Jump to content

An Introduction to Western Style Overtone Singing by Igor Ezendam

   (0 reviews)


When listening to overtone singing (also called 'harmonics') one can hear a high-pitched flutelike sound that rises above the normal or fundamental note.

My first overtones came out of a radio in 1986, listening to a life-concert of David Hykes and his Harmonic Orchestra in the Milkyway in Amsterdam, and i've searched for a similar sound in my own voice ever since. After studying this subject on my own for ten years, and another ten years of concerts presenting this type of sound, I now feel comfortable to teach some basics of overtone singing.

So, a first remark would be: have patience, invest some time in it over a longer period of time, and it will come to you... There's a technical and a spiritual part to overtone singing. In my courses I try to deal with both aspects, techniques and content, the heart of the matter.

Origin and future of harmonics

The roots of overtone singing can be found somewhere between Tuva (Mongolia) and Tibet (the One-Voice-Chord of the buddhist monks of Gyoto), with connotations in Gregorian chant and similar singing styles that lengthen the vowel-sounds to bring out more harmonics.

In our days overtone singing has gained new aspects: there is now a 'western style' of overtone singing which uses an open throat instead of squeasing as Tuvan 'Kargyry' and 'Khoomeï' styles tend to do. In the next part i will talk about the western style.


I usually ask my students to begin with a good yaughn, then to repeat the yaughn while looking with an inner eye, to see how the throat and the mouth take on a more spacious shape, perfect for more resonant sound.

Tone of voice

I find that a good note / tone to start singing with is the tone you use when speaking normally. Then gradually find higher pitches, until you find a note that you can comfortably sing for a longer period of time, and that resonates well.


A good practice is getting to know the vowels intimately (U - ò - O - à  - A - è - E - I), like in the question "Why?". Each vowel-step has a unique place in the body, a vibration one can learn to detect, to feel and 'read' intuitively, first on oneself, then also while singing for someone else. Do 'Toning', singing just one note, concentrating on getting your sound out clearly, noticing every feeling you get in your body, getting more sensitive to little changes. Practice opening the mouth very slowly: learn to distinguish the first 5 overtones by opening your mouth in very small increments (with the tongue flat).

A few good words to try singing slowly are:

WHY (U - ò - O - à - A - è - E - I),

WOW (move your lips from U to O to A, slowly opening and closing),

HARMONY (softening the consonants as you sing)

and any other word that has a trajectory of sounds that evolve, different vowels creating soundshapes.

The sound-shape of a person

Any word or name you come across, when sung in this way that amplifies the harmonics becomes highly interesting. One can read the 'energetical pattern', the sound-shape of a person by singing their name very slowly. I do this in my courses, telling people to close their eyes as they sing, and to turn on their inner vision, letting colours and pictures come up, while feeling/listening also to the vibration of the sounds as they travel through the body.

"So how 'R' you?"

Next step, one learns to play with the tongue, forming a flute-like shape inside the mouth. You find it when you say in posh English, the queen of England speaking, "So how 'R' you?" You can repeat the same words used above, but with the tongue in R-shape. Fixing the tongue on that exact spot where the R-sound is most resonant, you start following the vowels very slowly. The tongue gets tired in the beginning, but with time one gets used to this special kind of gymnastics.

Becoming aware

The other half of the work is becoming aware. This is a personal progression: looking at beliefs about and habits of the voice, our thought-patterns while we sing.

The biggest aim, of course, is to permanently reside in our heart, to be loving when we sing. To be in the moment, and sing, the greatest skill to practice!

I sing for you

We're connected, like communicating vessels. And when we sing we open up, to ourselves and to the world. I listen to you... I sing for you, I feel you, and you feel better! Our sound has a profound effect on our world, our words are only half of what we communicate. Our emotions are the other half, readable in the way we say things, in the kind of sound we emit.

We can learn to diagnose our mood as we learn to observe and modulate the sound we emit. Singing is breathing, following our breath into our body and letting tension go. Just listening evolves into understanding ourselves and others. Hearing someone else sing we can feel it's counterpart inside us. It's a miracle!

Well now, that would be it for today, I'm sure I can add to this as time comes,

if anyone feels to comment on or along these lines, I'd be mighty grateful!

Igor Ezendam,



  Report Articles


User Feedback

Join the conversation

You can post now and register later. If you have an account, sign in now to post with your account.


  • Create New...