How To Yodel In The Swiss Alps

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Look at you. You’re young, thrusting, hip and sensational. Of course you want to yodel. Just consider the odds – every stupid, ridiculous, embarrassing thing has made a comeback eventually whether it’s clothes from the 1990’s, Veronica Mars or scabies. This means yodelling is sure to reach the heights of fashion any day now. And when it does, we want and pray for you to be ready for it. Luckily, it’s easy to learn, fun to perform and fairly cheap to maintain. So follow this easy guide and they’ll be another reason for your neighbours to send the warden round to your flat.


Back in the day when we reared sheep for food and clothing, they were forever wandering off. The people designated with the job of looking after the animals – the sheep herds if you will – thought that screaming at the top of their lungs would encourage them to return, rather than drive them further away. So in the Alps and other hilly places, this technique of calling out using high and low notes via the voice was born. Elsewhere on the planet, such as in the Middle East and Africa, similar vocal enterprises were being launched. There wasn’t a great deal in the way of entertainment back then.


Every one of us, even Danny Dyer, have two levels to our voices, or vocal registers. Low and high. The low vocal register is just our regular speaking, shouting and swearing voice, known in the yodelling world as the ‘chest voice’ (yodellers like chests). Then if you speak in a higher register, your voice ‘breaks’ and becomes the ‘head’ voice. Try it now. Say the words ‘These baked potatoes are not your best Veronica’ firstly in a Brian Blessed type voice and then in a Joe Pasquale type voice. Now try it really quickly. Skipping between the ‘head’ voice and the ‘chest’ voice is the essence of a good yodel.


The tube in your body that food goes down, known medically as the ‘food tube’ has a flap on it to stop you sucking Wotsits into your lungs. This flap or ‘epiglottis’ is responsible for the break between your two vocal ranges. How? I have no idea. You’ll just have to take my word for it. But working out where your voice breaks is vital if your are going to be taking up yodelling professionally. If you say a word like ‘Yentob’ and start at a low register and grow higher, you should be able to recognise the break. It’s like a strange little sonic ledge that your voice ‘leaps’ off in between the high and the low. If you can imagine such a thing.


Just like one of those religions that hippies and long-hairs favour, you should find a distinctive yodel that best suits your personality and lifestyle. Start simple with vowel sounds (not bowel sounds) so releasing an ‘eeeeeee’ at a low pitch and building to an ‘ahhhhhhhhh’ at a higher one. Let it flow between the sounds like a clear Tyrolean stream. Once you feel happy doing that, you can move to the three-note yodel; the yodel so beloved of all those famous yodellers whose posters you have on your walls.

If you have an ear for music, you’ll recognise that most yodels incorporate the notes A, E and D. Try yodelling those notes with ‘AAAAAAAA’ in your chest voice and then ‘EEEEEEEEE’ a little higher then ‘DDDDDDDDDDD’ even higher than that. Try running through these scales, making the transition as smooth as possible. If you stick the word ‘yodel’ at the start of that mess, then you’ll recognise the classic ‘Yodel-A-E-D’ cry you’ve heard masters such as the man from Heidi do for all these years.


Now you have to practice. Day and night. In every situation. At work, in the crèche, up a ladder; remember your ABY’s: Always Be Yodelling. Eventually you’ll be able to switch between your chest and head range like a pro. Then you have to decide. Do you want to stick with the classic Alpine yodelling style? Or try the Country and Western yodel style enjoyed by Jimmie Rodgers ‘The Singing Brakeman’ or Jewel? It’s one of the most difficult decisions every young person has to make. Have a sweep through a popular video aggregation site (I recommend YouTube) and look at the myriad of yodelling aficionados on there. Then rip off what they’re doing. Don’t worry, this is accepted and encouraged in the yodelling world. For the best results, obviously, you need to be up a mountain or large hillock, so your mighty yodel can be heard rumbling and echoing through the valley. But if you live in a flat area, like Kent, try standing on a chair or use a local speed bump.

Before you know it, you’ll be yodelling like a demon. In which case your doing it wrong. But don’t worry, with practice you’ll soon be yodelling like an angel. An angel with vocal cords spun from pure gold and honey.