Daily Archives: January 6, 2015

ALEXANDER GLENFIELD : Overtone Singing: The Music of Sound

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Overtone Singing: The Music of Sound

by ALEXANDER GLENFIELD

ALEX GLENFIELD

http://alexanderglenfield.blogspot.fr/

Exploring the physics, metaphysics, philosophy, and cultural significance of overtone singing and throat singing, I offer wisdom old and new on the theories and methods of this fascinating vocal art that anyone can learn to do.

Sunday, July 27, 2014

THE CREATION EQUATION: OVERTONE SINGING AS HUMOR

Some of you, the good people who are kind enough to talk to me, have asked for more of this home performance stuff, and something like an online tutorial. I tried to create both in one.

Both in one. Always in search of the next innovative hybrid, we humans are always combining two things to make a third. Sometimes, one thing is divided into two, and then the new resulting parts are used to create a third.

The creative act itself is dependent on the simultaneous occurrence of two seemingly opposite “realities” to create a new one that often brings with it a flash of insight, and sometimes humor. This third thing, this byproduct of opposing incompatibilities, is the spark of humorous insight. The creation equation.

This video is another thing I’ve made to give me a chance to laugh at myself, and I hope it brings a little dual reality convergence into your mind and heart, and whatever goo lies between them.

To sum up and bring it all together (before letting it blow apart again), overtone singing IS a perfect example of the creation equation. We have what APPEARS to be one note PRODUCING more than one note: melody within drone; movement within stasis; music within sound.

Posted by Alexander Glenfield at 12:45 PM 4 comments:

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Sunday, April 6, 2014

Sounding Flows the Feelings?

More deep thoughts, said dumbly here, as it must be.

They ask me: “Does overtone singing have a healing effect?” Almost anything can be used to heal, and this is evinced by the promulgation of publications declaring the revitalizing potential of everything from asparagus juice to mashed up bee brains to the pheromones collected in the stringy belt of dad’s terrycloth bathrobe.

But it depends, really, what one means by “healing”. On one hand, healing suggests the improvement of life quality; on the other hand, that very unpopular hand, but the hand I most prefer to play, healing can be the transcendence of the need to be healed at all.

Through SKYPE or in person I encourage students to discover for themselves what effect the practice may have, as any declaration I make about the results of overtone singing becomes a suggestion and, under the right conditions of consciousness, a student may implant the suggestion and distort his or her reality to make the suggestion appear true.

I can theorize, however, that singing overtones is a means to bypass meaning, thus stilling the movement of thought to let other parts of the self arise to express and clear the system of its blockages. This theory, however, assumes that the movement of feeling is beneficial to a state of mind-body health.

What is thinking? Though some of us think in pictures, bodily sensations, emotions, or even smells, most of our thinking is in words. Words, vocal sound symbols, point to meanings. These symbolic word sounds can exist outside the body in waves upon the air molecules, and inside the body in the audial imagination, which is that place where you can imagine a sound. Thinking is the movement of words in the audial imagination: When you think, you talk to yourself, and almost everybody does it.

How many of your waking hours are dominated by word thinking? How much do you talk—presumably internally—to yourself? When communicating with your fellow creatures, how much do you rely upon your—presumably external—words?

These words are mostly an act of the conscious mind. Through most of the day, our breath, vocal apparatus, and audial imagination serve the intellect in word thought.

The mind-body system’s health is partly dependent on the free flowing of feeling. Down deeper—or perhaps up higher, I don’t know which—our emotions struggle to ride the breath across the vibrating vocal folds. Most of the time, however, they are blocked by intellect. Our voice (internal and external) serves our intellect. Feelings want to go out and play, but intellect is clogging the exit.

Overtone singing is a non-signifying vocal act: it means absolutely nothing, yet the isolation of overtones does use the raw materials of signifying speech; specifically and among others, the vowel sounds.

While singing with awareness on the sound of sound itself, rather than its symbolic meaning, the individual bypasses the conscious mind temporarily to clear the way for something else. I dislike naming the something else, as I dislike naming anything, but the feeling state one experiences in this clarity is distinctly profound: sometimes highly emotional; sometimes highly blissful; sometimes transcending all that is feeling and knowing.

But above words it takes you.

So what “healing” effects can result from singing above meaning? Best to test for yourself, but keep an open mind and heart about what healing can be.

I feel, however, that I’m closer to reality when singing and entering into the unnamable state of mind. Free of the judgments of passing thoughts in the audial imagination, I cease my distortion of reality, and come closer to what is; to what is without my intellectual filtering.

Deep thoughts, dumbly.

To enter into the indescribable way,

Hear the mind’s mental chatter

Not as meaningful words,

But as beautiful music.

Stare with the ear and

To hear the always music everywhere,

And in all sound,

External and internal.

The brain says “yes”;

The heart says “maybe”;

The time of your life

Needs a winding.

Posted by Alexander Glenfield at 9:17 AM 4 comments:

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Saturday, October 26, 2013

INSIDE THE SOUND & PANTOUM FOR THE LINE OF DOLLS

INSIDE THE SOUND: A Villanelle

Take notice of the silence in the sound

The sound of sound is in the music there

Be still the mind where judgments are abound

The ear is known to sense the world profound

To subdivide the ugly from the fair

Take notice of the silence in the sound

This is a place with music all around

The bliss of wind in trees without a care

Be still the mind where judgments are abound

Undo the violence seeing will surround

Unlike the eye, the ear can never stare

Take notice of the silence in the sound

Do know that we are partials of the ground

Divine that births the world through silent prayer

Be still the mind where judgments are abound

These musical intentions will astound

To find the subtle masterpiece is rare

Take notice of the silence in the sound

Be still the mind where judgments are abound

PANTOUM FOR THE LINE OF DOLLS

She took her place among the line of dolls

Beset with fear her skin turned sickly pale

And all who saw her turned before the fall

Unto the sounding of the bugle’s wail

Beset with fear her skin turned sickly pale

Her shapeless legs held firm around the wind

Unto the sounding of the bugle’s wail

A trail of dirty tears down to her chin

Her shapeless legs held firm around the wind

That sweetness of her face a dying dream

A trail of dirty tears down to her chin

The dolls beside her hacked a golden scream

That sweetness of her face a dying dream

The sky around them shuddered with the thought

The dolls beside her hacked a golden scream

The One they called to save them then, was not

The sky around them shuddered with the thought

For hope was always drifting in the air

The One they called to save them then, was not

Their universe ached on without a care

For hope was always drifting in the air

They fell as one, went lifeless to the ground

Their universe ached on without a care

To the silent, sliver moon’s impassive frown

For the evil of the man that sent her home

And for all who saw her, turned before the fall

For the man who wanted her to him alone

She took her place among the line of dolls

Posted by Alexander Glenfield at 8:39 AM 2 comments:

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Sunday, November 25, 2012

SELF INTO SOUND

He found himself in a landscape that was on one hand the loneliest and most isolated, and on the other, the most profoundly inclusive environment, he had ever known. The South Siberian Steppe. The land was the frozen motion of the planet’s most subtle tremors blanketed with treeless grasslands extending to the edges of the sky in all directions. The sky so vast the land seemed hardly real beneath it, and how easily the vastness of emptiness, with the slightest descent, could swallow the ground that held him.

Though the land was barren, with the tallest vegetation being the waving grasses gone to seed, the wind sounded a continuous and strangely human-sounding “aahhh”. Perhaps the ethereal vowel sound on the wind was a result of the air’s passing over the hole of his ear, but it must have blown through or around something to produce almost clarion resonance. In that moment, no effort he needed for contentment. No need to pose himself before others so as not to harm or be harmed. And the everyday judgment he habitually passed and received was away on the wind.

He returned the sound, gently as though letting breath surrender into sound, and from that effortlessly sounding intonation of “aahhh” he heard the music of sound, the inherent harmonics of a vibrating body.

With the little ego self away, the big self into sound. Before this moment in nature, the putting of the self into sound was merely theory, not direct experience. It was a theory his Hindustani Music Teacher had imparted to him. Guruji declared, “During the Brahmacharya stage of development, you must discover the self by holding each note for a very long time, and maybe for even hours a day if your dedication is complete. So long the swara must be held that there is nothing left of you and only the swara remains.”

In the Hindustani system of classical raga singing, the term swara had once meant more than “note” or “pitch”, as it has come to mean in the modern age. The ancient meaning, however, is there to be found in the word itself. By simply taking an etymological view of the prefix and suffix, one can know that the Sanskrit swa meant “of self” and ra meant “bestow.” Then to sing a single note, the swara, is to bestow the self in sound, and one found the self in the sound by uttering it and listening to the vast harmonic content of a single, sustained vocal tone. However, the singularity of this tone is illusory.

To sustain any one single note vocally is impossible, as the oral cavity, by default, forms the raw buzzing of the vocal folds into vowels. Though the speech centers of the brain are programmed to perceive vowel sounds as parts of signifying words, the vowel sounds are horizontal combinations of overtones (“chords” if you will, but more specifically, “formant regions”). Differing combinations of overtones distinguish one phonetic vowel from another. Our speech is replete with the music of vocal sound.

He was also bestowed with the knowledge that in the classical Hindustani singing tradition the vowel “ah” is preferred for singing, as this is the vowel sound of the heart, an expression of supreme adoration.

And is it merely coincidence that many of these vowels sounds, when used as raw expressions, heard alone and unaccompanied by contrasting consonants, have culturally specific meanings associated with them? For example, take “ah” as an expression of adoration in the Hindustani system. To a westerner, does it not have a similar meaning?

What is your emotionally driven vowel response to the following stimuli and scenarios?

1) An adorable kitten with a red bow in its fur approaches you; it purrs, meows, and rubs against your leg.
AH

2) Unprepared for your seminar presentation about wool slacks of the Elizabethan theatre, you improvise, thus faking it, and you use this commonly heard “mantra” of ponderous uncertainty heard all too often in public presentations and everyday conversation.

