Singer Anne-Maria Hefele can sing two notes at the same time and the result is nothing short of amazing (albeit a bit freaky). The otherworldly sounds (i.e. spooky) that she makes are created by moving the fundamental and overtones in opposite directions. She makes these wonderful (i.e. creepy) sounds by shaping her mouth and throat and positioning her tongue to change the path of air as it travels from her lungs past her vocal cords.
This type of singing is called throat singing or polyphonic overtone singing. And for those who are wondering – she is not an alien nor a freak of nature. She has trained her voice to do this!
The “fundamental” tone is the main note that you hear Anne singing. The overtone is the quieter “harmonic” note made at a higher frequency than the fundamental note (listen to the video carefully to hear it). To make polyphonic overtones sounds, first hold your arms straight and stiff-like in front of you with palms facing down. Lock your knees so your legs only swing at the hips and begin walking around the room while doing this:
- Start by trying to make a buzzing sound and center it at the front of your mouth, by your teeth.
- Sing the tone from your throat, allowing the air to move to the front of your mouth.
- [By this step, people probably entered the room in an alarmed state. Calmly explain to them what you are trying to do.]
- Use your tongue to change the tone. Play with the tongue placement until you can get the harmonic overtone to pop loudly.
- [If you’ve mastered it this far, any cats in the room have probably run away and moose have gathered outside your window.]
- It also helps to place the tip of your tongue on or near the back of your front upper teeth, moving the tongue around until you get the right overtone.
- It may help to pretend you are singing (with your throat) and whistling at the same time.
- It may help to make an “oooooo” sound and transition it to an “eeeee” sound listening for the point that the overtones kick in.
- It may help to cup your hand to your ear to help hear the quiet overtones.
- It may help to hire someone who knows what they are doing to teach you how to sing overtones.
If you cannot do it right away, don’t despair – it is very difficult to do. Keep practicing. At the very least you’ll have a funny cat story to pass on (the sound absolutely freaks cats out).
Interesting note: Every musical note is a sound consisting of a fundamental, which is the pitch you perceive, plus a number of additional pure sounds called harmonics or overtones. These overtones are not normally heard individually, but the greater or lesser volume of some of the overtones over the others determines the timbre or tone color of the note. The overtones make the sound of each voice or instrument unique and identifiable and allow us to distinguish the sounds of the various musical instruments and also to recognize voices.