Published on Jan 1, 2014
TRAN QUANG HAI sings AULD LAND SYNE with overtone singing style, january 1st 2014
Published on Jan 1, 2014
TRAN QUANG HAI sings AULD LAND SYNE with overtone singing style, january 1st 2014
Published on Sep 29, 2012
I don’t care that this was from a concert for tourists. This is some incredible khoomei.
Published on Dec 21, 2012
Khoomii Mongolian Throat Song “Mountain Kharkhiraa” (Techno)
“Altan Orgil” Mongolian Ethnic Music Band by singer Zorigoo. Mongolian music and dance. Mongolian khuumei or mongolian khoomei. Throat Song & Throat Singing.
Uploaded on Dec 2, 2010
UNESCO: Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity – 2010
Description: Khöömei is a form of singing originating in western Mongolia, in the Altai mountains. The performer imitates sounds of nature, simultaneously emitting two distinct vocal sounds: along with a continuous drone, the singer produces a melody of harmonics. Khöömei literally means pharynx, and it is believed to have been learned from birds, whose spirits are central to shamanic practices. The multitude of Khöömei techniques in Mongolia are grouped within two main styles: the ”kharkhiraa” (deep Khöömei) and ”isgeree” Khöömei (whistled Khöömei). In ”kharkhiraa” the singer sings a drone in a normal voice, while emphasizing the undertone or subharmonic one octave below. In ”isgeree” Khöömei, it is the overtones above the fundamental note of the drone that are emphasized, creating a higher-pitched whistle. In both cases, the drone is produced with very taut vocal cords, and the melody is created by modulating the size and shape of the mouth cavity, opening and closing the lips and moving the tongue. Khöömei is performed by Mongolian nomads in a variety of social occasions, from grand state ceremonies to festive household events. Khöömei is also sung during herding, and inside the yurt to lull babies to sleep. Traditionally, Khöömei is transmitted orally from bearer to learner, or via master-to-apprentice.
© 2009 by Mongolian National Commission for UNESCO
Duration: 10:01:00 – Support: DVD (0039600025)
This page contains sound samples and spectrograms of various Khoomei singers.
Click on the spectrograms to download sound samples (aiff format).
1. Me singing Sygyt: This image contains the frequencies from about 0-5300 Hz. You can see the scooping of unwanted frequencies and the amplified harmonics of the melody.
2. Sygyt # 2: Also high in my range, this time with a little clearer sound.
3. Me singing in Khoomei style. The sound is softer, and more diffused. If you listen carefully, you can discern a 3rd pitch. It’s located above the melodic harmonic, but sounds softer (this is an illusion; the melodic frequency cluster is slightly quieter, but the motion makes it more obvious). The frequency range is from about 0-5469 Hz, and the fundamental (very soft, and very faint visually) is at about 129 Hz.
4. Yours truly singing a bit o’ Kargyraa (same frequency range). Notice the coarse, vibrating quality; often, on recordings with either natural or artificial reverb, this sound is smoothed out. I intentionally recorded these samples very dry (except #1 above), to obtain more accurate spectrograms.
5. This is an example of Chilandyk (named for the cricket), a combination of Kargyraa and Sygyt styles. Same frequency range as above. If you can learn to sing both styles, it’s not too hard to combine them. The difficult part is to keep the Kargyraa in tune when adding the sygyt.
I’ll add some more of my own samples, and samples of other singers as time permits.
Below are some spectrograms and samples of some famous Tuvan singers, beginning with Kaigal-ool Xovalyg of Huun-Huur-Tu:
From Wikipedia, the free online encyclopedia:
In acoustics and telecommunication, the harmonic of a wave is a component frequency of the signal that is an integral multiple of the fundamental frequency. For a sine wave, it is an integral multiple of the frequency of the wave. For example, if the frequency is f, the harmonics have frequency 2f,3f, 4f, etc.
In musical terms, harmonics are component pitches of a harmonic tone which sound at whole number multiples above, or “within”, the named note being played on a musical instrument. Non-whole number multiples are called partials or inharmonic overtones. It is the amplitude and placement of harmonics and partials which give different instruments different timbre (despite not usually being detected separately by the untrained human ear), and the separate trajectories of the overtones of two instruments playing in unison is what allows one to perceive them as separate. Bells have more clearly perceptible partials than most instruments.
