Throat singing refers to several vocal practices found in different cultures worldwide.[1][2][3][4] These vocal practices are generally associated with a certain type of guttural voice that contrasts with the most common types of voices employed in singing, which are usually represented by chest (modal) and head (light, or falsetto) registers. Throat singing is often described as producing the sensation of more than one pitch at a time, meaning that the listener perceives two or more distinct musical notes while the singer is producing a single vocalization.

Throat singing consists of a range of singing techniques that originally belonged to particular cultures and which may share sound characteristics, making them noticeable by other cultures and users of mainstream singing styles.[5][6][7][8][9]


The term originates from the translation of the Tuvan word Xhöömei and the Mongolian word Xhöömi, which mean throat and guttural, respectively.[10] Ethnic groups from Russia, Mongolia, Japan, South Africa, Canada, Italy, China and India, among other countries, accept and normally employ the term throat singing to describe their way of producing voice, song and music.

The term throat singing is not precise, because any singing technique involves sound generation in the "throat," with the voice being produced at the level of the larynx, which includes the vocal folds and other structures.[7][11][12][9] Therefore it would be, in principle, admissible to refer to classical operatic singing or pop singing as "throat singing." However, the term throat is not accepted as a part of the official terminology of anatomy (Terminologia Anatomica) and is not technically associated with most of the singing techniques.

Some authors, performers, coaches, and listeners associate throat singing with overtone singing. Throat singing and overtone singing are not synonyms, contrary to what is indicated by some dictionaries (an example being Britannica); however, in some cases, both aspects may be present, such as in the khargyraa technique from Tuva, which uses a deep, tense voice, along with overtone singing.[citation needed]

"Singing with the throat" may be regarded as a demeaning expression to some singers, since it may imply that the singer is using a high level of effort, resulting in a forced or non-suitable voice. The word "throaty" is usually associated with a rough, raspy, breathy or hoarse voice. Despite being a term frequently used in the literature starting in the 1960s, some contemporary scholars tend to avoid using throat singing as a general term.[citation needed]

There is a consistent and enthusiastic international reception for concerts and workshops given by musical groups belonging to the several cultures that incorporate throat singing [1][2]. Besides the traditional ethnic performances, throat singing is also cultivated and explored by musicians belonging to contemporary, rock, new-age, pop, and independent music genres.

Types of throat singing

Throat singing techniques may be classified under an ethnomusicological approach, which considers cultural aspects, their associations to rituals, religious practices, storytelling, labor songs, vocal games, and other contexts; or a musical approach, which considers their artistic use, the basic acoustical principles, and the physiological and mechanical procedures to learn, train and produce them.

The most commonly referenced types of throat singing techniques in musicological and ethnomusicological texts are generally associated with ancient cultures. Some of them, as the Khöömei from Mongolia, Tuva and China, and the Canto Tenore from Sardinia, are acknowledged by UNESCO as Intangible Cultural Heritage.

In musically related terms, throat singing refers to the following specific techniques, among others:

Audio examples

See also


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