I am 27 years old and I just discovered (with my autistic trouble) that some people hum or whistle, for example while walking. I am jealous of that because I don't succeed in doing the same. So... how to dare to hum or to whistle in front of people while walking? When I think of that, I don't succeed in daring and I become angry in my mind..

Even if I say to myself that I must do it and don't care about others, I don't succeed in doing it .....

  • 4
    Since there are also plenty of people who do not whistle of hum — whether from fear or simple lack of interest — you might consider for yourself where the urge comes from. Knowing that might help you take a step in overcoming your reserve or in decided you have no need to.
    – Aaron
    Commented Nov 14, 2022 at 21:36
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    I would like to thank you for refraining from making annoying noises in public. Don't feel like you have to change. Commented Nov 15, 2022 at 8:27
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    I have been specifically told to stop singing/humming in public before.
    – Dekkadeci
    Commented Nov 15, 2022 at 8:35
  • 9
    Why do you wish to be able to do this? Do you like whistling/humming in private?
    – AnoE
    Commented Nov 15, 2022 at 12:58
  • 7
    Please don't. It can be super annoying.
    – DKNguyen
    Commented Nov 15, 2022 at 15:56

6 Answers 6


I think it’s important that you should not in any way feel like you have to be able to do this. Singing, whistling and humming should be a means of expressing yourself because you are in the mood for doing so, not because you feel you have to.

Also it is quite normal to hesitate to do so in presence of many people. But if you really want to do this, start in a place with no one around. How should you be able to whistle naturally in presence of people when it does not come to you naturally when you are alone? Make that whistling a part of you, make it a way to express and live your emotions. And once this feels natural to you when you are alone you will be able to apply this when other people are around, as long as you have the desire to do so.

And do not despair if you do not feel comfortable doing so in situations where other people do. This an individual thing, and it is not always necessarily better if it is this way.


Try it while bicycling: you are fast enough then that predators, bullies, morality police and competitors cannot catch up with you and don't have time to grow increasingly agitated.

Does that sound silly? It doesn't matter. Your feelings are rooted in animal instincts. Overcoming them in order to adapt your behaviors and freedoms to the norms of your society (which may differ in minor or major ways from that of an ape horde or even a small human tribe) is an effort that may come harder or easier to some people.

In the end it boils down to your own personal decisions what comfort level under which circumstances and behavior you are targeting in order to maintain your personal comfort zone. Some things you try out may not permanently make it into what you want to be doing, but having tried them out to a degree where you feel more confident about saying what you want rather than what others or imaginary others want may give you a better hang of what may and what may not be worth worrying about and how you live in a personal space that neither feels frightening or overly confined.

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    The greatest danger to singing/humming/talking/etc. while cycling is likely its risk of distracting you and increasing your accident rate. Both my sister and one of my cousins have injured themselves while cycling (my sister knocked out at least one tooth, my cousin hit his head).
    – Dekkadeci
    Commented Nov 15, 2022 at 17:07
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    @Dekkadeci because they were humming or whistling? If not, those anecdotes are not relevant and don't support your claim that humming or whistling while cycling is dangerous.
    – nasch
    Commented Nov 16, 2022 at 17:13
  • @nasch - I never heard enough details from my cousin, but I think my sister was also trying to handle her son/my nephew at the time of the accident. No doubt her speaking was involved there.
    – Dekkadeci
    Commented Nov 17, 2022 at 2:54

I'm also 27 with autism, and please don't pick up humming/whistling (especially whistling) in public as a default habit! I'll give advice for being able to hum in public in a second if you need it for other reasons, though.

I have some audio processing issues (linked to having autism, actually). Whistling is impossible to shut out and travels incredibly far, so someone whistling by me means I don't get to think about anything else until they're entirely out of earshot. This is way further than you might think in quiet areas. I still find humming pretty annoying too, but it's less piercing, is more localized, and I can filter it out if there's enough ambient noise (particularly with my headphones).

Okay, for actual advice for getting over self-consciousness when you need/want to hum something out: I recommend finding somewhere with a good number of moving pedestrians and a large amount of ambient noise and bringing some headphones and some tracks you like. Play the music, let yourself get distracted by it, and enter whatever place you've picked.

Two settings I would recommend for this:

  • A busy street/stroad with pedestrian traffic
  • A busy shopping mall

Both of these settings involve regularly going past random strangers doing random things, so nobody's going to pay too much attention. Ambient noise around you should mean everyone is already expecting noise and will care less (and pay less attention). Enough people moving around further decreases attention and it means if you need to start/stop humming, all the people around you will be brand-new when you want to try again. Finally, both of these settings offer natural side-roads (or emptier parts of the mall) for you to go to if you want to evacuate to somewhere less crowded.

Edit: if you want to whistle, I think smrdd's answer is really good. Even in the overlap situations where I might find it personally jarring, I would be very hard-pressed to think less of the person in question in any of those.