The name of the note played is the fundamental frequency or the first harmonic, the second harmonic is twice the fundamental frequency, the third harmonic is thrice the fundamental frequency, and so on. This series is called the harmonic series. For instance, when one plays an A440Hz, “A” refers to the fundamental or first harmonic, but this sound also contains the second harmonic, 880Hz, the third, 1320Hz, and so on, at varying amplitudes.
In many musical instruments, it is possible to play the upper harmonics without the fundamental note being present. In a simple case (e.g.recorder) this has the effect of making the note go up in pitch by an octave; but in more complex cases many other pitch variations are obtained. In some cases it also changes the timbre of the note. This is part of the normal method of obtaining higher notes in wind instruments, where it is called overblowing. Onstring instruments it is often used to produce very pure sounding notes which have an eerie quality, as well as being high in pitch.
The fundamental frequency is the reciprocal of the period of the periodic phenomenon.
This article incorporates material from Federal Standard 1037C
The Harmonic Series A path to understanding musical intervals, scales, tuning and timbre by Reginald Bain – University of South Carolina. This is a great reference with lots of harmonic-related info, sounds, graphics, and links. Very cool!
Harmonic Series Rice College Summary: The harmonic series is the key to understanding not only harmonics, but also timbre and the basic functioning of many musical instruments. A good online lesson in harmonics and overtones.
Why two notes of the harmonic series sound well together Cool sound samples
Last Updated 12-28-03
Tuvan throat-singing, or Khoomei, is the area with which I have the most extensive experience. While I am familiar with other types of harmonic singing and chant, the main focus of this page will be Tuvan. You can find some information/links about other regions below.
All styles of Tuvan Khoomei involve controlled tension in and manipulation of the diaphragm, throat, and mouth. However, there are great differences between the different types of throat-singing; for example, some styles are multiphonic whereas other styles are not. Even this description must take into consideration the hearing, or conditioned hearing of the listener as much as the intention and execution of the singer.
There is no real consensus on Khoomei categories; this is a complicated issue due to a number of confusing factors. For one thing, affecting western scholars, there have to date been very few texts about Khoomei in Western European languages. The most commonly cited source when I began my research in the early 1990s was translated from Tuvan Folk Music, a book published in 1964 by A. N. Aksenov, a Russian composer who surveyed Tuvan Khoomei styles in the 1940-50s. More recently, there have been such resources such as Mark van Tongeren’s quite interesting Overtone Singing, various CD liners of varying quality and accuracies, and WWW sites such as my own Khoomei.com, which also vary greatly in worth.
There are major discrepancies between Aksenov’s descriptions and other older sources, and those of other more contemporary observers, and several plausible explanations. One is that Aksenov’s survey of Tuvan styles was limited in scope, though he was a highly educated and skilled composer and musician, who seemed to take his research most seriously. Although a definite factor, it is also apparent that there has been an appreciable development and metamorphosis of common Khoomei styles since Aksenov’s time. Also, many performances now include mixtures of styles much more extensively than in the past. Whereas many singers in the old days tended to sing mostly in one or two styles, and there was greater regional differentiation, many modern singers perform in numerous styles, hybrids, and develop their own takes on “the classics.”
So, although there is no widespread agreement, many contemporary Khoomei cognoscenti designate three or five major styles:
As noted below, #4 and 5, Borbangnadyr and Ezengileer are sometimes considered to be proper styles, and sometimes to be ornamentations added to Khoomei, Kargyraa, or Sygyt. I would add to the top of the list Xorekteer, as it underlies most of the various styles.
All video examples are QuickTime movies. Click here to get QuickTime (available for Mac and PC).
All movies are © Steve Sklar/Skysong Productions, Inc. and may NOT be copied or distributed without consent. All Rights Reserved.
Please Note: If you don’t have QT Pro and want to save the videos, then either R click (PCs) or Option Click (Mac) and do a Save to Disk, then view the .mov file from your hard drive. If you have QT Pro, then you can view the videos from within your browser, and save them from there. If you view them from within your web browser, I recommend configuring the browser to view them using the QT plugin, as this lets you begin viewing as the files download.