UM

3) To your shock, the kitten from before is, in truth, a rare breed of dwarfed tomcat and it is in heat. It sprays your leg with its putrid pheromones.

EEW
4)  On your lunch break, you spill an entire plate of Spaghettio’s on your temperamental boss’s white, silk blouse just five minutes before her meeting with the board of directors.
UH OH

5) Angrily tearing up yet another piece of junk-mail from your cable provider, you feel the firm cardboard slice open the sensitive flesh between your fingers, which for whatever reason, was wet with lemon juice.

OW

6) Having pondered at length on the reason for your rapidly shrinking gums, in a “Eureka” moment, you suddenly know that your toothpaste has been taken and replaced with a tube of Preparation H.

AH HA

How have these expressions found their way into the lexicon of human communication? Perhaps they are there for the same reason we moan when in pain or pleasure, or scream in terror or excitement, or laugh in response to either humor or impending mental meltdown: emotional response is biologically linked with the breath and any breathing that excites the vocal folds into vibration will consequently produce a vowel sound. There is something universal in the body, its feelings, and its means of expressing them.

Interesting to ponder, but like most idle contemplations, they serve to fascinate far more than they serve to offer any answers or evidence.

So he sings alone and there is no one to hear. There was no one there, not even him, and perhaps that is why there was no need to be known, for there was no one to know. He felt such relief in losing the little self, craving the recognition it needs to sustain it.

Nature is a place without names. Giving names to the phenomena of nature is to give it identity, and the bestowal of identity is the imposition of limitation. And with these names, to us the beings who give meaning to almost everything, the animate and inanimate myriad things of nature were reduced to their little selves.

He lost his little self on the wind in sound. “None of these forces shall sway me,” he declares to the past and future. The declaration dislodged the self-destructive tendency of his subconscious mind, and dissolved the deeply imbedded impetus to obscure the big self.

Perceiving the apparent singularity of the tone as illusory was the first step in the separation from the world of little things, ego things.

Dissolve the self, bestow the self, and listen.

Posted by Alexander Glenfield at 5:42 AM 6 comments:

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Saturday, February 11, 2012

Suggestions for Beginners, Reminders for Masters: Some sensible tips and harmless tricks for overtone singing

My first hearing of overtone singing was followed by a period of intense desperation. My despair came with much enthusiasm, but I remember an aching desire to sing the way I heard on the recordings. I reasoned that if merely listening to overtone singing can excite profound  fascination in me, than what can actually doing it make me feel? Pure ebullience was my guess.

I sympathize with those who ask “how can I learn to do that?” I know they seek the same feeling I sought. What follows here is a rather incomplete list of suggestions, affirmations, and aphorisms which are in no particular order, but are most certainly not “random” to use the parlance of high-school times. “That was so random,” the young people say, and I do love them all for it. However those “so random” acts to which they refer are usually more deliberate and focused than anything else they have done all day–a foray of full intention, a precise and directed line against the backdrop of a quotidian wash. Randomness should not be confused with spontaneity, but either way–either one–I think we need a lot more of it.

I hope the following list leads you closer to the kind of singing you want to do and the kind of feelings you want to have. Please know, however, that there are no magic words that can give you the skill. You have to play, experiment, observe, and adjust.

1) You can teach yourself. Though learning to overtone sing without a teacher might seem impossible, many adepts have acquired skills while sitting all alone in a room. I learned by listening to recordings of overtone singers from Tuva, Mongolia, Central Asia, North America, and Europe. Within a day or two of obsessive, continuous practice, I could imitate most styles with a reasonable degree of similarity to their sources. I have taught some individuals who catch the “knack”of a style within minutes, and it is very much a “knack” because there is an indescribable trick to turning on the sound, and when you get it, you’ll have it. I believe I got the hang of this with some ease because I’d played the trumpet and other brass instruments for many years before singing overtones. Other brass players have caught on quickly as well, and the “jaw harp”–specifically the tongue placement when playing–shares some very salient parallels with overtone singing.

2) Imitate other singers, but sing like you. All humans, regardless of age or gender, have the same digestive and respiratory components comprising the vocal apparatus. Each voice is unique and truly inimitable. You can waste a lot of time trying to sound like someone else, while your own intrinsic sound is there waiting for you to discover it. Muster the courage to work with your inherent sound because no one else in the world has what you have, and therein lies its value.

3) Listen as much as, if not more than, you sing. Maintaining enthusiasm is necessary to attaining skill and producing meaningful sound–“music” if you dare. But desire can keep you from your goal. In making efforts to produce high, ringing harmonics, the novice strains, pushes, pulls, and all around fails to observe the overtones that are already present in his or her natural singing voice. I recommend first listening for the harmonic overtones in your natural, uninhibited singing voice and, when identified, concentrating intensely upon them. By listening carefully, one learns that there is no need to force the emergence of what is already there.

4) Practice intoning vowel sounds while cupping the hand to the ear. Beginning on a pitch in your medium to low register (probably the frequency range at which you speak), intone around the vowel triangle, moving as slowly as you possibly can and breathing comfortably as needed. As you sing, cup your hand to your ear with the palm held slightly away from the jaw line. The cupping of the hand amplifies the higher harmonic overtones that characteristically fall away the moment your sound leaves your mouth and enters into the air in front of your face. I have observed this hand-to-the-ear technique at use in several of the world’s traditional singing traditions. Furthermore, in my opinion, the gesture of putting the hand to the ear helps to redirect awareness from the reactionary mouth to the responsive ear.

5) Practice the three “voices” and making transitions from one to the other. Almost any overtone-singing style is executed using one of three voices. The “voices” are more than just three differing vocal timbres. The first voice, the “neutral”or “natural”voice, uses no more laryngeal tension than is necessary for speech. Second, the “throat” voice (known as the khoomei voice in Tuva and neighboring regions in Central Asia), uses an immeasurable but clearly audible amount of increased tension in the larynx. Technically, the throat voice is made by increasing the length of the “closed phase” in each open-and-close cycle of a periodic frequency. The throat voice is not unique to Central Asia, and it can be heard in parts of Central and North Africa and among blues and rock vocalists such as Howlin’ Wolf and Captain Beefheart. Third, there is the “subtone” voice, which I think of as a kind of extension of the throat voice, but with prominent, and downright unmissable, sympathetic vibration of the false vocal folds and, in many singers, other surrounding tissues of the vocal tract. (For a more complete description of these voices and instructions for how to produce these voices, see my previous post).

When you have learned to do the voices, work on moving smoothly from one voice to the next. Begin with your natural singing voice, on a comfortable, mid-to-low pitch, and increase tension until you move into the “throat voice, and then return to your natural voice. Also, move from the natural voice, to the throat voice, to the “subtone” voice, and then return again, breathing as needed. Remember the exercise is to attempt to make smooth transitions, but the result may be more of a turning on and off of these vocal sounds.

6) To produce the lip trembling effect, purse the lips to the point of muscular exhaustion until they ripple subconsciously. I receive many questions about the style which I have listed on the video as “khoomei borbangnadyyr“, and I have learned  from a few viewers that this  may be actually named “byrlang.” Like many great things in life, the tremelo effect of the lips is not done consciously. I cannot speak for others, but when I do it, I purse my lips, pushing them forward, and then open them gradually and slightly to find the ideal size of the aperture. Sustaining this position, I feel the muscles surrounding the embouchre begin to fatigue. With only a little time, the lips begin to shake uncontrollably. I love this technique because it illustrates a great truth that there is strength and purpose in weakness. The more you practice the lip tremelo, however, the stronger you make the muscles, and so the more difficult it becomes to fatigue them. But no matter how beefy your chops get, there is always a “sweet spot” somewhere in the positions of the pucker and aperture that is weak enough to surrender to your “hidden will.”

7) Sing outside. Explaining this one isn’t easy, nor is it really necessary. The natural environment is composed of powerful archetypal symbols that positively affect the human organism. The forms of nature–shapes, sounds, smells, textures, tastes–instill quietude and awareness that is conducive to overtone singing. I have a theory as to why, but I don’t want to write about it write now. You may find that the most pristine outdoor locations–edenic sanctuaries in your own backyard–inspire you to sing in this way. Moreover, many overtone-singing traditions have strong ties to the natural landscape and its myriad creatures.

8) When you sing a sound you like, don’t celebrate too soon; instead, take a moment to reflect on and remember the sensation of how it felt.  Finally getting it can leave you so excited that you neglect to notice how it feels when you perform correctly (by correctly, I mean the way you want it to sound). Rather than going to show a friend, setting up the recording equipment, or running to your dad’s house to sonically heal his eczema, relax and observe your physical sensations and mental attitude that led to the successful performance.

9) Move through the overtone series as slowly as possible. Beginners often try to move up and down the overtone series too quickly, racing about and making articulatory movements too gross for stability. When you find three, two, or even one overtone(s) you can sustain with some clarity, stay there….enjoy that sound. Moving slowly is not only more difficult than moving quickly, but so too one can develop more control and usually derive more musical pleasure and meaning from singing within a limited range of the series; at least, at first.

Aside from these nine simple suggestions, I can offer no more tips to mastery of overtone singing in all styles. It is impossible for, if not detrimental to, a student to receive a handful of universal, fix-all tips. A teacher must hear and see a student to make a proper assessment of a student’s ability and potential. There are too many variations on physiology and methods to help anyone without virtual or actual contact.

