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Whistle tones

All there is to know about Whistle tones

About Whistle tones

Whistle tones are very soft sounds based on the harmonic series. They sound like a very high and soft whistle.

Flute Colors: having fun with extended techniques
to help flutists gain better control

Flute Colors: having fun with extended techniques
to help flutists gain better control

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Adding extended techniques like Whistle tones to your every day flute studies improves your overall flute control.

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Different words are used for this technique. Some call it whisper tones, some call it whistle tones or whistle sounds. Most composers just write the words Whistle Tones (or W.T.) in the score if they want you to use this technique.

Sometimes the pitch is given:

Sometimes the pitch is approximately:

If you should play whistle tones on a harmonic, the note which fingering you should use is written with a diamond shaped note.



Studying whistle tones / whisper tones on the flute is useful for:
– Embouchure control
– Precise, flexibel embouchure
– Good, steady breath control


This technique can be used on all flutes.



General:   Becomes more difficult:
This technique is quite easy to realize as a seperate technique when a random sound is required.  
  • when the tone is set
  • when different tones has to be produced on one fingering
  • if alternated with regular sound.
  • (very) low whistle tones



  • Whistle tones are based on the harmonic series.
  • Whistle tones are most effective in the third register. Low whisper tones are not strong enough to be heard from a great distance.


Composer:   Title: Album:     Publisher: Other techniques:
Berio, Luciano 1925-2003 Sequenza I   1 Flute solo Universal Edition
(UE 19957)
Multiphonics, Harmonics, Keyclick, Flatterzunge
Holliger, Heinz *1939 (é)cri(t)   3 Flute solo Schott
(FTR 197)
Harmonics, Flatterzunge
Holliger, Heinz *1939 Sonate (in)solit(air)e   3 Flute solo Schott
(FTR 175)
Multiphonics, Harmonics, Sing & play, Glissando/tonebending, Slap tongue, Quartertones, Trumpet embouchure
Holliger, Heinz *1939 “(t)air(e)”   3 Flute solo Ars Viva Verlag (AVV 133) Windtones, Sing & play, Jetwhistle, Keyclick, Slap tongue, Quartertones
Offermans, Wil *1957 Honami   1 Flute solo Zimmermann
(ZM 30730)
Multiphonics, bamboetones, Windtones, Sing & play, Flatterzunge
Offermans, Wil *1957 Studie no. 6:
Whistle tones
For the contemporary flutist 3 Flute solo Zimmermann
(ZM 29700)
Tisne, Antoine   Monodie IV Pour une Espace Sacré   3 Flute solo Schott Freres
(S.F. 9423)
Zoltan, Jeney *1967 Soliloquium No.1   3 Flute solo Editio Musica Budapest Keyclick, Flatterzunge



Author: Title: Publisher: Other techniques:
Dick, Robert Tone Development Through Extended Techniques Mutiple Breath Music Company Multiphonics, Bamboetones, Harmonics, Sing & play
Levine, Carin / Mitropoulos-Bott, Christina The techniques of flute playing Bärenreiter Multiphonics, Harmonics, Windtones, Sing & play, Jetwhistle, Keyclick,Flatterzunge, Glissando/tonebending, Slap tongue, Trumpet embouchure

Sound example

Here you can listen to a short example of Whistle tones. I’m playing Mei by Fukushima.