Coming soon: MP3 examples…
Xorekteer means singing with the chest voice… Now, this can be confusing to beginners: What does “chest voice” mean? And why isn’t it the “throat voice?” This term can carry several meanings. It can be used, like khoomei, to mean ALL THROAT-SINGING, in any style. It can also be used as a metaphor for “with feeling,” as in “more heart.” Plus, it can refer both to the feeling of pressure one feels when throat-singing, and also to chest resonance, which is obvious in person but not on recordings.
In its common sonic sense, “Chest voice” has a totally different meaning than the western vocal context, and the two should not be confused. Those familiar with Tuvan music have noticed that often entire songs are sung with this voice. It usually serves as the springboard to launch into khoomei style and sygyt. Here is an excellent example in MP3 format, the song, Kombu* This solo by Kaigal-ool of Huun-Huur-Tu (accompanying himself on doshpuluur) demonstrates perfectly the characteristic sound of the Xorekteer voice, with its hard, bright tone, and he uses it as a launching pad to sing khoomei, sygyt, and kargyraa.
Khoomei is not only the generic name given to all throat-singing styles, but also to a particular style of singing. Khoomei is a soft-sounding style, with clear but diffused-sounding harmonics above a fundamental usually within the low-mid to midrange of the singer’s voice. In Khoomei style, there are 2 or more notes clearly audible.
Compared to Xovu Kargyraa or sygyt (see below), the stomach remains fairly relaxed, and there is less laryngeal tension than harder-sounding Sygyt. The tongue remains seated quietly between the lower teeth. The pitch of the melodic harmonic is selected by moving the root of the tongue and the attached epiglottis as in my “Yuh!” technique (see Lesson 1). On the upper illustration below, the epiglottis is seen as the light-colored projection rising from the root of the tongue. It is to the right of the hypopharynx, also referred to as the laryngopharynx.
Phrasing and ornamentation come from a combination of throat movements and lip movements. Lips generally form a small “O.” The combination of lip, mouth and throat manipulations make a wide spectrum of tones and effects possible. Video Demonstration: Kaigal-ool Khovalyg
Kargyraa is usually performed low in the singer’s range. There are two major styles of Kargyraa, Mountain (dag) and Steppe (xovu). Both feature an intense croaking tone, very rich in harmonics. This technique is related technically to Tibetan harmonic chanting.
NOTHING feels like Kargyraa; you really feel a “mouthful of sound.” The term refers to all styles of singing which simultaneously use both the vocal and ventricular folds inside the larynx, as dual sound-sources. See the lower illustration below, The Larynx. When the larynx is constricted slightly just above the level of the vocal folds while the vocal folds are engaged, the ventricular folds will usually resonate, producing the second sound source. The ventricular folds’ fundamental vibrates at half the speed of the vocal folds, producing the extra sound one octave lower than the usual voice. The ventricular folds also produce many midrange and upper harmonics. While not yet proved, I suspect that each set of folds produces its own harmonic series, which intereact and are affected by the formants of the vocal system. Careful listeners will note the “constant” sound produced by the vocal folds, and a periodical, pulsating complex of sounds created by the ventricular folds. Kargyraa often sounds more traditional, or authentic, when the vocal folds are in Xorekteer mode, as above, and when the sound is somewhat restrained, rather than freely exiting the mouth.
Kargyraa is the one Tuvan style that I know of that is closely linked to vowel sounds; in addition to various throat manipulations, the mouth varies from a nearly closed “O” shape to nearly wide open. Except for the throat technique, this style is vaguely related to western overtone singing styles that use vowels and mouth shapes to affect the harmonic content. However, unlike most western styles, there is no dependable correlation between the vowel and the pitch. Generally, western overtone singers link pitch to the vowel, so that “ooo” gives the lowest harmonic, and rise in pitch from “ooo” to “o” to “ah” to “a” to “ee,” and so on. In Kargyraa, an “ah” can be higher than “a”, etc.
