Overtone singing

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Overtone singing – also known as overtone chanting, harmonic singing, or throat singing – is a type of singing in which the singer manipulates the resonances (or formants) created as air travels from the lungs, past the vocal folds, and out of the lips to produce a melody.

The harmonics (fundamental and overtones) of a sound wave made by the human voice can be selectively amplified by changing the shape of the resonant cavities of the mouth, larynx, and pharynx.[1] This resonant tuning allows singers to create apparently more than one pitch at the same time (the fundamental and a selected overtone), while actually generating only a single fundamental frequency with their vocal folds.

Each note is like a rainbow of sound. When you shoot a light beam through a prism, you get a rainbow. You think of a rainbow of sounds when you sing one note. If you can use your throat as a prism, you can expose the rainbow – through positioning the throat in a certain physical way, which will reveal the harmonic series note by note.[2]


Mongolia and Buryatia

It is thought that the art of overtone singing originated in southwestern Mongolia in today’s Khovd Province and Govi Altai region. Nowadays, overtone singing is found throughout the country and Mongolia is often considered the most active center of overtone singing in the world.[3] The most commonly practiced style, Khöömii (written in Cyrillic as Хөөмий), can be divided up into the following categories:

  • uruulyn / labial khöömii
  • tagnain / palatal khöömii
  • khamryn / nasal khöömii
  • bagalzuuryn, khooloin / glottal, throat khöömii
  • tseejiin khondiin, khevliin / chest cavity, stomach khöömii
  • turlegt or khosmoljin khöömii / khöömii combined with long song

Mongolians also use many other singing styles such as “karkhiraa” (literally “growling”) and “isgeree”.

Many of these styles are also practiced in neighboring regions such as Tuva and Altai.


Tuvan overtone singing is practiced by the Tuva people of southern Siberia, Russia. The history of Tuvan overtone singing reaches far back in local history. There is a wide range of vocalizations, including Sygyt, Kargyraa (which also uses a second sound source), Khoomei, Chylandyk, Dumchuktaar, and Ezengileer. Most of these styles are closely related to the styles and variations in neighboring Mongolia.

Altai and Khakassia

Tuva’s neighbouring Russian regions, the Altai Republic to the west and Khakassia to the northwest, have developed forms of throat singing called “kai”, or “khai”. In Altai, this is used mostly for epic poetry performance, to the accompaniment of a topshur. Altai narrators (“kai-chi“) perform in kargyraa, khöömei, and sygyt styles, which are similar to Tuvan. They also have their own style, a very high harmonics, emerging from kargyraa. Variations of kai are called karkyra, sybysky, homei, and sygyt. The first well-known kai-chi was Kalkin.

Chukchi Peninsula

The Chukchi people of the Chukchi Peninsula in the extreme northeast of Russia also practice a form of throat singing.[4]


Tibetan Buddhist chanting is a subgenre of throat singing, mainly practiced by monks of Tibet, including Qinghai (Khokhonor) province in the Tibetan plateau area, Tibetan monks of Nepal, Bhutan, India, and various locations in the Himalayan region. Most often the chants hold to the lower pitches possible in throat singing. Various ceremonies and prayers call for throat singing in Tibetan Buddhism, often with more than one monk chanting at a time. There are different Tibetan throat singing styles, such as Gyuke (Tibetan: རྒྱུད་སྐད་, Wylie: rgyud skad) – this style uses the lowest pitch of voice; Dzoke (Tibetan: མཛོ་སྐད་, Wylie: mdzo skad), and Gyer (Tibetan: གྱེར་, Wylie: gyer).

Uzbekistan and Kazakhstan

The oral poetry of Kazakhstan and the Uzbek region of Karakalpakstan sometimes enters the realm of throat singing.[citation needed]

Pakistan, Iran and Afghanistan

Balochi Nur Sur is one of the ancient forms of overtone singing and is still popular in parts of Pakistan, Iran, and Afghanistan – especially in the Sulaiman Mountains.[citation needed]


The Ainu of Hokkaidō, Japan once practiced a type of throat singing called rekuhkara, which is now extinct. The last singer of rekuhkara died in 1976, but there are some recordings left.[4][5] At sumo tournaments, the announcer, called Yobidashi, announces each wrestler’s name using overtone throat singing.[citation needed]



On the island of Sardinia (Italy), especially in the subregion of Barbagia, one of the two different styles of polyphonic singing is marked by the use of a throaty voice. This kind of song is called a tenore. The other style, known as cuncordu, does not use throat singing. A tenore is practiced by groups of four male singers, each of whom has a distinct role; the ‘oche or boche (pronounced /oke/ or /boke/, “voice”) is the solo voice, while the mesu ‘oche or mesu boche (“half voice”), contra (“against”), and bassu (“bass”) – listed in descending pitch order – form a chorus (another meaning of tenore). Boche and mesu boche sing in a regular voice, whereas contra and bassu sing with a technique affecting the larynx. In 2005, Unesco classed the cantu a tenore as an intangible world heritage.[6] Among the most well known groups who perform a tenore are Tenores di Bitti, Tenores de Orosei, Tenores di Oniferi, and Tenores di Neoneli.

Northern Europe

The Sami people of the northern parts of Sweden, Norway, Finland, and the Kola Peninsula in Russia have a singing genre called yoik. While overtone techniques are not a defining feature of yoik, individuals sometimes utilize overtones in the production of yoik.


The Bashkirs of Bashkortostan, Russia have a style of overtone singing called özläü (sometimes spelled uzlyau; Bashkort Өзләү), which has nearly died out. In addition, Bashkorts also sing uzlyau while playing the kurai, a national instrument. This technique of vocalizing into a flute can also be found in folk music as far west as the Balkans and Hungary.

North America


The resurgence of a once-dying Inuit tradition called katajjaq is currently under way in Canada. Inuit throat singing was a form of entertainment among Inuit women while the men were away on hunting trips. It was an activity that was primarily done by Inuit women, though men also did it. In the Inuit language Inuktitut, throat singing is called katajjaq, pirkusirtuk, or nipaquhiit, depending on the Canadian Arctic region. It was regarded more as a type of vocal or breathing game in the Inuit culture rather than a form of music. Inuit throat singing is generally done by two individuals but can involve four or more people together as well. In Inuit throat singing, two women would face each other either standing or crouching down while holding each other’s arms. One would lead with short deep rhythmic sounds while the other would respond. The leader would repeat sounds with short gaps in between. The follower would fill in these gaps with her own rhythmic sounds. Sometimes both women would be doing a dance-like movement such as rocking from left to right while throat singing. The practice is compared more to a game or competition than to a musical style. In the game, Inuit women sit or stand face-to-face and create rhythmic patterns.[7]


South Africa

Some Thembu Xhosa women of South Africa have a low, rhythmic style of throat-singing, similar to the Tuvan Kargyraa style, that is called umngqokolo. It is often accompanied by call-and-response vocals and complicated poly-rhythms.[8][9][10]

Non-traditional styles

Canada, United States, and Europe

The 1920s Texan singer of cowboy songs, Arthur Miles, independently created a style of overtone singing, similar to sygyt, as a supplement to the normal yodelling of country western music. Blind Willie Johnson, also of Texas, is not a true overtone singer according to National Geographic, but his ability to shift from guttural grunting noises to a soft lullaby is suggestive of the tonal timbres of overtone singing.[11]

Starting in the 1960s, some musicians in the West either have collaborated with traditional throat singers or ventured into the realm of throat singing and overtone singing, or both. Some made original musical contributions and helped this art rediscover its transcultural universality. As harmonics are universal to all physical sounds, the notion of authenticity is best understood in terms of musical quality. Musicians of note in this genre include Collegium Vocale Köln (who first began using this technique in 1968),Tran Quang Hai, Michael Vetter, David Hykes,[12] Jill Purce, Jim Cole, Ry Cooder, Paul Pena (mixing the traditional Tuvan style with that of American Blues), Steve Sklar, and Kiva (specializing in jazz/ world beat genres and composing for overtone choirs). Others include composer Baird Hersey and his group Prana with Krishna Das (overtone singing and Hindu mantra), as well as Canadian songwriter Nathan Rogers, who has become an adept throat singer and teaches Tuvan throat singing in Winnipeg, Manitoba.[citation needed]

Paul Pena was featured in the documentary Genghis Blues, which tells the story of his pilgrimage to Tuva to compete in their annual throat singing competition. The film won the documentary award at the 1999 Sundance Film Festival, and was nominated for an Oscar in 2000.

