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A brief description on the basis of the video

Polyphonic Overtone Singing

by Anna-Maria Hefele

For each of the four basic situations exemplified in the video, there is a visual analysis with a sound spectrogram produced by Overtone Analyzer (www.sygyt.com). The sound of the singing voice is composed of partials, illustrated as horizontal strips. The brighter the color, the more prominent the particular partial is present in the timbre.

Blue writing is added by DSP. Integers indicate the partial number from the harmonic series. 1 is the fundamental, the tone frequency we normally identify, the primary oscillation rate of the vocal folds. The fundamental may be any frequency within the singer's vocal range. The frequency of the other partials are multiples of that frequency.

Combinations of letters and integers are indications of interval sizes: mW = minor wholetone (9:10); MW = Major wholetone (8:9); s2 = septimal wholetone (7:8); s3 = septimal third (6:7); m3 = just minor third (5:6); M3 = just major third (4:5); P4 = perfect fourth (3:4); TT = tritone (5:7) & P5 = perfect fifth (2:3).

Please note: Singing is never merely a question of mastering a technique. A wide range of talented overtone singers are creating a basis for new artistic expressions which contain as much soul, sentiment, structure, sensuality and surprise as any other form of singing. Anna-Maria Hefele is making beautiful music solo, with her Supersonus ensemble and other constellations, and at the bottom of the page you may find a playlist with other polyphonic overtone singers. Enjoy!

Overtone scale on steady fundamental tone, approximately C4, 270 Hz. Remarkably the accentuated harmonics have a higher ampltude (lighter colour) than the fundamental. As partial #7 differs significantly from normal scale intervals, it has not been assigned with a solfège name. It is a natural (minor) seventh.

1) Fundamental with Accentuated Harmonics. 00:26: The singer holds a steady tone. By varying the resonance chamber of the vocal tract and by accurate use of the tongue, harmonic overtones may be accentuated one at a time, so that melodic movement is clearly audible in the harmonic layer. The example shows us an ascent of the overtone scale from partial #4-#10, where the descend begins. The intervals become succesively smaller as we rise. Most traditional Mongolian and Tuvan throat singing (khömeii, sygyt, kargyraa) is based on this, but there is a big difference between these techniques and Western overtone singing, including the degree of contraction of the throat. These types of throat singing is overtone singing, but Western overtone singing is rarely throat singing. Overtone singing on the basis of a steady drone is not polyphonic overtone singing.

The frequency of the harmonics is kept constant, while elements of its subharmonic series is sung in the fundamental voice.

2) Steady Overtone Frequency with Melodic Fundamental. 1:01: A single overtone is being accentuated and kept constant, while the fundamental voice moves melodically. The elements of this melodic movement must belong to the subharmonic series of the accentuated overtone frequency. If the accentuated harmonic had been for instance A5 = 880 Hz, the fundamental melody line should be formed by the frequencies A4= 440 Hz; D4= 293.33 Hz; A3= 220 Hz; F3= 176 Hz; ... etc. In the example the movements of the fundamental consists of minor and major third and perfect fourth intervals.

Fundamental and harmonics in parallel. Movements of melodic scale P1, M2, m3. Accentuated partial #6.

3) Fundamental and Harmonic in Parallel. 2:09: Fundamental tone and a single accentuated harmonic move in parallel. This is more difficult than it may sound, as every change in the fundamental may require an adjustment of the resonance chamber of the harmonic.

Fundamental tone is moved up and down in a perfect fourth intervals. The harmonics move upwards step by step and after that downwards step by step.

4) Counterpoint of Fundamental and Harmonic. 2:31: Fundamental and harmonic in counter movement: The fundamental tone may rise while the harmonic fall and vice versa. This is the art of combining two independent melody lines, singing in 'two-part harmony' with yourself.

5) Subharmonic Singing. Video demonstration by Jan Heinke By using techniques such as strohbass, Mongolian/tuvan kargyraa, Tibetan throat singing, etc. the apparent fundamental shifts one or more steps down into the subharmonic series. Taking off from for example A2= 110 Hz, the vestibular folds and other parts of the oral anatomy come in fluctuations of the half frequency (A1 = 55 Hz). In most cases, the subharmonic will be just one step down – an octave – but it is possible to produce at least the first seven elements of subharmonic series. The subharmonic series has the inverse intervals of the harmonic series, at 1/2, 1/3, 1/4, …. etc. frequency rate, but is not a perfect mirror image: Whereas harmonic overtones are components of any musical sound, the subharmonics are not measurable in the timbre of a given tone. By the subharmonic singing techniques the experience of a new fundamental tone is established. Subharmonic singing may be applied to the situations referred to above.

Playlist: Polyphonic Overtone Singers:

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