Swiss Yodeling

All the What, Why, and How of Swiss Yodeling You'd Want to Know

The art of yodeling has been practiced from olden days in Switzerland and especially the Alpine region. The technique of yodeling, history and associated festivals are discussed in this article.
Yodeling is closely related to Swiss folk music. In fact, the alpine region of Switzerland is where the practice of yodeling originated. Yodeling was used as a way of communication by people residing in the Alps. The yodelers generally chose areas that could produce an echo. This helped the sound to travel long distances. Shepherds and other herders found the technique of yodeling to be of great use. In the course of time, this way of communicating turned into a style of singing; the art of yodeling flourished in the Bavarian and Swiss regions of Alps. In this form of singing, the vocalist works on a single note and extends it. He improvises on this note and presents many variations of it. One can master this style of singing by learning to modulate the chest and head voices.
How to Yodel
In olden days, Juchizn was the term used for yodeling. This word holds different meanings like 'it's a boy' and 'it is dinner time'. Yodeling is basically a technique in which the singer alternates between natural tones and falsetto pitches. The technique of switching between chest voice and head is the core of yodeling. Head and chest voices are referred to as registers that produce sound. There is a point in the process of singing where chest and head voices overlap each other. Those vocalists capable of controlling their voice at this very point can master the technique of yodeling. One also has to have the ability to fluctuate his/her voice in order to yodel properly.
Different Forms of Yodeling
Although yodeling originated in the Swiss alps, it has spread to other parts of the world. Yodeling has blended very well with polyphonic singing of Pygmy people from Africa. It has also spread its roots in the African nation of Zimbabwe where yodeling is accompanied by the musical instrument, Mbira. Krimanchuli technique of the Georgian traditional music also makes use of yodeling. The Persian form of yodeling technique is known as tahrir. Yodeling can also be found in other traditions of the world along with those mentioned above. The Aborigines of Australia, natives of America and even the Chinese practice yodeling in some form or the other. Interestingly the North American tribes had developed their own technique of yodeling. It is therefore, argued that native American tribes practiced yodeling before the Europeans came to their land. Yodeling is often compared to the practice of scat singing of jazz music. In scat singing, the vocalist improvises over a particular syllable. You can learn how to yodel under the guidance of an expert.
Swiss Yodeling Festival
The yodeling festival in Switzerland has a long history. It was in 1924 that the first National Yodeling Festival took place in the city of Bern. In today's times, the festival is organized in different cities of Switzerland every 3 years. Yodelers from all over Switzerland gather to celebrate this festival. Yodeling festivals in Switzerland incorporate a special ceremony called flag throwing. The flag throwing ceremony was started after the battle of Laupen that took place in 1339. One has to swing a flag, throw it upwards and then catch it to complete the act.
Yodeling is a distinct form of singing used by many vocalists in their songs. Kishore Kumar from India is one of the popular playback singers to use this technique. Franzl Lang is one of the most popular yodelers from Germany. He is also known by the nickname, Yodel King. 'Focus', a band from Holland created a work of fusion between hard rock music and yodeling. This form of music was brought to the fore in the album 'Hocus Pocus'.
The art of yodeling has an interesting history behind it. Originated as a mode of communication between herders of the Alps, Swiss yodeling has definitely come a long way and flourished into a full-fledged singing style.