Overtone Music Network

a common space & database for harmonic overtones

Overtone Singing Techniques


Overtone Singing Techniques

There are many ways to produce vocal overtones. It depends by the structure of our vocal tract - tongue, cavities, ... - and our sensitiveness. We could explain our technique here.

Members: 101
Latest Activity: Jun 27, 2022


Essential requirements to sing without fear to damage vocal folds are:
1 - technique control
2 - consciousness and sensitiveness about personal limits

I think that we must remove some doubts:

- vocal range = all frequencies and noise between our extreme vocal limits (shrieks, yells, several noises, hissing sounds)

- vocal extension = all frequencies emitted with cleaning, with well controlled formants, without excessive effort

"Range" interval is larger than "extension" interval, that is more comfortable and safe.

Now we must distinguish between EFFICIENCY and EFFICACY.

An efficient voice involves a complete physiologic control of our vocal system, to obtain properly our vocal objective.

A voice is effective, not efficient, when our vocal system wants to obtain a good result in any case, at any cost.

When we can't obtain an efficient voice we move toward an effective voice with consequent incorrect behaviours of, and damages to, our vocal system.

Discussion Forum

How to teach overtone singing to a choir ... 1 Reply

Started by Jens Mügge. Last reply by Iannis Psallidakos Apr 6, 2018.

Invisible Instruments #1 Overtonesinging 2 Replies

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'lips, tongue, nose and throat singing' 8 Replies

Started by Dean Frenkel. Last reply by 1x2nbseym7ijt May 9, 2011.

Freeing the Voice by Igor Ezendam 5 Replies

Started by Jens Mügge. Last reply by 1x2nbseym7ijt Dec 3, 2010.

Comment Wall


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Comment by David Hykes on December 10, 2008 at 12:07pm
Hello everyone,

I'm interested to join this group, even though "overtone" and "techniques" are words I have "some issues" with. I don't mean that polemically at all, just a personal observation... By "issues," I really mean that they are terms I've thought a lot about over the (y)ears... What I've written below kind of got very long-winded --I'm not a big user of forums-- so, though I'll post this as written, I think I'll start a new forum here, called Harmonic Awareness... meantime... on one long breath :-)...

The whole sound (since the very beginning) is "overtones," or rather, harmonic, since the fundamental note is just as harmonic, just as "overtonally pure" as anything higher up (or lower down). Vive l'1!

To get beyond this quite basic misunderstanding, the word "harmonic" seems much more accurate and all-inclusive than "overtone," at least to me. That's why when I began my work in 1975, I did try out various names for my musical explorations, like "overtone singing" and "overtone chanting," but it bothered me to be emphasizing just the higher part of the spectrum-- seemed like maybe just more earthling addiction to "high"--Everest, high-jumping, bungee cord, etc.! :-). (I've often imagined a spoof film called "Spinal Tone" where we overtone-addicted earthlings are teased about "turning our voices up to 11"! (And beyond, of course!). And I think our field reached rock-bottom, paradoxically!, when after some overtone concert or other I heard somebody say, "wow, the overtones were so LOUD." Dude, just get a guitar.

As if we somehow had gotten so intoxicated on our own hot air that we really believe "higher is better" or that "louder is better." When René Guénon wrote prophetically about the current global penuries, "The Reign of Quantity," I believe he and others are referring to the constant danger of preferring Quantity to Quality. One voice speaking or singing the truth is worth a thousand of us making overtones-- no? The Emperor has no Chords! :-). By the way, I do believe more can be better, otherwise I wouldn't have started the Harmonic Choir in 1975 by saying to my filmmaking friends, "listen to this"! Nor would I have conducted a Harmonic Meeting with the 800,000 peace demonstrators in Central Park in New York in 1982... but ultimately it's qualities of harmonic being more than quantities of harmonic sound that will help the overall attunement...

Basically, what seems important are techniques that address the whole, not just a part. The whole spectrum, and the whole person-- harmonics not just of sound, but of listening, breath, sensation, and the world beyond...