Dag (Mountain) Kargyraa is usually the lower of the styles in pitch, and often includes nasal effects; this sometimes sounds like oinking! It should feature strong low-chest resonance, and not too much throat tension. Video Demonstration: Alden-ool Sevek
Xovu (Steppe) Kargyraa is usually sung at a higher pitch, with more throat tension and less chest resonance. It also has a generally raspier sound. Video Demonstration (with other styles, see at about :53) Kaigal-ool Khovalyg
Sygyt is usually based on a mid-range fundamental. It is characterized by a strong, even piercing, harmonic or complex of harmonics above the “fundamental,” and can be used to perform complex and very distinct melodies, with a tone similar to a flute. The ideal sound is called “Chistii Zvuk,” Russian for clear sound. Part of achieving this ideal is learning to filter out unwanted harmonic components. Video Demonstration (also with Xorekteer and Borbangnadyr): Gennadi Tumat
For sygyt, you must increase the tension a bit at the same place as in khoomei. The tongue rises and seals tightly all around the gums, just behind the teeth. A small hole is left on one side or the other, back behind the molars, then you direct the sound between the teeth (which produces sharpening effect) and the cheek towards the front of the mouth. With your lips, form a “bell” as in a clarinet or oboe, but not centered; rather off just a bit to the side of your mouth where you direct the sound from that hole in the back. You change pitch with the same technique as khoomei, as in my ‘Yuh!” technique (see Lesson 1), and the rest of the tongue moves slightly to accommodate this action. The raised tongue serves as a filter to remove more of the lower harmonics, and in sygyt, it is possible to nearly remove the fundamental.
Borbangnadyr is not really a style in quite the same sense as sygyt, kargyraa, or khoomei, but rather a combination of effects applied to one of the other styles. The name comes from the Tuvan word for rolling, and this style features highly acrobatic trills and warbles, reminiscent of birds, babbling brooks, etc. While the name Borbangnadyr is currently most often used to describe a warbling applied to sygyt, Sygyttyng Borbangnadyr, it is also applied to some lower-pitched singing styles, especially in older texts. Video Demonstration: Oleg Kuular
Ezengileer comes from a word meaning “stirrup,” and features rhythmic harmonic oscillations intended to mimic the sound of metal stirrups clinking to the beat of a galloping horse. The most common element is the “horse-rhythm” of the harmonics, produced by a rhythmic opening-and-closing of the velum. The velum is the opening between the pharynx and the nasal sinuses. See the upper illustration, The Pharynx. The velum is not named, but is located just to the right of the soft palate, between the nasopharynx and oropharynx. Or, if you prefer, you will recognize it as the location of Postnasal Drip. Video Demonstration: German Kuular
Chilandyk is a mixture of Kargyraa and Sygyt. One usually begins with the Kargyraa voice, and then uses Sygyt technique to add a harmonic melody. If one can sing both Kargyraa and Sygyt then Chilandyk is not too difficult; what is challenging is maintaining the base pitch in tune while singing the Sygyt melody. Whew! Chilandyk is named for the Tuvan word meaning “cricket,” and there is a definite cricket-like quality when sung in a high Kargyraa voice.
Dumchuktaar means to sing through the nose (dumchuk). This may mean exclusively nasal with the mouth shut, or may just mean a voice exhibiting an obvious nasal sound. This is especially common in Ezengileer and some forms of dag (mountain) kargyraa, and some singers always sing this way, regardless of style. Video Demonstration (Dag Kargyraa): Gen-Dos
Nasal singing is common among western overtone singers. It is commonly believed that the directing sound through the nasal sinuses enhances the high harmonics. However, my observations indicate that the increased high harmonic components are not the major melodic frequencies in styles such as sygyt and khoomei, and also that open nasal passages provide a passage for some lower frequencies that might be better filtered out.
To control the amount of nasal sound in your voice you must gain control of the velum, as in ezengileer, above. You can feel the velum open when you sing and then close your mouth. The sound will then exit the nose, via the velum and sinuses. To feel the velum closing, sing a sustained note with your mouth closed. Try to stop the sound without moving your tongue (keep it down in the back of the mouth and don’t jam it back into the upper throat to stop the sound. And don’t pinch-off your nose! If you can stop the sound, you will have isolated the velum. When closing it while sounding, you may feel it push up by the airflow. Once you’ve isolated the velum, work on developing its use. Practice opening and closing it rhythmically, even practicing, say, triplets or dotted eighth notes. Also, experiment with opening it in degrees, not just opened-and-closed.