Finally, to reiterate, skills can be discovered and perfected all alone in a room. You don’t need a cave, or a mountain top, an emaciated guru, or a trip to “exotic” locations to learn to overtone sing. Though I believe one can come to know the world from one spot on the floor in the house one was born in, there might be some truth to authenticating some styles by visiting specific locations on the planet. I just don’t know for certain. But do beware of authenticity, as most of the time, whenever authenticity arises in a discussion, there is a either a personal or cultural ego fighting for superiority over another. Oh, and money–authenticity debates and money seem to go together like rich kids and belted, khaki shorts.

“Ours is better than yours”—what an asinine statement.  If such debates arise around you, get away from those people and go to nature, an entity which has no need to justify its identify, and so it lives on and on.

Posted by Alexander Glenfield at 8:56 AM 18 comments:

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Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Singing Undertones, Subharmonics, and Subtones

How does one learn to sing those seemingly super-low tones? Some people are as obsessed with low notes as they are with the high ones. For whatever reasons, the extremes of anything are attractive.

Vocal infrasonics can be heard in various traditions: the yang chanting used ritually among some branches of Tibetan Buddhism; the folk music and throat-singing of Tuva (kargyraa) and Mongolia (kharkhiraa); the liturgical music of Sardinia (in the tenore bass voice): alongside the umngqokolo overtone singing of Xhosa women; and either occasionally or continuously in the epic songs of the Altai, Khakassia, and Sakha Republics.

But the ability to produce subtones is inherent in the human vocal apparatus; consequently, this vocal technology also arises spontaneously and radically, which is to say, devoid of roots in any of the above-listed traditions.

I used to tell people that to sing subtones they simply had to hit “second puberty”. Though the joke has since grown tiresome, there is truth to the onset of a lesser known secondary pubescence. At about the age of 26 years, the human brain typically ascends to another plateau of cortical development, whereby the pre-frontal cortex fully matures. Think back (or forward) to your twenty-sixth year or when-a-bouts. What was happening at that time? How did you feel? Anything change?

Perhaps at twenty-six your voice didn’t start to sound like a chainsaw at the bottom of a well, but still, maybe we should rethink the concept of only one puberty, only one turning point in the ongoing development of the remarkably intelligent organism that is human body.

Overtones and Undertones

Overtones exist. There is a clearly observable and measurable series of harmonic overtones that is inherent in periodic sound vibration. Overtones go over the main note, but is there a series of tones that go under the main note?

Is there an undertone series?

In formal acoustics, the undertone series remains a theoretical construct, not an actual acoustical phenomenon. To date, no one has produced evidence of an undertone series, a true mirror inversion of the overtone series that sounds simultaneously with the fundamental frequency (With singing, the fundamental is the actual note sung by the vocal folds).

Theoretical Undertone Series to the Fifth Partial

What is that low tone if it is not an undertone? I prefer to call it a vocal subtone, as it is caused by the oscillation of tissues that lie above the vocal folds. We use the vocal folds for everyday speech and song. The tissues above these actual focal folds are known as the false vocal folds, and you can see them on the diagram below, which is a cross sectional view of the larynx.

When the actual vocal folds are set into periodic vibration with a highly tensed glottis, the false vocal folds are pushed together and slightly upward toward the back of the throat. I have imagined that when these slimy little flesh curtains are set into motion to produce a subtone, they look and feel like puckering lips.

When set into motion, these false vocal folds vibrate most optimally, with maximum amplitude and consistency, at exactly one half the rate of vibration of the actual vocal folds. For example, if your actual vocal folds are singing an A 440 Hz and you set your false vocal folds into optimal vibration, you will produce a strong subtone of 220 Hz simultaneously with the 440 Hz tone of your actual vocal folds. Thus, you are producing two distinct oscillations spaced one perfect octave apart.

For this reason, I prefer to use the term subtone instead of subharmonic or undertone to describe this phenomenon, as the secondary tone is not a partial harmonic of the actual note sung, but a distinct fundamental tone unto itself. Furthermore, being a tone unto itself and not just a partial, a subtone also has a corresponding overtone spectrum.

Remember that overtones are parts dependent on the whole, which is the fundamental vibration. Overtones do not have overtones, nor should undertones have overtones.

Does this remove the mystery from subtone singing? Not at all. We’re merely taking out the mystery and then putting it right back in again. 

No one knows exactly why the subtone vibrates so supremely at exactly one octave below the fundamental. Resonance might begin to explain it. The false vocal folds might absorb more energy when the actual vocal folds matches the resonant frequency of the false folds. However, one can sing a whole scale in subtones, which indicates the false vocal folds have an atypically wide range of resonant frequencies. Furthermore, the vibration of the subtone far exceeds the intensity of the vibration of the actual tone, and the false folds feel and sound as though they are not merely absorbing energy, but producing it independently.

There you haven’t it: the mystery remains.

How to Sing Subtones

  1. Sing any tone naturally and slowly slide it up a little ways, and then go all the way down to the lowest note your can sing comfortably. Hold it.
  1. From that low note as your base, sing up about a perfect fifth (the opening interval of the Star Wars theme, the Superman theme, the E.T. theme, or the opening notes of just about anything by John Williams).
  1. Starting on that note about a fifth up from your lowest, begin to hum. For a few minutes, just practice holding that hum steady to get comfortable with your note.

What follows is the hard part, and no “how to” explanation will be universally applicable to each individual, but try this anyway:

  1. Pretend you are pushing an immovable object with all your strength and then grunt. Sustain the grunt as you sing your note. You should be feeling a lot of pressure building up beneath your throat, in your lungs, and all the way down to your lower belly.
  1. With that feeling of pressurization in your torso, imagine you are pushing up from the back of your throat where you feel normal vocalization while pushing down from somewhere a ways behind the base of your tongue. This is a difficult sensation to feel and remember, and most people feel more upward push from the back of the throat than they do downward push from the base of the tongue. There should be a sensation of the back and front meeting somewhere in the middle, where we find the false vocal folds.
  1. While pressurized and pushing the throat, begin to do the grunty hum and then add just a touch of cough and hack while continuing to sustain your note.
  1. Slowly and carefully adjust all the physiological parameters (degree of tension, placement of tension, pitch of your note, vowel, mouth open, mouth closed, seated or standing, morning voice or night voice, etc.) until the subtone appears. When it does appear, don’t chase it. Take a moment to stop and become aware of how it felt and sounded. Much of the learning here is in deeply internalizing a physiological memory of the sensation.

When you achieve a consistent subtone, you will know it. The sound will be strong and it will seem to just lock into place on its own.

Three Common Mistakes 

  1. Going too deep. When singing a subtone, you are not singing a low register note with the actual folds. The actual folds are actually singing a relatively mid-range note, and the false vocal folds are resonating at one half the rate of the actual folds. Similarly, beginning subtoners often associate the deepness of the subtone with deepness in their body. As a result they tend to put the sound too deeply in the throat to produce a gravelly rattling that feels like it is going into the chest—it’s kind of an old-man-with-his-orange-juice-in-the-morning sound. But the vibration of the subtone is actually above the vibration of normal vocalization. Send your awareness of the sensation upward, not downward. However, also keep awareness in the root of your body, at the base of your belly and even lower, from which the energy of this sound must come. I know it is confusing when you think about it, as there are lots of paradoxes in this kind of singing. Doing will make it clear.
  1. Vocal frying. One can produce uber low vocal tones by loosening the glottis to regulate the incoming puffs of air. These bubbly pops can be regulated to produce a false bass register, sometimes known as strohbass. In the morning, you can really get those low pops on or around the vowel “uh”, and you can make them go faster and faster until they resound a steady low tone. The vocal fry sounds primarily from the slack closure of the actual vocal folds. The sensation is completely different from subtone singing, which is an intense and simultaneous vibration of the tissues above the actual vocal folds.
  1. Over-Practicing. When I first started learning subtone singing, I did it for about 3 hours the first day, 6 hours the second, 8 hours the third, and none for the the 5 days that followed because my voice disappeared into infrasound. For a while I was speaking so low I could only speak in rhythm. The moral of the story is, you must proceed very carefully and patiently. Your false folds have lain dormant for most of your life, and now you’re asking them to wake up and vibrate. With gentle and moderate daily practice (no more than 7-10 minutes a day when first learning), the false vocal folds can begin vibrating freely and with no tickling or discomfort. The beginning subtoner, however, must endure some mild tickling and slight irritation when setting into motion the tissues of the false vocal folds. But with a little time, even the most intense sounding subtone vibrations will not and should not hurt if done properly. In this context, and perhaps many others, doing properly means simultaneously relaxing some areas of your body while tensing others.

Still Mystery

Finally, though at first you may have no idea how to do this kind of singing, you will have no doubt whatsoever when you have done it. The subtone will resound with such purity that you will just know that something mysterious still lies at the back of your throat.

Posted by Alexander Glenfield at 11:04 AM 4 comments:

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Monday, August 16, 2010

What is Overtone Singing?

Dear Constant Reader:

Because of the high number of nearly identical questions I have received about overtone singing, I have had to post a blog to save my finger tips, which as a result of my impeccable reply rate, now feel and actually look a bit like the surface of a stale Triscuit Cracker. I may never use a Blackberry again. But no loss. Moreover, people want to know more about overtone singing, and I’ve heard they are having a hard time finding answers.

I promise this will be the most boring of my blog posts to come, for I must get the basics out of the way before I get to the good stuff, the juicy stuff, the stuff that you don’t even have to chew to swallow. But you must first learn what follows.

Overtone Singing with a tampura

A vocalist who sustains a steady tone while simultaneously isolating and amplifying distinct frequencies above it, uses a technique commonly known to the west as overtone singing. When manipulated to appear distinct, harmonic overtones of a sustained tone are usually perceived as ethereal, whistle-like pitches occurring above or within the sustained tone, and the overall, gestalt effect of overtone singing is of a singer producing more than one note at a time, usually a drone and melody that, for some, brings to mind the bagpipes.

