Mongolian throat singing is one of the most unique sounding styles of singing. If you can master it, you’ll have a skill that very few people have.
Just northwest of Mongolia, there lies a region in Russia called Tuva where they call throat singing Khöömei. This style of singing allows you to sing multiple notes at once and hold them for sustained amount of time.
Yes, it sounds as cool as you think. In fact, below is an example of Mongolian throat singing. If you sing from the top of mountain like this guy, you will feel much more inspired and generally cooler.
In Tuva, throat singers learn the technique from childhood. It’s like, say, how most kids in the United States learn how to ride a bike. It’s just a part of their culture.
But not to worry, that doesn’t mean you can’t learn. Even if you’re 25 years old or 45 years old, you can pick up this style of vocalizing. And despite the fact that Tuvans discourage women from throat singing (believing it causes infertility), women are physically capable of learning. It ain’t just for men.
The inspiration for throat singing for the Tuvans comes from nature. They attempt to imitate the sounds of animals, mountains, streams, and heavy winds.
Keep that in mind as we go through the techniques for throat singing…
Relax your jaw
Allow your mouth to be slightly open with roughly a centimeter between your upper and lower teeth. No, don’t get out your ruler, just estimate.
Make an “R” or “L” sound
Try it now. Notice how the tip of your tongue touches the top of your mouth. Pull it down slightly so that it’s almost touching (it’s okay if it accidentally touches).
Sing a low bass note
With your tongue in that position, sing and hold one low bass note. Sing from your chest, making an “oo” sound (like “cool”). This will be the “base” note on top of which you will add higher notes.
Switch between the “R” and “L” sound
While holding that bass note, move your tongue between the “R” and “L” sound (i.e. move the base of your tongue). Notice how the sound changes — this is a key step.
Change the shape of your lips
As you “oo” this bass note between the “R” and “L” sound, move your lips to change the sound. Imagine switching between the sounds “E” and “U” — notice what your lips are doing with each sound. It will feel like you’re saying “see you” without the “s” sound.
Put all of these steps together and you’ll be throat singing like the Tuvans and Mongolians. Listen to professional throat singers so you know how it should sound.
One key thing to keep in mind is that it will take practice and time. The perfect places to practice your vocal skills are in the shower, the car, or while you’re making dinner. Your location is not an excuse for not practicing (except, maybe, at a funeral, a wedding, or during a job interview).