On the first illustration below, the velum, unmarked, is located between the nasopharynx and oropharynx, just to the right of the soft palate.
The low multiphonic chordal of the Tibetan monk’s chanting style is related to kargyraa, with a low fundamental often in the 80 Hz range. The sound is produced by the combination of the vocal and ventricular folds. The larynx is typically held low in the throat, conducive to low tone due partially due to extendind the air column. The lips are extended and nearly closed, also lengthening the air column and serving as a filter to remove the upper overtones. Other fine details vary among individuals, as well as, to a degree, different monastic traditions. The monks most widely known for their multiphonic chanting, known by various names such as Yang, Dzho-Kay, and others, are the Gyume and Gyuto. I have heard others, too, such as the Drepung Loseling monks and others.
It can be difficult finding reliable information regarding more specific details about the monks’ chanting styles. In fact, in my experience, there is more disinformation regarding this cultural variety than any other. If you hear stories about developing this type of voice, and they sound bizarre, and some do, ignore them and don’t try them. Also, while there are often claims cited by outsiders regarding the need to attain certain high levels of spiritual attainment, the evidence in my experience casts doubts. Of course, I cannot deny the possibility that some such spritual development might lead someone to subsequntly aquire the voice. Tran Quang Haihas an interesting piece on Tibetan Chant. Video Demonstration: Myself, with Drepung-Loseling monks
Throat singing is found in other parts of the world. Some are very similar to Tuvan styles, and others are not. Here are some of them:
Mongolia Besides Tuva, Mongolia is the most active center of throat-singing. Many styles, very related to Tuvan singing. Try Michael Ormiston’s site, with lots of info
Khakassia: Just northwest from Tuva, the art is called Khai (or Xai). There are 2 videos of Khai singers at the khoomei.com video page.
Bashkortostan In this southern Ural Mountain republic, the regional throat-singing is called Uzlyau. I have a recording of uzlyau performer Robert Zigritdinov, which I’ll eventually digitize. He does appear on van Tongeren’s book/CD. The performers sometimes simultaneously play flute and sing, as in Mongolia. This is an unusual tradition, as several researchers mention that performers often don’t know any other performers, or teachers. The means of transmission is therefore quite vague.
Umngqokolo Umqang This Xhosa variant is perfomed by women, and sounds very deep and unique. There is very little documentation available, but I have seen a video by South African Ethnomusicologist David Dargie which if I recall correctly, mentioned shamanic connections. Here’s a MP3
Inuit “throat-singing” is a very different vocal art than the others included here, and is not multiphonic. However, it does sometimes use similar vocal timbres which often include the use of both the vocal and ventricular folds (I believe). And, as in the case of the Tibetan monks, it is not true “singing.” It sometimes involve the unsual technique of vocalizing on alternating inhalation/exhalations. Here is an article with an interview with Inuit throat-singer Evie Mark, and a video sample of Evie and Sarah Beaulne. I’m not sure if this tradition extends to other areas of the Arctic.
From Widipedia: The Ainu of Japan had throat singing, called rekkukara, until 1976 when the last practitioner died. It resembled more the Inuit variety than the Mongolian. If this technique of singing emerged only once and then in the Old World, the move from Siberia to northern Canada must have been over Bering Strait land bridge some 12,000 years ago.
Inuit Throat Singing: When the men are away on a hunting trip, the women left at home entertain themselves with games, which may involve throat singing. Two women face each other usually in a standing position. One singer leads by setting a short rhythmic pattern, which she repeats leaving brief silent intervals between each repetition. The other singer fills in the gap with another rhythmic pattern. Usually thecompetition lasts up to three minutes until one of the singers starts to laugh or is left breathless. At one time the lips of the two women almost touched, so that one singer used the mouth cavity of the other as a resonator, but this isn’t so common today. Often the singing is accompanied by a shuffling in rhythm from one foot to the other. The sounds may be actual words or nonsense syllables or created during exhalation.