Still don’t get it? Don’t expect to completely understand how overtone singing actually works. I have been singing and studying overtones for ten years and still feel baffled when contemplating this vocal art. Overtone Singing leaves people fascinated in the aftermath of their initial shock of first hearing. And the mystery does not end; in fact, as one learns more, the mystery grows exponentially more profound. So be patient with yourself, and appreciate that the world still holds a little mystery.

I shall attempt to provide the simplest explanation of those whistling tones you hear above a guttural drone, those ethereal little melodies weaving atop a steady pitch. Here it is:

We live our lives inside an unending melody, and most of the time, we are oblivious to this music that is the ever-present harmonic series.

I might just be able to prove this to you right now. Get comfortable in your seat, relax from head to toe, bring your awareness to the sounds around you, and do not judge the sounds as they enter in to the forever-open holes at the sides of your head. Now, you might be listening deeply; at least, deeper than before. Next, breathe in all the way to the floor of your belly, and sing–don’t just say–a steady “Ah” for the length of about one full breath. You might believe you have just sung a “note”, but in the real world–in the world of unending melody–you have actually sung several distinct notes.

Congratulations on taking the first step out of audial oblivion.

Harmonic Series to the 16th Partial

Sound is the result of air molecules energized into motion by vibrating matter. When something vibrates it absolutely must produce a series of tones above it; however, there are exceptions. But most of the time, these little tones are locked in to a pattern of fixed positions that are immovable. This lawfully organized pattern of tones appear in musical notation above, and it is called the Overtone Series, or the Harmonic Series.

If you don’t read musical notation, you can still observe details in the patterns. For example, the tones go up the page and, the farther they ascend, the gaps between them become smaller and smaller. Other patterns can be observed.

Do know, however, that the overtones do not end at number 16 as I have listed here. Actually, the harmonics continue to ascend way higher, and theoretically above the highest limits of the range of human hearing (max. 20, 000 Hz). I have listed the harmonics within this limited scope because the most overtone singing is performed within this range of the harmonic series.

With all that said, I have yet to explain how it is done.

The scientific explanation won’t help you learn to sing overtones, but put simply, overtone singing involves tweaking areas of resonance in the vocal tract and oral cavity.

You tease your mouth and throat just enough until the overtones come out the way you want them to. It’s kind of like the hardware foreplay involved when putting a key into a reluctant lock. You know, whenever you have to cat sit for a friend, you always struggle a bit with the front door, but each time you put the key in the lock, you get a little bit better at getting in: For all things, we must endure a period of awkward acclimation. But you’ll get nowhere fast if you don’t listen hard. Well, not so hard you block yourself, but you must learn to augment your hearing sense.

I learned to do overtone singing and Tuvan throat singing (see video demonstration below) by listening very carefully to the sound of my own voice. Sounds a bit narcissistic to sit in a little room for hours on end and listen to myself, but I wasn’t talking or saying words, and somehow that makes it more normal. Instead, I was sustaining steady long tones on different vowel sounds.

Then, something switched inside my awareness. To describe the sensation is difficult, but the closest comparison I can think of is to the perception of color. Imagine going through life without ever having seen the color green, or perhaps you somehow filtered out just a certain shade of the color green. One day, you see it, and this new addition to your repertoire of perceptions, energizes and inspires you. You might say, “The world isn’t so boring after all! There is still hope for unending fascination!”

Those were my words exactly when I first heard the tones inside my voice. I heard not just a bland drone that carries quotidian speech laden with signification, but a full chord of rich musical tones sounding out what seemed to be the music of the whole universe, and right there inside my little voice. I could hear nebulae exploding, black holes sucking dark matter, whole galaxies colliding, and an angry neighbor pounding on the wall with the handle end of a Swiffer.

Hearing the harmonic overtones in my voice opened my ears and, consequently, opened my awareness. 

With my third ear open and my third eye in tears (what could have been taken merely as the sweat of my brow), I practiced listening and singing, seeking out recorded examples of overtone singing and imitating them, until I could somehow intuitively just do any overtone singing style I heard. I now believe, however, that I had a tool that worked in my favor.

When I first began to sing overtones in winter 1999, I was also practicing self-hypnosis, and oh, what a tool it is. No, I didn’t dangle a pocket watch in front of my own eyes until I monotoned the words, “I hear and obey.” Instead, I practiced a method of inducing a state of relaxed awareness that summoned a deeper intelligence from within me. While in this state of relaxation, something akin to a meditative state, my subconscious mind rose to the fore, where it could more easily perceive and execute the singing of overtones.

To sum up how I learned this, I merely listened carefully to myself and to recorded examples of overtone singing and relied on my subconscious mind to do the learning.

However, I have since found ways of helping others find the harmonic series and sing with it. I have observed many students attain overtone singing skills within an hour or two. Learning to be musical with overtone singing techniques, however, might take a little longer, for just how long does it take to become musical? Seems to me that it is always there, lying dormant, until we are ready to risk heightened sensitivity.

Meanwhile, as one begins to hear overtones in one’s own voice, the sonic world begins to change. One starts to hear music in what was previously thought to be the most unmusical of places. I remember hearing a jumpy vacillation between the 6th and 7th partials of the harmonic series in the spiraling water of a toilet bowl. I remember trancing out to the beautiful and endless shimmering ring of the 11th partial above the droning hydro transformer in the grocery store parking lot. I remember hearing folky pentatonic melodies– jigs, almost–when my housemate underwent his nightly oral hygiene ritual using his Philips Sonicare electric toothbrush.

I also remember hearing the music of sound in more organic and less gross settings. I heard it in the winter wind singing through the tops of tall Balsam Firs; I heard it in the humble trickle of a dying stream at the center of a forest of cedars; and even in the breathing of a newborn human infant and the joyful weeping of its host.

Thus, the unending song of the harmonics is all around us, and if we give ourselves over to listening, the harmonics sing themselves.

Before one can sing overtones, one must first practice hearing them. 

Posted by Alexander Glenfield at 12:40 PM 7 comments:

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Alexander Glenfield I’ve been called “a silly little man” by some very serious giants. I’ve been called “a lazy mystic” by some very ambitious academics. I’ve also been called “the most unknown person in the world” by some very close undead relatives. Like always, I’ll let you decide who I am. View my complete profile

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Before proceeding with a formal lesson, I first offer a connection quality test and a free consultation.

