Throat singing is a style of singing or guttural chanting where one can plainly hear the overtones of the fundamental pitch being droned or sung. It originates in several cultures as a way to commune with nature by imitating the surrounding world, as a use of prayer and sacred ceremony, and even lullabies for babies. It is even used in sound healing. Below we will discuss how to make this sound.
Fundamentals of Throat Singing
- As singing, begin upright with your sternum slightly raised and your head tall. The muscles of the jaw and the lips must be completely loose and free of tension. Lip trills and moving your jaw back and forth to relax the lips and jaw respectively will aid relaxation. Your mouth should be about one to two centimeters open. (Do not measure. It needs to be a natural feeling).
- To start, make a droning sound from your chest on ah and feel on your purposely bubbled larynx where the sound is the strongest. It is here that you will constrict the vocal cords (This will not cause harm to your voice). Use a note comfortably in your range, around your speaking voice.
- Constricted your vocal folds on a purposely bubbled larynx producing a sound from your chest (not throat). Move from ah to oh and back and forth. You will have to play with the sound, much like extending a full balloon top back and forth. Experiment with moving the tongue back and forward slowly on the letter L and even putting the L on the roof of the mouth in different places. You will find there is much experimenting in throat singing.
- Drop the jaw and bring the tongue up, again experimenting with the letters L and R and various vowels such as ah and oh. Make sure that the relaxed tongue is touching both sides of the molars. The sound should be resonating in your head and should be loud and bright. Make a shape as if clearing your throat. Note: Throat singing should not hurt. If it does, gently try these steps and practice until you feel no pain.
Things to Try When Learning How to Throat Sing:
- Try making and err sound while moving the tongue back and forth. Experiment with different vowel combinations such as oo, oh, ah or ah, ay, ee. The first vowel sound of the word human works great to hear overtones. This should create a flute like sound in the back of your mouth or front of the mouth as in a whistle. With vowels and tongue, you are limited only by your imagination!
- Feel free to drone on different tones in your range. (Though lower in your range is more traditional.
- Do not give up! If you’re used to singing in the techniques traditional in western culture, this will feel new. Even skilled singers take their time creating overtones. If you practice enough, you will hear a difference in your non-throat singing voice! You will sing brighter and with presence from the present overtones!
Stay tuned for another article on Mongolian throat singing! Have fun and don’t give up!