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Texans Are Falling In Love With Yodeling

Oct 12, 2007
For some individuals who live in Dallas, Houston, Austin and elsewhere in Texas, yodeling is just a bunch of yelling. For others, yodeling or jodeling is a form of singing that is starting to sweep Texas. In fact, several semi-famous Texan singers, like Arthur Miles and Don Wasler, incorporated yodeling as part of their distinctive vocal styles.

Basically, yodeling involves singing an extended note, which rapidly and repeatedly changes in pitch. The voice comes from the vocal chest register -- or "chest voice" -- to the head register -- or "head voice". From there it makes that wonderfully distinctive, yet familiar high-low-high-low sound. This vocal technique is used, not only in Texas, but also in many cultures throughout the world.

The most familiar and popular type of yodeling occurs in Swiss folk music. It was most likely developed in the Swiss and Austrian Alps as a method of communication between mountain peaks. Later, it became a part of the traditional music of the region.

In Persian and Azeri music, singers frequently use tahrir. This is a yodeling technique that oscillates on neighbor tones. In Georgian traditional music, yodeling is called the krimanchuli technique. In Central Africa, Pygmy singers use yodels within their elaborate polyphonic singing. And of course, yodeling is often used in American bluegrass and country music.

The mountains are the best places for Alpine-style yodeling because of the echo. You can also yodel at lakes, rocky gorges, anywhere with a distant rock face, the outdoor areas between office buildings, in a canoe next to a rocky shoreline, or down a long hallway.

So how does an individual learn to yodel? It has to do with the fact that all human voices have at least two distinct vocal registers -- the "head" and "chest" voices. These produce the different ways the tone is produced. Most folks can sing tones within a certain range of lower pitch in their chest voices, and then a range of higher pitches in their head voices.

Experienced singers who can control their voices and overlap these ranges can easily switch between them, producing high-quality tones in either range. With yodeling, a singer might switch between these registers several times in just a couple of seconds at a high volume. Going back and forth over this "voice break" again and again produces a yodel.

Country and western yodeling singers include Elton Britt, Wilf Carter, Yodelin' Slim Clark, Slim Whitman, Patsy Montana, and Doug Green. The Band used yodeling in "Up On Cripple Creek". A notable country and western yodeler was Jimmie Rodgers, who recorded more than a dozen songs under the title "Blue Yodel". Even the famous singing cowboy, Gene Autry was another country-style yodeler.
About the Author
Pat Carpenter writes for Precedent Insurance Company. Precedent puts a new spin on health insurance. Learn more at Precedent.com
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