Can experts identify “open throat” technique as a perceptual phenomenon?

Helen F. Mitchell, Dianna T. Kenny

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

    7 Citations (Scopus)


    Singing pedagogues have identified “open throat” as a widely used pedagogical tool in the singing studio and a critical technique to achieve good classical vocal quality. This study is the first to assess the perceptual validity of open throat. Fifteen expert singing pedagogues assessed 48 messa di voce and 24 song samples with six repeats of six advanced singing students under two conditions: “optimal” (O), representing use of maximal open throat technique and “sub-optimal” (SO), representing reduced open throat. Correctly identified responses were counted by condition (O/SO), by judge and by singer. Data were analyzed using Cohen's Kappa. Hypotheses that correct identification would be greater than chance were confirmed for both messa di voce and the song samples, with thirteen of the fifteen judges correctly identifying 82.7% of song samples as O or SO. Singers' self-ratings attributed their best singing to maximal use of open throat technique. These results indicate that listeners are consistent in making a dichotomous choice in identifying use of a singing technique through auditory-perceptual evaluation. The findings from this study suggest that there is a sound quality associated with the use of open throat technique, which is a perceptual reality to singing pedagogues and singers and that the specific vocal quality in classical singing that it produces can be reliably identified by expert listeners. If singers and expert listeners' of singing accord, focussing future research on specific singing techniques could enhance singing pedagogy.

    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)33-57
    Number of pages25
    JournalMusicae Scientiae
    Issue number1
    Publication statusPublished - 2006


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