Toning, Overtoning, Vagal Toning

Tuning Your Ears & Your Nervous System

Sunday February 13th – Online + Recording

2 pm – 5 pm GMT  [9 am – 12 pm EST]

£35 (suggested fee, or any donation welcome)


In our previous workshop we began to explore the possibilities of the sustainable consonants – mainly the fricatives and the nasal consonants.

In this workshop we will begin to explore the carrying power of the vowels. These are the vocal qualities that enable us to sing with musicality and intensity; they are what makes a voice distinctive, colourful, and resonant.


The vocal overtones are the subtle frequencies that shape and colour the voice, and calibrate our listening skills. They are the sounds that enable us to distinguish the different vowels of our own language so precisely that we can easily detect the presence of an accent in a non-native speaker, even if we don’t know what the origin of accent is. Overtones have many names: instrumentalists may refer to them as ‘harmonics’, in audio technology they are known as partials . They are very common in forms of chanting, and are fundamental to the popularity of the sound [Om].

…Vagal Toning

Many self-development systems have a meditative process at their core – sitting in contemplation, and communing with an inner sense of ‘oneness’ with ‘the universe’ is pretty universal. Prayer, and affirmations are both standard tools for promoting emotional health the world over. 

Dr Stephen Porges PolyVagal Theory provides an explanation for the efficacy of these practises at a neurological and evolutionary level. Our nervous system is focussed on our safety, and our sense of safety is fundamental to our sense of wellness. The vagus nerve manages both our older reptilian stress management circuits and our newer mammalian circuits, and we can use the management of our to soothe ourselves, increase our sense of safety, and shift our nervous system into our rest-and-recuperation mode – the neurological state that switches on our self-healing mechanisms, and helps to promote our physical and mental resilience.

This is I am sure why so many of the systems designed to integrate mind, body, and soul involved a chanting element – mantras and formal prayers such as saying rosaries all encourage the extension of the exhalation which  enables the switch from stimulating-sympathetic to palliative-parasympathetic functioning.

Every time we inhale we briefly stimulate our sympathetic state-of-readiness (known as our fight-or-flight mode), and then, as we exhale again we shift back into our rest-and-recuperate mode – so all we need to do to soothe our nervous system is to exhale for a little longer than we inhale – it is that simple. This is I am sure the reason why there is so much evidence that singing is proven to be good for the health. When you examine the evidence you quickly discover that it is all based on research into communal singing, but once you understand Porges theories then you can easily see how to use these practices in a way that is effective even when you are singing while home alone.

Is is exciting to understand that this is the mechanism that allows us to synchronise our heartbeats via our breathing, whenever we are singing, or chanting, or praying together, and that it also works when we are playing games or performing dances that allow for movements to synchronise our rhythms. Many cultures that rely on physical labour use rhythmic sounds and work songs to both coordinate their movements and generate a heightened sense of community spirit and ‘togetherness’. This research enables us to understand how this sort of activity bonds us as communities and generates communal health benefits.

This workshop will be beneficial for:

Singers, presenters, performers, and anyone interested in the voice.

Anyone dealing with chronic stress issues

Anyone interested in meditation and chanting

Anyone interested in the potential for improving their vocal tuning in particular, or their hearing in general

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