What The Heck Is Open Throat Singing?
If you’ve been researching singing techniques online and watched a few YouTube singing tutorials to boot, no doubt you’ve come across the term Open Throat Singing or Open Throat Technique somewhere along the way. I’m about to take the mystery away from this confusing term and show your the right way to sing with an open throat – no marketing or bs, just solid and practical vocal technique from a professional voice coach.
I’ve seen and heard Open Throat used in many different ways over the years, from when I first heard the term studying classical singing myself through to it’s current use as a marketing term by some YouTube singing gurus to help sell their expensive courses. The truth is, there really IS no secret to singing, it’s all about balance, coordination and developing a controlled approach – there is no magic pill that is going to manifest a great singing voice for you aside from constant practice, professional training and a healthy dose of perseverance.
What is Open Throat Technique?
The term Open Throat is a literal interpretation of the classical Italian singing phrase La Gola Aperta, which translates literally into “The Open Throat”, but as you no doubt already (or will soon) know most singing terms and instructions are a figure of speech intended to explain some of the more intangible and difficult to explain elements of singing to a budding singer. Literal interpretation of terms like Open Throat or Appoggio are the reason why learning to sing is often so difficult and confusing for many singers, when it really should be a simple and easy pursuit that is ever joyful. Instead, you’re being sold trick terms and sleight of hand in the form of classical terminology that was never really intended to be used in it’s current form – to sell online singing courses.
I often come across budding singers who are physically trying to “open” their throats when in fact singing should often be closed in it’s nature – from closure of your vocal folds, to closing the soft palate and singing with vowels that are often narrowed towards closure. There are very few aspects that are truly open in a literal sense.
How to sing with an Open Throat
The true meaning of Open Throat is really to sing without throat strain and really could be interpreted more effectively as no throat singing. Like many aspects of a great singing voice, Open Throat technique really starts with your foundation and the way you set up your breathing and posture. To sing with an Open Throat, you must first breathe using the diaphragm and proper support, or what is often called Appoggio – another singing term that is often shrouded in mystery and used as a marketing term when in fact it is a truly simple concept. Appoggio Singing Technique is the manner in which you moderate your airflow and occurs when you control your breathing solely through extension of the diaphragm instead of the rib and chest contration we often associate with speech. If you support your voice in this manner, you will find that there is a seemingly stationary column of air that you can use to create a powerfully resonant sound without strain while expending very little effort.
By shaping each of your respective vowel sounds with your tongue and matching each shape with a corresponding vocal tract width, you ensure that your resonance is always tuned and vibrating in the best manner for effective and easy singing – even the most powerful and intense singing tone is created via EQ’ing of your vowels and management of your vocal tract width in this manner.
Proper support and resonance tuning, along with release of any strain before it occurs in your vocal range is the true essence of singing with an open throat and will be taught by any self respecting voice coach who isn’t just shilling an expensive course under the guise of ‘the secret’ to singing.
You need proper closure to sing with an open throat
One of the most confusing aspects of Open Throat technique is how you control your soft palate. The term Open Throat often lends towards an understanding that the soft palate should be open when you sing – but in actual fact, proper Open Throat singing technique actually occurs when you close your soft palate on your vowel sounds and naturally letting it open on resonant sounds such as N, M and NG that require airflow through the nasal cavity. Proper closure of the soft palate is paramount to Open Throat technique and is often one of the most misunderstood and ill-explained aspects of singing.
I often see budding singers who have bought into the Open Throat hype physically trying to open their throats, inadvertently widening their vocal tract and achieving nothing more than vocal strain with their approach to singing. Singing with an Open Throat actually requires you to tune each of your vowel sounds, either by way of Vowel Modification or in a more efficient manner using the root of the tongue and soft palate to alter your vocal tract width as you ascend in range – quite often your vowel sounds are actually narrowed rather than opened, so trying to open your throat in a literal and physical manner is actually causing you to sing in a closed and choked off manner. I can’t reiterate this point enough, to sing with an Open Throat you must narrow your vowels and achieve proper closure of both your vocal chords and the soft palate.
Why do people still use classical singing terms?
Classical singing terms like Appoggio have become the honorary language of singing, and it’s often easier to speak in the same language as other singers instead of trying to explain complicated concepts like Open Throat in depth (like I’ve done in this tutorial!) every time you speak about singing or try to coach someone how to sing better.
I shy away from the more archaic and confusing singing terms like Inhalare La Voce (inhale the voice) in place of my own approach, but in essence these singing terms are still useful in learning how to sing – but only as useful as your understanding of how and why they are intended to help your singing voice and how well you implement them.
If you try to sing with a literal “Open Throat” you will harm your voice and build perpetual bad habits. If you get the true meaning of La Gola Aperta by developing proper control over your soft palate, your vocal folds, your breathing and support mechanism and you adhere to the concept of strain free singing, then in essence you will truly achieve Open Throat Singing.
Remember, classical singing terms are often figurative in nature and never indended as literal instructions – you don’t really “Lean” when you sing with Appoggio, you don’t really sing with an open throat when you sing with La Gola Aperta and you definitely don’t inhale your voice when you sing with Inhalare La Voce. Make sure your voice coach is teaching you the true meaning of these simple but often misinterpreted singing terms and isn’t just using them to market their course to you. My general rule with online singing coaches especially, is if their video impresses you but you don’t actually learn anything, you’re drinking from the wrong fountain. A good singer is not always a good vocal coach, but a great vocal coach should always be a great singer.
If you’re ready to take your voice to the next level and develop the true meaning of Open Throat singing, book a Skype Session and we’ll get started today!
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.