Music of Mongolia

Music is an integral part of Mongolian culture. Among the unique contributions of Mongolia to the world's musical culture are the long songs, overtone singing and morin khuur, the horse-headed fiddle. The music of Mongolia is also rich with varieties related to the different ethnic groups of the country. Please listen and enjoy Mongolian music and songs.

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Introduction to the Music of Mongolia

Mongolians are renowned for their love of music and singing; any celebration always turns into an evening of singing. During the decades of the Mongolian Peoples Republic in the twentieth century, Western classical music and ballet flourished. Among the most popular forms of modern music in Mongolia nowadays are Western pop and rock genres and songs which are written by modern authors in the form of folk songs.

Main Classes of Music


Long Songs

This genre is called "Long song" (Urtyn Duu) because each syllable of text is extended for a long duration. A four-minute song may only consist of ten words.

Morin Khuur

The horse-head fiddle, or "Morin Khuur", is a distinctively Mongolian instrument and is seen as a symbol of the country. The instrument has two strings.

Throat Singing

This unique type of singing involves the production of two distinctively audible pitches at the same time, including a low note and higher melodic notes.

Other Instruments

Other instruments used in Mongolian traditional music include shanz, khuuchir, yatga, everburee, khel khuur, tobshuur, ikh khuur , and bishguur (see below)

Popular Folk Music

Some of the repeatedly heard lyrical themes are very distinctive for Mongolia: heartfelt tributes to the songwriter's mother, for example, or paeans to great horses. .

Pop Music and Rap

There is a thriving popular music scene centred in the city of Ulaanbaatar; a mixture of various kinds of popular music, subdivided into pop, rock, hip hop, rap, alternative rock and heavy metal.

Morin Khuur (Horse Head Fiddle)

It is said that the music of a morin khuur brings tears to the eyes of camels in the Gobi.

Mongolia's National Instrument

The instrument has a distinctive carved horse-head pegbox. The tuning pegs on either side are known as the “Horse’s Ears”– with two strings and a bow traditionally made of horsehair or synthetic materials,considered a central symbol of the Mongolian nation. Some scholars believe that the instrument was originally a shamanistic instrument, as the staff of a shaman has a similarly carved horse on top.

The Morin Khuur produces sounds described as expansive and unrestrained, both soulful and haunting, like a wildhorse neighing, or a breeze across the grasslands. It has played a central role in expanding on the roots of nomadic herding practices and narratives as well as serving the translation of Mongolian mythologies and Secret histories into song for many centuries.

Mongolian Traditional Music Instrument "Morin Khuur"

Mongolian Traditional Long Songs

This genre is called "Long song" (Urtyn Duu) because each syllable of text is extended for a long duration. A four-minute song may only consist of ten words. This unusual type of song exists only in Mongolia and Japan and is technically very difficult requiring much voice training to accomplish the correct sound. Lyrical themes vary depending on context; they can be philosophical, religious, romance, or celebratory, and often use horses as a symbol or theme repeated throughout the song.

Eastern Mongols typically use a morin khuur (Horse-Head Fiddle) as accompaniment, sometimes with a type of indigenous flute named "Limbe". Oirat groups of the Western Mongols typically sing long songs unaccompanied. The advantage of long songs is that they can be sung by both men and women. A fine example of Mongolian long songs can be heard by Enigma 2 (The Cross of Changes album)

Long Song "Urtyn Duu" Sample 1:

Traditional Mongolian Long Song Sample 1

NOTE: BEFORE CLICKING THESE LINKS, YOU WILL HAVE TO PAUSE THE MUSIC FROM THE MAIN MUSIC PLAYER ABOVE ON THIS PAGE OTHERWISE TWO TRACKS WILL OVERLAP EACH OTHER !

Long Song "Urtyn Duu" Sample 2:

Traditional Mongolian Long Song Sample 2

NOTE: BEFORE CLICKING THESE LINKS, YOU WILL HAVE TO PAUSE THE MUSIC FROM THE MAIN MUSIC PLAYER ABOVE ON THIS PAGE OTHERWISE TWO TRACKS WILL OVERLAP EACH OTHER !

Mongolian Throat Singing (Overtone Singing)

This unique type of singing involves the production of two distinctively audible pitches at the same time, including a low pedal note, or drone, derived from the fundamental frequency of the vocal cord vibrations, and higher melodic notes that result when the singer's mouth acts as a filter, selecting one note at a time from among the drone's natural overtone series pitches.The partials (fundamental and overtones) of a sound wave made by the human voice can be selectively amplified by changing the shape of the resonant cavities of the mouth, larynx and pharynx. This resonant tuning allows the singer to create apparently more than one pitch at the same time (the fundamental and a selected overtone), while in effect still generating a single fundamental frequency with his/her vocal folds.


Traditional Mongolian Music Instruments

The nomadic people of Mongolia, as elsewhere in Central Asia, used to play string and wind instruments. The music has been influenced by the many different tribes that were united under Genghis Khan in the thirteenth century.

Traditional Mongolian Music Instrument Shanz

SHANZ

3-stringed instrument

A long-necked spiked lute with snake skin stretched over both faces.

Traditional Mongolian Music Instrument Khuur

"KHEL KHUUR" JEW'S HARP

Bamboo or wooden instrument

It is placed close to player's mouth and manipulated by his mouth, teeth and right hand.

Traditional Mongolian Music Instrument Yoochin

YOOCHIN

Box zither or dulcimer

13 double-wire strings are struck by 2 bamboo hammers.

Traditional Mongolian Music Instrument Limbe

LIMBE

Side-blown flute

Made of hardwood or bamboo. Often played with circular breathing.

Traditional Mongolian Music Instrument Bishguur

BISHGUUR

Richly ornamented oboe

Oboe-like in appearance with a double reed, a long hardwood body and copper or brass bell.

Traditional Mongolian Music Instrument Yatga

YATGA

12-stringed zither

A half-tube zither with a movable bridge. The strings are plucked and the sound is very smooth.

Traditional Mongolian Music Instrument Khuuchir

KHUUCHIR

Silk stringed instrument

The 2 or 4 strings are tuned to a fifth and the horse-tail hair bow is interlaced between the strings.

Traditional Mongolian Music Instrument Ikh Khuur

IKH KHUUR

Bass morin khuur

A 2-stringed large bass version of the morin khuur. The strings can be plucked or played with bow.

Traditional Mongolian Music Instrument Ever Buree

EVER BUREE

Curved clarinet

A wind instrument made from the horn of an animal or from ebony wood.

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