I've habitually whistled for most of my life, I've also never really considered why, so this is an interesting question to reflect on. :)

Why do I whistle in public, or as a habit in general? Well mainly as an idle distraction. It's something to fill mental space while doing chores or walking to the store. I also get satisfaction out of perfecting some of the more complex parts of my repertoire, and maybe showing off a bit. Or, as Allerleirauh mentioned, it sometimes helps me focus. I'd imagine that people enjoy practicing an instrument or any musical piece for most of the same reasons.

So if I see someone else humming or whistling in public, what traits might I ascribe to them? They might appear joyful, confident, easy-going, relaxed, etc. I suspect that you're not necessarily jealous, but admire those traits instead.

But, if I were to sit next to the same person on a long flight, and they were to whistle or hum the entire time, I'd get agitated. Heck if Elton John himself got up in front of the cabin and gave a private performance, I might be upset that it interferes with my expectation that it'd be a peaceful enough flight to get a nap in. Maybe it's just not my preference, and is just as disturbing to me as any other noise.

As alluded to by Adam Barnes and MS-SPO in the comments, making unnecessary noise in a public place is more often than not considered annoying, irritating, inconsiderate, a nuisance, and even outright rude. Imagine you get on a plane and everyone is humming and whistling to their heart's content. It would be unbearable! This should explain why refraining from making excess noise in public is the norm, at least for most places I've been.

So you ask, how do you dare to hum or whistle in public? You say:

Even if I say to myself that I must do it and don't care about others

You absolutely should be mindful of how others around you might feel about your humming or whistling. You should expect that you will be disrupting the generally accepted expectation that you should not be making unnecessary noise in a public space.

How do I get away with it then? For starters I live in the middle of an already noisy city, so whistling is relatively benign as far as disturbing noises go. Another reason is that I only do it when the disturbance is transient for those around me, e.g. I'm walking by, riding a bike, doing a short task, etc.

You should never impose your humming or whistling on others in a space where they're effectively stuck with you: on a train/plane/bus, in an office, dorms/boarding/barracks/dense apartments, when stationary for some time, and probably a whole bunch of other situations.

Occasionally you might by accident, and that's ok! If you're asked to stop, a simple:

Oh, I got a bit carried away! Sorry to bother you.

Is more than sufficient to avoid any hard feelings. :)

That being said, I do get some personal enjoyment out of whistling a little tune on a nice walk home. But I understand that doing it in public can be a little selfish, depending on the situation. :)

These two questions go into much more detail (albeit, in the context of hiking): https://outdoors.stackexchange.com/questions/20703/etiquette-of-playing-musical-instruments-on-popular-hikes https://outdoors.stackexchange.com/questions/27909/what-exactly-is-so-wrong-with-playing-music-on-trails

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    +1 for the emphasis on transience (and the whole philosophy you have in general, really) Commented Nov 15, 2022 at 18:10

Hi MatR: Thanks for your question, I find it wonderful and sincere. I am a 57 year old neuro-normal man (though my step-daughter might disagree, lol) who has been a teacher and I have some experience with people on the autism spectrum: a friend, coworkers, and recently a six year old neighbor girl.

When I was a child I learned how to whistle and really enjoyed it. When I was maybe 10 years old I got really interested in ragtime music. I had about a mile walk from the bus stop to get home after school; it was a pretty residential neighborhood, and I would often whistle along the way. I remember one time a neighbor complimented me on my whistling and I really appreciated it.

Nowadays we have a parrot in the house and I whistle with him. I have been trying to teach him The Entertainer for years to no avail! But actually, I have switched it around, and instead of trying to get him to copy me, I try to copy him. The sequence of notes the bird chooses usually isn't very hard, but trying to get the pitch and timing just perfect ... that's difficult.

So let me get to the point: I love whistling. It's not very hard to do; I'm no super-expert, but I'm pretty decent, and I enjoy it. If you like to whistle you should whistle! You can play around with the volume: If you're too close to other people you can abstain, or whistle quietly. If you're walking you have much more liberty, especially if you're out in the open. And if you learn more songs, so you have more variety, then it can attract interest. It can even be the start of a conversation.


Great GREAT question And then I saw most of the answers (all of the long ones), which may even be Better?

I have just passed the threshold where I am as likely to get three or four compliments or even "don't stop!"s in any given year as I am to get a single impolite "turn it off" or "shaddup" or whatever. (Whistler, not hummer, much. Inhaling and exhaling (which made pianissimo high register easier 'til 2018, when that last new outward-whistle skill found me, for some reason) and sometimes with accents or a strophesworth attacked 'stridulescently' -- by pronouncing bilabial-not-labiodental Japanese v=w for full-scale puckerwhistle+fixed-buzrate-drone.))

