The term open-throated, natural singing isn’t an implication that a singer can literally open and close her entire throat at will during a performance. The phrase ‘open throat’ is a misnomer. But for lack of a better way of referring to the technique for singing, the phrase shall be used here.
‘Opening the throat’ is a technique whereby pharyngeal space is increased and/or the ventricular vocal folds are retracted in order to maximize the resonating space in the region of the vocal tract. To do these:
- The soft palate or velum is raised
- The larynx is lowered to assume the ideal positions of the jaw, lips, and tongue
- The mouth is shaped
- The facial muscles are utilized
All these are done to basically relax the singer’s throat. Any constriction and/or tension therein could throttle or stifle the tone of the singer’s voice. Hence, open-throated, natural singing is generally believed to enable singers to:
- Produce sounds that could be perceived as open, pure, resonant, rich, round, vibrant, and/or warm in tone
- Gain balance, consistency, coordination, a prominent, low formant; and evenness
- Experience a smooth blending of the registers.
The quality of the sounds that a singer will be able to produce eventually is linked to the vocal actions which she performs when she prepares for a performance, like inhalation. Every time she breathes her larynx lowers and the soft palate gets lifted up automatically and simultaneously. Singing is more demanding than speaking, requiring deeper inhalation, greater energy, and further laryngeal depression, so singing leads to a natural increase in the pharyngeal space.
The opinions on how to gain an ‘open throat’ out there are as many as the methods for creating one. Along with the correct opinions and methods, which are backed by real acoustical and anatomical science, there are those that are odd, ineffectual, and potentially harmful.
Here are some of the correct methods.
- Maintain a good bodily posture. It involves standing straight, with the shoulders held back, the chin kept level, and the head placed in a comfortable position for singing. The front of the neck should be loose but not stretched out. Such a posture will help the singer put her jaw in the proper position for voice training, which, in turn, will improve how her vocal folds function. Her breathing will be improved as well.
- Learn how to keep your soft palate in an elevated position. When a singer performs inhalation during her preparation for a performance, her soft palate rises automatically, allowing more air to flow in. Thus, deep breathing is a successful way of relaxing the throat and preventing rigidity. The key is to learn how to keep the soft palate in an elevated position while singing or not letting it lower too far. Sustaining a high soft palate is particularly important while singing in head voice in the upper passaggio and range above the staff. In upper range, the fauces and the soft palate get elevated more than usual.
Here are some of the incorrect methods.
- Opening one’s mouth too wide. When it’s lowered too low, the jaw places tension on the larynx, lowers the soft palate, and inhibits the effective closure of the vocal folds.
- Exaggerated facial expressions. Assuming a facial expression of surprise, raising the eyebrows, furrowing the brow, creasing the forehead, flaring the nostrils, and/or opening the eyes wide produce tension.