Tuvan singer Sainkho Namtchylak has collaborated with free jazz musicians such as Evan Parker and Ned Rothenberg. Lester Bowie and Ornette Coleman have worked with the Tenores di Bitti, and Eleanor Hovda has written a piece using the Xhosa style of singing. DJs and performers of electronic music like The KLF have also merged their music with throat singing, overtone singing, or with the theory of harmonics behind it.

A capella singer Avi Kaplan also exhibited overtone singing during his group’s (Pentatonix) performances. He merged throat singing together with a capella dubstep.

The Overtone Choir Spektrum from Prague, Czech Republic, is unique among overtone choirs, particularly because it connects traditional choir singing with overtone techniques. It is the only one of its kind in the Czech Republic, and one of only a few in the world.[2] [3]

Several contemporary classical composers have incorporated overtone singing into their works. Karlheinz Stockhausen was one of the first, with Stimmung in 1968. Tran Quang Hai (b.1944), a French national of Vietnamese origin, created the composition “Ve Nguon” with the collaboration of Vietnamese composer Nguyen Van Tuong in 1975, in Paris.[citation needed] “Past Life Melodies” for SATB chorus by Australian composer Sarah Hopkins (b. 1958) also calls for this technique. In Water Passion after St. Matthew by Tan Dun, the soprano and bass soloists sing in a variety of techniques including overtone singing of the Mongolian style.

See also




  1. Bellamy and MacLean 2005, 515.


  • Bandinu, Omar (2006). “Il canto a tenore: dai nuraghi all’Unesco“, Siti 2, no.3 (July–September): 16–21.
  • Bellamy, Isabel, and Donald MacLean (2005). Radiant Healing: The Many Paths to Personal Harmony and Planetary Wholeness. Buddina, Queensland (Australia): Joshua Books. ISBN 0-9756878-5-9
  • Haouli, Janete El (2006). Demetrio Stratos: en busca de la voz-música. México, D. F.: Radio Educación – Consejo Nacional para la Cultura y las Artes.
  • Levin, Theodore C., and Michael E. Edgerton (1999). “The Throat Singers of Tuva“. Scientific American 281, no. 3 (September): 80–87.
  • Levin, Theodore, and Valentina Süzükei (2006). Where Rivers and Mountains Sing. Bloomington: Indiana University Press. ISBN 0-253-34715-7.
  • Pariser, David, and Enid Zimmerman (2004). “Learning in the Visual Arts: Characteristics of Gifted and Talented Individuals,” in Handbook of Research and Policy in Art Education, Elliot W. Eisner and Michael D. Day (editors). Lawrence Erlbaum Associates. p. 388. ISBN 978-0-8058-4972-1.
  • Saus, Wolfgang (2004). Oberton Singen. Schönau im Odenwald: Traumzeit-Verlag. ISBN 3-933825-36-9 (German).
  • Sklar, Steve (2005). “Types of throat singing” “[4]
  • Titze, Ingo R. (1994). Principles of Voice Production. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice Hall. ISBN 978-0-13-717893-3 Reprinted Iowa City: National Center for Voice and Speech, 2000. ( ISBN 978-0-87414-122-1 .
  • Titze, Ingo R. (2008). “The Human Instrument”. Scientific American 298, no. 1 (July):94–101. PM 18225701
  • Tongeren, Mark C. van (2002). Overtone Singing: Physics and Metaphysics of Harmonics in East and West. Amsterdam: Fusica. ISBN 90-807163-2-4 (pbk), ISBN 90-807163-1-6 (cloth).

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WIKIPEDIA : Throat singing

Throat singing

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WIKIPEDIA : Chant diphonique

Chant diphonique

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Le chant diphonique est une technique vocale permettant à une personne de produire un timbre vocal caractérisé par deux notes de fréquences différentes. Il s’agit donc de faire du chant polyphonique (à plusieurs voix) au moyen d’un seul organe vocal combinant d’une part divers types de voix (de poitrine, de tête…) et d’autre part divers positionnements de la langue ou des lèvres. La seconde voix, ou harmonique, est dans un rapport exact de fréquences avec celle de la voix de base, H1, bourdon ou encore fondamental. Elle peut être égale à deux fois la fréquence du bourdon (H2), trois fois (H3), quatre (H4), etc.

Bien que la plupart des techniques d’émissions diphoniques soient fondées sur un agencement ou un usage particulier des cavités bucco-nasales, on distingue aussi le chant de gorge ou encore chant harmonique permettant également de produire plusieurs sons à la fois : un bourdon grave est produit avec la gorge tandis que des harmoniques aiguës sont produites simultanément par amplification et résonance.

Ce type de chant est pratiqué depuis longtemps dans diverses musiques traditionnelles du monde, plus particulièrement en Haute-Asie (chez les Mongols, Touvains, Khakasses, Bachkirs, Altaïens, Mongols du Tibet notamment, voir Khöömei), et de manière plus discrète parmi les Sardes d’Italie, les Rajasthanis d’Inde et les Xhosa d’Afrique du Sud.

Variétés du chant diphonique

En Asie, chez les Touvains, il existe quatre techniques principales avec bourdon du plus grave au plus aigu selon les styles kargyraa, borbannadyr, ezengileer et sygyt :

  • dans le style kargyraa le fondamental a un timbre spécial (cor de chasse) avec une fréquence variant entre 55 Hz (la 0) et 65 Hz (do 1) ; les harmoniques se promènent entre H6, H7, H8, H9, H10 et H12. Chaque harmonique correspond à une voyelle déterminée ;
  • le fondamental dans le style borbannadyr (autour de 110 Hz) reste fixe, et a un timbre plus doux que celui du kargyraa. Le chanteur peut produire deux formants harmoniques au-dessus du fondamental. La parenté technique entre kargyraa et borbannadyr permet au chanteur d’alterner les deux styles dans la même pièce musicale ;
  • le style sygyt possède un fondamental plus aigu (entre 165 Hzmi2 et 220 Hzla2) selon les chanteurs. La mélodie harmonique utilise les harmoniques H9, H10 et H12 (maximum jusqu’à 2 640 Hz) ;
  • le style ezengileer est une variante de sygyt, caractérisé par un rythme dynamique particulier, venant de l’appui périodique des pieds du cavalier sur les étriers.