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Ethereal template. Te

PIERO COSI, GRAZIANO TISATO : ON THE MAGIC OF OVERTONE SINGING

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ON THE MAGIC OF
OVERTONE SINGING
Piero Cosi, Graziano Tisato
*ISTC-SFD – (ex IFD) CNR
Istituto di Scienze e Tecnologie della Cognizione – Sezione di Fonetica e Dialettologia
(ex Istituto di Fonetica e Dialettologia) – Consiglio Nazionale delle Ricerche
e-mail: cosi@csrf.pd.cnr.it tisato@tin.it
www: http://nts.csrf.pd.cnr.it/Ifd
I really like to remember that Franco was the first person I met when I approached the “Centro di Studio per le Ricerche di Fonetica” and I still have a greatly pleasant and happy sensation of that our first warm and unexpectedly informal talk. It is quite obvious and it seems rhetorical to say that I will never forget a man like Franco, but it is true, and that is, a part from his quite relevant scientific work, mostly for his great heart and sincere friendship.
1. ABSTRACT
For “special people” scientific interests sometimes co-occur with personal “hobbies”. I remember Franco talking to me about the “magic atmosphere” raised by the voice of Demetrio Stratos, David Hykes or Tuvan Khomei1 singers and I still have clear in my mind Franco’s attitude towards these “strange harmonic sounds”. It was more than a hobby but it was also more than a scientific interest. I have to admit that Franco inspired my “almost hidden”, a part from few very close “desperate” family members, training in Overtone Singing2. This overview about this wonderful musical art, without the aim to be a complete scientific work, would like to be a small descriptive contribute to honor and remember Franco’s wonderful friendship.
2. THE THROAT-SINGING TRADITION
“Khomei” or “Throat-Singing” is the name used in Tuva and Mongolia to describe a large family of singing styles and techniques, in which a single vocalist simultaneously produces two (or more) distinct tones. The lower one is the usual fundamental tone of the voice and sounds as a sustained drone or a Scottish bagpipe sound. The second corresponds to one of the harmonic partials and is like a resonating whistle in a high, or very high, register. For convenience we will call it “diphonic” sound and “diphonia” this kind of phenomenon.
Throat-Singing has almost entirely been an unknown form of art until rumours about Tuva and the peculiar Tuvan musical culture spread in the West, especially in North
1 We transcribe in the simplest way the Tuvan term, for the lack of agreement between the different authors: Khomei, Khöömii, Ho-Mi, Hö-Mi, Chöömej, Chöömij, Xöömij.
2 This is the term used in the musical contest to indicate the diphonic vocal techniques.
America, thanks to Richard Feynman [1]3, a distinguished American physicist, who was an ardent devotee of Tuvan matters.
This singing tradition is mostly practiced in the Central Asia regions including Bashkortostan or Bashkiria (near Ural mountains), Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, Altai and Tuva (two autonomous republics of the Russian Federation), Khakassia and Mongolia (Fig. 1), but we can find examples worldwide: in South Africa between Xosa women [3], in the Tibetan Buddhist chants and in Rajastan.
The Tuvan people developed numerous different styles. The most important are: Kargyraa (chant with very low fundamentals), Khomei (it is the name generally used to indicate the Throat-Singing and also a particular type of singing), Borbangnadyr (similar to Kargyraa, with higher fundamentals), Ezengileer (recognizable by the quick rhythmical shifts between the diphonic harmonics), Sygyt (like a whistle, with a weak fundamental) [4]. According to Tuvan tradition, all things have a soul or are inhabited by spiritual entities. The legends narrate that Tuvan learnt to sing Khomei to establish a contact and assimilate their power trough the imitation of natural sounds. Tuvan people believe in fact that the sound is the way preferred by the spirits of nature to reveal themselves and to communicate with the other living beings.
Figure 1. Diffusion of the Throat-Singing in Central Asia regions.
In Mongolia most Throat-Singing styles take the name from the part of the body where they suppose to feel the vibratory resonance: Xamryn Xöömi (nasal Xöömi), Bagalzuuryn Xöömi (throat Xöömi), Tseedznii Xöömi (chest Xöömi), Kevliin Xöömi (ventral Xöömi, see Fig. 13), Xarkiraa Xöömi (similar to the Tuvan Kargyraa), Isgerex (rarely used style: it sounds like a flute). It happens that the singers itself confuse the different styles [5]. Some very famous Mongol artists (Sundui and Ganbold, for example) use a deep vibrato, which is not traditional, may be to imitate the Western singers (Fig. 13).
The Khakash people practice three types of Throat-Singing (Kargirar, Kuveder or Kilenge and Sigirtip), equivalent to the Tuvan styles Kargyraa, Ezengileer and Sygyt. We
3 Today, partly because of Feynman’s influence, there exists a society called “Friends of Tuva” in California, which circulates news about Tuva in the West [2].
find again the same styles in the peoples of the Altai Mountains with the names of Karkira, Kiomioi and Sibiski. The Bashkiria musical tradition uses the Throat-Singing (called Uzlau, similar to the Tuvan Ezengileer) to accompany the epic chants. In Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan and Karakalpakstan we find forms of oral poetry with diphonic harmonics [6].
The Tibetan Gyuto monks have also a tradition of diphonic chant, related to the religious believes of the vibratory reality of the universe. They chant in a very low register in a way that resembles (see later the difference) the Tuvan Kargyraa method. The aim of this tradition is mystical and consists in isolating the 5th or the 10th harmonic partial of the vocal sound. They produce in this way the intervals of 3rd or 5th (in relation to the fundamental) that have a symbolic relation with the fire and water elements (Fig. 14) [4].
Figure 2. Spectral section of a vocal (up) and a diphonic vocal (down).
3. SEPARATION OF THE AUDITORY IMAGE IN THROAT-SINGING
What is so wonderful in Throat-Singing? It is the appearance of one of the harmonic partials that discloses the secret musical nature of each sound. When in Throat-Singing the voice splits in two different sounds, we experience the unusual sensation of a pure, discarnate, sine wave emerging from the sound. It is the same astonishment we feel when we see a rainbow, emerging from the white light, or a laser beam for the first time.
The natural sounds have a complex structure of harmonic or inharmonic sinusoidal partials, called “overtones” (Fig. 2). These overtones are not heard as distinct sounds, but their relative intensity defines our perception of all the parameters of sound (intensity, pitch, timbre, duration). The pitch corresponds to the common frequency distance between
the partials and the timbre takes into account all the partials as a whole. The temporal evolution of these components is what makes the sound of each voice or instrument unique and identifiable.
In the harmonic sounds, as the voice, the components are at the same frequency distance: their frequency is a multiple of the fundamental tone (Fig. 2). If the fundamental frequency is 100 Hz, the 2nd harmonic frequency is 200 Hz; the 3rd harmonic frequency is 300 Hz, and so on. The harmonic partials of a sound form a natural musical scale of unequal temperament, as whose in use during the Renaissance [7]. If we only take into consideration the harmonics that are easy to produce (and to perceive also), i.e. from the 5th to the 13th, and if we assume for convenience a C3 131 Hz as starting pitch, we can get the following musical notes:
Harm. N. Freq. (Hz) Note Interval with C3
5 655 E5 3rd
6 786 G5 5th
7 917 A+ 6th +
8 1048 C6 Octave
9 1179 D6 2nd
10 1310 E6 3rd
11 1441 F6+ 4th +
12 1572 G6 5th
13 1703 A6- 6th-
The series of 8th, 9th, 10th, 12th, 13th harmonic and the series from 6th to 10th are two possible pentatonic scales to play. Note that the frequency differences between these scales and the tempered scale are on the order of 1/8th of a tone (about 1.5%).
The Throat-Singing allows extracting the notes of a natural melody from the body of the sound itself.
The spectral envelope of the overtones is essential for the language comprehension. The glottal sound is filtered by the action of the vocal tract articulation, shaping the partials in the voice with some characteristic zones of resonance (called formants), where the components are intensified, and zones of anti-resonance, where the partials are attenuated (Fig. 2-3). So, the overtones allow us to tell apart the different vocal sounds. For example the sounds /a/, /e/, /i/, /o/, etc. uttered or sung at the same pitch, nevertheless sound different to our ears for the different energy distribution of the formants (Fig. 2).
The auditory mechanisms “fuse” the partials in one single “image”, which we identify as voice, musical instrument, noise, etc. [8]. In the same way, the processing of visual data tends to group different dots into simple shapes (circle, triangle, square, etc.). The creation of auditory images is functional to single out and to give a meaning to the sonic sources around us.
The hearing mechanisms organize the stream of perceptive data belonging to different components of different sounds, according to psychoacoustics and Gestalt principles. The “grouping by harmonicity”, for example, allows the fusion in the same sound of the frequency partials, which are multiples of a common fundamental. The “common fate” principle tells that we integrate the components of a complex sound, which show the same amplitude and frequency behaviour (i.e. similar modulation and microvariation, similar attack and decay, similar vibrato, etc.) [8]. If one of these partials reveals a particular evolution (i.e. it is mistuned or has not the same frequency and amplitude modulation, etc.),
it will be heard as a separate sound. So the Throat-Singing is a marvelous example to understand the illusory nature of perception and the musical structure of the sound.
Figure 3. Resonance envelope for an uniform vocal tract (left). A constriction on the pharynx moves the formants so that the intensity of partials in the 2500-3500 Hz region increases (right).
4. FUNDAMENTAL TECHNIQUES IN THROAT-SINGING
In the Throat-Singing the singer learn to articulate the vocal tract so that one of the formants (usually the first or the second) coincide with the desired harmonic, giving it a considerable amplitude increase (even more than 30 dB, see in Fig. 2 the 10th harmonic) and making it perceptible. Unlike the normal speech, the diphonic harmonic can exceed a lot the lower partials intensity (Fig. 2). Soprano singers use similar skill to control the position of the 1st formant, tuning it to the fundamental with the proper articulation (i.e. proper opening of the mouth), when they want to sing a high note [9].
There are many different methods to produce the diphonic sound [5-6], but we can summarize them in two possible categories, called “single cavity method” or “two cavities method”, that are characterized by the use or not of the tongue, according to the proposal of Tran Quang Hai [4].
4.1 SINGLE CAVITY METHOD
In this method, the tongue doesn’t move and remains flat or slightly curved without touching the palate. In this case the vocal tract is like a continuous tube (Fig. 3). The selection of the diphonic harmonic is obtained by the appropriate opening of the mouth and the lips. The result is that the formants frequency raises if the vocal tract lengthens (for example with a /i/) and that the formants frequency lowers, if it extends (for example with a /u/). With this technique the 1st formant movement allows the selection of the partials. As we can see in Fig. 4, we cannot go beyond 1200 Hz. The diphonic harmonic is generally feeble, masked by the fundamental and the lower partials, so the singers nasalize the sound to reduce their intensity [10-11].
Figure 4. Opening the mouth controls the 1st formant position. The movement of the tongue affects the 2nd formant and allows the harmonic selection in a large frequency range.
4.2 TWO CAVITIES METHODS
In this method, the tongue is raised so to divide the vocal tract in two main resonators, each one tuned on a particular resonance. By an appropriate control, we can obtain to tune two separate harmonics, and thereby to make perceptible, not one but two (or more) pitches at the same time (Fig. 9-12).
There are three possible variants of this technique:
The first corresponds to the Khomei style: to select the desired harmonic the tip of the tongue and the tongue body moves forward (higher pitch) and backward (lower pitch) along the palate.
The second is characteristic of the Sygyt style: the tip of the tongue remains fixed behind the upper teeth while the tongue body rises to select the harmonics.