"Techniques" is also a tricky area; techniques for what? Used by who? Who am I when I practice? Is being a technique? Is the harmonic nature of sound a technique? Is harmonic listening a technique? How come nobody looks for the UNALTERED state?!

We seem to often "use" techniques without the necessary "listening for the listener", without a sense of Self-inquiry, often with the same dualistic "I want" subject/object program so often running in the rest of our lives... When overtones are limited to being objects in my awareness field, inside or out, I'm in a state of separation... unless I am also doing harmonic work with awareness-- the silent side of all outer, technical topics.

They certainly serve their purpose, but the point would seem to be how they might reduce the sense of separation, how they clarify our (rather deaf) awareness, help a sense of connection, merging with nature, the universe, others... these are awareness topics, meaning topics, toward which any technique, modern or ancient, naturally leads when we work in the spirit of seeking attunement... techniques for recongizing different qualities of awareness...

I think it's important to remember, perhaps especially when "zeroing in" on technical concerns, that "harmonic presence" is found throughout the universe, from the Big Bang to harmonics of stars (stellar seismology). I see "listen up" and "look up" as good advice to help us beyond our earthling-centric debates.

As we say in the Harmonic Chant/Harmonic Presence work-- harmonics are universal, just like gravity, light and heat. Gravity is not Bulgarian (for example); light is not Canadian, heat is not Ukrainian; likewise, harmonics are everywhere to be heard; all music and singing is fundamentally harmonic.

Once that basic question is settled, one is more free to study teachings and practices about the harmonic presence in listening, awareness, breath, silence, and other aspects of reality. Yes, harmonics of listening-- different qualities, levels, aspects, dimensions, layers, textures... First, the music of the spheres; then the even bigger questions about the music of the spheres of listening...

I've just come back from some immersive time with my godbrother and godmother from a Pueblo tribe in New Mexico, where I was born. Their music is utterly haunting...and they love Harmonic Chant, as do several of my Tibetan teachers-- before and beyond temporal notions of "new", "old", it seems that, whatever the "duration" of our cultures, that we can meet and feel connection and harmony in a realm somehow outside of time.

So, on the most human level, I guess it's in the realm of "techniques for going beyond time" where things seem to get the most interesting.

The "honest harmonic seeker" approach we try and take in that area is actually quite simple-- basically, listening in to all cycles of which we are "composed" --cycles meaning frequencies, vibrations, phases, and especially, all these ups and downs of life on Earth. And of course at the same time listening in to the vast silence and space of the fundamental background-- the resonant emptiness. By completing the study of the harmonic nature of reality, we will eventually find again the "free listening" liberated from all such cyclic constraints. And of course, "samsara" means...cycles. We are in these cycles, these harmonics. It's us; it's the entire music of what we each call "my life."

To work in that direction, no secret about the curriculum, a large ensemble of "techniques" to develop integral harmonic knowledge linking music, mind, meditation and medicine...

At the heart of the matter-- this matter-- something really really essential to be heard, attuned to... what is it?

The "oldest singing"?

Maybe it's truly silent listening, free of all identification. Then "the message" comes through, just as it is, to each of us, just as we are. I do believe it's the purest listening that IS the best music...

OK, I don't mean to seem to be taking the easy way out about the topic of this forum! My apologies if that is the case. In Harmonic Chant, the lineage we have developed since 1971, we are also very concerned with technique, up to a point.

That's why the principal teaching structure in Harmonic Chant studies is "The Twelve Levels." It's a very precise taxonomy of technical possibilities, which keep in mind the overall unity of the vibrational spectrum and the (silent listening) mind from which it arises.

By the way, everybody is invited to our ongoing programs, whether at our main center in France, our online Chant Room programs, or at one of the many Harmonic Presence retreats/seminars in different countries.

Sorry, one very commercial and happy announcement-- we've just released an audiophile edition of Hearing Solar Winds, called HEARING SOLAR WINDS ALIGHT, to celebrate the 25th anniversary of the recording. It's available HERE.

This is the first "wave" in a year-long series of exploration/sharing/events/gatherings we're organizing with the HPF, called "Harmonic Year 2009".