Les types de chant diphonique des Touvains sont fondés sur les mêmes principes d’émission sonore que ceux de la guimbarde. La mélodie est créée par les harmoniques d’un fondamental, engendrés par le résonateur d’Helmholtz que constitue la cavité buccale humaine dont on modifie les dimensions. Pour la guimbarde, c’est la lame vibrante qui attaque le résonateur. Pour le chant diphonique, ce sont les cordes vocales qui seront ajustées sur des hauteurs différentes, ce qui crée plusieurs fondamentaux, donc plusieurs séries d’harmoniques.

D’autres techniques secondaires ou moins connues ont été « retrouvées », à savoir sigit moyen, kargiraa de steppe ou kargyraa de montagne, stil oidupa (inspiré du kargyraa et appelé d’après le nom du créateur, est considéré comme le premier style urbain).

Chez les Mongols, il existe six techniques différentes de chant diphonique ou khöömei ((хөөмий) : khamryn khöömii (Хамрын хөөмий, khöömii nasal), bagalzuuryn khöömii (Багалзуурын хөөмий, khöömii pharyngé), tseejin khöndii khöömii (цээжин хөндий хөөмий, khöömii de la cavité thoracique), khevliin khöömii (хэвлийн хөндий, khöömii abdominal), khargiraa khöömii (khöömii narratif avec un fondamental très grave) et isgerex (la voix de flûte dentale). Les chanteurs D. Sundui et Tserendavaa sont reconnus.

Chez les Khakasses est utilisé le style xaj. Avant la domination russe, les Khakashs avaient des styles de chant diphonique proches de ceux pratiqués par les Touvains, à savoir sygyrtyp (comme le sygyt), kuveder ou kylenge (comme le ezengileer) et kargirar (comme le kargyraa).

Chez les Altaïens on trouve un style semblable kaj pour accompagner les chants épiques en plus des styles kiomioi, karkira et sibiski (respectivement ezengileer, kargyraa, sygyt).

Chez les Bachkirs il y a le style uzlau proche du ezengileer.

Chez les Tibétains des monastères Gyuto et Gyüme, le chant des tantras et des mantras use du chant de gorge. Leur tradition remonte à un groupe de maîtres indiens, le plus connu étant le yogin Padmasambhava, qui visitèrent le Tibet au VIIIe siècle et, plus récemment, au fondateur de l’un des quatre courants du bouddhisme tibétain, Tsongkhapa (1357-1419) qui aurait introduit le chant diphonique et le style de méditation. Il tenait, dit on, ce type de chant de sa divinité protectrice, Maha Bhairava qui, bien qu’étant une incarnation du Bodhisattva de la compassion (Avalokiteśvara) possédait un esprit terrifiant. Le visage central de Maha Bhairava est celui d’un buffle en colère. Aujourd’hui encore, les maîtres de cette école aiment comparer leur chant au beuglement d’un taureau.

Il existe plusieurs manières de réciter les prières : la récitation dans un registre grave avec vitesse modérée ou rapide sur des textes sacrés, les chants avec trois styles (ta chanté avec des mots clairement prononcés sur une échelle pentatonique ; gur avec un tempo lent utilisé dans les cérémonies principales et au cours des processions ; yang avec une voix extrêmement grave sur des voyelles produisant l’effet harmonique pour communiquer avec les Dieux). Les moines tibétains du monastère Gyüto sortent un bourdon extrêmement grave et un harmonique H10 correspondant à la tierce majeure au-dessus de la 3e octave du bourdon, tandis que les moines du monastère Gyüme produisent un bourdon grave et un harmonique 12 équivalant la quinte au-dessus de la 3e octave du bourdon. On dit que le chant des moines Gyutö correspond à l’élément Feu et celui des moines Gyüme exprime l’élément Eau. Ces moines obtiennent cet effet harmonique en chantant la voyelle O avec la bouche allongée et les lèvres arrondies.

Chez les Inuits on trouve le chant de gorge inuit.

À Formose (Taïwan), les Bunun, une des minorités ethniques, chantent les voyelles dans une voix très tendue et font sortir quelques harmoniques dans un chant à l’occasion de la récolte des millets (pasi but but).

En Inde, un Rajasthanais, enregistré en 1967, est arrivé à utiliser la technique du chant diphonique proche du style sygyt pour imiter la guimbarde et la flûte double satârâ. Cet enregistrement unique représente la seule trace de l’existence du phénomène du chant diphonique au Rajasthan.

En Afrique du Sud, les Xhosa pratiquent le chant diphonique (découvert en 1983), surtout les femmes. Cette technique s’appelle umngqokolo ngomqangi imitant l’arc musical umrhube. Ngomqangi est le nom d’un coléoptère. Selon une chanteuse, cette technique à double voix simultanée est inspirée du bruit du coléoptère placé devant la bouche utilisé comme bourdon en modulant la cavité buccale pour varier les harmoniques produits.

Il faut faire la distinction entre le chant diphonique (chant créant une mélodie d’harmoniques) et le chant à résonance harmonique (chant accompagné par moments par des effets harmoniques).

Dans certains types de chants, l’émission des voyelles est très résonantielle, ce qui permet aux chanteurs de créer un deuxième formant non intentionnel (le chant bouddhique japonais shōmyō, certains chants polyphoniques d’Europe de l’Est), ou intentionnel (le phénomène quintina — la 5e voix virtuelle, résultant de la fusion des 4 voix produites ensemble — des chants sacrés sardes).[Ce passage est incompréhensible.]

En Italie, en Sardaigne, dans la région de la Barbagia, il existe deux styles de chant polyphonique. Le cuncordu est une forme de musique sacrée et emploie des voix normales. En revanche, le a tenore est une musique profane qui a des caractéristiques de chant diphonique. Le canto a tenore est pratiqué par un groupe de quatre chanteurs dont chacun a un rôle distinct.

Aspect acoustique

Plusieurs techniques de chant diphonique existent, telles le kargyraa, qui consiste à faire vibrer certains tissus présents au-dessus des cordes vocales, produisant une note grave — une octave en dessous de la note chantée — évoquant certains chants sacrés tibétains ; la technique de gorge est appelée sygyt, etc

Cette voix se caractérise par l’émission conjointe de deux sons, l’un dit « son fondamental » ou bourdon, qui est tenu à la même hauteur tout le temps d’une expiration, pendant que l’autre, plus aigu, dit « son harmonique » (qui est l’un des harmoniques naturels du son fondamental constituée d’un formant qui se déplace dans le spectre pour donner une certaine mélodie) varie au gré du chanteur. Ce son harmonique a un timbre proche à celui de la flûte (voix flûtée) ou à celui de la guimbarde (voix guimbarde).

La mise en évidence du bourdon est relativement facile, grâce aux sonagrammes. Le chant classique se caractérise par un doublement de l’écartement des raies harmoniques lorsque le chant passe à l’octave. Le chant diphonique présente un écartement égal des raies (ceci est prévisible puisque le bourdon demeure constant) pendant le passage d’une octave où l’on voit le déplacement du formant. En effet, on peut mesurer avec facilité la distance entre les raies pour chaque son émis ; dans ce cas, la perception de la mélodie du chant diphonique se fait par le biais du déplacement du formant dans le spectre sonore. Ceci n’est vraiment possible que si le formant se concentre dans l’aigu. L’énergie sonore est principalement divisée entre le bourdon et la deuxième voix constituée de deux harmoniques, au plus trois harmoniques.