My epiphany RE that same Q. was finding myself having unknowingly started to whistle, idly practicing no recognizable exercise to myself, somewhere outside, like I probly did a bit too much when alone at home (the idly part); but here was different... I like to be ultra-polite, tho', to the random unmet world at large, so I made my first**

  • POLICY FOR OUTSIDE rule: Public spaces are for rehearsal-type whistlage, not excercise-type or newshit-exploration noizage. That made sense to me when where someone might come around the corner at any moment, or where I might have just walked past houses with windows right on the sidewalk. With the rule tho', now If I startup whistling unconsciously, it'll at least be recognizably truly music (like any of my fellow hoodmates bangin' the soul-n'-oldskool or whatever), albeit likely an original or classical or a jam with whatever other ambient sound or noise or radio my walking steps are bringing me towards. (Gentlefolk play along with others' beats/sounds improvisingly, sharing the public soundstage. BEEPING CAR HORNS & BACK-UP SIGNAL KLAXOfany must be OUTGUNNED in countertempo riffage, kept at persistently until they s.t.f.u)

SOUND_GOOD only need 2 (TWO!) keypoints to fix our rep A.K.A. WHY 80% OF PEOPLE WHISTLING ANNOYINGLY don't, AFTER BEING LIED TO educationally (#1): "You sound pretty good, Man, fo' sho'; hold those notes longer though... they're gone before we c'n hear it..." Begin-termediate key the first: Quickly clamp-your-onbend (if any) at "nailed-it" pitch, then hold on-pitch way longer than you think, slowing tempo even, if you're not at least highest-high intermediate, and if you are, well melisma-loud-LOUD, cauuuuuse you must be jamming: Jazz, riffin' with a combo or tape, right? Or Carnatic? Not an unrecrafted horn solo, I truly hope. Begin-termediate key the other-first:for advanced/advancing beginners, in partic, even /more/ important Do your stuff with far less measure-for-measure vibrato (none 93%+ none-ish 5%) on most notes/phrases, and then use it for real for accents and long cadences or whatever, in ways that feel meaningful for whatever vibe-nuance you like to express and can "feel" in doing it with.

Whistle in and out, alternatingly, allowing YOU to choose when or if to put in rests, or take full breaths of cool fresh air (unwhistled), by making up stuff that uses the specific notes/range/loudnesses you hit with best clarity / musicality in each breathing direction. (Walk up slopes slowly, but stride vigorously otherwise, especially into a wind or breeze, enjoying your infinite-lung-attachment equivalent).

It's great to walk a circuit/jogpath where most (1-2 groups / minute?) are heading one way (like lake Merit in OAKstrdam) at lively-paced walk. If you then walk refreshingly-faster by a bit, your forward-facing whistle will sound like it should, then even if they're talking-while-walking, if you drop-to-mezzo volume for a sec or two/three as you're overtaking them, since your whistling is very forward-focused, coming abreast suddenly means you can belt your heart out without interrupting them, and they may notice that not all whistlers are noise, if they hadn't yet (most in this country still are, I think).

If you're not ready to whistle like you're more competent than the truth, all the time, yet, thus belying simile and forever (co-)owning the stage, you can be an "obvious beginner/student" by stepping over to a tree/dock/tentless-alley/ally-tented unerpass and loudly doing Sound-of-Music doe-a-deer or scales-arpegio-warmups while facing even peripheral-vision fully away from passers-by. If you hit a foul, speak your aside like you mean it "EEew! Dude!? Whatever; try again [whistle-over of same bit]"

Otherwise, if the spectrum doesn't dictate a specific other tactic (which I do REALLY do, really hope you'll share, if it does, once you explore for it, and can explain) then the last point for this morning is my same "ULTIMATE KEY for fast improvement as when learning/performing any new=foreign instrument or language/subdialect (haven't tried dancing application, quite yet, but this, with all due humility, has made me a total-kickass on a thing or three):

**RETRO-JUSTIFICATION: False notes aren't false if noticed as they fly by; they were/are the other hemisphere (or same one, or subneck-soma, or outside world) interrupt-joining suddenly (maybe half-assedly/timidly) by taking or almost-taking an uninvited 1-beat turn: SO TAKE/REINTERPERATE IT AS e.g. them having given/beginning a new pattern, for you two now to go back and forth with, maybe bluesy-bend vs no-melisma-standard turn-taking? call-and-response alternations? or whatever, making the "mistake" into "oh I guess that's what he/we/you was/is/were trying to do" to weave into a duet section or as a transition to the next number.

Likewise unto: If you were learning EnglishUSyntax, say, and you were asking (someone you're meeting randomly) "how come you[ to ...the Tenderloin]" in your mind, and translating too-literally from your native-otherlang grammar (or from not-yet-fully-unlearnt Shakespearean-Japanese-HS-English misteachings), and you'd find you'd blurted it almost all out, like you keep trying not to; well... just use the opportunity to get the same meaning out while building agility/repertory-versatility e.g. by ending with "didn't tell me why came to the Tenderloin-- I mean, it's not an obvious place to come, right?"

Great question!! For humming, only obviously unconscious silly happiness sounds good, mostly.

Hope you join us other whistlers someday, somewhere, since I never got a chance to jam much with others whistling too. (Over the rainbow? Good basic tune, too ;-> )

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