Have you ever tried to sing through a straw before?
Chances are that you've attempted it as a child, but you may not have realized that straw singing, often referred to as straw phonation, is a helpful vocal technique for singers and speakers that want to maximize their performance abilities.
Straw singing is perhaps the most popular form of SOVT singing, which stands for semi-occluded vocal tract. It may sound intense, but it's really just a fact way that you are singing with your mouth partially open.
When you sing with a partially open mouth, you'll find a few different hidden benefits when you break down the science behind it. Let's briefly take a look at some of the ways straw singing can help you as a singer!
The first time I came across the act of straw phonation as a professional singing technique was when I was learning how to manage my breath better for long phrases.
Sustaining a good amount of breathing through phrases is a challenge for many singers, and straw singing addresses the problem.
When you sing with this technique, the straw will force you not to use any more breath than you need to, which many singers make the mistake of doing.
When you use all your breath too soon at the beginning of a phrase, you'll find yourself struggling to sing through to the end.
Straw phonation also works as a magic that allows the energy and resonance that escaped through your fully-open mouth to bounce back down into your body and allow your vocal cords to vibrate more freely.
This works especially well for new singers that are afraid to sing out and be confident in their vocal instrument.
When we sing with our vocal folds in a more balanced position, we can have more control over our range, the vocal transitions we do when performing in different parts of our register, and the vocal ornaments we can sing as we go.
To get a more balanced position in your vocal folds, vocal experts say that a semi-occluded vocal tract can help the air pressure in your larynx (also known as your voice box, where the vocal cords are).
The air from our lungs acts against the air that bounces back from your pursed lips when straw singing.
When we sing with our mouths fully open, the air pressure can come in quite intensely and cause us to overwork our vocal muscles, which can cause vocal fatigue.
When your vocal power only comes out through a straw, you help to make sure your body doesn't work too hard, especially in your larynx.
Related Post: Vocal Fatigue - What It Is And How To Avoid It
It is highly recommended that you use paper or metal straws instead of plastic straws in order to protect the environment from toxic waste.
Paper and metal straws work really great, and the larger straws are recommended for male singers, while smaller straws can be used for child and female singers.
The sizes are recommended this way because, in general, larger vocal cords produce a lower range of singing. So bass sopranos have larger vocal cords than soprano singers have.
There is a bit of backlash when it comes to the SOVT of straw phonation amongst teachers and performers in the music world.
The main problem I see is that there are a few individuals and companies that are overselling the idea of straw phonation because they are trying to sell a product related to the exercise.
While you may find success and feel better about your singing journey by buying a $50+ straw from an online company, you can literally almost any straw you have around the house already.
The technique does not need to be a whole thing that you buy products and a course for.
One of the best times to practice your ability to sing through a straw is when you are warming up your voice before a performance.
It's also recommended for professional singers and voice talent who practice vocal cooldowns after a show to avoid fatigue and vocal overuse.
Speaking of vocal fatigue, straw singing is a great way to train your body to go easy on your vocal cords if you are attempting to sing while you are sick with a cold, suffering from allergies, or something similar.
But if you can, avoid singing overall while sick and go on voice rest!
Singing through a straw is a fun way to get new singers to understand the way that their vocal cords work.
It can correct early breathing problems that many singers have and help them safely access and discover their vocal range capabilities without damage that can often come from learning the ropes.
Sing through the straw on the same note for long periods of time (i.e., a 12 or 16 count) to help you even out your breath support through phrases.
Do vocal warmups through the straw with scales and sirens to help warm your voice up without causing any vocal strain and to help you gain control of your full range.
Sing through an easy song that has many notes (i.e., the happy birthday song) to warm your voice up through many different notes in a song.
When attempting straw phonation, you want all of your air to only come through the straw and not any other part of your mouth or your nose. It may help to manually cover your nose with a hand if you are tempted to breathe through it.
Practice good posture while singing through a straw by standing, sitting upright, or laying on your back, which is a great way to get your body in a good alignment to practice singing.
If you want to use a plastic straw, consider using corn-based plastics that are easily degradable and won't do the same type of damage to the environment that petroleum-based plastic straws can cause.
If you really want to get fancy, try the Sing Ring Vocal Training & Therapy Tool, which is the only one I'd recommend actually getting since it has built-in resistance training for air.
Related Post: How To Sing From Your Diaphragm And Not Your Throat
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