Crazy Things People Do With Their Voices
So we may not see them in next year’s season of American Idol but they are just as/even more mind-blowing to watch. Here is a look at some of the incredible things people do with their voices and how they do it.
Any physical object has specific frequencies at which it will naturally vibrate. These are known as resonance frequencies. When you glide a moistened finger around the rim of a wine glass, the vibrations produced are what create the humming sound. Now, in order to break glass, not only do you need to generate sound at a particular frequency but also at a high enough amplitude so to exceed the strength of the glass resisting vibrations. In order to determine the right pitch, tap the glass, and mimic the sound. The glass in question should be crystal. Crystal vibrates and the glass flexes during those vibrations. When the sound gets too loud for the glass to simply vibrate, and causes too much pressure and flexing, the glass will shatter. If you, like me, are going to attempt this at home, be sure to protect your eyes with safety glasses.
Throat singing or overtone singing is a complex form of singing, practiced in Central Asia and Siberia. The singer manipulates the resonances (the sound waves vibrating) created as air travels from the lungs, past the vocal folds, out the lips, and produce a melody.
Tuvan throat singing, originating in Tuva (an autonomous republic in the Russian Federation) is the best-known form of throat singing. The open landscape of Tuva allows for sound to carry a great distance. Tuvan singers will travel far into the countryside to find the right river and the best environment for throat singing. Throat singing is rooted in mimicking nature; animals, wind, water…
Tuvan singers are said to be the pioneers of six pitch harmonics and are able to produce harmonized sounds from deep within their throats. All styles of Tuvan throat singing or Khoomei involve controlled tension in and manipulation of the diaphragm, throat, and mouth. The singer can extract overtones by varying the shape of oral parts and the pharynx. There is one fundamental tone which remains constant. The melodies are sung in the highest overtone. The high overtone resembles the sound of a flute.
Inuit Throat Singing
Inuit throat singing evolved a little differently than did Tuvan throat singing, Inuit throat singing was a form of entertainment practiced between Inuit women while men were away on hunting trips. The women stand face-to-face, holding each others’ arms and play the vocal breathing game. Sounds produced can be voiced or unvoiced produced by inhalation and exhalation. Like a contest, the women challenge each other to see who can outlast the other. One singer begins by setting a short rhythmic pattern, which she repeats leaving brief silent intervals between each repetition. The other singer fills in the gap with another rhythmic pattern. Usually the competition lasts up to three minutes until one of the singers starts to laugh or is left breathless.
Developed primarily as a method of communication between neighbors who lived at mountain peaks apart in the Swiss Alps, yodeling is the rapid change from natural voice to falsetto and back. The yodeler sings an extended note, which rapidly and repeatedly changes in pitch from the vocal chest register to the head register (i.e. chest voice to head voice and back). The sound effect thus produces a high-low-high-low sound.
The word yodel comes from the German verb jôlen, which translates to shrieking with joy and was first used in Emanuel Schikaneder’s lyrical drama “Der Tyroler Wastl” 1796. The yodel song, (Yodel-aaaa-eeeee-oooooo) has been around since 1818 and based on Tyrol yodels which were performed in Switzerland by wandering singers from Austria. Traditionally yodel songs were about the mountains and the homeland.
Rahzel has been credited as the first person to conquer the art of simultaneously singing and beatboxing at the same time.
Beatboxing is a form of urban vocal percussion, using one’s mouth, lips, tongue, voice and more! The beatboxer can imitate the sound of a drum kit, while singing, while copying the sound of samplers, synthesizers and DJ decks. Beatboxing in hip hop, originated in the early 1980’s and derived its name from the first generation drum machines know as beatboxes. Imitating percussions is thousands of years old though. Originating in India several thousands of years ago, they used vocal ‘bols’ which sounded very similar to the sounds played on percussive instruments. Before putting your voice through this very difficult style of singing, warm your voice up with some karaoke songs online.
In ritualistic African music, loud in-and-out breathing (a.k.a. over-breathing) was used as a two-beat rhythm and vocal percussion patterns were also used such as, “hup, hup, hup, hup” and “Ch Ka Ch Ch”.
Learn more about beatboxing and its history here
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