What is Throat Singing?

What is Throat Singing?

Where does the concept of throat singing comes from?

Free image of Mongolian nature took by: https://pixabay.com/

Maybe you’ve heard some people call Bulgarian Folk Singing “throat singing”. There is also “throat singing”, which some of you may have heard about, which is typical of many nations, it’s also used nowadays and originates from Mongolia. I’d like to briefly tell you more about it and then, you’ll better understand where the concept “throat singing” comes from. Long time ago the people lived in harmony with nature and they wanted to connect with it and its sounds. They started to use their voice to imitate different sounds they hear in nature. Later, to do this, they also started to use instruments. This is how the Mongolian throat singing originated.  Not only is the throat singing a singing style but it’s also an instrument for a meditation. It encourages unity with nature, selflooking and relaxation. After listening to throat singing a lot of people start to feel a powerful flow of energy, inspiration and self peace. This type of singing is an integral part of the ritual of Tibetan worship. The Mongolian throat singing is also called overtone singing, because besides the main tone, using the right technique, we can sing and amplify the overtones, which always sound at the same time as the main tone. Using this technique, we can sing two tones simultaneously. There are many different types of throat singing, including such without overtone singing.

But why the Bulgarian Folk Singing is also called that way? You’ll understand in the next few sentenses. 

What are the similarities and differences between Bulgarian and Mongolian throat singing? 

A few years ago, I had the great opportunity to meet an incredible throat singer from Mongolia – Zolzaya Bolbaatar. He is not that famous there but has been teaching all his life. It was really interesting for me to talk to him and ask him my questions about throat singing. When I asked him, if he has ever had a vocal injures and health problems with his vocal cords after singing, because I’d heard this type of singing isn’t so good for the voice, he answered me: 

“When I feel my voice isn’t healthy I cure it with singing. So everything falls into place.”

Photo credit: Alexandar Lazarov

During our conversation, he explained to me that in Mongolian throat singing, the control isn’t coming from the diaphragm, as in popular musical styles but mainly from the larynx muscles. That creates a very throaty sound and that’s the reason this type of singing is called that way. The mainly used register in this type of singing is the chest register. Here comes the similarities with the Bulgarian folk singing, as the control of the sound is coming from the larynx muscles and the main used register is the chest one. The sound of both styles is throaty and loud and the singing is unhealthy. The “clavicle breathing” used in both singing styles creates tension in the larynx and face muscles. It makes the singing process unhealthy. Actually the differences between the two types of singing comes mainly from the way the resonators are used. 

Is there a way to sing healthier and to keep our voice save using these both techniques? 

Some time ago I had the pleasure to meet, virtually with  Anna Maria-Hefele (german throat (overtone) singer). During our conversation I understood that her technique differs from Zolzoya’s, which I already mentioned above. In Anna’s singing she tries to relax the larynx muscles and apply classical music techniques, which creates a lot more healthy singing process.

Made by: Zornitsa Teneva

If you want to learn more about this incredible type of singing, I recommend you to contact  Anna. Of course, in Bulgarian Folk Singing style there are also ways to sing healthier and to use proper posture and to breath correctly. Very important thing when we try to do it is using our ears and try to sing the way it sounds good, without loosing the authenticity of the musical style. That’s not an easy thing, but it is very important to find the balance between them in order to sound like a professional Bulgarian Folk Singer, to sing for a long time and preserve the qualities of your voice over time. It’s wonderful that we have so many information nowadays and we can learn a lot from other musical styles, try to sing the Bulgarian Folk Singing more healthy, beautifully and without loosing its authenticity. This gives us the chance to sound better, to have more power and endurance, to understand how the human voice actually works and how to keep it always healthy and be in a good vocal shape. 

Never stop looking for ways to sing more freely and to keep your voice healthy and beautiful over time!