Il a été parfois dit qu’une troisième voix pouvait être produite avec les techniques touvines, mais il est impossible d’affirmer que la troisième voix est contrôlée. On peut établir un parallèle entre chant diphonique et guimbarde. La guimbarde produit comme le chant diphonique plusieurs « voix » différentes : le bourdon, le chant et le contre chant. Cette troisième voix ressemble à un contre chant, peut être délibéré, mais sans doute non contrôlé.

Champ de liberté

Du point de vue du champ de liberté (désignant l’étendue des performances et comprenant le champ des formes musicales en intensité, en hauteur, en timbre), le chant diphonique équivaut au chant normal sauf en ce qui concerne l’ambitus. Le temps d’exécution dépend évidemment de la cage thoracique du chanteur et de sa respiration, mais également de l’intensité sonore en rapport avec le débit d’air.

Le champ de liberté concernant l’intensité est par contre relativement restreint et le niveau des harmoniques est lié au niveau du bourdon. Le chanteur a intérêt à garder un bourdon d’intensité suffisante afin de faire émerger un maximum d’harmoniques. Les harmoniques sont d’autant plus claires que le formant est étroit et intense.

Il est admis que pour une tonalité judicieuse (en fonction de l’exécutant et de la pièce musicale à interpréter), un chanteur peut moduler ou choisir entre les harmoniques 3 et 13. L’ambitus est fonction de la tonalité. Si la tonalité est en do2, la réalisation se fait sur 14 harmoniques du 6e au 20e, ceci représentant une octave et une sixte. Si la tonalité est élevée, par exemple do3, le choix se fait entre les harmoniques 3 et 10 soit 8 harmoniques, représentant également une octave et une sixte.

L’ambitus du chant diphonique est plus restreint que celui du chant normal. Si en théorie le chanteur choisit la tonalité qu’il veut entre do2 et do3, en pratique, il réalise instinctivement un compromis entre la clarté de la deuxième voix et l’ambitus de son chant. Si la tonalité est élevée, par exemple, do3, le choix des harmoniques se trouve restreint, mais la deuxième voix est alors très claire. Dans le cas d’une tonalité en do2, la deuxième voix est plus confuse, alors que l’ambitus atteint son maximum. La clarté des sons peut s’expliquer par le fait que dans le premier cas, le chanteur ne peut sélectionner qu’un harmonique, alors que dans le deuxième cas il peut en sélectionner presque deux. Pour la question de l’ambitus, la mise en action des résonateurs buccaux est indépendante de la tonalité des sons émis par les cordes vocales ; le chanteur sélectionne toujours les harmoniques dans la même zone du spectre que ceux-ci soient écartés ou resserrés.

Le chanteur choisit la tonalité instinctivement pour avoir à la fois l’ambitus maximum et le maximum de clarté, le meilleur compromis se trouvant entre DO2 et le la2 : on peut ainsi produire avec les harmoniques à partir d’un son fondamental entre do2 et la2 une mélodie couvrant jusqu’à deux octaves.

Perception de la hauteur des sons

La hauteur des sons tient plus de la psycho-acoustique que de la physique. Le Sono-graphe permet d’obtenir l’image du son étudié. Les manuels d’acoustiques disent que la hauteur des sons harmoniques, comportant un fondamental de fréquence F et une suite d’harmoniques F1,F2… multiples de F, est donnée par la fréquence du premier son fondamental. Ceci n’est pas tout à fait exact car il est possible de supprimer électroniquement ce fondamental sans pour cela changer la hauteur subjective du son perçu. Si cette théorie était exacte, une chaîne électro-acoustique ne reproduisant pas l’extrême grave changerait la hauteur des sons. Il n’en est rien car le timbre change mais pas la hauteur. Certains chercheurs proposent une autre théorie plus cohérente : la hauteur des sons est donnée par l’écartement des raies harmoniques ou la différence de fréquence entre deux raies harmoniques. Que devient la hauteur des sons dans ce cas pour les spectres sonores dit à « partiels » (les partiels sont les harmoniques qui ne sont pas des multiples entiers du fondamental) ? Dans ce cas, l’individu perçoit une moyenne de l’écartement des raies dans la zone qui l’intéresse.

On désigne par l’expression « spectre à formant » le renforcement en intensité d’un groupe d’harmoniques constituant un formant, c’est-à-dire une zone de fréquences où l’énergie est grande. En rapport avec l’existence de ce formant, une deuxième notion de la perception de hauteur se fait jour. On s’est en effet aperçu que la position du formant dans le spectre sonore donnait la perception d’une nouvelle hauteur. Dans ce cas, il s’agit de la position du formant dans le spectre. Cette théorie doit être nuancée, car des conditions s’imposent.

La disparition du formant ne change pas la hauteur des sons. La perception de la hauteur par la position du formant n’est possible que si celui-ci est très aigu, à savoir que l’énergie du formant n’est répartie que sur deux ou trois harmoniques. Si la densité d’énergie du formant est grande, et que le formant est étroit, celui-ci donnera une information de hauteur en plus de la tonalité globale du morceau chanté, ouvrant la possibilité technique du chant diphonique / diplophonique / biformantique.

Mécanismes de production sonore

Un résonateur est une cavité pouvant résonner dans un domaine de fréquences. Le système excitateur – le pharynx et les cordes vocales – émet un spectre harmonique, et les résonateurs amplifient celui-ci. Un bon chanteur est capable de choisir ces fréquences : lorsqu’un chanteur porte la voix pour se faire entendre dans une grande salle il adapte ses résonateurs (volume de la cavité buccale, de la section de l’ouverture de la bouche et de la position des lèvres) pour émettre le maximum d’énergie.

Pour un chant diphonique, il faut deux voix : le bourdon, la première, provient du fait que celui-ci est intense à l’émission et qu’il ne subit pas le filtrage des résonateurs. Son intensité, supérieure à celle des harmoniques, lui permet de survivre grâce à un rayonnement buccal et nasal. En fermant la cavité nasale, le bourdon diminuait en intensité : d’une part une source de rayonnement est fermée, et d’autre part le débit d’air est réduit de même que l’intensité sonore émise au niveau des cordes vocales.

L’intérêt d’avoir plusieurs cavités est primordial. Seul le couplage entre plusieurs cavités permet d’avoir un formant aigu tel que l’exige le chant diphonique. La tonalité du son monte si la bouche est grande ouverte. Pour mettre en évidence la formation d’un formant aigu, on a essayé de produire deux sortes de chant diphonique : l’un avec la langue au repos, la bouche devenant une grande et unique cavité, et l’autre avec la pointe de la langue remontant et touchant la voûte palatine, divisant ainsi la bouche en deux cavités. Dans le premier cas, les sons ne sont pas clairs. On entend très bien le bourdon mais la deuxième voix est difficile à entendre et la mélodie s’impose difficilement à l’écoute. Avec une cavité buccale unique, l’énergie du formant se disperse sur trois ou quatre harmoniques et la sensation de la deuxième voix devient beaucoup plus faible et l’effet diphonique disparaît. Par contre, quand la langue divise la bouche en deux cavités, le formant aigu et intense réapparaît.

Le chant diphonique nécessite un réseau de résonateurs sélectifs qui filtre uniquement les harmoniques désirés par le chanteur. Dans le cas d’un couplage serré entre les deux cavités, celles-ci donnent une résonance unique très aiguë. Si le couplage devient lâche, le formant a une intensité moins grande, et on étale l’énergie sonore dans le spectre. Si ces cavités se réduisent à une seule cavité, la courbe pointue devient encore plus ronde et on aboutit au premier exemple évoqué, consistant en un chant diphonique très flou (langue en position de « repos »).

