How to sing with an Open Throat
Open Throat is a term that often gets used in contemporary and classical singing technique, and comes from a literal translation of the Italian term La Gola Aperta – and like most classical singing techniques, is intended as a figure of speech. Unfortunately, this has led some guru voice coaches out there to use Open Throat as a marketing term, packaged it as the ‘secret’ to great singing. In this tutorial, I’m going to SHOW you how to sing with an Open Throat the way this singing technique was intended, and break through some of the myths and marketing terms you may have heard while learning how to sing.
I prefer to think of Open Throat as a concept rather than a physical, muscular singing technique. The concept of Open Throat is that you support your voice with diaphragmatic breathing, correct vowel production and placed resonance so that your singing occurs ‘out’ of your throat – in essence, turning Open Throat technique into “no throat” singing technique, or simply singing without using your throat. I’ll show you how to sing with an Open Throat in these 5 easy steps.
5 Simple Steps to Singing with an Open Throat
These five steps will show you the physical mechanism behind learning how to sing with an Open Throat so that you can sing with a powerful and naturally resonant sound – releasing strain and building healthy habits every time you practice singing.
#1 – Appoggio
Appoggio is another singing technique that I treat as a concept rather than a physical or muscular pursuit, and unfortunately is another technique that is shrouded in mystery and often treated as a marketing term by those in the know. The concept of appoggio is one of diaphragmatic engagement being the sole mechanism of breathing in your singing, instead of the intercostal flexing and rib contraction we often use in speech. Appoggio starts in your posture and diaphragmatic engagement, so make sure you’ve set up a healthy foundation by using my free foundations short course – Breathing 101.
Setting up your posture with the final honorary step of widening your ribs is the only way to achieve true Appoggio in singing. The best way I’ve found to illustrate this wide rib position to my singing students is to have them raise their sternum without breathing in – often times this widens the ribs and contracts the stomach, leaving you in prime position to breathe solely using expansion of your diaphragm.
#2 – Close the soft palate
Contrary to the literal interpretation of Open Throat, singing with La Gola Aperta actually requires you to close many of the elements of your singing mechanism, including your soft palate. The soft palate is often referred to as “the door to the nose” and controls air flow between your nose or mouth respectively. A closed soft palate will stop any airflow from entering your nasal passage, while still allowing resonance to form in your nasal resonators to create the sound we know as singing. A closed soft palate will still raise and stretch up to allow for changes in your resonant space as you ascend in range and tune your vowels, but stays closed to disallow any actual airflow into your nose.
An improperly closed soft palate is the #1 cause of a nasally singing voice and nasal singing – learning to control your soft palate will not only allow you to sing with an Open Throat, it will allow you to sing without strain, sing with a powerfully resonant sound and create a more pleasant tone that is bright, but never nasal.
#3 – Shape Your Vowels
Vowels are often pronounced by our articulators like the teeth and tongue in speech, but in singing – did you know that you actually create your vowels by coordinating the shape of your tongue with the width of your vocal tract? I know, mind blowing – right? The best way to illustrate this concept is for you to sing a small EE sound with your soft palate closed like we just learned, and then toggle between a wide AH vowel repeatedly. With this vowel change, you should be feeling two elements of your voice alter on each vowel sound, the EE is created with your tongue “up” at the back and a narrow vocal tract, and the AH is created with a low and concave tongue and relatively wide vocal tract. Now that you know the shapes and width of these two vowel sounds, every time there is a word that requires these sounds, you are able to shape your tongue accordingly for the most efficient resonance rather than struggling to pronounce and force your vowels. Vowel shaping also allows the technique of Vowel Modification to be developed in your voice so you can extend your range and sing without strain well into your high range with ease.
#4 – Vocal Placement
Contrary to what the name suggests, vocal placement actually requires you to LIMIT any unnecessary frequencies from your singing tone to allow for the most efficient use of your resonance and resonant space. Placement is especially important for those of us with low voice types, but is an important aspect of any healthy singing technique. Healthy frequency production is paramount to a healthy and consistent singing voice – learn to place your frequencies for the most efficiently resonating voice.
#5 – Middle Voice
Now, the mix register isn’t often linked with Open Throat singing, but I regularly see a correlation between singers who are pulling their chest voice, and singers who are singing with throat tension. Remember, Open Throat is better translated to “No Throat”, so this tension caused by improper register control is causing you to sing with throat tension and a closed, strained throat
With these five simple steps, you can learn how to sing with an Open Throat and break down the myths and barriers that have been put in front of you by guru singing coaches who market these singing techniques as the “secret” to great singing in expensive singing courses. Bohemian Vocal Studio shows you how to actually USE and develop these powerful singing techniques instead of marketing them to you in a package.
Open throat and Appoggio are simply two singing techniques that are often literally interpreted by voice coaches, when in fact they are intended as a figure of speech to make singing easier. My rule is, if it’s not making things easier, then you’re not using the technique in the right way.
If you’re ready to take your voice to the next level and build a POWERFUL singing voice that is open, resonant and consistent, you can book a Skype Session and get started building your voice today!
Feel free to leave any feedback or questions 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.