Open throat

Back when I was primarily a flutist, the “open throat” was constantly mentioned by teachers and other supposed experts. Later, when I delved into vocal pedagogy, I again ran into this phrase frequently. What does it mean? I don’t think I received an accurate definition before figuring it out myself. Since then, I have seen that others have come to similar conclusions long before I did.

I am convinced that an open throat is one that is not constricted or squeezed, but also not forcibly held in a more open position than when one is breathing quietly. When someone says “open throat” to me, I think “nothing throat”, or else I will screw it up. People call my singing more “open” and “free” when I totally let go of all conscious shaping of the area close to my larynx.

For years on flute and voice I tried to make a big stovepipe of a throat so that it would be more “open”. I fixed this misconception on flute first, letting my throat just sit there quietly as a passageway (or is that passiveway?) for the air. My flute tone did not diminish, and became much more consistent and dependable.

Fixing this in singing took longer, and I still must be vigilant in not overdoing “getting into position”. Fixing my misconception of an open throat was a process of undoing until eventually the nondoing is habitual. There are definitely pharyngeal adjustments required to make a big, resonant vocal sound, but “opening my throat” only makes things dull, woofy, inflexible, and flat in color and pitch. When I’m singing in a way that other people call “more open, resonant and free”, I feel a nothingness in my throat that I would have called “closed” before.

Now I use this: “open” = “not closed”. That is enough. My old mistake was believing that “not deliberately opened” = “closed”. The words make a big difference in how I treat my body.

4 Replies to “Open throat”

  1. This makes a lot of sense. Seems to go into the category of “beware of overdoing”. When I was playing trumpet I found some of these throat issues to be tricky.

  2. Nicely said Brian! I often say “soft throat” to those students who think they have to forcibly distend their throats. If you try to “open your throat” you are imposing an unnecessary tension and that tension is the enemy of free and easy singing. The only way to open your throat is with a scalpel 😉

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