What is Overtone Singing?

inspiraton science of singing vocal techniques youtube Oct 13, 2020

And now for something a little outside the (voice) box! Let’s have ourselves a listen to some overtone singing.

What is overtone singing you ask? It’s a vocal technique that involves a singer keeping one note steady (the fundamental note) while manipulating the shape of the mouth to change the natural harmonics, or overtones, in the voice. The effect is the sound of two distinct notes in harmony at the same time, coming from one person.

“Not possible!” you cry. OR IS IT? I give you Exhibit A:

Polyphonic Overtone Singing – Anna-Maria Hefele

In this video, Anna-Maria demonstrates her polyphonic overtone singing magic. Human or otherworldly elven robot alien mer-person? You be the judge.

Anna-Maria’s comment section is epic, please tip your waiters:

> “So a Mongolian throat singer, Swiss Yodeler and Aussie didgeridoo player walk into a bar….”
> “I wonder how many men she’s led into the misty sea.”
> “When you accidentally swallow an 80’s synthesizer board.”
> “X Æ A-12 at his school talent show.”
> “What if she’s actually giving us the winning lotto numbers but we have to decode this first.”
> “She has the ability to rid a town of its entire rat population.”

Mind-blowing is an MRI of her singing this way. (Look at her tongue!):


What’s particularly interesting is how this technique can make the voice feel like a completely different instrument:

Rosary Sontata 1 – Supersonus

Watch Anna-Maria do her thing from 1:07 to 1:27, 2:00 to 2:44 and then again from 5:05 to 5:50.

Here’s Avi Kaplan casually busting out his overtone version of The Lion Sleeps Tonight, live. #BrainExplodingEmoji.

Avi Kaplan Overtone Singing Lion Sleeps Tonight – Pentatonix Orpheum Los Angeles


Interested in seeing if you, too, can achieve human/bagpipes hybrid status?

How to Sing Overtones (Tutorial)

AJ provides a short lesson on how to produce your first distinct overtone sounds:

To skip the explanation and go straight to the tutorial, start at 1:12

How’d you do? Let us know in the comments! Already an overtone overlord? Tell us your secrets!

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