The Truth About Open Throat Singing
Open Throat Singing is one of the key elements of building a great singing voice, but learning how to do so can be a confusing and tricky process. Fortunately, I’ve done the heavy lifting over 20 years of vocal training for you already and I’m here to reveal the true secret to Open Throat SInging and the real meaning behind Open Throat Technique.
Believe it or not, Open Throat technique actually requires you to close your voice in many ways to properly achieve a truly “open” sound. The term itself stems from a classical figure of speech which is often mistaken as a literal instruction, and I do come across students who are widening their vocal tract and putting their voices at risk due to literal application of what is intended as a figure of speech.
Where does Open Throat come from?
Open Throat is a literal translation of the classical Italian singing term La Gola Aperta, meaning The Open Throat literally. The catch with most archaic classical terms is that they are figurative ways to explain something intangible or even encompass a number of different techniques under one umbrella. A beter interpretation of Open Throat Singing is Singing Without Throat Strain, or simple No Throat technique. By supporting your voice and achieving Appoggio when you sing, coupled with proper soft palate control and vowel production, you limit any possiblity of strain and tension in your voice and allow it to resonate in a free and powerful manner.
The true meaning of Open Throat is really the application of a number of techniques with the express goal of creating a resonant and strain free voice, in essence singing without throat strain by supporting your voice low and singing with resonance high in your head.
How do you sing with an Open Throat
Open throat singing is actually very easy to achieve, and really starts with your foundation. By setting up your posture and diaphragmatic breathing, along with proper resonance placement like I’ll show you in the free foundations short courses here at Bohemian Vocal Studio, you will ensure an open throat that is free of tension and strain when you sing.
The secret to singing with an Open Throat is to apply proper closure in various elements of your voice first to take your focus away from the throat and limit any potential strain before it occurs. One of the most important elements of Open Throat singing is actually closure of the soft palate – closing the soft palate will allow resonance in the nasal chamber without allowing any airflow to pass through your nose. If you’ve been struggling with a nasally voice, then the solution is to sing with proper soft palate closure, allowing a resonant but non-nasal vocal tone.
Closure of the soft palate then goes hand in hand with how you produce your vowel sounds. Instead of the pronunciation used for speech, singing actually requires shaping of your vowels using the tongue itself while matching a corresponding width of the vocal tract – bear with me, this is actually pretty easy to do.
A great example of vowel shaping is to alternate between an EE vowel, the most narrow vowel sound which requires you to raise the back of your tongue, and then an AH vowel, the most narrow vowel, requiring a low and concave tongue. If you perfect these vowel shapes and develop proper control of the shape and width every time you sing a word that requires these vowels, your resonance will be consistent, powerful and confident EVERY time you sing, in essence allowing you to sing vowels with an Open Throat.
Closure is the key to Open Throat Singing
As strange as it sounds, Open Throat Singing actually requires closure in many elements of your singing voice, from the soft palate, vocal folds and also narrowing of your vowels. The confusion with the term Open Throat has been increased by it’s use in a marketing sense by YouTube singing gurus who are selling expensive courses that promise to reveal the secret to Open Throat singing as though it’s a technique they’ve personally invented, when in fact it was coined hundreds of years ago, and is now a rather archaic way to describe healthy singing.
The best way to learn to sing with an Open Throat is to see a voice coach who can explain these confusing classical terms in a practical and useful way that applies to your unique voice. Instead of saying “Sing More Open”, a great voice coach might point out the need for soft palate and vocal fold closure, along with troubleshooting your vowel shapes and helping you to release through your registers. Not all vocal approaches are created equally, and as your voice is a unique instrument, you need a unique approach to vocal technique.
5 Steps to Open Throat Singing
Using these five steps you will learn to apply Open Throat Technique every time you sing while allowing your voice to resonate in a powerful and free manner. Remember, Open Throat technique requires closure!
#1 – Close your soft palate
The soft palate is often called the door to the nose, and by rights it does actually toggle your airflow through either your mouth or your nose. By closing the soft palate, you allow resonance without airflow, helping you to achieve proper moderation of your airflow while creating a powerfully resonant singing tone. Closure of the soft palate also allows you to alter the shape of your vocal tract according to each vowel sound, and instead of being a wide open space, can be tailored to the unique frequencies required to create each vowel sound respectively. Closing the soft palate is KEY to Open Throat singing.
#2 – Vocal Fold Adduction
Vocal Chord Closure is another key element of Open Throat singing. Without chord closure, your voice won’t resonate. A great way to develop control over your chord closure is by practicing a dynamically level crescendo, increasing in resonance without increasing volume.
#3 – Vowel Shapes
As we discussed already, singing vowels actually require specific shaping of your tongue while matching your vocal tract width to each sound. Remember, singing and speaking are largely different in their process, don’t try to sing in the same manner that you speak – you’ll cause problems and put your voice at risk with this approach.
#4 – Release Your Registers
I often see those YouTube gurus using Open Throat technique as an excuse to sing as wide and belty as possible, when in fact proper Open Throat technique will allow you to sing with varying dynamics, from light and sweet to full and heavy with relative ease. Open Throat technique is NOT belting.
Singing is easy, however LEARNING to sing is often a difficult and frustrating process – lets cut through the BS and get you singing better in only five minutes! Singing is an act of coordination and balance rather than a musular feat. I often remind my students that their voice will only ever be as strong as the foundation they've built it upon. Using the following process will improve your voice with only five minutes practice: release place shape your vowels tune your resonance reference see the full guide here to sing better in five minutes: www.bohemianvocalstudio.com/get-better-five-minutes #singbetter #singingcoach #vocalcoach #singingteacher #rock #hagstrom
#5 – Place your frequencies
Vocal placement was a technique that was shown to me by my very first classical coach, and while her singing voice was spectacular, we had all manner of issues trying to achieve placement in my voice, care of my low vocal type and broad Australian accent. It wasn’t until I got to the root meaning of vocal placement, in essence altering and EQing the frequencies that you sing with to focus on specific resonators throughout the vocal tract, that I was able to achieve proper placement, and hence sing with an Open Throat.
As you can see, Classical singing terms are often intended as a figure of speech instead of literal and physical instructions. Make sure you see a voice coach who can explain these complicated and archaic singing terms in a practical and pragmatic way without relying on confusing rhetoric. Singing is easy, but learning HOW to sing is often over complicated by singing terms that were originally intended to encompass many techniques in one (like Open Throat), or intended as a visual tool or figure of speech. You don’t need to physically ‘open’ your throat when you sing, you actually need to achieve proper closure so that your throat is free of strain and essentially “open” in a figurative sense when you resonate.
A great place to start with Open Throat technique is with the free foundations short courses available here at Bohemian Vocal Studio, and then when you’re ready to take your voice to the next level with professional voice training, you can book a Skype Session and we’ll get started!
If you have any questions about Open Throat technique, 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.