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Yodeling (or yodelling, jodeling) is a form of singing that involves singing an extended note which rapidly and repeatedly changes in pitch from the vocal or chest register (or "chest voice") to the falsetto voice, making a high-low-high-low sound. This vocal technique is used in many cultures throughout the world.
In Alpine folk music, it was probably developed in the Swiss Alps as a method of communication between mountain peaks, later becoming part of the region's traditional music. In Persian and Azeri classical music, singers frequently use tahrir, a yodeling technique that oscillates on neighbor tones. In Georgian traditional music, yodelling takes the form of krimanchuli technique, and is used as a top part in three/four part polyphony. In Central Africa, Pygmy singers use yodels within their elaborate polyphonic singing. Yodeling is often used in American bluegrass and country music.
All human voices are considered to have at least two distinct vocal registers, called the "head" and "chest" voices, which result from different ways that the tone is produced. Most people can sing tones within a certain range of relatively lower pitch
in their chest voices, and then a certain range of relatively higher pitch in their head voices. There is often a gap between these ranges, especially in inexperienced or untrained singers. Experienced singers, who can control their voices to the point where these ranges overlap, can easily switch between them to produce high-quality tones in either. Yodelling is a particular application of this technique, wherein a singer might switch between these registers several times in but a few seconds, at a high volume
. Going back and forth over this "voice break" repeatedly produces a very distinctive type of sound.
For example, in the famous example syllable "Yudl - Ay - EEE - Ooooo", the "EEE" is sung in the head voice, while all other syllables are in the chest voice.
- Yodeling was a part of country and western music from its beginning. Jimmie Rodgers recorded more than a dozen songs under the title "Blue Yodel" with an appended number, and the The Carter Family recorded a few yodeling numbers as well. Other country and western yodeling singers include Rusty & Tania, Elton Britt, Wilf Carter, Yodelin' Slim Clark, Slim Whitman, the Belgian entertainer Bobbejaan Schoepen, Patsy Montana, Doug Green, Wylie Gustafson and in early pre-rock and roll recordings by Bill Haley. The Band used yodeling in "Up On Cripple Creek". Gene Autry was another country-style yodeler. Hank Williams yodels the word "Blues" in Lovesick Blues. An UK example of this style was the Glasgow-born Karl Denver; the style can be heard in Frank Ifield's version of Johnny Mercer's "I Remember You."
- Alpine yodeling can be heard in the songs of Franzl Lang, Stefanie Hertel, Zillertaler Schürzenjäger, Ursprung Buam, Harry Torrani, and Mary Schneider.
- Yodeling is less often heard in pop music and rock. One of the most famous examples of yodeling in popular music is "Hocus Pocus" by the Dutch rock group Focus. Jewel is another example, and while she does not truly yodel in her commercial music, her proficiency contributes to her vocal style, which features fast transitions between her head voice and chest voice. Canadian singer Sarah McLachlan also uses quick transitions between her head and chest voice. More recently, Shakira has featured similar vocal stylings in some of her songs.
- The Sound of Music by Rodgers and Hammerstein contains a yodelling song, "The Lonely Goatherd", in which Mary Martin yodelled to good effect in the original production on Broadway in 1959. Gwen Stefani also put herself to the task of yodeling "The Lonely Goatherd" at the beginning of her 2006 single, "Wind It Up".
- R&B singers Mariah Carey and Beyonce Knowles often use yodelling to great effect in their music, as does French Canadian singing diva Céline Dion.
- The Moody Blues use yodeling to a lesser extent in their song "Your Wildest Dreams."
- Irish singer Dolores O'Riordan is renowned for her yodelling particularly in tracks such as "Dreams", one of several Riordan-penned singles from the double platinum album Everybody Else Is Doing It, So Why Can't We? by The Cranberries.
- Soul singer Aaron Neville was inspired by Gene Autry's yodelling to develop his unusual vibrato singing style.
- The late Indian singer, actor, and composer Kishore Kumar was the best-known yodeller in Bollywood cinema. Some of his best examples include the songs "Main Hoon Jhumroo," "Thandi Hawa Yeh Chandni Suhani," "Zindagi Ek Safar Hai Suhana," and "Chala Jata Hoon."
- In the Tamil film world, talented comedian and singer Chandrababu yodelled in some of his songs.
- Taylor Ware competed on the television talent show America's Got Talent with singing and yodelling.
- The lead vocalist for American electro-punk band the Epoxies is known for her yodeling in a lot of their songs..
- Linda Ronstadt used the yodeling technique with the final note of Blue Bayou
- Mike Johnson is country music's most famous black yodeler. Performing since the 1960s, he has written more yodeling songs than anyone. He is one of 18 world famous yodelers on Bart Plantenga's 2004 "Rough Guide To Yodel" CD released by the World Music Network in London, England. In March 2007 his Yodel Song Archives, containing 114 of his yodeling compositions, and related material, were inducted into the Recorded Sound Reference Center's permanent music collection at the Library.
" and "Bravour Jodler
" are yodeling standards which are performed by many different singers.
The best places for Alpine-style yodelling are those with an echo. They include 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, and best of all, a mountain range.
According to the Oxford English Dictionary the word yodel is derived from a German word jodeln (originally Bavarian) meaning "to utter the syllable jo".
- Yodel-Ay-Ee-Oooo: The Secret History of Yodeling Around the World by Bart Plantenga, New York: Routledge, 2004), ISBN 0-415-93990-9 — from Switzerland to the avant-garde, an exhaustive survey of the field.