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11: How can I learn to sing khoomei?


This article is from the Tuva FAQ, by Kerry Yackoboski kerryy@nortel.ca with numerous contributions by Bernard Greenberg, Bernard Dubriel, Alan Shrives, Kevin Williams, Albert Kuvezin, Dr Oliver Corff, Mike Vande Bunt, Ralph Leighton, Masahiko Todoriki, Alan Leighton, Ken Simon, and Sami Jansson.

11: How can I learn to sing khoomei?

It's not easy; the best singers begin their training before they can
walk. However, it's not impossible to learn later.

* Dan Bennett has volunteered his advice, reproduced below.
* Steve Sklar (ssklar@uswest.net) has some online instructions
* I also recommend an excellent pamphlet, "Khoomei - How To's
and Why's" by Michael Emory, PO Box 648, Westbury, NY, USA,
11590. Michael's illustrations, while not exactly helpful,
are fantastic. His text is quite useful.
* Teachers are available for seminars or workshops in North
America. Steve Sklar is both reachable online
(ssklar@uswest.net) and willing to travel to teach.

The absolute best advice was offered by Ralph Leighton, namely, listen to
masters and imitate.

How to Sing Khoomei (by Dan Bennett, dan_bennett@hp.com )

Khoomei is easiest for men. I *have* heard a recording of a Mongolian
Kazakh women singing khoomei, but it's simply not so easy or spectacular,
because of the higher pitch of the female voice. (Sainkho Namchylak can
sing khoomei too.)

1: Sing a steady note while saying "aah" (to start with). Pitch it in the

middle of your range, where you can give it plenty of energy, i.e. - Sing
it loudly.

2: Aim to make the sound as bright - not to say *brash* - as you can. The

more energy there is in the harmonics, the louder and clearer they'll be
when you start singing khoomei. Practise this for a while.

3: OK, with this as a basis for the sound generation, you've got to arrange

your mouth to become a highly resonant acoustic filter. My style
(self-taught, but verified for me by a professional Mongolian khoomei
singer I had a lesson with in Ulaanbaatar) is as follows:

Divide the mouth into two similar-sized compartments by raising your tongue
so that it meets the roof of your mouth, a bit like you're saying "L".
Spread your tongue a bit so that it makes a seal all the way round. At this
point, you won't be able to pass air through your mouth. Then (my
technique), break the seal on the left (or right) side of the mouth, simply
to provide a route for the air to get through.

Then (here's the most difficult bit to describe over the net - or even in
person, for that matter!), push your lips forward a bit, and by carefully
(and intuitively) adjusting the position of your lips, tongue, cheeks, jaw,
etc, you can sing Mongolian khoomei!

Put it this way: the *aim* of the khoomei singer ("khoomigch") is to
emphasize ONE of the harmonics which are already present in the sound
generated by the throat. This is achieved because he is forming a resonant
cavity, which (a) is tuned to the chosen harmonic (overtone), and (b) has a
high resonance, or "Q" factor. By adjusting the geometry and tension of
your mouth you can choose which harmonic you're emphasizing, and thus sing
a tune.


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