Yodeling (British: Yodelling)#


Olivia Koland#

Yodeling is a special kind of vocal performance in traditional music which consists of rapid and repeated changes in pitch. These pitch changes are accompanied by sudden shifts from a low-pitch register (chest voice) to a high-pitch register (head voice or falsetto) and back. This technique is used in many cultures worldwide.

The traditional yodel has its origin in mountainous regions, where it was used by herdsmen, dairymen, lumberjacks and colliers as a way of communication. It served as a signal from farm to farm and across valleys and allowed to bridge long distances; herders also used it calling their stock. Yodeling later became part of the region's traditional folk music.

Yodeling has no text and is based on syllables ("hol-la-di-o, dul-je, dje-ho-ri-ridl, di-ri-di-ri-a-ha"). The human voice naturally uses vowels that are most suitable to support chest or head voice and to thus transport voice messages over far distances. The English word yodel is derived from the German word “jodeln”, meaning "to utter the syllable jo".

The yodel of the Alps has developed many different forms - from monophonic calls to polyphonic singing. It is performed on its own or as final refrain of folk songs. In Austria, the yodel is primarily found in Styria and Tyrol (rather than in Carinthia). Its local names are Wullaza (Styria), Almer (Upper Austria), or Dudler (Lower Austria).

In popular Middle European culture, there is a kind of bond between yodeling and ideas of the Alps (Bavaria, Austria, Switzerland). However, versions of yodeling can be found all over the world such as e.g. in Central Asia or Africa, where yodeling is practised in ceremonies and rituals.

Nowadays yodeling is rediscovered as a very natural movement of the voice that sounds archaic and familiar to us. In modern yodeling courses people can learn how to yodel. In doing so, yodeling is perceived as a way of bethinking of traditions and regional identity, as well as a musical dialogue that releases voice, body and emotions: The yodel is earthy loud and a means of expressing vitality, while it may also be restrained fine and transfer the body into a meditatively-relaxed harmony.


  • W. Wiora, Zur Frühgeschichte der Musik in den Alpenländern, 1949
  • W. Deutsch, Der Jodler in Österreich, in: Handbuch des Volksliedes, 1974
  • C. Luchner-Löscher, Der Jodler, 1982
  • H. Härtel und L. Waltner, Im Ochsenhimmelreich, 1994 (wissenschaftlicher Film des ÖWF)
  • W. Graf, Naturwissenschaftliche Gedanken über das Jodeln: Die phonetische Bedeutung der Jodelsilben, Vortrag vom 4. November 1964



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