Réalisation du chant diphonique

On peut produire les deux sons simultanés grâce à trois méthodes distinctes :

  • avec une cavité buccale : la langue peut être à plat, en position de repos, ou la base de la langue légèrement remontée sans jamais toucher la partie molle du palais. Seules la bouche et les lèvres bougent. Par cette variation de la cavité buccale en prononçant les deux voyelles ü et i liées sans interruption (comme si l’on disait « oui » en français), on perçoit une faible mélodie des harmoniques qui ne dépasse guère l’harmonique 8.
  • avec deux cavités buccales : on chante avec la voix de gorge, on prononce la lettre L, dès que la pointe de la langue touche le centre de la voûte palatine, on maintient cette position, on prononce ensuite la voyelle Ü avec toujours la pointe de la langue collée fermement contre le point de fixation entre le palais dur et le palais mou, on contracte les muscles du cou et ceux de l’abdomen pendant le chant comme si on essayait de soulever un objet très lourd, on donne un timbre très nasalisé en l’amplifiant à travers les fosses nasales, on prononce ensuite les deux voyelles I et Ü (ou bien O et A) liées mais alternées l’une après l’autre en plusieurs fois. Ainsi sont obtenus le bourdon et les harmoniques en pente ascendante et descendante selon le désir du chanteur. On varie la position des lèvres ou celle de la langue pour moduler la mélodie des harmoniques. La forte concentration musculaire augmente la clarté harmonique.
  • avec la base de la langue remontée et mordue par les molaires supérieurs pendant que le son de gorge est produit sur les deux voyelles I et Ü liées et répétées plusieurs fois pour créer une série d’harmoniques descendants et ascendants. Cette série d’harmoniques se situe entre 2 kHz et 3,5 kHz. Cette méthode ne permet pas le contrôle de la mélodie formantique et n’est qu’une démonstration expérimentale sur les possibilités de timbre harmonique.

Dans les années 1980, l’analyse comparée des spectogrammes fibroscopiques, stroboscopiques, laryngoscopiques et ceux du Sona-Graph a permis de classer pour la première fois les différents styles de chant diphonique d’Asie et d’Afrique du Sud en fonction des résonateurs, des contractions musculaires et des ornementations :

  • en mettant en évidence le bourdon harmonique et la mélodie fondamentale, ce qui est le contraire du principe initial du chant diphonique traditionnel ;
  • en croisant les deux mélodies (fondamentale et harmoniques) et en explorant le chant triphonique ;
  • en mettant en évidence les trois zones harmoniques sur la base d’un même son fondamental.

Utilisation thérapeutique du chant diphonique ?

Le Dr Tomatis a développé une théorie selon laquelle il existerait une relation entre harmonie et santé (mentale ou physique). Des musiciens ont voulu faire du chant diphonique un nouvel outil pour des applications thérapeutiques (Trần Quang Hải, Jill Purce, Jonathan Goldman, Dominique Bertrand, Véronique et Denis Fargeot, Philippe Barraqué, Bernard Dubreuil, Emmanuel Comte, Catherine Darbord).

Le pouvoir supposé du chant dépend de la mélodie, des qualités harmoniques de la voix et de la puissance du fondamental. Les principaux objectifs du chant diphonique, quand il est utilisé avec des visées thérapeutiques, est de rétablir la concentration et l’équilibre psychologique (voir thérapie vocale). On retrouve ces objectifs dans certaines pratiques chamaniques ou dans le chant des moines tibétains[réf. souhaitée].

Jill Purce (Royaume-Uni), par exemple, propose un travail fondé sur la respiration et le chant diphonique auprès de personnes qui bégaient, éprouvent des sensations de blocage dans la gorge, sont effrayées par leur propre voix ou qui souffrent d’inhibition, de troubles respiratoires, d’anxiété, de fatigue[réf. nécessaire].

Le chant diphonique a également été utilisé dans le but de diminuer la douleur physique pendant l’accouchement. Mais il n’existe aucune étude confirmant l’efficacité de cette méthode.

Aspect historique

La découverte et l’étude du chant diphonique remonte au XIXe siècle. M. Rollin, professeur au Conservatoire de Paris, au XIXe siècle, a dit qu’à la Cour de Charles le Téméraire, un baladin chantait à deux voix simultanées, la deuxième étant à la quinte de la première. Manuel Garcia junior, dans son Mémoire sur la voix humaine présenté à l’Académie des Sciences le 16 novembre 1840, a signalé le phénomène à double voix chez les paysans russes. Plusieurs voyageurs ont rapporté dans leurs récits de voyages qu’au Tibet se pratiquait le dédoublement de la voix pendant certaines récitations de mantras. Mais cette constatation n’était pas prise au sérieux.

En 1934, des chercheurs russes enregistrèrent des disques 78 tours de chant diphonique chez les Touvains ; étudiés par Aksenov, ils sont l’objet d’un article (publié en 1964 en URSS et traduit en allemand en 1967 et en anglais en 1973) considéré comme le premier sur le chant diphonique d’une grande valeur scientifique. Depuis, de nombreux chercheurs, acousticiens, ethnomusicologues, ont essayé de « dévoiler » les mystères du chant diphonique. On peut en citer quelques-uns : Lajos Vargyas (Hongrie, 1967), Emile Leipp (France, 1971), Gilles Léothaud (France, 1971), Roberte Hamayon et Mireille Helffer (France, 1973), Suzanne Borel-Maisonny (France, 1974), Trần Quang Hải (France, 1974), Richard Walcott (États-Unis, 1974), Sumi Gunji (Japon, 1980), Roberto Laneri (1983), Lauri Harvilahti (Finlande, 1983), Alain Desjacques (France, 1984), Ted Levin (États-Unis, 1988), Carole Pegg (Grande-Bretagne, 1988), Graziano Tisato (Italie, 1988), Hugo Zemp (France, 1989), Mark Van Tongeren (Pays-Bas, 1993).

Des appellations diverses furent proposées par des chercheurs français au cours des trente dernières années : « chant diphonique » (Emile Leipp, Gilles Léothaud en 1971, Tran Quang Hai en 1974), « voix guimbarde » (Roberte Hamayon et Mireille Helffer, 1973), « chant diphonique solo » (Claudie Marcel-Dubois, 1978), « chant diplophonique » (diplo en grec signifiant « deux », la diplophonie, terme d’origine médicale, désigne l’existence simultanée de deux sons de hauteur différente dans le larynx, Tran Quang Hai, 1993) et « chant biformantique » (chant à deux formants, Tran Quang Hai, 1994). Le terme de « chant harmonique » est plus délicat car chaque chant, quel que soit le type de voix, est créé par une série d’harmoniques renforcés différemment et sélectionnés suivant la volonté du chanteur pour créer une mélodie.

