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Quirky Vocal Effects: Sideways Yodeling

Emma Robinson singing Paper Hearts
Become a Swiss mountaineer with a twist as Kim Chandler concludes her “Quirky Vocal Effects” series.

Traditional yodeling is defined by dictionary.com as being the ability “… to sing with frequent changes from the ordinary voice to falsetto and back again, in the manner of Swiss and Tyrolean mountaineers”. It’s also found in African communities, as shown by the Baka women from Cameroon.

Where normal singing tries to disguise the register changes in the voice, yodeling highlights these ‘breaks’. In traditional yodeling the lower notes are in chest voice and the higher ones in head voice, but in sideways yodeling this trend is reversed. This creates a distinctly different, unique effect, as Australian singer/beatboxer, Mal Webb, explains and demonstrates.

The Baka women from Cameroon

Mal Webb demonstrating sideways yodelling

There has been controversy surrounding the sound of sideways yodeling due to its similarity to the use of pitch-correction software Autotune. YouTube sensation ‘sideways yodeler’, Emma Robinson, posted her first cover online three years ago, when she was only 16. She has gone on to refine this technique to even more subtle levels, as her more recent cover of Tori Kelly’s “Paper Hearts” illustrates.

Emma Robinson’s first YouTube cover

Tori Kelly’s “Paper Hearts” | Emma Robinson

People initially accused Emma of using Autotune to create this effect in her videos, refusing to believe she could do this herself acoustically. In an online article she defends herself saying she’s always sung like this: “I’d say it’s a variation of yodeling or Celtic-type singing. It brings back those old Irish (songs),” she said. “I don’t know how I got it; I just can’t sing without it.”

But sideways yodeling isn’t new. Even veteran singers such as Aaron Neville have been known to dabble with it, as can be heard in his cover of  “With God On Your Side” from the Neville Brothers’ album “Yellow Moon” from 1989:

All of the vocal effects presented in this 3-part series: Hockets, Overtone Singing and Sideways Yodeling require truly exceptional levels of vocal control and high level musicianship. But they are also highly expressive and can lead you to new musical creativity, so I hope it inspires you to explore the full potential of your voice.

Remember: breaking out of “normal” singing can lead you to new inspiration for your singing or your songwriting.  experiment more with your own voice and explore its full potential.

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’s Voice Cross Trainer App is available for iOS and Android. It’s based on her popular “Funky ‘n Fun” vocal training series.

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.