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.