New World Terms: The name for throat singing in Canada varies with the geography:
• Northern Quebec – katajjaq
• Baffin Island – pirkusirtuk
• Nunavut – nipaquhiit
The Indians in Alaska have lost the art and those in Greenland evidently never developed it.
Rajasthan, India This is a very interesting example of a unique, peculiar and non-traditional development, as there is no such custom here. The anonymous singer learned to overtone sing by imitating the local double-flutes. MP3
USA – 1920s – The legendary and obscure Arthur Miles was an American cowboy singer who, apparently, also independently developed his own overtone singing style. He also sang in normal voice, yodeled, and played guitar. Almost nothing is know of him or his influences, but the dates of his recordings, believed to be about 1928-29, make him one of the earliest overtone singers ever recorded! Lonely Cowboy Part 1 Lonely Cowboy Part 2 Thanks to John (quaern from the Yahoo group)
You can find more info on some of these in Mark van Tongeren’s Overtone Singing
This video identifies some parts of the interior larynx.
Ever wonder how videos of the inside of the larynx are made? See this video about fibroscopy, used to make endoscopic videos.
• Go easy! When learning you’ll be using your anatomy in new ways. Don’t sing too loud, too long, or too often; use common sense!
• Dry throat? Here’s the cure that I developed: All of us suffer from time to time the effects of dry throat. Whatever the cause, whether dry climate, air conditioning or heat, colds, allergies, medications, or nerves, it can be difficult to remedy. The usual “remedy” is to drink some water. This will help to moisten the mouth, but the water will be directed by the epiglottis away from the larynx and respiratory system. Drinking lots of water may offer some help, due to general rehydration of the body, but often will fail to adequately hydrate the vocal system’s mucus membranes. Here’s a technique I developed to remedy this problem, which for some reason some of my students call “The Human Bong Trick:”
1. Take a good mouthful of water.
2. Extend the lips to a point.
3. Leaving a small hole, face the floor and inhale through the water. The air will bubble through the water, becoming moist, and deliver this moisture to the surface of the interior of the larynx, trachea, and lungs in an effective and non-irritating manner. (Editors note: Try this next time you are on an airplane. It is a great antidote to dry cabin air. Just be careful not to suck water into your lungs.)
4. Do this for a minute or two, and you will feel a great improvement in both comfort and voice!”
I’ll try do produce a video demonstrating this hydrating technique. Stay tuned!
• Musical Tip: Remember that any technique or action that changes any sonic parameter, including pitch, tone, texture, etc., can be manipulated in time to produce rhthyms.
• If you attempt to learn kargyraa too low in your vocal range, you have nowhere to go. You need to start in your low midrange, and when you correctly engage both sets of folds the sound will “drop an octave.”
• If you are having trouble getting the basic kargyraa voice, try singing it with your mouth shut. The velum will open, allowing you to sing through your nose. The smaller outlet produces back-pressure, which helps many folks to get the sound.
• To strengthen the kargyraa sound, and to make it easier to “get fresh” each time, practice alternating the sound like flipping a switch: With the vocal folds engaged producing a sustained tone, repeatedly engage and release the ventricular folds.
• Make sure that your mouth is open at least enough that you can hear what you’re doing in your throat! Also, too much constriction in the larynx or elsewhere will kill the sound. Just enough for a good sound, and no more!
• As in many endeavors, the tendency is to OVERDO. To use too much tension, airflow, volume, intensity. More often than not, the answer is to back off. Use only as much effort as necessary, only where it is needed. Too much pressure can also damage your vascular system; there are many stories of Mongolian singers who used too much pressure and broke blood vessels. Don’t blow a gasket!!!
• Avoid hurting your throat. There is a simple equation at work here: Pressure (airflow, powered beneath the diaphragm) meets constriction in the larynx. Too much airflow meeting this constriction will stress the throat. Try this: Close your mouth, and blow hard. Your cheeks will puff out and eventually your lips will give out. Imagine doing this with more delicate, sensitive membranes as in your throat. Don’t do this!
More coming soon…
Rear-View Coronal Section of Larynx
Structures of the larynx Good site from Mythos Anatomy/Webmed, with interactive anatomy figures.
