A throat singer sits with their instrument. (Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons)
La Cañada High School

A conversation about throat singing

This story was co-written by Stephanie Kiang and Sara Haleblian. Paragraphs written by Sara are italicized.

Last year in one of my classes, I was introduced to throat singing in the most hilarious way possible. A couple of students discovered this wonderful form of art while goofing off in Spanish class one day, and decided to begin practicing their terrific Mongolian throat singing skills during class. They were naturals, and I was amazed that someone could pick up such an act so quickly. More of my classmates began to take up throat singing, and soon, I heard it almost every day.

I was intrigued by this, and attempted to do this myself. Throat singing is a kind of singing that requires the singer to sing more than one note at the same time (in most cases), and also requires sounds to be made using various parts of the throat and mouth. This has become my latest passion in life, and it is now my mission to introduce as many people to it as possible. I can currently do two kinds (but I would like to learn how to do all of them): Mongolian and Tuvan Khoomei (pronounced as “who my”). The Mongolian style was the first type of throat singing I learned, but Tuvan Khoomei comes more naturally to me.

During an interesting lunch conversation, Stephanie shared a story about her class, and she told me that some kids were practicing something new called throat singing. I was interested, so we watched a video that explained what throat singing was.

If you have a naturally deep voice, throat singing will be easier for you to learn and practice than someone with voices such as ours. This is because you will have already been used to the sounds your voice makes, whereas someone with voices like ours will have to train themselves how to make specific — and sometimes challenging — sounds.

With that being said, it is also crucial to understand that throat singing requires lot of time, patience, and warming-up. The last things you want to do are hurt your throat or teach yourself how to throat sing incorrectly.

For quick, easy warm-ups, I would recommend humming for short periods of time and gradually increasing the increments as more time passes. This way, you will get accustomed to using your throat differently than how you are typically used to, and it’s a safe way to prepare for the intense practice of throat singing.

After you have become quite comfortable with humming, watch tutorials on throat singing (yes, there’s more out there than you think, and they’re beautiful). These can include step-by-step videos, or, if you’re feeling a bit more adventurous, you can listen to throat singing music and carefully attempt to mimic how the performers sound. I highly recommend Tenger Cavalry, a Folk-Metal throat singing Mongolian band, and Mongolian throat singing dubstep. I recommend listening to how the singers throat sing first before trying it on your own after, so you know what sounds right and wrong. This is the method that I have personally used, and it has worked.

What makes throat singing so wonderful is that it is unlike any other kind of singing in the world. Nothing can possibly compare to throat singing, and this is why it is an important aspect of my life. Whenever I have a chance, I practice my throat singing to the best of my ability. I also feel connected to others that can throat sing, especially those who are completely self-taught and aren’t of Tibetan or Mongolian descent. While I do not personally know any of these people, the fact that we share an interest/passion makes throat singing even more enjoyable because of the sense of community.

Throat singing is such a unique thing. It is very different from normal singing from artists such as Beyonce, Kendrick Lamar, or Katy Perry. Rather than using their vocal cords, the people use their throat to add a deeper tone to the singing. They also avoid playing typical instruments like guitars or pianos; instead, they use things called shants, yoochin (yoo-chin), khuucir, and yatga. These instruments aren’t common in American music, which is something that makes throat singing so unique. Not to mention, this is part of someone’s culture, and getting to see it on YouTube or online allows the viewer to experience that culture for themselves. So many people are not exposed to this type of music, and I definitely think more people should start listening to this.  

Throat singing is something which has brought us closer together. We have had many bonding moments in which we have smiled watching throat-singing videos on the internet together. We have smiled plenty of smiles, and laughed together often over throat singing. Our favorite is a dubstep version of throat singing with a complete choreography.

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