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A whistle or call is a simple aerophone, an instrument which produces sound from a stream of forced air. It may be mouth-operated, or powered by air pressure, steam, or other means. Whistles vary in size from a small slide whistle or nose flute type to a large multi-piped church organ.



The whistle has its roots dating back to ancient China, where night watchmen would blow into the tops of acorns to alert the towns to invading Mongolians.[citation needed] In ancient Egypt two blades of the papyrus plant along the Nile river were held together in between the palms. By blowing into the palms the papyrus leaves would make a loud vibrant sound.[citation needed]

Types of whistle

Many types exist, from small police and sports whistles (also called pea whistles), to much larger train whistles, which are steam whistles specifically designed for use on locomotives and ships. Although almost all whistles have some musical character (train whistles sound a minor seventh chord), common whistles are not usually considered musical instruments, since they cannot play a melody, unless used as a – very shrill and loud – noise and rhythm instrument. However, musical whistles exist, including various 2-octave musical instruments known as tin whistles (sometimes called pennywhistles or low whistles), as well as the calliope (an array of separately actuable steam whistles), organ pipes and the recorder. Pea whistles are used in jazz and Latin music for rhythm, much as a percussion instrument is; children often use them as a toy music instrument.

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