Singing and Anatomy Two articles on voice production
The Singing Voice: Anatomy More good info on the vocal anatomy. Lots of useful graphics, videos, and links. Don’t miss the section on Castrati, and remember that it may improve sygyt but at the expense of a good, deep kargyraa. Act accordingly.
Lots of cool links about the voice
A Basic Overview of Voice Production by Ronald C. Scherer, Ph.D. Lots off good definitions of vocal terms.
How the Larynx (Voice Box) Works Charles R. Larson, Ph.D. Good article with good graphics.
Google Search: “singing” and “larynx” Can’t get enough, now, can you?
Last Updated 11-21-05
Liner notes for the LP
Music of Tuva
Overtone Singing – Theory and Instruction
Tuvan National Orchestra
Discography of Tuvan, Mongolian, and Siberian music
Throat Singing Societies
Tuvan Musical Instruments
Overtone Singers From Around the World
Lyrics to the Genghis Blues CD
Genghis Blues Radio
Tuva Ensemble Live: Review
American Cowboys in Mongolia
Collection of Throat-Singing Videos
The art of Tuvan throat singing is a style in which one or more pitches sound simultaneously over a fundamental pitch, producing a unique sound. The history of Tuvan throat singing reaches very far back. Many of the male herders can throat sing, but women are beginning to practice the technique as well. The popularity of throat singing among Tuvans seems to have arisen as a result of geographic location and culture. The open landscape of Tuva allows for the sounds to carry a great distance. Ethnomusicologists studying throat singing in these areas mark khoomei as an integral part in the ancient pastoral animism that is still practiced today. Often, singers will travel far into the countryside looking for the right river, or will go up to the steppes of the mountainside to create the proper environment for throat-singing.
The animistic world view of this region identifies the spirituality of objects in nature, not just in their shape or location, but in their sound as well. Thus, human mimicry of nature’s sounds is seen as the root of throat singing. (An example is the Mongolian story of the waterfall above the Buyan Gol (Deer River), where mysterious harmonic sounds are said to have attracted deer to bask in the waters, and where it is said harmonic sounds were first revealed to people.) Indeed, the cultures in this part of Asia have developed many instruments and techniques to mimic the sounds of animals, wind, and water. While the cultures of this region share throat singing, their styles vary in breadth of development.
It is simply the harmonized sounds that they are able to produce from deep within their throats. Ordinarily, melodies are created by isolating the 6th, 7th, 8th, 9th, 10th and 12th partial in accordance with the harmonic series (if fundamental frequency were C3, the overtones would be: G5, B♭5, C6, D6, E6, G6), though it is possible to reach as low as the 2nd and as high as the 24th. The fundamental pitch is typically around a G below middle C, and this affects the range of partials which may be reached, with higher partials being more easily reached on lower notes, and vice versa.
The people of Tuva have a wide range of throat singing vocalizations, and were the pioneers of six pitch harmonics. There are several different classification schemes for Tuvan throat singing. In one, the three basic styles are khoomei, kargyraa and sygyt, while the sub-styles include borbangnadyr, chylandyk, dumchuktaar, ezengileer and kanzyp. In another, there are five basic styles: khoomei, sygyt, kargyraa, borbangnadyr and ezengileer. The substyles include chylandyk, despeng borbang, opei khoomei, buga khoomei, kanzyp, khovu kargyraazy, kozhagar kargyraazy, dag kargyraazy, Oidupaa kargyraazy, uyangylaar, damyraktaar, kishteer, serlennedyr and byrlannadyr. These schemes all use Tuvan terminology.
Khorekteer refers to the “chest voice”. This is the voice that throat singers use when using khomeii, kargyraa, or any other harmonic-inducing style. The term can also be used to refer to all styles of Tuvan throat singing, much like khoomeii. It can also refer to the feeling of chest resonance or pressure that one experiences when throat singing. Khorekteer is often used as a launching pad into the khoomei, sygyt, or kargyraa styles of throat singing.
