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How to Sing Open Tones

Learn how to sing open tones in this Howcast online singing lesson featuring singer Anya Singleton.


Hi. I'm Anya Singleton. We're going to talk about how to sing open tones. That means something different depending on what kind of singer you are. Are you an opera singer or you a jazz singer? Basically, what I mean by open tones is being able to keep the throat open so that the tone is pure and it is not fettered by strain or anything like that.

A nice simple exercise for that, we talked about humming and sirens earlier. Those are great because you're running through the gamut with your voice and relaxing it. I like to do an exercise where I smile it up real big and fake, and you want to keep the cheek bones up really, really high, and then you want to breath in on a K. What that does is that it opens up, it pushes the soft pallet away from the base of the tongue and it opens up the throat. When you do it, you should feel some cool air come in. If you do it correctly, then that will open up the whole throat. If I do that and then approach singing . . . nice and open, no strain through the neck, no strain through the chin. We tend to hold a lot of tension in the jawbone, none of that. We should even be able to do it as we get higher if we're keeping it nice and open, doing that, I call it a K-stretch. Nice and open, relaxed, even though that's higher, no strain.

That's a great exercise to do. It looks a little crazy, but I feel it really works because it forces everything to open up with you thinking so hard about hitting a note. Especially as we get higher, a lot of vocal exercises we do are geared to keep going up and up the scale. Like most of us, you're going to think, "Oh, my God. I'm getting higher and higher. I'm not going to get to the top of this," but you will. If you feel like you're not, stop, do some of those stretches. Open up the throat and you'll find that getting an open tone is easier.

I think another tip is to think about using open vowel sounds, like an, 'ah' or an 'ooh'. Try to avoid maybe E, that closes the sound in close to the teeth. Those are great, I happen to love E, but I think if you're looking for open tones, especially if you have a ballad with a lot of long and sustained notes, then that's the best way to do it. Focus on opening up the throat, being able to sustain the note, and take your time with it.

I think another thing to do, a lot of vocal exercises we do are fast because you want to make sure that you're in the pitch and you're moving up the scale. Do it slow, take your time, do half an octave, stop. Do another half, start up here, come down here, move around; just get comfortable with it. Then pretty soon, you'll be able to do an open tone no matter where you are in your personal scale.

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