictionary.
• Now, you no longer need to give your name or eddress (email address) to make a comment. Simply send your comment from any page.
• Agnes Woodward‘s date of birth has been changed to 1872. I’ve also ascertained that her given name was Anna, but she preferred instead to use her middle name ‘Agnes’, which was responsible for part of the confusion.
• The term sporgendo has been replaced with the more intuitive term labial.
• Under the entry mode, the diagram has been changed to include handwhistling as a one of the four major modes of musical whistling. Several submodes are also now included.
• The terms coloratura whistling and operatic whistling are now both subsumed under the new term singwhistling.