Des chanteurs ou compositeurs comme Trần Quang Hải (France, 1975), Demetrio Stratos (Italie, 1977), Roberto Laneri (Italie, 1978), David Hykes et son Harmonic Choir (États-Unis, 1983), Joan La Barbara (États-Unis, 1985), Meredith Monk (États-Unis, 1980), Michael Vetter (Allemagne, 1985), Christian Bollmann (Allemagne, 1985), Michael Reimann (Allemagne, 1986), Noah Pikes (Angleterre, 1985), Tamia (France, 1987), Quatuor Nomad (France, 1989), Valentin Clastrier (France, 1990), Bodjo Pinek (Yougoslavie, 1987), Josephine Truman (Australie, 1987), Iegor Reznikoff (France, 1989), Rollin Rachelle (Pays-Bas, 1990), Thomas Clements (France, 1990), Sarah Hopkins (Australie, 1990), Mauro Bagella (Italie, 1995), Lê Tuân Hùng (Australie, 1996),Véronique et Denis Fargeot (2003, 2008, 2013) ont introduit l’effet du chant diphonique dans les musiques actuelles (world music, new age, etc.) et dans la musique électro-acoustique.

Des musicothérapeutes, tels que Jill Purce (Royaume-Uni), Dominique Bertrand (France), Catherine Darbord (France), Philippe Barraqué (France) ont utilisé la technique du chant diphonique comme moyen thérapeutique reprenant une tradition chamanique, parfois combiné avec la gymnastique holistique dans le but de soigner les gens par les vibrations harmoniques et les mouvements corporels.


Maîtres de chant diphonique (Masters of Mongolian Overtone Singing- Mongol khöömiich), un documentaire de Jean-François Castell, Les Films Du Rocher/La Curieuse, 2010 – Prix Bartok du meilleur film ethnomusicologique au 30e Festival International Jean Rouch 2011 2013 – Prix vague émeraude du Festival 7e art et science, Noirmoutier, 2012 – Prix Coup de pouce du Festival du film de chercheur, Nancy, 2011 – Prix Bartók de la Société française d’ethnomusicologie au 30e Festival Jean Rouch, Bilan du film ethnographique, 2011 – Meilleur documentaire au Festival Aux quatre coins du monde, 2010 – Sélection « Coup de cœur » au Festival Écrans de l’aventure DVD – mars 2012 : « Maitres de chant diphonique », 53 minutes (+ 30 minutes bonus), Version française, anglaise et mongole, Coproduction Les Films du Rocher / La Curieuse

Le Chant des harmoniques, coauteurs : Tran Quang Hai & Hugo Zemp, réalisateur : Hugo Zemp, CNRS Audio-visuel, film 16 mm, 38 minutes, couleur, 1989 – Grand Prix du film scientifique à Parnü (Estonie), 1990, Prix Spécial de Recherche Scientifique, Palaiseau, 1990, Grand Prix du Film scientifique, Montréal, 1991 (réédition en DVD en 2005 – version française et en DVD en 2006 – version anglaise)

Le Chant diphonique, coauteurs : Tran Quang Hai & Luc Souvet, DVD, 28 minutes, CRDP, Saint Denis, Ile de la Réunion, 2004.



  • (en) Jonathan Goldman, Healing Sounds: The Power of Harmonics.
  • Philippe Barraqué, À la source du chant sacré, éditions Diamantel, 1999.
  • Véronique et Denis Fargeot, La Voix tibétaine – Chants harmoniques sacrés (CD), collection Reliance, 2003.
  • Philippe Barraqué, La Guérison harmonique (techniques de chant diphonique), éditions Jouvence, 2004.
  • Ezzu, Alberto, (2009). Il Canto degli Armonici – Storia e tecniche del canto difonico, éditions Musica Practica, Torino.
  • Catherine Darbord : Chant harmonique, résonance intérieure : Méthode d’apprentissage (CD), éditions Prikosnovenie (2011).
  • Cyprien Bole, 2012, Chanter seul à deux voix, méthode complète de chant diphonique, livre et CD, éditions Les 2 oreilles, p. 1-134 (ISBN 978-2-7466-5068-8).
  • Véronique et Denis Fargeot, Chant harmonique – Voix tibétaine 2 (CD), collection Reliance, 2013.
  • Emmanuel Comte, Le Son d’Harmonie Livre avec CD inclus, éditions Medson 2012 (ISBN 978-2-9810345-2-6).

Liens externes



Posted on January 6, 2015 by haidiphonie

Piero Cosi, Graziano Tisato
Istituto di Scienze e Tecnologie della Cognizione – Sezione di Fonetica e Dialettologia
(ex Istituto di Fonetica e Dialettologia) – Consiglio Nazionale delle Ricerche
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.
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.
“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).
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).
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].
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.
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.
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”.
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.

TISATO 5 FIG 5 - Copie
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.
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.
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).
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.
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.

TISATO 11 FIG 11.jpg
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].
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.
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.
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.
[1] Feynman (, website.
[2] Friends of Tuva (, 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, (, 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,
(, 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, (, 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, (, 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,
(, website.
[36] Jansson S., Khöömei Page (, 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.

Types of Throat-Singing with Tips Under Construction Tuvan Throat-Singing

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, 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 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

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



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

Theodore C. Levin and Michael E. Edgerton: THE THROAT SINGERS OF TUVA

Testing the limits of vocal ingenuity, throat-singers can create
sounds unlike anything in ordinary speech and song
— carrying two musical lines simultaneously, say, or harmonizing with a waterfall
by Theodore C. Levin and Michael E. Edgerton

M-C BARRAS & Anne Marie GOUIFFES : The Reception of Overtone Singing by Uninformed Listeners

journal of interdisciplinary music studies
spring/fall 2008, volume 2, issue 1&2,
#0821204, pp.59-70•
M.-C. Barras, Univ. Bordeaux IV(IUFM), 160 Avenue de Verdun –
BP90152, 33705
Mérignac Cedex, France; e-mail:

The Reception of Overtone Singing by Uninformed
Marie-Cécile Barras 1
and Anne-Marie Gouiffès 2
1 University of Bordeaux(IUFM d’Aquitaine, Bordeaux IV and Department of Music,
Bordeaux III)
2 Jeannine Manuel Bilingual School, Paris and OMF, Univ
ersity of Paris IV-Sorbonne

NESTOR KORNBLUM: Association of Sound Therapy – Harmonic Sounds

Association of Sound Therapy – Harmonic Sounds
nestor kornblum.jpg

About us
Sound Healing
Sound Healer Training Courses International
The Dome

Overtone singing: The Essence of Harmony

Nestor Kornblum is co-founder and co-director of both the Spanish and the International Associations of Sound Therapy. He has worked tirelessly over the last 10 years to promote the use of Sound and Overtone singing as a healing modality worldwide. It has also been a personal desire of his to bridge the gap between the more spiritually and esoterically focused Overtone singers, and those focused mainly on using it as a musical art form. His new instructional book with CD “Overtone Chant: the Practical Guide”, with text in 6 languages, was written in response to requests from his students in the many countries where he conducts workshops. Together with his wife Michéle Averard he has published several CDs of music with overtone singing and ancient acoustic instruments for healing and relaxation.
The origins of overtone

Overtone singing is an ancient technique that enables a singer to produce 2 or more sounds simultaneously with his or her voice. Although the origins of this technique are partly cloaked in mystery, recent investigations have unturned an enormous amount of information regarding the present uses of the technique and some information regarding its origins in different parts of the world.

Overtone singing as a technique and cultural or spiritual musical artform, developed in Mongolia, Southern Siberia and Central Asia, in Tibet, and in South Africa Many theories exist that overtone singing once had a ritual and spiritual use in Kabbalistic ceremonies, Masonic lodges, mystery schools and Sufi practices. Some theories go as far as to say that it was used as long ago as the civilizations of Atlantis, Ancient Egypt and Mayan Central America.

