Polyphonic Singing (singing two notes at once)
Polyphonic Singing (aka overtone, throat, harmonic singing) is a style used by such biggies as Tibetan and Gyuto monks, along with some musicians from Tuva. There are several styles of polyphonic singing, but the one we'll be focusing on here is called Sygyt.
Sygyt consists of a fundamental note with a harmonic soaring above. Either, or both notes can be moved melodically, though the originators (people of Tuva) would use the fundamental note as a drone and the harmonic as the melody. May I present to you EXAMPLE 1:
To achieve this, we need to isolate certain harmonics in the vocal chords and fire them out above the fundamental. Bare with me as I struggle through this explanation.
In the human voice, much like every natural sound excluding a sine wave, there consists many overtones which make up the fundamental sound we hear. Here begins our first test of learning this technique. Good old fashioned ear training. I started learning on my own while at Berklee, and I would lock myself in a practice room for about an hour or so and drone out on any key that seemed relatively easy for me to hit.
Of course, the first thing I would hear is the fundamental sound coming from my voice. The idea is to concentrate on anything and everything else besides this note. Therefore, it's quite important to be in a very quiet space.
Relatively soon, I began hearing these overtones or harmonics, though faintly, more clearly. I also began to realize that these overtones would vary in pitch depending on; how hard or soft I pushed from my diaphragm, the movement of my larynx while vocalizing, the shape of my mouth, and the tongue position I used.
In order to increase the amplitude of these harmonics, I would focus on the first overtone I heard when droning on a fundamental note. Once I heard an overtone, I would try to retain this position. The longer I was able to stay in position an produce this overtone, the stronger, over the days, this overtone became. Think of it as riding a bike. When we first learn to ride, we don't exactly know how we learned to balance, it just happened with practice. Same with overtone singing. So, after I was tired of that same note, I would try changing something of what I was doing in this process. For example, I might subtly change the position of my tongue. Now, when I hear a different overtone, once again, I would retain it as long as possible. After doing this for a certain amount of time, I assume that my brain remembered these positions, allowing me to hit these overtones without struggle. My lips, mouth, tongue, and larynx would assume the according positions in order to achieve the overtone(s) I was able to hit.
This is how I learned overtone singing. It is a very gradual technique that really cannot be forced or sped up. The more you practice and listen to what is coming from your voice, the better you will become. This is also a great form of meditation! If anything, it will make you feel better.
You can go to other online polyphonic singing sites, and they will tell you things like “put your tongue here, close your throat, open your mouth this way, punch yourself in the face”, etc... Believe me, I've tried then all and had no success, in fact, if anything it detoured me from my earlier progress. Guess what, there is not one way to do this, which is why I'm sort of preaching about listening to your voice and finding your own way of doing it. Think of it as a self-discovery method. You might even learn something new about yourself!
I truly hope this was helpful. I'll leave you with this last example, I hope you find it inspirational. EXAMPLE 2.
Berklee College of Music Graduate, Shane Gibson currently resides in Los Angeles California. He has studied under world renown guitarists Jon Finn and Joe Stump, among others. Shane's latest solo project, which includes world famous drummer Thomas Lang, is currently in progress, and should be done by the end of this year.
Shane Gibson endorses Carvin guitars, Bugera amps, and CurtMangan strings. He tours the world doing clinics and workshops for these products. Shane has:
Performed at NAMM 2006
Performed at Music Messe in Germany 2007
Performed at MI in Japan 2007
Been featured on Young Guitar Magazine from Japan (Sept. issue) 2007
A quote from the amazing Ron Thal, aka Bumblefoot. "EXCELLENT ! ! ! ! ! F..@$ing Excellent! You suck beyond belief. By suck, I of course mean suck, as in you f*@..ing rock. You suck so much that I took it upon myself to put a link on my site, hope ya mind. PS - you're gay. PPS - in all seriousness, *great* stuff - man, I'm looking forward to seeing ya get out there and get the recognition you deserve :) bbf"
Jason Becker....."This guy smokes!!! Great compositions as well.."
Mike Varney of Shrapnel records......"One of the best new shredders around, hands down."
Thomas Lang......"Shane Gibson is one of the most uncompromisingly creative and unique guitar players on the scene today. His playing is insanely complex, yet musical and always innovative. There is no pretention, no fuzz and no compromise in his music and it's an honour and true challenge for me to work with him."
Jon Finn ........."Shane never ceases to amaze me."
Derek Taylor ..."Sounds like you would need to keep a fire extinguisher close by when you play that one. Wow!!!! That type of stuff is amazing"... :
Rusty Cooley...."Shane is a great new player on the scene... sick chops and deadly rhythms!"
Doug Stapp...."Wacky playing! I haven't heard crazy stuff like that in a while. Like Micheal Angelo on crack....Just better! Very hip."
Marty Friedman...."Your guitarist is a maniac" (directed at singer of Shane's band 'Defable')"
Joe Stump: "I can honestly say that Shane is among my most advanced students. He is constantly improving both as a player and overall musician."
SCOTT STINE...."Unfreakinbelievable!!! Is that a word?"
Shane Gibson is a "Berklee's Best" scholarship recipient. He has won "Battle of the Bands" two years in a row in the state of Florida. While in Boston he has recorded 3 radio jingles and has been a studio musician in countless projects.
Former bands include; Teiousekkai, Channel 9, Cofield, Novial (with friend and "Moments in Grace" front man Jeremy Griffith), Fools Mistake, and Excuse.
Shane's past creation, "Mr. Stork" is an intense mix of metal and "who knows" styles of music, which include 13 songs. Influence include; Bjork, Meshuggah, Tool, Slayer, Dream Theater, Al Di Meola, Bumblefoot, Ozric Tentacles, Vai, and The Mars Volta.
Shane would like to thank Erika Kimura (my inspiration), Jeremy Griffith (reason for playing), Jason Frazier (I didn't know fingers could do that!), Christina Slocumb (who's a buddy?), Ashley Bailey (for always being my audience), Chris Stanbrook (most metal bassist ever) Damion Sanchez (Filthy good drummer) and every other friend who has made an impact on me as a musician. To my family, "you are the best." Anyone else I forgot, thank you.