WIKIPEDIA: Throat singing

Throat singing

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Throat singing refers to several vocal practices found in different cultures around the world[1][2][3][4]. The most common feature of such vocal sounds is producing the sensation of more than one pitch at a time, i.e., the listener perceives two or more distinct musical notes when the singer is producing a single vocalization. Throat singing, therefore, consists of a wide range of singing techniques that originally belong to some particular cultures and seem to share some sounding characteristics that make them especially noticeable by other cultures and users of mainstream singing styles[5][6][7][8][9]. Probably, the term originates from the translation of the Mongolian word Xhöömei , that literally means throat[10].

The term is not precise, because any singing technique involves the sound generation in the “throat”, i.e., the voice produced at the level of the larynx, which includes the vocal folds and other structures[7][11][12][9] . Therefore it would be, in principle, admissible to refer to classical operatic singing or pop singing as “throat singing” for instance. However, the term throat is not adopted by the official terminology of anatomy and is not technically associated with most of the singing techniques. Furthermore, “singing with the throat” may be a demeaning expression for many individuals and communities of singers, because it may imply that the singer is using a high effort for voice production, resulting in a rather forced or non-suitable voice. In spite of being a term frequently used in the literature starting in the 1960’s, some contemporary scholars tend to avoid the use of throat singing as a general term.

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


Types of throat singing

The most commonly referred types of throat singing techniques, present in musicological and ethnomusicological texts, are generally associated with ancient cultures:

  • Tuvan throat singing, a form of singing, comprising several techniques, practiced in the Republic of Tuva, belonging to the Russian federation.[13][14][15][1]
  • Mongolian throat singing, a form of singing, comprising several techniques, practiced in Mongolia[16][2]
  • Buddhist chant, found in some monasteries in India (Tibetan exiled communities) and Tibet, sometimes involving vocal-ventricular phonation, i.e., combined vibrations of the (true) vocal folds and the (false) ventricular folds, achieving very low pitches.[17][2][18].
  • Inuit throat singing, the kind of duet as an entertaining contest, practiced by the aboriginal Inuit cultures in Canada (formerly called Eskimos) and other territories in the Arctic Circle[19]
  • Rekuhkara, formerly practiced by the Ainu ethnic group of Hokkaidō Island, Japan[20]
  • Cantu a tenore, or Sardinian throat singing, found in the Italian Island of the same name [21].

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

  • Overtone singing, also known as overtone chanting, or harmonic singing. This is the singing style more commonly associated with throat singing.[22][23][24]
  • Undertone singing[25] i.e., techniques that comprise subharmonics, generated by the combined vibrations of parts of the singing apparatus at a certain frequency and frequencies that correspond to integer divisions of such frequency, such as 1:2, 1:3, and 1:4 ratios.[8]
  • Diplophonic voice, i.e., techniques that consist of parts of the singing apparatus vibrating at non-integer ratios, are usually regarded as associated with pathological processes – see diplophonia.[26]
  • Growling voice – consists of a technique of growling, which employs structures of the vocal apparatus located above the larynx, vibrating at the same time as the vocal folds, particularly the aryepiglottic folds.[27]
  • Vocal Fry,[28] a technique associated to vocal fry register.

MP3 audio examples[edit | edit source]

See also

External links

Look up throat singing in Wiktionary, the free dictionary.


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  1. Lindsey, Geoff (2019), “Chapter 27 Vocal Fry”, English After RP, Cham: Springer International Publishing, pp. 95–96, retrieved 2021-10-01


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