Published on Jul 29, 2014
Roberto Laneri-Overtone Singing
Published on Apr 11, 2017
Can You Do Polyphonic Singing? Develop Overtones for Your Voice
Anna Maria Hefele is a highly skilled polyphonic singer from Austria who also performs with various ensembles as a specialist multi-instrumentalist.
She spoke to VoiceCouncil about her incredible talent, and explains the benefits of overtone singing for all singers.
What emotive effect can polyphonic singing have?
When people hear it for the first time they are often very moved. It is mysterious yet strangely familiar. We hear and use all sorts of different vowel shapes all throughout our lives, and the overtones are the reason why one vowel sounds quite different from another vowel.
We know that and “u” sound is very dark because we amplify the low overtones contained in the sound and filter out the higher ones at the same time, and an “i” is very bright, because the high overtones are amplified and the low ones are filtered out. So, we are connected to overtones in a complex way in our daily lives, but we are usually not doing it on a conscious level.
How did you discover polyphonic singing?
One day, when I was 16, I was listening to a radio broadcast of a man who performed polyphonic singing. He lived locally to me so I met with him and asked if he could show me how to do it. I had a certain talent for it, but I was also so intrigued I couldn’t stop practicing.
What came first – the theory or the practical?
It goes hand in hand. By understanding how it works, you are able to do it better. It is difficult to learn or practice something if you don’t have any guidance or direction.
Are you singing the same as Tuvan or Mongolian throat singers?
The filtering process in the mouth and pharynx is the same. But, the sound production in the larynx is different. In classical voice training, you aim for a balance of air and sound where you can develop a natural vibrato. However, with overtone singing, you close the vocal cords a little bit tighter.
The throat singers do this like me, but they also add more pressure on the larynx. With this they can supress the fundamental even more, as it is their aim to make it almost unhearable.
In the western overtone singing technique I don’t use this high pressure on the larynx in order to keep my flexibility in changing quickly into classical technique, and also to have the ability of changing the fundamentals a lot, which allows my polyphonic singing style. The Mongolian throat singers usually don’t change their fundamentals. Mostly they sing overtone melodies on one fundamental which they keep throughout the song.
How important is it to have clean tone for polyphonic/overtone singing?
You need a more ‘tight’ sound in the voice than in other vocal techniques, which means I am working with a higher closing quotient in the vocal folds. This sound already contains more overtones. An airy voice will not have so many overtones to amplify. Overtone singing is about filtering overtones out of the voice out and amplifying others. But you can only filter and amplify something you put into the filter in the first place.
If I meet a breathy singer at one of my workshops, I encourage them to use the whole body for support. I make them stand in a stable way and sing whilst I try to push them (carefully) over. Automatically the voice gets stronger when the student tries to keep his stabile standing position.
Overtone singing makes you more aware of vowel shapes and vocal colours
When a singer has learnt to close their vocal cords well and developed good support, they can hold longer notes which is very helpful for developing a good filtering technique in overtone singing.
Overtone singing is all about searching for the overtones in the vowel transitions. If you’re able to hold long notes on one fundamental note, you also have more time to explore different sound colours before you run out of breath.
Do you think practicing overtones will help the voice in other ways?
Overtone singing can certainly help all singers. For example, it improves your perception for resonance; overtone singing makes you more aware of vowel shapes and vocal colours.
As well as developing vocal cord closure and sustained support, you are also able to expand your range and find higher notes because you train to have the physical power for it.
Overtone lesson 1
How could choirs benefit from learning polyphonic singing?
You can ‘tune’ the vowels of each choir member to each other to boost the same overtones inside the same voice section in the choir. It will sound more precise.
The conductor could even ask the choir members to tune their vowel to amplify a specific overtone. For a major chord for example, the section which is singing the fundamental of the chord (bass, usually) can amplify the major 3rd in the vowel for a super clean sound. This supports the female voices that sing the major 3rd as a normally sung note.
What role does the soft palate play in polyphonic singing?
I usually won’t let any air out of the nose because you lose some sound. The effect of the overtones is clearer if you lift the soft palate.
Is it easier for high voices or low voices to find overtones in their voice?
The lower the pitch, the more overtones you have. There is a cap at about G4 for filtering overtones – it’s impossible to access overtones above this pitch, although above that there are still some, but you cannot filter them out as separate notes in the overtone singing technique any more.
What should a singer do if they want to develop overtones in their voice?
Sing long notes and play with vowels. Start with an “u” and move very slowly to an “i”, like the French “oui”. In reverse it is like the English “you”. It is a very small movement but you time-stretch it for as long as you can.
There are so many more vowels than our standard “ah, eh, i, oh, u”. You will find overtones somewhere in between these “normal” vowels. You will begin to hear overtones or feel sensations of better resoncance when you hit an overtone.
Anna-Maria Hefele is an overtone singer and voice artist. In 2014 she graduated as Bachelor of Arts in Elemental Music & Dance Education with classical singing as her main subject from the Carl Orff Institute, Mozarteum University Salzburg. Anna-Maria is a soloist as an overtone singer in different ensembles, such as “Supersonus – The European Resonance Ensemble”, “The Lady & The Cat” and “Orchester der Kulturen”. She plays nyckelharpa and harp, and builds specialist instruments. www.anna-ma
How To Throat-Sing
STEP 7: Hints and tipsJapanese page
If you couldn’t make the flute-like sound, there are two possible causes. They are very important because they are directly connected with the way to improve your throat-singing.Firstly, your mouth chamber may not have a proper shape or volume for resonance. Change them carefully according to the instructions in STEP 5. Slow and careful changing of the chamber will help you to find the resonance. Try to change the shape of the front of your mouth too.Secondly, it’s quite possible that your vocal “oooo” doesn’t contain sufficiently strong harmonics that can resonate in your mouth. (Is your “oooo” very soft and calm?) Beginners sometimes give up before getting the hang of this.
