Open Throat Singing Will Damage Your Voice
Many inexperienced singers have tried the Open Throat approach to singing technique in order to increase the resonance of their voice. However, most beginner singers get this technique wrong and try to sing by literally OPENING throat as much as possible, which may lead to injury and even permanent damage of the vocal mechanism. Singing with an open throat, although it sounds confusing, actually involves closing many aspects of your voice. In order to get this technique right, and maximise the resonance of your voice, it’s necessary to narrow your vowels, close the soft palate and achieve closure of the vocal folds. Classical singing terms are often poorly explained in a modern context. As a result, many singers take them literally and not only as a figure of speech. There is no need to hire an expensive vocal coach in order to master this technique. Here’s how to sing open throat by actually closing your throat!
The Origin of the Term Open Throat Singing
The term Open Throat comes from the classical singing term La Gola Aperta, literally translating The Open Throat. In many cases, classical singing terms such as this one are just figurative in their application. Another example is the term Appoggio. If you take this term literally, you will physically lean while singing. Of course, that isn’t the proper way to apply Appoggio into your singing. In order to implement a new technique in your singing, it is important to understand how and why the technique is intended to help you sing better. Simply explained, what’s the point of having a Ferrari if you’re driving blind?
How to Sing with Open Throat Technique
Singing with open throat is actually very easy once you understand how it works. In order to sing with an open throat, you must set up a solid foundation when you sing. Never forget that your voice will be powerful only as the foundation it’s built upon. Aside from posture, breathing, and placement, one of the most important parts of singing with open throat is the proper use of your soft palate.
The term probably leads to thinking that the soft palate should be open while singing. However, in order apply this technique correctly, your soft palate has to be closed on your vowel sounds in such a way to allow resonance, but at the same time block airflow entering from your nasal cavity. Not closing your soft palate on your vowel sounds will cause to sing through your nose. If you have been singing nasal and can’t figure out why your tone sounds so bad, you have a problem with closing your soft palate. Once you manage to close the soft palate, you will have a much more pleasant and resonating singing voice.
What Does Open Throat Mean?
As I mentioned at the beginning, singing with an open throat actually means you need to sing without it. If you are straining in your high range or your voice flips as you ascend, you are not using this technique correctly. Open Throat requires closure in the soft palate and vocal folds. Narrowing of your vowels is also necessary. By using the Open Throat Technique the right way, your throat will stay strain-free and open, so you can sing anywhere in your vocal range with ease. If you have a hard time remembering what is open throat technique all about, try remembering it as “The No Throat” technique. Your breath support should be low, and your resonance placement should be high in your head. If you strain while singing or are unable to hit a high note, the Open Throat Technique can help you nail high notes with ease and sing strain-free.
Why are Classical Terms so Confusing?
As I said, classical singing terms are, in most cases, only a figure of speech, and they should never be taken as strict singing instructions. This confusion has been even worse since some YouTube singing gurus have started using these confusing terms as a marketing approach to sell expensive courses. The Open Throat technique is mostly advertised as revealing a secret to amazing singing, but it’s actually a basic technique you have to master if you want to become a great singer.
In order to master a particular singing technique, the first thing you need to do is to understand how it can benefit your voice. If you don’t know why and how a certain exercise or technique can help you, most likely you won’t be able to implement it correctly, and you are just wasting your time.
Some classical terms are hundreds of years old, and they are often outdated and left in the century they were first created. If you want to apply some of them in your singing voice, it is best to find a voice coach who can really explain to you their true meaning, both in a practical and physical sense.
Other Confusing Classical Terms
Aside from Open Throat, Appoggio is also a term that many singers misunderstand and apply incorrectly. If you think Appoggio is some kind of secret singing technique revealed only to those in the know, you are wrong. Appoggio is a foundational element of your singing voice, and it should definitely be one of the first things a good singing coach shows you. Appoggio is not much a technique as it’s a concept regarding the manner in which you breathe when singing.
In order to apply this technique the right way, you must maintain a good posture and have a solid foundation in your singing. In speech, we moderate our airflow by contracting the ribs. When applying Appoggio, you need to moderate your airflow through the extension of the diaphragm. When you set up a widened rib position and breathe only through the use of your diaphragm (instead of letting your lungs and ribs push the air out as you sing), you will feel like your voice is floating on a cushion of air, and that it’s stationary instead of flowing out of your mouth.
Appoggio translates as lean or support, but it actually means “Rely on your diaphragm” Relying on your diaphragm for moderation of your airflow will allow you to sing powerfully with very little effort. Unfortunately, although the technique is rather simple to achieve in your singing voice, Appoggio is treated as another buzzword that is advertised as the secret to great singing.
Top 5 Tips to Sing with an Open Throat
Singing with an Open Throat is one of the first elements your voice coach should teach you. Follow these five tips to achieve the true meaning and intention of Open Throat Singing.
#1 – Set Up Your Foundation
As mentioned before, open throat singing starts with a proper foundation. Start by setting your posture correctly, and attaining a wide rib position. You will know when you are in the right position when your airflow is moderated only through the extension of your diaphragm, and when there is no possibility for your lungs and ribs of collapsing as you ascend. So basically, we start with Appoggio. Appoggio helps to support your voice and make open throat singing more effective.
#2 – Close the Soft Palate
When you close the soft palate on your vowel sounds, proper resonance production will be allowed in the nasal cavity. That way, your resonators are high in your head, but without airflow through the nose itself, and nasal singing. Closing the soft palate also allows you to sing with greater power and significantly less effort.
#3 – Adduction (Vocal Chord Closure)
In order to correctly apply Open Throat singing, you need to sing with a balanced onset and proper vocal chord closure. A great way to train vocal cord closure is through crescendo or increasing in resonance but not necessarily volume throughout various parts of your range.
#4 – Shape Your Vowels
Singing vowels is not the same as speaking them. Singing requires you to form a particular tongue shape for each vowel sound and match them with a corresponding vocal tract width. It may sound complicated, but it’s actually very easy. A good vocal coach can help you shape your vowels correctly while singing.
#5 – Release your registers
Lastly, open throat singing requires you to release your registers and sing with your full range of resonance. Pulling and straining as you ascend means you are doing something wrong. Most singers try to force their low resonators to vibrate at a higher pitch which can lead to a vocal cord strain and an injury. The right way to sing with open throat is to release your registers relieving any potential strain before it occurs. This way you will sing with ease with a powerful and full tone.
A great place to start with the only healthy manner of Open Throat technique is with the free foundations short courses available here at Bohemian Vocal Studio. Then when you’re ready to take your voice to the next level with professional voice coaching you can book a Skype Sessionand we’ll start building your range!
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.