Overtones, known also as harmonics, were first discovered in the West by Pythagoras some 2 600 years ago. The famous Greek philosopher and mathematician was also a musician, and together with his students spent years studying sound and vibration. He found, after studying the monochord, a single stringed instrument, that all sounds were composed of multiple vibrations or frequencies, not just one, as our ears generally perceive.

In much the same way that white light is made up of a wide spectrum of colours, which become visible when the light is refracted through a prism, sound too can be refracted so that its constituent parts can be perceived. Just as the rainbow is made up of the colours that the human eye sees as white light, overtones (harmonics) are the colours of sound. These overtones, which usually go unnoticed, are vitally important for all human beings, and allow us to differentiate between one sound and another. It is the richness of the overtones in certain parts of the infinite spectrum of sound which help us to tell the difference between one musical instrument and another, even when they both play the same musical note.

It is the overtones of the human voice, however, that are the most interesting, magical and mystical to hear. The singer produces a single, powerful humming sound, and then, through a variety of techniques, converts his whole upper body into a vibrating resonance chamber. Using the cranium, nasal passages, pharynx, chest, abdomen, and diaphragm, as well as all the parts of the mouth: tongue, lips, palate, soft palate, glottis and epiglottis, cheeks and jaw, the singer begins to channel the sound differently to a singer in the more “normal” singing traditions.

The sound that follows must be heard to be believed, in fact, many people do not at first believe what they are hearing, as a clear, beautiful, flute-like sound appears above the voice of the singer. An accomplished overtone singer can sing up and down the Harmonic Scale (Overtone Scale), reaching up to 16 overtones or more and create beautiful melodies above their voice.

One of the most healing, meditational and spiritual aspects of overtone singing is the fundamental drone; the unchanging root note from which the overtones spring.

Overtone singing has been discovered to have many therapeutic applications. Perhaps the most obvious of these is the hypnotic, trance-like effect they have both on the listener and the performer. This effect, essentially a form of deep meditation, relieves stress, balances and clears the chakras (energy centres of the body), and creates a feeling of lightness and well-being. The sound of overtones helps to balance the two hemispheres of the brain, as it engages both the logical, reasoning left-brain, due to the mathematically precise proportions of the overtone scale, and the creative, intuitive right brain through the musical expression possible once one has become proficient in the technique.

The harmonic ratios found on the overtone scale are, found throughout Nature, and reflect the natural structure of all life on Earth. We human beings are no exception. When listening to or creating overtones, we begin to resonate in harmony with these primordial vibrations of which we are made, and which reflect our own atomic, molecular and cellular structure.

Overtone singing, when practised with intention, can serve as a very powerful tool for vibrational “repatterning”, in other words, a way of re-programming our physical, mental and emotional bodies with a more harmonious, natural, “in tune” pattern. The beauty of this miraculous technique is that it bypasses the intellectual mind and goes right through to one’s essential being without being first analysed.

Analysis is an ancient human defence mechanism that helps us to make decisions based on experience, for our survival. But what happens when our experience, and the information with which we have been programmed is based on much incorrect information? How do we tell what is good for us or not?
Becoming aware of overtone singing, one begins a journey into the Voices
of the Voice and the Sound within the Sound.
When you hear or practise overtone singing you will know whether it is good for you or not.
You will know on levels much more profound than analytical deduction.
You will feel it resonate deep within you, where other primordial human qualities like intuition, instinct, unconditional love, compassion and joy reside.
You will vibrate in harmony with the Creation and feel one with it. You will come home, safe and Sound.
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© 2018 Harmonic Sounds.

MICHAEL ORMISTON : Mongolian Khöömii Singing Papers, Singers and Recordings

Soundtransformations, Michael Ormiston & Candida Valentino Web Pages

Mongolian Khöömii Singing Papers, Singers and Recordings

There have been many explanations of khöömii that I have come across over the years. I will attempt to point to the main contributors and sources. My own studies brought me to Mongolia in 1993/4/7 and 2000/5/6 and I have interviewed attended and set up workshops with Gereltsogt (London 1993) and Tserendavaa (Europe 2002) that gave me further insight. This page is still under construction and will be updated as I find time to put more information on. If you would like to send me any information regarding Mongolian khöömii and if any Mongolian khöömii singers would like their own page on this site then please email me at



Individual Lessons Info


Film Clips

Collaborations & Previous Projects


Concert info

TV Film Radio

Other CDs

Mongolian Music

Mongolian Khöömii Singers & Info

Home Page

Carol Pegg’s articles on Khöömii

Khöömii nomination extract for UNSECO Intangible Cultural Heritage 2010

Scientific American Article September 1999

The Chöömij of Mongolia A Spectral Analysis of Overtone Singing by Ronald Walcott 1974

Original Research and Acoustical Analysis in connection with the Xöömij Style of Biphonic Singing

Tran Quang Hai and Denis Guillou, Paris 1980

A Two Voiced Song With No Words by Lauri Harvilahti circa 1981

Tuvin Folk Music by A. N. Aksenov, Tuvinskaia Narodnaia Muzyka (Moscow, 1964)

Analysis of Acoustical Features of Biphonic Singing Voices Male and Female Xöömij and Male Steppe Kargiraa

By Takeda, Shoichi and Muraoka, Teruo

Why Do We Perceive Two Tones Simultaneously In Xoomij Mongolian Traditional Singing? By MasashiYamada

Synthesis of the laryngeal source of throat singing using a 2×2-mass model

Ken-Ichi Sakakibara, Hiroshi Imagawa, Seiji Niimi, Naotoshi Osaka

Physical Modelling of the vocal tract of a Sygyt singer by Chen-Gia Tsai

Perception of Overtone Singing by Chen-Gia Tsai

Kargyraa and meditation by Chen-Gia Tsai

Growl Voice in Ethnic and Pop Styles

Ken-Ichi Sakakibara, Leonardo Fuks, Hiroshi Imagawa, Niro Tayama 2004

False vocal fold surface waves during Sygyt singing: A hypothesis

Chen-Gia Tsai, Yio-Wha Shau, and Tzu-Yu Hsiao

False Vocal Fold Surface Waves During Sygyt Singing: a theoretical study by Chen-Gia Tsai

The Effect of the Hypopharyngeal and Supra-Glottic Shapes on The Singing Voice

Hiroshi Imagawa, Ken-Ichi Sakakibara, Niro Tayama, Seiji Niimi, 2003

The Laryngeal Flow model for Pressed-Type Singing Voices

Ken-Ichi Sakakibara, Hiroshi Imagawa, Seiji Niimi, Naotoshi Osaka 2006

Observation of Laryngeal Movements for Throat Singing. Vibrations of two pairs of folds in the human larynx

Ken-Ichi Sakakibara, Tomoko Konishi, Emi Zuiki Murano, Hiroshi Imagawa, Masanobu Kumada, Kazumasa Kondo, and Seiji Niimi
December 2002

Altai Khangai Ensemble info on Khöömii from the net

Zulsar on Khöömii from the Net

Page one of some Mongolian CD’s Featuring khöömii with track listings and liner notes

Page two of some Mongolian CD’s Featuring khöömii with track listings and liner notes

Page three of Some Mongolian CD’s found on the net

An Incomplete List of recorded Mongolian khöömii singers, click on letters

A to F G to R S to Z

Magic of Tone and the Art of Music by the late Dane Rhudyar
This is a very interesting extract about the Harmonic series from the now out of print book