In the third variant, the movement of the tongue root selects the diphonic harmonic. Shifting the base of the tongue near the posterior wall of the throat, we obtain the lower harmonics. On the contrary, moving the base of the tongue forward, we pull out the higher harmonics [6].
A different method has been proposed by Tran Quang Hai to produce very high diphonic harmonics (but not to control the selection of the desired component). It consists
to keep the tongue pressed by the molars, while singing the vowels /u/ and /i/, and maintaining a strong contraction of the muscles at the abdomen and the throat [4].
The advantage of the two cavities techniques is that we can use the 2nd formant to reinforce the harmonics that are in the zone of best audibility. In this case the diphonic harmonic reaches the 2600 Hz (Fig. 4). Furthermore the movement of the tongue affects the formants displacement in opposite directions. The separation of the 1st and the 2nd formant produces in between a strong anti-resonance (Fig. 2), which helps the perception of the diphonic harmonic.
In all these methods it is useful a slight discrete movement of the lips to adjust the formants position.
5. REINFORCING THE DIPHONIC SOUND
There are three main mechanisms required to reinforce the effect of segregation of the diphonic sound:
• The appropriate movement of the lips, tongue, jaw, soft palate, throat, to produce a fluctuation in the amplitude of the selected harmonic, so that it differentiates from the other partials that remain static. The auditory mechanisms are tuned to capture the more subtle changes in the stream of auditory information, useful to discriminate the different sounds [8].
• The nasalization of the sound. In this way we create an anti-resonance at low frequency (<400 Hz) that attenuates the lower partials responsible for the masking of the higher components [10-11]. The nasalization provokes also the attenuation of the third formant [12], which improves the perception of the diphonic harmonic (Fig. 2).
• The constriction of the pharynx region (false ventricular folds, arytenoids, root of the epiglottis), which increases the amplitude of the overtones in the 2000-4000 Hz region (Fig. 2). This is also what happens in the “singer’s formant”, the technique used by the singers to reinforce the partials in the zone of best audibility and to avoid the masking of the voice by the orchestra, generally very strong in the low frequency range [9]. For this reason the Throat-Singing technique requires a tuning extremely precise and selective, in order to avoid the amplification of a group of harmonic partials, as in the “singer’s formant”.
6. VOICE MULTIPHONICS
We disregard in this paper the polyphonic singing that could produces some diphonic effects: for example the phenomenon of the quintina in the Sardinia religious singing, where the coincidence of the harmonics of 4 real voices produces the perception of a 5th virtual voice (Fig. 5) [13].
There are in the literature many terms to indicate the presence of different perceptible sounds in a single voice: Khomei, Throat-Singing, Overtone Singing, Diphonic Singing, Biphonic Singing, Overtoning, Harmonic Singing, Formantic Singing, Chant, Harmonic Chant, Multiphonic Singing, bitonality, diplophonia, vocal fry, etc.
According to the pioneer work in the domain of the vocal sounds made by The Extended Vocal Techniques Ensemble (EVTE) of San Diego University and bearing in mind that there is little agreement regarding classifications [4], [14-15], the best distinctive criterion for the diphonia seems to be the characterization of the sound sources that produce the perception of the diphonic or multiphonic sound [16].
Following this principle, we can distinguish between Bitonality and Diphonia:
• Bitonality: In this case there are two distinct sound sources that produce two sounds. The pitches of the two sounds could be or not in harmonic relationship. This category includes: diplophonia, bitonality and vocal fry.
• Diphonia: The reinforcement of one (or more) harmonic partial(s) produces the splitting of the voice in two (or more) sounds. This category includes: Khomei, Throat-Singing, Overtone Singing, Diphonic Singing, Biphonic Singing, Overtoning, Harmonic Singing, Chant, Harmonic Chant.
Fig. 5 Sardinia religious folk singing. The pitches of the 4 voices of the choir are F1 88 Hz, C2 131 Hz, F2 176 Hz, A3# 230 Hz. The 8th harmonic of the F1, the 6th of the C2, the 4th of the F2 and the 3rd of the A# coincide at 700 Hz and produce the perception of a 5th voice.
6.1 BITONALITY
Diplophonia: The vibration of the vocal folds is asymmetrical. It happens that after a normal oscillatory period, the vibration amplitude that follows is reduced. There is not the splitting of the voice in two sounds, but the pitch goes down one octave lower and the timbre assumes a typical roughness. For example, assuming as fundamental pitch a C3 130.8 Hz, the resulting pitch will be C2 65.4 Hz. If the amplitude reduction happens after two regular vibrations, the actual periodicity triplicates and then the pitch lowers one octave and a 5th. The diplophonic voice is a frequent pathology of the larynx (as in unilateral vocal cord paralysis), but can be also obtained willingly for artistic effects (Demetrio Stratos was an expert of this technique) [16-18].
Bitonality: The two sound sources are due to the vibration of two different parts of the glottis cleft. This technique requires a strong laryngeal tension [16-17]. In this case there is not necessarily a harmonic relationship between the fundamentals of the two sounds. In the Tuvan Kargyraa style, the second sound source is due to the vibration of the supraglottal structures (false folds, arytenoids, aryepiglottic folds that connects the arytenoids and the epiglottis, and the epiglottis root). In this case generally (but not always) there is a 2:1 frequency ratio between the supraglottal closure and vocal folds closure. As in the case of Diplophonia, the pitch goes down one octave lower (or more) [19-21].
Vocal fry: The second sound is due in this case to the periodic repetition of a glottal pulsation of different frequency [14]. It sounds like the opening of a creaky door (another common designation is “creaky voice”). The pulse rate of vocal fry can be controlled to produce a range from very slow single clicks to a stream of clicks so rapid to be perceived as a discrete pitch. Therefore vocal fry is a special case of bitonality: the perception of a second sound depends on a pulses train rate and not on the spectral composition of the single sound.
6.2 DIPHONIA
Diphonic and Biphonic refer to any singing that sounds like two (or more) simultaneous pitches, regardless of technique. Use of these terms is largely limited to academic sources. In the scientific literature the preferred term to indicated Throat-Singing is Diphonic Singing.
Multiphonic Singing indicates a complex cluster of non-harmonically related pitches that sounds like the vocal fry or the creaky voice [14]. The cluster may be produced expiring as normal, or also inhaling the airflow.
Throat Singing is any technique that includes the manipulation of the throat to produce a melody with the harmonics. Generally, this involves applying tension to the region surrounding the vocal cords and the manipulation of the various cavities of the throat, including the ventricular folds, the arytenoids, and the pharynx.
Chant generally refers to religious singing in different traditions (Gregorian, Buddhist, Hindu chant, etc.). As regards the diphonia, it is noteworthy to mention the low singing practiced by Tibetan Buddhist monks of the Gyuto sect. As explained before, they reinforce the 5th or the 10th harmonic partial of the vocal sound for mystical and symbolic purposes (Fig. 14). This kind of real diphonia must be distinguished from resonantial effects (enhancement of some uncontrolled overtones) that we can hear in Japanese Shomyo Chant [4] and also in Gregorian Chant.
Harmonic Singing is the term introduced by David Hykes to refer to any technique that reinforces a single harmonic or harmonic cluster. The sound may or may not split into two or more notes. It is used as a synonym of Overtone Singing, Overtoning, Harmonic Chant and also Throat-Singing.
Overtone Singing can be considered to be harmonic singing with an intentional emphasis on the harmonic melody of overtones. This is the name used by Western artists that utilizes vowels, mouth shaping, and upper-throat manipulations to produce melodies and textures. It is used as a synonym of Harmonic Singing, Overtoning, Harmonic Chant and also Throat-Singing.
Fig. 6 Tuvan Khomei Style. The fundamental is a weak F#3+ 189 Hz. The diphonic harmonics are the 6th (C#6+ 1134 HZ), 7th (E6 1323 Hz), 8th (F#6+ 1512 Hz), 9th (G#6+ 1701 Hz), 10th (A#6+ 1890 Hz) and 12th (C#7+ 2268 Hz).
7. KHOMEI STYLES
Although there is no widespread agreement, Khomei comprises three major basic Throat-Singing methods called Khomei, Kargyraa, and Sygyt, two main sub methods called Borbangnadyr and Ezengileer and various other sub styles.
Khomei means “throat” or “pharynx” and it is not only the generic name given to all throat-singing styles for Central Asia, as underline above, but also a particular style of singing. Khomei is the easiest technique to learn and the most practiced in the West. It produces clear and mild harmonics with a fundamental usually within the medium range of the singer’s voice (Fig. 6). In Khomei style there are two (or more) notes clearly audible. Technically the stomach remains relaxed and there is a low-level tension on larynx and ventricular folds, whereas Sygyt style requires a very strong constraint of these organs (Fig. 7). The tongue remains seated flatly between the lower teeth as in the Single Cavity technique, or raises and moves as in the Two Cavities techniques. The selection of the desired harmonic comes mainly from a combination of different lips, tongue and throat movements.
Sygyt means “whistle” and actually sounds like a flute. This style is characterized by a strong, even piercing, harmonic and can be used to perform complex and very distinct melodies (Fig. 10). It has its roots in the Khomei method and has the same range for the fundamental. Sygyt is sung with a half-open mouth and the tip of tongue placed behind front teeth as if pronouncing the letter “L”. The tongue tip is kept in the described position, while the tongue body moves to select the harmonic. This is the same technique described above for the Khomei method. The difference is in the timbre quality of the sound lacking of energy in the low frequencies. To produce a crystal-clear, flute-like overtone,
characteristic of the Sygyt style, it is necessary to learn how to filter out the lower harmonic components, that usually mask the overtone sensation.
Figure 7. Position of the arytenoids in Khomei (left) and Sygyt style [21].
Crucial for achieving this goal is a considerable pressure from the belly/diaphragm, acting as a bellows to force the air through the throat. Significant tension is required in the throat as well, to bring the arytenoids near the root of the epiglottis (Fig. 7). In this way, we obtain the displacement of first 3 formants in the high frequency zone (Fig. 3). The result is that the fundamental and the lower harmonics are so attenuated to be little audible (Fig. 10).
It is possible to sing Sygyt either directly through the center of the mouth, or, tilting the tongue, to one side or the other. Many of the best Sygyt singers “sing to the side”: directing the sound along the hard surfaces of the teeth enhances the bright, focused quality of the sound.
Kargyraa style produces an extremely low sound that resembles the roaring of a lion, the howling of a wolf, and the croaking of a frog and all these mixed together (Fig. 9). Kargyraa means “hoarse voice”. As hawking and clearing the throat before speaking Kargyraa is nothing else than a deep and continuous hawking. This hawking must rise from the deepest part of the windpipe; consequently low tones will start resonating in the chest. Overtones are amplified by varying the shape of the mouth cavity and the position of the tongue. Kargyraa is closely linked to vowel sounds: the selection of diphonic harmonic corresponds to the articulation of a particular vowel (/u/, /o/, //, /a/, etc.), which the singer learnt to associate with the desired note.
This technique is a mixture of Diphonia and Bitonality (see 6.1): in fact the supraglottal structures start to vibrate with the vocal folds, but at a half rate. The arytenoids also can vibrate touching the root of the epiglottis, hiding the vocal folds and forming a second “glottic” source [21]. The perceived pitch will be one octave lower than normal (Fig. 9), but also one octave and a 5th lower [20]. In the case of Tran Quang Hai voice, the fibroendoscopy reveals the vibration and the strong constriction of the arytenoids that hide completely the vocal folds (Fig. 8).
