How To Sing With An Open Throat: The Surprising Truth
You’re struggling with the high notes on a new song and someone tells you that in order to do it correctly, you need to “sing with an open throat”. But how do you do that?
I’m happy to explain! However, unless you are exclusively an opera, classical, or choral singer, I don’t recommend you EVER sing with an open throat. So, if you ARE a classical, opera, and/or choral singer, this next piece is for you. If you are a contemporary singer, I have much more to say to you about this!
If you’re more of a visual learner, check out the video below!
If you sing classical, opera, or choral music
An “open throat” in singing refers to the amount and location of space inside the mouth when singing using the classical technique. The more technical explanation for “open throat” is a “raised soft palate”. The soft palate is the squishy part of the roof of your mouth where the uvula is. When it is lifted – which feels comparable to the stretch of a yawn inside your mouth – it blocks off the passageway into the nose, allowing the sound to resonate in your chest cavity or in your sinus cavities. Also, that lift of the soft palate creates a lot of space in the back of your mouth and throat.
With that knowledge, know that if you are singing with the classical technique, ideally you will already be creating this space. However, it can feel difficult to maintain, so it’s possible that you may be struggling with higher notes because you’ve allowed that palate to drop. Or, it’s possible that your mouth isn’t open enough or in the right directions which makes that high note struggle to come out – even with an open throat.
When you are in that “open throat” kind of placement, to sing high notes easily and effectively, a few steps are required:
- Make sure you are fully utilizing that yawn stretch in the back
- Drop your jaw as far as it will go and, if the pitch is still tricky, start to widen your mouth shape as well
- Increase your volume because high notes often require more volume
Following these three steps when attempting to sing an “open throat” high note in the classical technique will help your higher pitches come out beautifully.
If you DO NOT sing classical, opera, or choral music
…and you’re looking for instruction on how to sing with an open throat, then I’m REALLY glad you found this information. The short answer I have for you is:
Contemporary singing – when done SAFELY and CORRECTLY – does not utilize an open throat.
To expand on that, know that it is VERY DANGEROUS to sing contemporary music with this open throat placement. Remember when I explained above that a raised soft palate blocks off the passageway into the nose? And that when the nasal passage is blocked it causes your sound to resonate either in your chest cavity or your sinus cavity? The reason that’s important to know is that an open throat sound placed in your chest cavity has a safe limit of how high you can sing before damaging your voice. The only other option with an open throat is to switch into the head voice which is very frowned upon in contemporary singing.
So what do you do, then?
Contemporary singing – when done SAFELY and CORRECTLY – does not utilize an open throat. Instead, the soft palate remains in its neutral position (which is lowered), which causes the sound to have a nasal resonance, just like when you speak. When you sing with a nasal resonance, you are either using the belt technique which is loud like the chest voice, or you are using the mix technique which is softer like the head voice. The advantage of singing with a belt technique as opposed to the chest voice is that you can sing as loud and as high as you want without fear of damaging your voice.
In other words, an open throat with contemporary singing puts you at risk for vocal damage, where singing WITHOUT an open throat keeps you safe.
To learn more about how to utilize the belt and mix techniques, check out the 7-Day Trial of No Limits Academy!
I play what I consider contemporary music. But have always had poor tone and terrible tongue tension. But was just practicing with a yawn or “mum” feeling on every word and the sound/tone was much better. Especially when I could minimize vocal cord closure in between the words. So I’m kind of confused by the article above.
Katti Power says
Hey, Thomas! Thanks for your comment (and your patience with my reply!). First of all, I’m sorry you’ve struggled with tongue tension and that you don’t like your tone. Let’s see if we can clear up some confusion! If you are truly singing contemporary songs with a yawn space I’m actually surprised you are pleased with the sound because most people do NOT like the sound of singing with a raised soft palate in their contemporary songs. The sound will be very dark and hollow sounding, much more like the sound of an opera singer. However, it IS possible to sing with space in the mouth WITHOUT lifting the soft palate – I call this “mouth space” and it means making space in the mouth forward of your molars instead of by lifting the soft palate. This kind of space is NOT the same as “open space”, nor is it dangerous in contemporary singing. I’m curious to know if you might have been making this type of space as opposed to the lifted soft palate variety, and if maybe that’s leading to the confusion. Another thing possibly causing confusion is that you are talking about the quality of your tone as a result of making different kinds of space, which is not what this article is referring to. This is more about how the different kinds of space either aid or inhibit the ability to sing high notes as well as how the different kinds of space are either helpful or harmful to the voice. However, more “mouth space” (without a lift in palate) can offer the ability to create a cleaner, fuller tone. I always recommend starting by utilizing your support system when it comes to improving tone because it makes a huge difference in your sound (while also protecting you). Then, I recommend spending time practicing various vowels to get accustomed to the kind of space required to form them; some vowels are trickier than others. Check out this article for some tips & instructions on this: https://singwithoutlimits.com/how-to-sing-loud-without-strain-top-3-must-knows/.