Ok. Umm… What?
There are often confusing and contradictive images and concepts given in the singing community. Surely, the idea of “opened throat” is one of them.
The singer who has freedom in a well functioning vocal instrument, usually has a sensation of openness and space at the back of the mouth. In reality, what science has shown us is that this is a feeling in response to a healthy absence of any tension in the throat, including the posterior part of the tongue, the pharynx and the larynx.
So really, trying hard to get a large amount of space in the mouth or throat may actually be counterproductive. The “yawn” approach is often used by voice teachers, but this is an exaggeration of the results of what we should aim to achieve as singers and often, will cause unwanted symptoms such as a retracted tongue, stiffness in the palate, an exaggerated lift in the soft palate, an exaggerated lowering of the larynx, and a distended pharynx.
Of course, variations in the type of sound you are aiming to produce will bring about variations physiologically, especially if we compare operatic technique to belting technique. Here, we are simply addressing the hidden truths about the general concept of opened throat.
So how do we achieve the correct amount of relaxation or open sensation in the throat for singing? Well, if you can stop at the very beginning of the yawn, that would be sufficient, but often, it is hard to stop there as just talking about it will likely produce a full yawn!
Here is an alternate approach to try out:
To know what a relaxed throat should feel like, start by dropping your jaw down keeping your tongue and face relaxed, and breath through your mouth for a few breaths. This is similar to a previous tip I have shared with you but this time, we will add in an element.
To enhance the relaxed feeling at the back of the mouth and throat, drop your head back against the wall, making your jaw drop even more, and remain in the position for a few more breaths, making sure you are completely relaxed. Your tongue should not be tensed or retracted!
Now, obviously, you should not sing in this posture. This is just to get a sense of what open throat feels like. Try to keep this sensation as you bring your head back up to practice making sounds.
Something I like to add in here, is to imagine the feeling of downing a shot glass of – we’ll say water! – without swallowing. The water would flow down all at once since the throat and the swallow muscles remain relaxed; inactivated.
The challenge will be to keep this feeling when you are singing and I just know that when you achieve this, you will love the results!