The Open Throat in a Closed - Voice Culture
An historical, pedagogical and scientific review of an ancient concept in singing.

Stephen F.Austin, M.M., Ph.D.
College of Music, University of North Texas

The concept of the ‘open throat’ has been used through the years to describe a pedagogical tenet that in part defines the ‘bel canto’ tradition of singing in western opera and art song. In this presentation the concept of the open throat will be explored. Garcia defined two timbres of tone; the voix clair or ‘clear voice’, and the voix sombre, or the ‘somber voice’ . His teaching and a long line of successors into the twenty-first century promote the voix sombre as the desirable timbre for the classically trained singer. It will be shown from important historical sources that the concept of the ‘open throat’ meant the ‘comfortably low larynx’ and that this was the means of producing the voix sombre. This practice led to the evolution of the do di petto, or the male high voice produced with the full, ringing quality of the chest voice. The concept of the open throat has been credited as the primary means of equalizing register transitions and for freeing the intrinsic laryngeal musculature from unnecessary tensions . The open throat is also credited as being a possible source for the singer’s formant . However, a recent comment by Titze suggested that the emphases on the lower laryngeal posture may not be necessary.

The case will be made that the open throat is no longer commonly taught and that the absence of this concept in contemporary vocal pedagogy often leads to voice mis-classification and can limit the potential of the student. Contemporary music trends in singing do not require the open throat and the dominant prevalence of more popular musical styles in our culture may be in part responsible for the changing tradition.

Click here to return to the schedule/abstract listing