How To Sing Open Throat (By Closing Your Throat)
Confusing title, I know. Did you know that Open Throat singing actually requires closure in many elements of your voice? From closure of the soft palate, the vocal folds and also narrowing of your vowels? The term Open Throat is one that is often thrown around by vocal coaches selling expensive courses, but the origin of this confusing term is all the more surprising when you realise that Open Throat Technique actually means singing without your throat.
Classical singing terms are often explained poorly in a modern context, and even taken literally when they’re often a figure of speech. Here’s how to sing open throat (by closing your throat!)
Where did the term Open Throat Singing come from?
The term Open Throat comes from the classical term La Gola Aperta, literally translating to The Open Throat. Now, as you’re likely already aware, classical singing terms and instructions are often figurative in their application – so why has Open Throat been taken out of context and paired with the instruction to physically OPEN your throat as wide as possible?
Just as Appoggio doesn’t mean that you should physically lean when you sing, there is actually a practical application of open throat technique that will help you sing better and extend your vocal range with ease. As with any singing technique, it’s important to get the root of how and why the technique or term is intended to help you sing better – after all, what’s the point of a Ferrari if you’re driving blind?
How to sing with Open Throat Technique
Singing with Open Throat Technique is actually very easy and really starts with the way you set up your foundation when you sing. I often remind my students that their singing voice is only going to be as strong as the foundation they’ve set up and built their technique upon. Aside from the obvious points of posture, breathing and placement which I’ll show you how to do in the free foundations short courses here at Bohemian Vocal Studio, one of the most important parts of singing with open throat technique is actually proper use of your soft palate.
Now, the term Open Throat probably lends itself towards the expectation that the soft palate should be “Open” when you sing, but this is one of the first points where terminology belies physical application in singing. To sing with an open throat, your soft palate needs to be closed on your vowel sounds, allowing resonance, but blocking airflow from entering your nasal cavity. If you’ve been singing nasal and trying to work out why your tone sucks, then an open soft palate is the root cause of your issue – close the soft palate for a much more pleasant and easily resonating singing voice.
What does Open Throat mean?
A better interpretation of Open Throat singing is that you should sing without your throat. If you find that you are straining in your high range, or your voice ‘flips’ as you ascend – then you aren’t singing with an Open Throat. Remember, Open Throat requires closure in many facets of the voice:
- The Soft Palate
- Vocal Folds
- Narrowing of your vowels
By achieving closure of the soft palate and vocal folds, along with tuning your resonance through alternating vocal tract width, you ensure that your throat will stay strain free and ‘open’ so that you can sing anywhere in your vocal range with ease.
I prefer to think of Open Throat as “No Throat” technique, where your breath support is low, and your resonance placement is high in your head. If you’ve ever strained while you were singing, or were unable to hit a high note you were aiming for, then the solution is Open Throat Technique.
Why are classical terms so confusing?
As we discussed, classical singing terms are often a figure of speech and were never intended as literal singing instructions. This confusion has also been exacerbated by YouTube singing gurus using these confusing terms as a marketing approach to sell expensive courses that ‘reveal’ the secret to singing, one of which is often Open Throat technique.
My rule is, if you don’t know why or how an exercise or technique is intended to help your singing voice, then you’re wasting your time and likely causing issues that will be alleviated by simply singing in a natural and neutral way.
Keep in mind, some classical terms are hundreds of years old – in the same way the Shakespeare is often wordy and confusing in a liguistic sence, classical singing terms are often outdated and left in the century they were first created. Unless you find a voice coach who can explain the true meaning of terms like Open Throat or Appoggio in a practical and physical sense, then you’re better off not applying them in your singing voice until you find someone who does.
Can you explain other confusing terms like Appoggio?
When I first started singing, my classical coach at the time danced around the subject of Appoggio as though it were a sacred ‘secret’ only to be revealed to those in the know. Appoggio is a foundational element of your singing voice and really should be the very FIRST thing that a good voice coach will show you. Rather than a technique itself, Appoggio is more of a concept regarding the manner in which you breathe for singing. Appoggio singing technique starts with your posture and foundation, and really refers to the way in which you moderate your airflow – via extension of the diaphragm instead of contraction of your ribs like we often do in speech.
Appoggio, or simply support is another buzz word that is often treated as a marketing term and put forward as the ‘secret’ to great singing, when in fact it is very easy to apply and achieve in your singing voice.
- Diaphragmatic Breathing
- Resonance Placement
The last point of support occurs when you set up a widened rib position and breathe solely through use of your diaphragm instead of letting your lungs and ribs “push” the air out as you sing. Singing with Appoggio feels somewhat like your voice is floating on a cushion of air, or even that it is stationary instead of flowing out of your mouth. A literal translation of Appoggio is either Lean or Support, but a better interpretation is “Rely on your diaphragm” – singing with appoggio, and relying on your diaphragm for moderation of your airflow will allow you to sing with relative ease and power with very little effort.
Top 5 tips to sing with an Open Throat
Singing with an Open Throat is easy and should be one of the very first elements of your technique developed by your voice coach. These 5 tips will help you achieve the true meaning and intention of Open Throat Singing. Are you ready to sing better and unlock your singing range with Open Throat Technique?
#1 – Set up your foundation
Open Throat starts with your foundation. By setting up your posture correctly and attaining a wide rib position, you allow your airflow to be moderated solely through extension of your diaphragm and you remove any possibility of your lungs and ribs collapsing as you ascend, in essence supporting your voice through diaphragmtic breathing and Appoggio.
#2 – Close the soft palate
Open Throat requires closure – pretty weird, right? By closing the soft palate on your vowel sounds, you ensure proper resonance production is allowed in the nasal cavity and resonators high in your head without airflow through the nose itself. Closing the soft palate is an important element of Open Throat and will allow you to sing with greater power and ease.
#3 – Adduction (Vocal Chord Closure)
Learning to sing with balanced onset and proper vocal chord closure is another important part of Open Throat singing. A great way to train adduction is via a crescendo, increasing in resonance but not necessarily volume throughout various parts of your range. Vocal Chord Closure is paramount to Open Throat singing.
#4 – Shape your vowels
One of the foundation elements of Open Throat technique is how you create your vowel sounds. While to use pronunciation in speech to create vowel sounds, singing requires you to form a particular tongue shape for each vowel sound and match them with a corresponding vocal tract width. Don’t worry, this is MUCH easier that it sounds! Make sure to book a Skype Session with me for help with vowel shaping.
#5 – Release your registers
Register release will allow you to sing with your full range of resonance instead of pulling and straining as you ascend. A high pitch is essentially a fast pitch, and different frequencies resonate in different ways, so why are you trying to force your low resonators to vibrate at a higher pitch? By releasing your registers you are releiving any potential strain before it occurs and allowing yourself to sing with ease while retaining a powerful and full tone.
As you can see, singing with an Open Throat is actually very easy to do if your vocal coach understands the true meaning of the term La Gola Aperta – remember, Open Throat singing requires closure of many elements of your voice.
A great place to start with Open Throat singing is our free foundations short courses, then when you’re ready to take your voice to the next level with professional vocal training, you can book a Skype Session and we’ll get started today!
If you have any questions about Open Throat singing, feel free to leave any questions or feedback below!
Kegan DeBoheme is Bohemian Vocal Studio’s resident vocal coach and voice expert. He teaches professional singing and voice technique to students all around the world and enjoys providing tutorials like this one on how to improve your voice.