Some Khöömii, Khoomei, Overtone Singing Links and Related Sites now mainly out of date will update soon





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Mr T a long time agao.jpg


AKSENOV, A.N. 1964: Tuvinskaja Narodnaja Muzyka, Moscou.
AKSENOV, A.N 1967: “Die Stile der Tuvinischen zweistimmigen
Sologesanges”,Stockmann, E. (editeur): Sowjetische Volkslied- und Volksmusikforschung : 293-307, Berlin
AKSENOV, A.N. 1973: “Tuvin Folk Music”, Journal of the Society for Asian
Music 4(2):7- 18, New York.
BADRAA, Z. 1981: “Xöömij” i “Urtyn duu”, specificeskie Javienija
Mongol’skoj tradicionnoj klassiceskoj muzyki”, Professional’naja Muzyka
Ustoj Tradicij Narodov Bliznevo Vostoka i Sovremennost : 116-119,
BADRAA, Z. 1986: “L’art Xöömij”, Les Nouvelles de Mongolie (9): 18-19,
Mongol Press.
BATZENGEL 1978: “Urtyn duu, Xöömii and Morin Xuur”, Muscial Voices of Asia:52-53, Tokyo.
BELFER, R. 1986: “Chant harmonique: découvrer votre deuxième voix”,
Médecines Douces (77): 50-53, Paris.
BLOOTHOOFT G., BRINGMANN E., van CAPELLEN M., Van LUIPEN, J.B., THOMASSEN, K.P. 1992: “Acoustic and Perception of Overtone Singing”, Journal of the Acoustical Society of America, JASA 92 (4), Part.1: 1827-1836, USA
BOREL-MAISONNY S. & CASTELLENGO, M.1976: “Etude radiographique des
mouvements oro-pharyngée pendant la parole et le jeu instrumental”,
Bulletin du Groupe d’Acoustique Musicale (86): 35p, Unversité de Paris VI.
COSI, P. & TISATO, G. 2003 : « On the Magic of Overtone Singing », Voce, Canto, Parlato / Studi in Onore di Franco Ferrero , Unipress (publisher): 83-100, Padova, Italie

DARGIE, D. 1985: “Some Recent Discoveries and Recordings in Xhosa Music”,
Papers presented at the 5th Symposium on Ethnomusicology,University
of Cape Town, International Library of African Music (ed):29-35,Grahamtown.
DARGIE, D. 1988: Xhosa Music / Its Techniques and Instruments, with a
Collection of Songs, David Philip, 235p, Cape Town & Johannesburg, Afrique du Sud
DARGIE, D. 1991:”Umngqokolo: Xhosa overtone singing and the song
Nondel’ekhaya”, African Music 7(1): 33-47, Grahamtown. Afrique du Sud
DARGIE, D. 1993: “Thembu Xhosa Umngqokolo Overtone Singing: The Use of the Human Voice as a Type of “Musical Bow”, paper for the ICTM Conference, manuscript, Berlin, Allemagne .
DESJACQUES, A. 1985: “Une considération phonétique sur quelques techniques
vocales diphoniques mongoles”, Bulletin du Centre d’Etudes de Musique
Orientale 31: 46-55, Paris.
DESJACQUES, A. 1993: Chants de l’Altai Mongol, thèse de doctorat , nouveau
régime, sous la direction du Prof. Manfred Kelkel et du Prof. Jacques
Legrand, Université de Paris IV-Sorbonne, 389p., Paris. (chapitre 1: Le
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Cette discographie sélective ne comporte que des disques compacts (CD).


” Les Voix du Monde “, Le Chant du Monde CMX 374 1010-12, collection CNRS- Musée de l’Homme, 3 CD avec un livret bilingue de 188p., Paris, 1996.


“Tuva: Voices from the Center of Asia” ,Smithsonian Folkways CD SF 40017,
Washington, USA, 1990.

“Tuva: Voices from the Land of the Eagles” , Pan Records, PAN 2005 CD,
Leiden Hollande, 1991.
“Tuva- Echoes from the Spirit World” , Pan Records, PAN 2013CD, Leiden,
Hollande, 1992.

“Tuvinian Singers and Musicians – Ch’oomej: Throat Singing from the Center
of Asia”, World Network, vol.21, Etats-Unis, 1993.

“Huun Huur Tu/ Old Songs and Tunes of Tuva”, Shanachie 64050, Etats-Unis,

“Huun Huur Tu / The Orphan’s Lament”, Shanachie 64058, Etats-Unis, 1994.

“Shu-De, Voices From the Distant Steppe “, Womad production for RealWorld,
CD RW 41, Pays Bas, 1994.

“Musiques Traditionnelles d’Asie centrale/ Chants harmoniques Touvas” ,
Silex Y 225222, Paris, France, 1995.

“Shu-de / Kongurei/ Voices from Tuva” , New Tone NT6745, (ed) Robi Droli,
San Germano, Italie, 1996.

“Chirgilchin: The Wolf and the Kid”, Shanachie Records, Etats-Unis, 1996.
“Deep in the Heart of Tuva”, Ellipsis Arts, Etats-Unis, 1996.
“Huun Huur Tu – If I’d Been Born An Eagle”, Shanachie Records, Etats-Unis,


“Mongolie: Musique et Chants de tradition populaire” , GREM G 7511, Paris,
France, 1986.

“Mongolie : Musique vocale et instrumentale” , Maison des Cultures du
Monde, W 260009, collection INEDIT, Paris, France, 1989.

“Mongolian Music”, Hungaroton, HCD 18013-14, collection UNESCO, Budapest,
Hongrie, 1990.

“White Moon, traditional and popular music from Mongolia” , Pan Records,
PAN 2010CD, Leiden, Hollande, 1992.

“Folk Music from Mongolia / Karakorum” , Hamburgisches Museum für
Völkerkunde, Hambourg, Allemagne, 1993.

“Vocal & Instrumental of Mongolia” , Topic, World Series TSCD909, Londres,
Grande Bretagne, 1994.

“Jargalant Altai/ Xöömii and other vocal and instrumental music from
Mongolia” , Pan Records PAN 2050CD, Ethnic Series, Leiden, Hollande, 1996


“Uzlyau : Guttural singing of the Peoples of the Sayan, Altai and Ural
Mountains” , Pan Records PAN 2019CD, Leiden, Hollande, 1993.

“Chant épiques et diphoniques : Asie centrale, Sibérie, vol 1″, Maison des
Cultures du Monde, W 260067, Paris, France, 1996.


” The Gyuto Monks: Tibetan Tantric Choir ” , Windham Hill Records WD-2001,
Stanford, Californie, USA, 1987.

” The Gyuto Monks: Freedom Chants from the Roof of the World ” , RYKODISC RCD 20113, Salem, Maryland, USA, 1989.
” Tibet: The Heart of Dharma/ Buddha’s Teachings and the Music They Inspired ” Ellipsis Arts 4050, New York, USA, 1996.



film en 16mm, couleurs, 38 minutes, réalisé par Hugo Zemp, co-auteurs : TRAN Quang Hai et Hugo ZEMP, produit par le CNRS Audio Visuel, Paris, 1989. Existe également en version video VHS, version française et anglaise . Contact :

Sites Web pour avoir des informations sur le chant diphonique

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Taper un des mots suivants : tran quang hai , chant diphonique, overtone singing, throat singing, khoomei, harmonic singing, canto difonico, canto diplofonico,