Yodeling is something that is synonymous with Switzerland, and I’m sure when you think of yodeling, Switzerland and the Alps come to mind.
But how did yodeling come about, what was it used for, and how has it evolved? These are all questions I answer below as I run through everything you need to know about yodeling in Switzerland.
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What Is Yodeling?
Yodeling is a form of singing that involves rapidly switching between one’s chest and head voice, to create a unique sound that is both melodic and rhythmic. There are no real words used, simply sounds.
It also creates a sound that can carry across long distances, in fact, yodeling was originally used by Swiss herdsmen to communicate with each other across long distances in the mountains as well as calling in herds of cows.
Yodeling is often associated with the Swiss Alps, where it has been practiced for centuries as a useful communication tool but today is used in songs, rock music, and European folk music.
Brief History of Yodeling
Yodeling has been a part of Swiss culture for hundreds of years, but when, where, and how it came about are unclear.
Some historians believe that yodeling may have been brought to Switzerland by herdsmen from other parts of Europe, while others believe that yodeling may have developed independently in the Swiss Alps.
Yodeling was first documented in 1545 in Appenzell and yodeling quickly became an important part of Swiss culture, with many songs and folk tales featuring yodeling as a prominent element.
During the 19th century, yodeling transformed into musical compositions that incorporated two, three, and four-part harmonies.
These forms of music are widely appreciated and performed today at festivals and other live events. Typically, the songs are accompanied by an accordion known as a schwyzerörgeli.
To this day, the Swiss Yodeling Association continues to promote and preserve the tradition, organizing various competitions.
Yodeling has evolved over time to include lyrics mostly in German, with some in French, and is showcased at regional festivals and cantonal competitions. Although vocal styles have slightly varied from region to region.
Famous Swiss Yodeling Songs
There are many famous Swiss yodeling songs, but perhaps one of the most well-known yodel songs is “The Lonely Goatherd” from the musical “The Sound of Music”
Other popular Swiss yodeling songs that you have probably heard of include “Edelweiss”, “Der Mai Ist Gekommen”, and “Die Gedanken Sind Frei”.
Where to Hear Yodeling in Switzerland
If you’re looking to experience yodeling for yourself, there are many places in Switzerland where you can hear it.
Some popular options include yodeling festivals and traditional Swiss restaurants, and there are a lot of outdoor yodeling concerts and events happening in Switzerland throughout the year.
Check out the Jodlerkonzert website for upcoming yodeling concerts.
Where to Learn Yodeling in Switzerland
If you’re interested in learning how to yodel there are many options available in Switzerland.
Lots of music schools and private instructors offer yodeling lessons, and there are even some yodeling workshops and retreats where you can immerse yourself in the art of yodeling.
The canton of Appenzell in eastern Switzerland is one place where yodeling is still practiced regularly and you find lessons.
You can also book this yodeling taster session that takes place on the Aletsch Glacier.
Swiss Yodeling Festival
One of the best places to experience yodeling in Switzerland is at the Swiss Yodeling Festival.
This festival is held every three years and brings together yodelers from all over Switzerland to showcase their skills and celebrate the art of yodeling.
The festival features traditional Swiss music, dancing, and of course, plenty of yodeling!
It is held in a different part of Switzerland every time and the next one is this year in Basel on the 14/15/16 June. You can find more info about it here.
Fun Facts About Yodeling in Switzerland
- Yodeling is not just a form of singing – it’s also a form of communication. Swiss herdsmen used yodeling to call in their cows and speak to each other across the alpine valleys
- Yodeling is not just popular in Switzerland – it’s also practiced in other countries like Austria, Germany, and the United States – more details on this below
- Yodeling was not always considered a respectable form of music in Switzerland. In fact, some Swiss people considered yodeling to be a sign of poverty and low social status but this has now changed and it is a deep part of Swiss culture
- Yodeling has been featured in many movies and TV shows over the years, including “The Sound of Music”, “The Simpsons”, and “South Park”.
- “Rock All Our Babies to Sleep” sung by Riley Puckett, a blind singer from Georgia was the first country music record to include yodeling and was recorded in 1924.
- Yodeling was used in the Disney movie “The Lion King” in the song, “The Lion Sleeps Tonight” and quickly became a pop sensation
Other Countries Known for Yodeling Aside from Switzerland
While Switzerland may be the most well-known country for yodeling, it’s certainly not the only one.
Yodeling is also popular in Austria, Germany, and parts of the United States, particularly in the Appalachian region. This ties back in with the use of yodeling to communicate across the mountains.
How yodeling moved from country to country is not well documented but it is quite clear that it moved from Europe to the USA.