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Quirky Vocal Effects: Overtone Singing

Overtone Singing
Everyone has “Quirky Vocal Effects” and they can add to your musical development -says Kim Chandler.

‘Overtones’, ‘harmonics’ or ‘partials’ are other higher pitches that are contained in the main note or ‘fundamental’ that you’re singing. In other words, when you think you’re singing one note, you’re in fact always singing at least ten!

The overtone or harmonic series is a set series of notes that is common to all pitched instruments, including the voice

Overtone singing or Harmonics singing is partly inspired by my own ability to whistle and sing in counterpoint – a different but related skill that I’ve been able to do since I was a child.

The overtone or harmonic series is a set series of notes that is common to all pitched instruments, including the voice. It’s based on ratios (partials) of the fundamental (main) note and its discovery is generally attributed to old Greek philosopher & mathematician Pythagoras.

The first harmonic is an octave above the fundamental, then a 5th above that, then 2 octaves above, then a major 3rd above, a minor 3rd above and so on & so on with increasingly smaller intervals the higher the series goes. Perhaps you’ve heard acoustic guitarists tuning to harmonics?

10-HarmonicSeries

These harmonics or overtones can be expertly manipulated and turned into beautiful melodies with a haunting tone, as ably demonstrated one of my expert colleagues, Rollin Rachele:

‘Rollin Rachele ‘Overtone Singing’ Music Video’ on YouTube

Overtone singing has a long history and can be found in cultures such as the Canadian Inuit and in Mongolian & Tuvan “throat singing”.

Daughter of soul legend Donny Hathaway, Lalah Hathaway, is a highly respected singer in her own right who has stunned audiences with her ability to sing in harmony with herself live. Many have speculated how she does this and my theory is that she’s achieving it via harmonics. Here is an example of her doing this ‘trick’ live (a clip from a concert in London I attended myself) (12 seconds in):

‘Lalah Hathaway Harmonizing With Herself’ on YouTube

Have fun discovering and playing with your own harmonics! Everybody has them!

See the first article in this series “Quirky Vocal Effects: Hockets”.

Kim’s Voice Cross Trainer App is available now. It’s based on her popular “Funky ‘n Fun” vocal training series.

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Kim Chandler Bio

Kim Chandler is one of the UK’s top session singers and industry vocal coaches. She’s coached diverse charting artists such as Courtney Love, Paloma Faith, Jess Glynne, Birdy, Katy B, Laura Mvula, Betsy, Marlon Roudette, Josh Franceschi (You Me At Six), Oli Sykes (Bring Me The Horizon), Mikey Chapman (Mallory Knox) and more. Kim has worked on two series of “The Voice UK” and is a regular as a vocal coach at Abbey Road Studios. In the academic world she presents at workshops, master classes and national & international voice conferences. Her work can also be found in TC-Helicon’s The Ultimate Guide To Singing and Springer’s “Teaching Singing in the 21st Century”. Kim’s Voice Cross Trainer App is available for iOS and Android. It’s based on her popular “Funky ‘n Fun” vocal training series. See her Website.


 


  • keith

    intensely primal, deep, very deep. I gotta try it.