Throat singing

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Throat singing refers to several vocal practices found in different cultures around the world. [1] [2] [3] [4] The most distinctive feature of such vocal practices is to be associated to some type of guttural voice, that contrasts with the most common types of voices employed in singing, which are usually represented by chest (modal) and head (light, or falsetto) registers. Also, throat singing is often described as producing the sensation of more than one pitch at a time, i.e., the listener perceives two or more distinct musical notes, while the singer is producing a single vocalization.


Throat singing, therefore, consists of a wide range of singing techniques that originally belong to particular cultures and seem to share some sounding characteristics that make them especially noticeable by other cultures and users of mainstream singing styles. [5] [6] [7] [8] [9] The term originates from the translation of the Tuvan/Mongolian word Xhöömei/Xhöömi, that literally means throat, guttural. [10] Ethnic groups from Russia, Mongolia, Japan, South Africa, Canada, Italy, China and India, among others, accept and normally employ the term throat singing to describe their special way of producing voice and song.

The term throat singing is obviously not precise, because any singing technique involves the sound generation in the "throat", i.e., the voice produced at the level of the larynx, which includes the vocal folds and other structures. [7] [11] [12] [9] Therefore it would be, in principle, admissible to refer to classical operatic singing or pop singing as "throat singing" for instance. However, the term throat is not adopted by the official terminology of anatomy (Terminologia Anatomica) and is not technically associated with most of the singing techniques. Many authors, performers, coaches and listeners associate throat singing with overtone singing. Throat singing and overtone singing are certainly not synonyms, contrary to what is inaccurately indicated by many dictionaries (e.g. , in the definition by Britannica) but, in some cases, both aspects may be clearly present, such as in the khargyraa technique from Tuva, with a very deep, tense voice, and rich overtone enhancements and embellishments.

Furthermore, "singing with the throat" may be regarded as a demeaning expression to some singers, because it may imply that the singer is using a high level of effort, resulting in a rather forced or non-suitable voice. The word "throaty" is usually associated to a rough, raspy, breathy or hoarse voice. In spite of being a term frequently used in the literature starting in the 1960's, some contemporary scholars tend to avoid the use of throat singing as a general term.

There is a consistent and enthusiastic international reception for concerts and workshops given by musical groups belonging to the several cultures that incorporate throat singing . Besides the traditional ethnic performances, throat singing is also cultivated and explored by numerous musicians belonging to contemporary, rock, new-age, pop and independent movements.

Types of throat singing

Throat singing techniques may be classified under (1) an ethnomusicological approach: considering the various cultural aspects, the association to rituals, religious practices, storytelling, labor songs, vocal games, and other contexts; (2) a musical approach: considering their artistic use, the basic acoustical principles, and the physiological and mechanical procedures to learn, train and produce them.

The most commonly referred types of throat singing techniques, present in musicological and ethnomusicological texts, are generally associated with ancient cultures. Some of them, as the Khöömei from Mongolia, Tuva and China, and the Canto Tenore from Sardinia, are acknowledged by UNESCO as Intangible Cultural Heritage.

In musically related terms, throat singing refers among others, to the following specific techniques:

Audio examples

See also

Related Research Articles

In linguistics, creaky voice refers to a low, scratchy sound that occupies the vocal range below the common vocal register. It is a special kind of phonation in which the arytenoid cartilages in the larynx are drawn together; as a result, the vocal folds are compressed rather tightly, becoming relatively slack and compact. They normally vibrate irregularly at 20–50 pulses per second, about two octaves below the frequency of modal voicing, and the airflow through the glottis is very slow. Although creaky voice may occur with very low pitch, as at the end of a long intonation unit, it can also occur with a higher pitch. All contribute to make a speaker's voice sound creaky or raspy.

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<span class="mw-page-title-main">Sainkho Namtchylak</span>

Sainkho Namtchylak is a singer originally from Tuva, an autonomous republic in the Russian Federation just north of Mongolia. She is known for her Tuvan throat singing or Khöömei.

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Tyva Kyzy is an all-female folk ensemble performing Tuvan throat-singing, under the direction of Choduraa Tumat. It is the first and only women's group in Tuva that performs all styles of Tuvan throat-singing.

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<span class="mw-page-title-main">Vestibular fold</span>

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<span class="mw-page-title-main">Tuvan throat singing</span> Style of overtone singing

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<span class="mw-page-title-main">Brian Moore (scientist)</span>

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Undertone singing is a set of singing techniques in which the vocalist makes use of vibrations of the vocal apparatus in order to produce subharmonic tones below the bass tone and extend the vocal range below the limits of the modal voice. In particular, the sound is produced via constricting the larynx in order to produce oscillations in the vocal cords and vestibular folds at certain frequencies of the vocal cords - corresponding to integer divisions of the frequency produced by the vestibular folds, such as 1:2, 1:3, and 1:4 ratios. This will produce the corresponding subharmonic to that frequency. For example, in a 1:2 ratio, each second vibration of the vocal folds, the vestibular fold will complete a single vibration cycle which will result in an subharmonic produced an octave below the bass tone produced by the vocal cords. This technique is found in certain Tibetan forms of Buddhist Chant, as practised by monks of the Gyuto Order, as well as in Mongolian throat singing, where it is often used in conjunction with other vocal techniques, such as vocal fry. The technique produces a deep, growling quality.


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