The sound wave which resonates in your mouth has quite a high frequency. Thus all you have to do is vocalize an “oooo”-sound which contains sufficient high-frequency sound energy. I don’t mean that you vocalize “oooo” one octave higher! I mean that you should vocalize with as bright a throat-sound as possible. (If Louis Armstrong had tried throat-singing, he’d have been successful!)To get the proper “oooo” sound, imagine the following situation: when you’re practising throat-singing, some one comes up to you angrily shouting “Be quiet, man!” and strangles you. Naturally, you keep practising. This would result in a strong, bright tone from your throat. You got it! You are “oooo”-ing with an ideal voice sound.Once you’ve got this voice with rich high-frequency components, the volume of the “oooo” itself may be reduced. This helps the flute-like sound to be heard more clearly. In this case, the voice which is kept while throat-singing sounds like a drawn-out “we” in English, or “oui” in French, which is written in Japanse as the letters shown in the background of our pages.
I do hope this How-to helps you.
May your throat-singing reach the Altai Mountains!
Special thanks to Dan.
Without his native English and great work (actually, he had already mastered throat-singing by himself and introduced how to do it in the FAQ of Tuva !), the Throat-Singing Society could not have presented you these how-to in English.
Saga J Haruhiko email@example.com
Also known as overtone singing or harmonic singing, throat singing manipulates your vocal chords to create melody. Famous in many Asiatic and some Inuit cultures, throat singing creates the illusion that you are singing more than one pitch at the same time, though you are actually singing only one frequency. When you do it successfully you will produce a whistling sound, or overtone, on top of your singing voice.
1Relax your jaw and lips. Your mouth should be slightly open with roughly a centimeter between your upper and lower teeth.
2Make an “R” or “L” sound with the tip of your tongue. Your tongue should almost touch the roof of your mouth. Don’t worry if it brushes it occasionally, just get comfortable with the position.
3Sing a comfortably low “base” note. Sing and hold a note, just one note, with your tongue in place. You will be playing with this note to create your overtones. Sing from your chest, getting as deep as you can.
- Think of saying “oo,” (like the sound in the word “cool”) with the deepest voice you can.
4Move the body of your tongue back and forth. Keeping the tip of your tongue on the roof of your mouth. Think of it as shifting between an “R” and an “L” sound with your tongue.
5Slowly change the shape of your lips to adjust the sound. Think of moving your mouth from an “E” sound to a “U” sound (“as if saying “see you” without the “s”). This changes the shape of your lips and the “resonance” of your mouth (how sound bounces around inside).
- Do this slowly.
6Bring it all together to throat sing. Everyone’s mouth is a little different and there is no perfect formula for tongue position, mouth opening, or volume. Start with your basic “oooo” note, and then:
- Place your tongue near the roof of your mouth in a “r” position.
- Move your lips slowly between the “E” and “U” vowel sounds.
- Slowly curl your tongue back and away from the your lips.
- When you hear your overtones, stop moving your mouth and hold the tone.
Improving your Sound
1Practice with some background noise. These will hide your normal vocal tones and make your high-pitched “whistling” tones louder. Try practicing in the shower, while you drive, or while the TV is on in the back
- Don’t worry if you cannot hear the overtones at first. It is difficult to hear yourself singing overtones when you first begin, even if you are making them properly, because of the the resonance in your head.
2Sing with a loud, bright voice. When they are first starting out, most people don’t give enough power and energy behind their voice, To get the “ooooo” sound right, imagine you are trying to sing as someone squeezes your throat. Your voice will need to loud and forceful, and this will help you create overtones.
- After you master throat singing technique you can lower your volume and vocal power to something more comfortable.
3Focus on singing from your upper chest. There is a difference between your “chest voice” and you “head voice.” With you head voice, you usually sing at a higher pitch, and you can feel the sound coming from your throat. A chest voice feels “resonant,” and you can feel the vibrations along your upper chest.
4Practice changing notes. Once you can comfortably make sing with overtones, you can learn to make melodies by moving your lips and adjusting your base note. Open and close them like you were transitioning from an “E” sound to a “U” sound (“eeeeee &rarr: you).
5Listen to real life examples. Throat singing is found in cultures from Alaska to Mongolia and South Africa. The Smithsonian museum has an incredible collection of videos from these cultures, as well as some tutorials for burgeoning throat singers.
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How bad can I injure my voice while practicing throat singing? Can I injure it permanently?wikiHow ContributorIt is not possible to “permanently” damage your vocal chords by just using them. But if you’ve ever sung or talked for long periods of time, your throat will start to get a little sore. If you notice that it is starting to become uncomfortable to talk or sing, take a break and, if you so desire, have some hot tea with honey to help soothe your throat.
- Clear your throat by coughing of drinking a glass of water before you begin.
- If you’re sick and have a sore thoat/phlegm, you should probably wait to practice singing until you’re well again.
- Do not over-strain yourself when trying to find which muscles to use, it can hurt quite a bit!
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