We must distinguish this technique from the Tibetan Buddhist chant, which is produced with the vocal folds relaxed as possible, and without any supraglottal vibration. The Tibetan chant is more like the Tuvan Borbangnadyr style with low fundamentals.
Figure 8. Simulation of the Kargyraa style by Tran Quaang Hai: the arytenoids move against the root of the epiglottis and hide the vocal folds [21].
Borbangnadyr is not really a style, as are Khomei, Sygyt and Kargyraa, but rather a combination of effects applied to one of the other styles. The name comes from the Tuvan word for “rolling”, because 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, it is also applied to some lower-pitched singing styles, especially in older texts. The Borbangnadyr style with low fundamentals sounds like the Tibetan Buddhist chant.
Rather the pitch movement of the melody, Borbangnadyr generally focuses the attention on three different harmonics, the 8th, 9th, and 10th, which periodically take their turn in prominence (Fig. 11). In this style the singer easily can create a triphonia effect between the fundamental, a second sound corresponding to the 3rd harmonic at an interval of 5th, and the tremolo effect on the higher harmonics.
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 (Fig. 12). Ezengileer is a variant of Sygyt style and differs considerably from singer to singer, the common element being the “horse-rhythm” of the harmonics.
8. OVERTONE SINGING IN THE WEST
In the West the Overtone Singing technique has unexpectedly become very popular, starting into musical contests and turning very soon to mystical, spiritual and also therapeutic applications. The first to make use of a diphonic vocal technique in music was Karlheinz Stockhausen in Stimmung [22]. He was followed by numerous artists and amongst them: the EVTE (Extended Vocal Techniques Ensemble) group at the San Diego University in 1972, Laneri and his Prima Materia group in 1973, Tran Quang Hai in 1975, Demetrio Stratos in 1977 [17-18], Meredith Monk in 1980, David Hykes and his Harmonic Choir in 1983 [23], Joan La Barbara in 1985, Michael Vetter in 1985, Christian Bollmann in 1985, Noah Pikes in 1985, Michael Reimann in 1986, Tamia in 1987, Bodjo Pinek in 1987, Josephine Truman in 1987, Quatuor Nomad in 1989, Iegor Reznikoff in 1989, Valentin Clastrier in 1990, Rollin Rachele in 1990 [24], Thomas Clements in 1990, Sarah Hopkins in 1990, Les Voix Diphoniques in 1997.
Figure 9. Vasili Chazir sings “Artii-sayir” in the Kargyraa Tuvan style. The fundamental pitch is B1 61.2 Hz. The diphonic harmonics are the 6th (F#4- 367 HZ), 8th (B4 490 Hz), 9th (C#5 550 Hz), 10th (D#5- 612 Hz) and 12th (F#5- 734 Hz). The diphonic (but not perceptible) harmonics 12th-24th are in octave with the previous one. In the 2600-2700 Hz region, a steady formant amplifies the 43rd and 44th harmonics.
Figure 10. Tuvan Sygyt style. The fundamental is a weak E3+ 167 Hz. The melody uses the 8th (E6+ 1336 Hz), 9th (F#6+ 1503 Hz), 10th (G#6+ 1670 Hz) and 12th (B6+ 2004 Hz). There is a rhythmic shift between contiguous harmonics each 900 ms. In the 3000-3200 Hz zone, we can see a second resonance region.
Figure 11. Tuvan Borbangnadyr style. The fundamental is a weak F#2 92 Hz. We can see on the harmonics 7-11 the effect of a periodic formantic shift (6 Hz about).
Figure 12. Tuvan Ezengileer style. The fundamental is A#2 117 Hz.
The most famous proponent of this type of singing is David Hykes. Hykes experimented with numerous innovations including changing the fundamental (moveable drone) and keeping fixed the diphonic formant, introducing text, glissando effects, etc., in numerous works produced with the Harmonic Choir of New York (Fig. 15) [23].
9. ACOUSTIC ANALYSIS
In the recent past, some work has been done on the analysis of Khomei, and more has been done on Overtone Singing generally. The focus on this research has been on the effort to discover exactly how overtone melodies are produced. Hypotheses as to the mechanics of Overtone Singing range from ideas as to the necessary physical stance and posture used by the singer during a performance, to the actual physical formation of the mouth cavity in producing the overtones.
Aksenov was the first to explain the diphonia as the result of the filtering action of the vocal tract [25-27]. Some years later Smith et al. engaged in an acoustical analysis of the Tibetan Chant [28]. In 1971, Leipp published an interesting report on Khomei [29]. Tran Quang Hai carried out a deep research on all the diphonic techniques [4-5][30]. The mechanism of the diphonia was demonstrated in 1989 by two different methodologies. The first applied direct clinical-instrumental methods to study the vocal tract and vocal cords [31-32]. The optic stroboscope revealed the perfect regularity of the vocal folds vibration. The second method made use of a simple linear prediction model (LPC) to analyse and synthesize the diphonic sound [33-34]. The good quality of the resynthesis demonstrated that the diphonia is due exclusively to the spectral resonance envelope. The only difference between normal and diphonic sound consists in the unusual narrow bandwidth of the prominent formant.
Several researchers seem to agree that the production of the harmonics in Throat-Singing is essentially the same as the production of an ordinary vowel. Bloothooft reports an entire investigation of Overtone Singing, based on the similarity of this kind of phonation to the articulation of vowel [10].
Other authors, on the contrary, argue that the physical act of creating overtones may originate in vowel production, but the end product, the actual overtones themselves, are far from vowel-like [35]. They stated, in fact, that for both acoustic and perceptual reasons, the production of an overtone melody cannot be described as vowel production.
Acoustically, a vowel is distinctive because of its formant structure. In Overtone Singing, the diphonic formant is reduced to one or a few harmonics, often with surrounding harmonics attenuated as much as possible. Perceptually, Overtone Singing usually sounds nothing like an identifiable vowel. This is primarily because, a major part of the overtone-sung tone has switched from contributing to the timbre of the tone to provoking the sensation of melody and such a distorted “vowel” can convey little phonetic information.
10. CONCLUDING REMARKS
All musical sounds contain overtones or tones that resonate in fixed relationships above a fundamental frequency. These overtones create tone color, and help us to differentiate the sounds of different music instruments or one voice and another.
Different cultures have unique manifestations of musical traditions, but, what it is quite interesting, is that some of them share at least one aspect in common: the production of overtones in their respective vocal music styles. Among these, each tradition has also its own meanings and resultants from Overtone Singing, but they are often related to a common sphere of spirituality. Overtones in Tibetan and Gregorian Chant, for example, are linked with spirituality, and even health and well being. Overtones in Tuvan Khomei have at least three different meanings: shamanistic, animistic, and aesthetic.
Figure 13. Mongolia: Ganbold sings a Kevliin Xöömi (ventral Xöömi, similar to Tuvan Sygyt.). The pitch is G3# 208 Hz. The diphonic harmonics are 6th (D#6 1248 Hz), 7th (F#6- 1456 Hz), 8th (G#6 1664 Hz), 9th (A#6+ 1872 Hz), 10th (C7- 2080 Hz), 12th (D#7 2496 Hz). There is a 6 Hz strong vibrato.
Figure 14. Tibetan Gyuto Chant in the Yang style. The pitch is a weak A1 56 Hz. In the beginning, the singer chant a vowel /o/ that reinforces the 5th partial (and the 10th). In the choir part, the articulation of the prayers produces a periodic emerging of all the scale of the harmonics up to the 30th. There is also a fixed resonance at 2200 Hz.
Figure 15. David Hykes and the Harmonic Choir. In this 100 s passage from “Hearing the Solar Winds” [23], the pitch moves slowly from A3, A#3, B3, C4, A3, to the final G3. The diphonic harmonics change in the range 6th-12th.
11. ACKNOWLEDGMENTS
We would like to thank Sami Jansson [36] and Steve Sklar [15] for the useful information they made available to us via their respective web sites.
REFERENCES
[1] Feynman (http://www.feynmanonline.com/), website.
[2] Friends of Tuva (http://www.fotuva.org/), website.
[3] Dargie D., “Some Recent Discoveries and Recordings in Xhosa Music”, 5th Symposium on Ethnomusicology, University of Cape Town, International Library of African Music (ed) , Grahamtown, 1985, pp. 29-35.
[4] Tran Quang Hai, Musique Touva, 2000, (http://www.baotram.ovh.org/tuva.html), website.
[5] Tran Quang Hai, Zemp H.,“Recherches expérimentales sur le Chant Diphonique”, Cahiers de Musiques Traditionnelles, Vol. 4, Genève, 1991, pp. 27-68.
[6] Levin Th., Edgerton M., The Throat Singers of Tuva, 1999,
(http://www.sciam.com/1999/0999issue/0999levin.html), website
[7] Walcott R., “The Chöömij of Mongolia – A spectral analysis of Overtone Singing”, Selected Reports in Ethnomusicology, UCLA, Los Angeles, 1974, 2 (1), pp. 55-59.
[8] Bregman A., Auditory scene analysis: the perceptual organization of sound, MIT Press, Cambridge, 1990.
[9] Sundberg J., The science of the singing voice, Northern Illinois University Press, De Kalb, Illinois, 1987.
[10] Bloothooft G., Bringmann E., van Capellen M., van Luipen J.B., Thomassen K.P., “Acoustic and Perception of Overtone Singing”. In Journal of the Acoustical Society of America, JASA Vol. 92, No. 4, Part 1, 1992, pp. 1827-1836.
[11] Stevens K., Acoustic Phonetics, MIT Press, Cambridge, 1998.
[12] Fant G., Acoustic theory of speech production, Mouton, The Hague, 1960.
[13] Lortat-Jacob B., “En accord. Polyphonies de Sardaigne: 4 voix qui n’en font qu’une”, Cahiers de Musiques Traditionnelles, Genève, 1993, Vol. 6, pp. 69-86.
[14] Kavasch D., “An introduction to extended vocal techniques”, Report of CME, Univ. of California, San Diego, Vol. 1, n. 2, 1980, pp. 1-20.
[15] Sklar S., Khöömei Overtone Singing, (http://www.atech.org/khoomei), website.
[16] Ferrero F., Ricci Maccarini A., Tisato G., “I suoni multifonici nella voce umana”, Prooceedings of XIX Convegno AIA, Napoli, 1991, pp. 415-422.
[17] Ferrero F., Croatto L., Accordi M., “Descrizione elettroacustica di alcuni tipi di vocalizzo di Demetrio Stratos”, Rivista Italiana di Acustica, Vol. IV, n. 3, 1980, pp. 229-258.
[18] Stratos D., Cantare la voce, Cramps Records CRSCD 119, 1978.
[19] Dmitriev L., Chernov B., Maslow V., “Functioning of the voice mechanism in double voice Touvinian singing”, Folia Phoniatrica, Vol. 35, 1983, pp. 193-197.
[20] Fuks L., Hammarberg B., Sundberg J., “A self-sustained vocal-ventricular phonation mode: acoustical, aerodynamic and glottographic evidences”, KTH TMH-QPSR, n.3, Stockholm, 1998, pp. 49-59.
[21] Tisato G., Ricci Maccarini A., Tran Quang Hai, “Caratteristiche fisiologiche e acustiche del Canto Difonico”, Proceedings of II Convegno Internazionale di Foniatria, Ravenna, 2001, (to be printed).
[22] Stockhausen K., Stimmung, Hyperion A66115, 1968.
[23] Hykes D., David Hykes and the Harmonic Choir, (http://harmonicworld.com), website.
[24] Rachele R., “Overtone Singing Study Guide”, Cryptic Voices Productions (ed), Amsterdam, 1996, pp. 1-127.
[25] Aksenov A.N., Tuvinskaja narodnaja muzyka, Mosca, 1964.
[26] Aksenov A.N., “Die stile der Tuvinischen zweistimmigen sologesanges”, Sowjetische Volkslied und Volksmusikforschung, Berlin, 1967, pp. 293-308.
[27] Aksenov A.N., “Tuvin folk music”, Journal of the Society for Asian Music, Vol. 4, n. 2, New York, 1973, pp. 7-18.
[28] Smith H., Stevens K.N., Tomlinson R.S., “On an unusual mode of singing of certain Tibetan Lamas”, Journal of Acoustical Society of America, JASA. 41 (5) , USA, 1967, pp. 1262-4.
[29] Leipp M., “Le problème acoustique du Chant Diphonique”, Bulletin Groupe d’Acoustique Musicale, Univ. de Paris VI, n. 58, 1971, pp. 1-10.
[30] Tran Quang Hai, “Réalisation du chant diphonique”, Le Chant diphonique, Institut de la Voix, Limoges, dossier n° 1, 1989, pp. 15-16.
[31] Pailler J.P., “Examen video du larynx et de la cavité buccale de Monsieur Trân Quang Hai”, Le Chant Diphonique, Institut de la Voix, Limoges, dossier n° 1, 1989, pp. 11-13.
[32] Sauvage J.P., “Observation clinique de Monsieur Trân Quang Hai”, Le Chant Diphonique, Institut de la Voix, Limoges, dossier n° 1, 1989, pp. 3-10.
[33] Tisato G., “Analisi e sintesi del Canto Difonico”, Proceedings VII Colloquio di Informatica Musicale (CIM), Cagliari, 1989, pp. 33-51.
[34] Tisato G., Ricci Maccarini A., “Analysis and synthesis of Diphonic Singing”, Bulletin d’Audiophonologie, Vol. 7, n. 5-6, Besançon, 1991, pp. 619-648.
[35] Finchum H., Tuvan Overtone Singing: Harmonics Out of Place,
(http://www.indiana.edu/~folklore/savail/tuva.html), website.
[36] Jansson S., Khöömei Page (http://www.cc.jyu.fi/~sjansson/khoomei.htm), website.
[37] Leothaud G., “Considérations acoustiques et musicales sur le Chant Diphonique”, Le Chant Diphonique, Institut de la Voix, Limoges, dossier n° 1, 1989, pp. 17-43.
[38] Zarlino G., Istitutioni Harmoniche, Venice, 1558.

