Bass Whistling

June 29th, 2019
contra, music, whistling
Whistling is weird. While it's intuitive and responsive, it also doesn't tend to sound that great. Most of this is that it's high pitch, and it's pretty much just a single frequency (mp3):

The peak, about 1820Hz, is the note I'm whistling, and pretty much everything else is noise the recording happened to pick up.

My whistling range runs from ~659Hz (E5) to about ~2637Hz (E7). A soprano typically sing 262Hz (C4) to 1047Hz (C6), so whistle pitches are really very high!

What happens if we bring that way down, into the bass range, and add a few more harmonics to fill things out? Before we do anything else let's high-pass at 500Hz and low-pass at 3000Hz to pull out just the simple sine of the whistle (mp3):

Now we can make a copy down four octaves (mp3):

Down three octaves (mp3):

Down three and a half octaves (mp3):

Combine them together (mp3):

This sounds pretty good! What's going on?

For simplicity, imagine we start with a 1600Hz tone. The three notes we're generating from it are 100Hz, 150Hz, and 200Hz. These imply a fundamental frequency of 50Hz. This means we're effectively translating the ~659Hz (E5) to ~2637Hz (E7) sopranino whistle to a more pleasant 21Hz (E0) to 82Hz (E2) bass.

The next step is to figure out how to do this live, to back up mandolin. I quickly tried this out in Reaper, but the stock Reapitch plugin isn't willing to shift more than two octaves.

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