The most popular style of Tuvan throat singing is known as Khoomei (in Cyrillic: Хөөмей). Khoomei is traditionally a softer sounding style, with the fundamental (or drone) usually in the low-mid to midrange of the singer’s normal voice. In this style, usually 2 or 3 harmonics can be heard between one and two octaves above the fundamental. In Khoomei, the abdomen is fairly relaxed, and there is less tension on the larynx than in other styles. Pitch is manipulated through a combination of movements of the lips, throat, tongue or jaw.
Singing in this style gives the impression of wind swirling among rocks.
The term Khoomei is also used as a generic term to designate all throat singing techniques in this region.
Sygyt (in Cyrillic: Сыгыт), literally ‘whistling’, has a midrange fundamental and is characterized by strong, flute-like or rather piercing harmonics, reminiscent of whistling. Also described as an imitation of the gentle breezes of summer, the songs of birds, the ideal sound for the harmonics is termed “Чистый звук”, which is Russian for “clear sound”.
To perform Sygyt, the tongue rises and seals around the gums, just behind the teeth. A small hole is left back behind the molars, either on the left or right side. The sound is then directed between the teeth to the front of the mouth. The lips form a bell-like shape, usually with an “ee” vowel, and the sound is directed through this small opening. Pitch is manipulated exactly the same way as in khomeii style.
The more deep sounding style of throat singing is known as Kargyraa (in Cyrillic: Каргыраа). Kargyraa has a deep, almost growling sound to it and is technically related to Tibetan Buddhist chant and has some similarities with vocal fry. It uses both the vocal and the vestibular folds (also known as “false vocal chords”) simultaneously, creating two connected sources of sound.
By constricting the larynx, the vestibular folds can be brought together (adducted) and, under certain conditions, vibrate. It can produce an undertone exactly half the frequency of the fundamental produced by the vocal folds. Therefore, for each second vibration of the vocal folds, the vestibular fold will complete a whole vibration cycle. While the larynx generates such rich sound, the mouth cavity may be shaped, just like in the manipulation of vowels, to select some particular harmonics, resulting in a sound that may be perceived as having different pitches simultaneously.
There are two types of Kargyraa: Dag (mountain) and Xovu (steppe). The Dag style is deeper and has more nasal effects, while Xovu is raspier and sung at a higher pitch with more throat tension and less chest resonance. There are also the distinctive kargyraa styles of Vladimir Oidupaa and Albert Kuvezin, the latter also bearing the name kanzat. This is sometimes described as the howling winds of winter or the plaintive cries of a mother camel after losing her calf.
Of the following list, two effects that commonly employed in the khomeii, sygyt and kargyraa styles: Borbangnadyr and Ezengileer.
There were a few female throat singers in Tuva’s history, though it was believed a woman performing throat singing could hurt her male relatives and cause her difficulties during childbirth. Choldak-Kara Oyun, the mother of the famous throat singer Soruktu Kyrgys and grandmother of the husband of famous Tuvan actress Kara-Kys Namzatovna Munzuk, throat sang throughout her life while milking her cows, singing lullabies to her children and sometimes while she was drinking Tuvan araga. Close relatives of famous singers, like Khunashtaar-ool’s niece (in the 1960s) and Kombu’s daughter (in the 1940s or 1950s), performed khoomei (throat singing) in public more than once. The wife of the throat singing shaman Bilek-ool from Manchurek, Aldinsova Tortoyavna, said that she has always sung khoomei “because it was innate to [her] from birth.” She could not resist singing khoomei after she got married and had children, and sang khoomei in public in the 1950s and 1960s. But her sister, who also sang khoomei as a girl, gave up when others repeatedly reminded her of the supposed dangers.
In the Soviet era it was rare for women to perform on stage, except during Republican festivals. Valentina Salchak performed throat singing in public in 1979. Valentina Chuldum from Mongun-Taiga (1960- Autumn 2002) toured European countries as a throat singer in the early 1990s. With the start of the International Symposium of Khoomei women could sing publicly there.
Tyva Kyzy (Тыва Кызы, pronounced [tɯˈva kɯˈzɯ]) (Daughters of Tuva), founded in 1998, is an all-female folk ensemble performing Tuvan throat singing, under the direction of Choduraa Tumat. It is the first and only women’s group in Tuva that performs all styles of Tuvan throat singing.