http://www.researchgate.net/profile/Piero_Cosi/publication/228780318_ON_THE_MAGIC_OF_OVERTONE_SINGING/links/09e4150a363d7236ff000000.pdf

STEVE SKLAR : Types of Throat-Singing with Tips Under Construction

Standard

Types of Throat-Singing

with Tips

Under Construction

Tuvan Throat-Singing

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:

1. Khoomei

2. Kargyraa

3. Sygyt

4. Borbangnadyr

5. Ezengileer

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


Some other categories include:

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.


Tibetan Chant

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 Hai has an interesting piece on Tibetan Chant. Video Demonstration: Myself, with Drepung-Loseling monks

Other Types of Throat-Singing and Overtone Singing

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.

Altai This republic directly west of Tuva is home to Kai singing. Here’s an MP3 by the group, AltKai.

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

Videos

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.


Some Throat-Singing Tips:

• 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…

The Pharynx, Mouth, and Sinuses

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Rear-View Coronal Section of Larynx

Links – Voice, vocal anatomy, etc.

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

http://www.khoomei.com/types.htm

10 years Muziekpublique | Raphaël De Cock : Improvisations on Tuvan throat singing , BELGIQUE

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Ajoutée le 13 juin 2012

Raphaël De Cock unveils here a series of techniques typical of throat and overtone singing from Tuva, a region in Southern Siberia. You hear a suite of improvisations: a deep growling style of throat singing (Kargyraa), a technique that brings to mind the Jew’s harp or the didgeridoo (Khöömei), a style that makes waves like water (Borbangnadyr) and one with overtones that whistle (Sygyt).

Raphaël was 16 when he first heard Tuvan singers on the radio. As a Jew’s harp- and Uilleann pipe- player, he noticed that their singing techniques worked according to the same drone principle as his instruments — and so soon he started to look into making these sounds himself. After years of practice, with occasional refinements from Tuvans, visiting for concerts or encountered on his travels, he has perfected the art of overtone singing. The very same vocal techniques are used in Sardinian polyphonic choirs — and these are another of Raphaël’s passions. He uses his throat singing (traditional and his own styles), innovations, improvisations and tones in various groups: Osuna, NadiSuna, GRIFF, Northern Lights, and the cine-concert project ‘Odna’. He also gives singing lessons at Muziekpublique.


Raphaël De Cock dévoile une série de techniques typiques de chants de gorge et chants diphoniques de Touva, une région dans le sud de la Sibérie. Vous entendez une suite d’improvisations : un style profond de chant de gorge grognant (kargyraa), une technique qui rappelle le son des guimbardes ou didgeridoos (Khöömei), un style qui ondule comme l’eau (borbangnadyr) et un avec des diphonies qui sifflent (sygyt). A l’âge de 16 ans Raphaël a pour la première fois entendu les chanteurs tuvains à la radio. Comme joueur de guimbarde et de cornemuse (uilleann pipes), leurs techniques de chant — selon le même principe de bourdon que ses instruments — a fortement attiré son attention et bientôt il a commencé à chercher à les produire lui-même. Après de nombreuses années de pratique et des ajustements occasionnels par des chanteurs tuvains en visite pour des concerts, ou pendant ses voyages, il s’est perfectionné dans les chants diphoniques. Les mêmes techniques vocales de gorge sont également utilisées en polyphonie sarde, une autre passion de Raphaël. Raphaël utilise le chant de gorge, traditionnel ou des techniques auto-inventées, les improvisations et les timbres dans différents groupes : Osuna, NadiSuna, GRIFF, Northern Lights, cineconcertproject “Odna”,… Raphael donne également des cours de chants chez Muziekpublique.

Raphaël De Cock geeft een reeks van typische keel- en boventoonzangtechnieken ten prijs uit Tuva, een streek in Zuid-Siberië. U hoort een improvisatie met achtereenvolgens een diepe brommende keelzangstijl (kargyraa), een techniek die doet denken aan de klank van mondharpen of didgeridoos (khöömeï), en een stijl die kabbelt als water (borbangnadyr) en één met fluitende boventonen (sygyt). Raphaël hoorde op 16-jarige leeftijd de eerste keer Tuvaanse keelzangers op de radio. Als mondharpspeler en beginnend doedelzakspeler (uilleann pipes) trokken deze zangtechnieken – met hetzelfde bourdonprincipe van deze instrumenten – sterk zijn aandacht en algauw begon hij er zelf naar te zoeken. Na vele jaren oefenen en occasionele bijsturing door Tuvaanse zangers, hier op bezoek voor concerten, of op zijn reizen, leerde hij en schaaft hij nog voortdurend zijn stem bij.
Dezelfde keelstemtechnieken worden immers ook gebruikt in Sardische polyfonie waar Raphaël gepassioneerd mee bezig is. Raphaël gebruikt keelzang, zowel traditionele als meer zelfuitgevonden technieken, improvisaties en timbres in verschillende groepen, o.a. OSUNA, NadiSuna, GRIFF, Northern Lights, cinéconcertproject “Odna”. Raphaël is ook leraar zang bij Muziekpublique.

Image: Rafael Serenellini, Justine vande Walle, Zeno Graton
Sound : Cédric Plisnier, Arthur Benedetti
Production : Jacoba Kint, Morgane Mathieu
Technical coordination: Mathieu Alexandre
English translation: Owen Thomas McEldowney

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