Whistle register

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The whistle register (also called the flute register or whistle tone) is the highest register of the human voice, lying above the modal register and falsetto register. This register has a specific physiological production that is different from the other registers, and is so called because the timbre of the notes that are produced from this register is similar to that of a whistle.

In some sopranos, the modal register vocal production may extend into what is usually thought of as the whistle register.[1] With proper vocal training, it is possible for women within all voice types to develop this part of the voice. However, some women are unable to phonate or comfortably produce sound in this register. Children can also phonate in the whistle register and, rarely, some men.[1]

Physiology and definition[edit]

The whistle register is the highest phonational register, that in most singers begins above the soprano "high C" (C#6 or 1,046.5 Hz) and usually extends to about two Ds above (D7 or 2349.3 Hz). It is created by using only the back of the vocal folds. The lower part of the whistle register may overlap the upper parts of the modal and falsetto registers, making it possible for singers to phonate these notes in different ways. However, fundamentally the whistle register is most commonly used to produce pitches above C#6. As with the other vocal registers, the whistle register does not begin at the same point within every voice, and there are rare voices which can extend the whistle register much higher or lower than the range listed above. For example, most operatic coloratura sopranos can sing up to the "high" F above "high" C without entering into the whistle register.[1] Cleo Laine of UK and Yma Sumac of Peru are two sopranos with extreme vocal ranges.

The physiology of the whistle register is the least understood of the vocal registers. Unlike other types of vocal production, it is difficult to film the vocal cords while they are operating in this manner as the epiglottis closes down over the larynx and the resonating chamber assumes its smallest dimensions. It is known that when producing pitches in this register, vibration occurs only in some anterior portion of the vocal folds. This shorter vibrating length naturally allows for easier production of high pitches.[2]

Although the whole physiological production of whistle tone is not understood, it is known that when the laterals are active but the transversus inactive, a triangular opening is seen between the arytenoids, the vocal processes contact each other, but the posterior parts at the apex do not contact each other. The exception to this would be if the vocal folds are not stretched, as stretching of the vocal ligaments abducts (moves away from) the vocal processes.[3]

In children[edit]

Many babies and small children regardless of gender can produce sounds in the frequency range of the whistle register without any conscious effort. Typically, the whistle register in children extends from the soprano "high C" (C6 or 1046.5 Hz) to two Gs above (G7 or 3136.0 Hz). Some children, however, can produce pitches that surpass the upper limit of the keyboard.


In European classical music, the whistle register is used primarily by coloratura sopranos. Many parts in the coloratura soprano repertoire extend beyond "high C" and often extend up to high F (F6). Although many coloratura sopranos use whistle tone vocal production to sing these notes, some operatic sopranos are capable of singing up to "high F" (F6) without utilizing the vocal production associated with the whistle register but remaining in the modal register. However, most coloratura sopranos do utilize the whistle register, particularly when singing staccato notes in rapid succession, during high trills, or other elaborate coloratura ornamentation in the upper tessitura. Rarely will coloraturas use whistle tone when doing high extended notes. However, singers like Mado Robin were noted for doing so.

In Western popular music, the whistle register is used with more variety and to produce much higher pitches than are called for in classical music. It is mostly used by female singers, such as Mariah Carey, Christina Aguilera[4][5][6], Ariana Grande, Jessie J, Kelly Clarkson, Nicole Scherzinger, Cyndi Lauper, Leona Lewis, Hayley Williams of Paramore, Kristie Maldonado of Pentatonix, Ally Brooke, Normani Kordei and Dinah Jane of Fifth Harmony, Grimes, Minnie Riperton, Betty Wright, Kristin Chenoweth, Shanice, Chante Moore, Tamar Braxton, Willa Ford, Lisa Fischer, Rachelle Ferrell, Leah McFall, Ella Henderson, Natalie Brown, Debelah Morgan, Tori Kelly, Blu Cantrell, Morissette Amon, Jane Zhang, and Almira Cercado[7] of 4th Impact.[8][9][10][11][12] There are a few men who use it such as Mitch Grassi of Pentatonix, Marco Mengoni, Dimash Kudaibergen, Nicola Sedda, Von Smith, Paolo Ramirez, and Piet Arion.[13] Adam Lopez holds the Guinness Book of Records title for the highest vocal note produced by a man (D8) by making extensive use of the whistle register.[14] Female singer Georgia Brown was listed in the 2005 Guinness World Records for highest note (G10) ever reached,[15] but this claim was removed when the 2007 edition was issued.[16]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c James C. McKinney (1994). The Diagnosis and Correction of Vocal Faults: A Manual for Teachers of Singing and for Choir Directors. Genevox Music Group. ISBN 978-1-56593-940-0. Retrieved 26 July 2013. 
  2. ^ Lesley Mathieson; Margaret C. L. Greene (1 June 2001). Greene and Mathieson's the voice and its disorders. Whurr. ISBN 978-1-86156-196-1. Retrieved 26 July 2013. 
  3. ^ Van den Berg, J.W. (December 1963). "Vocal Ligaments versus Registers". The NATS Bulletin. 19: 18. 
  4. ^ "Christina Aguilera's live whistle register". 
  5. ^ "Christina Aguilera's "Soar" Whistle Note". 
  6. ^ "Top 10 Female Singers With the Most Powerful Voices". 
  7. ^ "4th Impact wows Simon Cowell with whistle note on 'X Factor UK'". philstar.com. Retrieved 2017-08-22. 
  8. ^ Jacqueline Edmondson (2013). Music in American Life: An Encyclopedia of the Songs, Styles, Stars, and Stories That Shaped Our Culture. ABC-CLIO. p. 179. 
  9. ^ https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VhYIK-U_AOI
  10. ^ Archiduc De Belgrade (2015-12-23), Female Singers With Whistle Register, retrieved 2017-08-22 
  11. ^ "11 Pop Singers Who Can Hit Whistle Tones Like Mariah Carey". MTV News. Retrieved 2017-08-22. 
  12. ^ K LC (2016-12-16), Female Singers With Whistle Register, retrieved 2017-08-22 
  13. ^ FeDsax98 (2017-03-24), Male Singers - Whistle Notes Register, retrieved 2017-08-22 
  14. ^ Guinness World Records 2014: Special 59th Anniversary Edition (2014). pg. 196. PH: Guinness Publishing Ltd. ISBN 1-892051-22-2.
  15. ^ Guinness World Records 2005: Special 50th Anniversary Edition (2005). pg. 196. UK: Guinness Publishing Ltd. ISBN 1-892051-22-2.
  16. ^ Guinness World Records 2007: (2007). pg. 366. UK: Guinness Publishing Ltd. ISBN 978-0-553-58992-4.

Further reading[edit]