With peace and all best wishes,

David Hykes
Harmonic Presence Foundation
©David Hykes 2008
all rights reserved.
Comment by Dean Frenkel on December 7, 2008 at 1:53am
Steve, No problems with disagreement or healthy debate.
In answer to your two questions,
The fact that so many Aboriginal cultures all over the world practise different forms of throat singing and that cultures on both sides of the Bering Strait (which was submerged by ocean about 14,000 years ago) have been continuing to throat sing are strong evidence of this. Genetic evidence (see the Genographic Project) that these cultures are linked to Mongolia makes it even considerably older.

Indeed I am unaware of evidence of any other form of singing that is older.

Do you really think that overtone singing is as new as rap?

ENDANGERMENT? I am aware that throat singing is thriving in Tuva, but in most of its traditional grounds it is clearly in trouble. As you’d be aware it is practised broadly by Aboriginal cultures all over the world and universally they're in crisis. The Ainu lost their last throat singer in 1976, Inuits were banned from throat singing for most of the 20th century, throat singing tribes in Papua New Guinea, Siberia, Africa, Asia are being swallowed up by Christianisation and it’s so endangered in Tibet that the Dalai Lama has sounded alarm bells about the genocide of Tibetan culture and monumentally opened its cultural practises to the west. Sure there’s a new wave of interest in the west, but is it enough to sustain it beyond the 21st Century?
Comment by Steve Sklar on September 14, 2008 at 7:47am
Anna-Maria, kargyraa is really no mystery; the gist is that one engages the ventricular folds at half the speed of the vocal folds, along with voicing the vocal folds. A bit of constriction at the correct level in the larynx, just above the vocal folds, they enter the airstream, and voila! Kargyraa (at least beginner kargyraa). At least as far as getting the basic sound, that's the "trick." There is no special breathing technique peculiar to kargyraa, but good karg uses very little breath.

Dean, good to "see" you ;-) With respect but curiosity, I've seen you write that before (elsewhere) and I don't understand the basis for such comments. I've yet to find any evidence that OS is the oldest form of singing, neither have any researchers of which I'm aware. Nor do I expect to... Also, throat-singing is absolutely thriving in numerous locations, traditional and not. What/where is the endangerment?

Best to all,

Comment by Dean Frenkel on September 12, 2008 at 12:53am
This is the oldest form of singing in the world, practised by indigenous peoples in disparate pockets of the world and mainly from non-writing societies. It is also endangered in its traditional grounds. This forum is helping to keep alive something very important.
Comment by valentina on August 30, 2008 at 2:02pm
for Anna-Maria on kargyraa
preamble: I'm very far from sing kargyraa...so my advices arevery simple.. and not so precise... but ,the first thing that tran quang hai teach is to move the lower part of the abdomen, in particolar to push out.. I don't know the fisic relation between throat, breathing and those muscles, but in my experince i've observed that in this way i don't irritate my throat (my larynx?) and I can sing quite a long...
Certainly there are somebody more expert than me on this forum!!! the topic is very interesting!
Comment by Ens. "Au Coeur de la Résonance" on August 30, 2008 at 1:44pm
Hi Marco,

Thank you very much for inviting me!
I will be very happy to share tips and techniques on overtone singing and also to learn.
Comment by Soheyla B. Fahimi on August 29, 2008 at 3:30pm
ciao marco,
sat nam dear sakshi,
thank you soooooooooo much for the invitation.
i am glad to be here, though not having that much time now to be as activ as i wish to be ;-)
hope to have soon a bit more time for learning and sharing more here :-))

love and blessings
and lots of good vibes
for all you are going to do

Comment by riccardo misto on August 28, 2008 at 10:37pm
ciao Marco, eccomi qua...Grazie per l'invito.Spero di riuscire a gestire tutti i "siti e sottositi" che stanno proliferando. A presto
Comment by Anna-Maria Hefele on August 28, 2008 at 5:42pm
I would like to know more about kargyraa techniques and the way of breathing while singing kargyraa. I tried very often and it didn't work...
can anybody explain?
Comment by valentina on August 28, 2008 at 3:58pm
Grazie dell'invito! A presto!

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