I have come to the point in my life where I've realized that there are things that I can do, and things that I can't. I can sing, but I can't whistle.
I'm kind of ashamed of my lack of whistling skill, mostly because I played the trumpet for 7 years, and you'd think that would require a similar skill set, but it's not so. I am able to get a whistling type sound out of my lips, but I can't control it, and I usually end up sounding like a teapot. I can't tell you what I would give to be able to whistle at a good looking boy, at hockey games or when I'm pretending to look nonchalant and innocent in a 1930s screwball comedy.
This might be the lamest blog post topic ever, but once I started thinking about the ubiquitous nature of whistle breaks in music, I couldn't stop. It's maddening - once you start to notice a phenomenon, like how many songs use whistling - it seems like EVERY song uses whistling. I don't really know anyone who whistles as much as pop music and pop culture would suggest, but popular music has used the whistle as an alternative to instrumentation, oohs and na-na-nas forever. After all of my analysis, I think there are five ways that whistling is used in pop music:
The carefree fun whistle - see Me and Julio Down by the Schoolyard by Paul Simon
Note in this song how the use of the whistle adds a lightness and brevity to the bridge. It's a whistle you can get your groove on to.
The wasting time whistle - see Sittin' on the Dock of the Bay by Otis Redding
For some reason, popular culture has repeatedly used whistling to signal idle times. I don't whistle while I loiter, but I also don't whistle while I work.
The forward whistle - see Home Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros
Conversely, whether it's used in the score to The Bridge Over the River Kwai, by seven dwarves or cheerfully in this song - I love when whistling is used with a driving work song march feel. It generally makes me smile and feel proud.
The sit up and pay attention whistle - see Sissyneck by Beck
Nothing grabs your attention quite like shrill noises - this song starts with a bang of a whistle. One that I've been trying to emulate shamefully for 13 years to no avail.
The earnest whistle - see Patience by Guns N' Roses
It's unclear how GNR managed to make whistling seem melancholy, but I like this play off of the "wasting time" whistle. This song was a great moment in the evolution of the whistle in song.
Did I leave anything out? I apologize for the silliness of this post, but I'm hoping that this will get all of the whistling I've been hearing my head out of my system! After reading this, I bet you're hoping the same.