6 Semi Occluded Vocal Tract Exercises To Try Tuesday February 27 2024, 4:15 PM
Yona Marie
Singer, Songwriter, Producer.
6 Semi Occluded Vocal Tract Exercises To Try

Semi-Occluded Vocal Tract Exercises (SOVT)

Semi-occluded vocal tract exercises (SOVT) are a group of voice therapy or vocal training techniques that involve partially blocking the exit of air from the mouth or nose to create back pressure.

This back pressure helps the vocal folds (cords) vibrate more efficiently, with less strain and effort. The principle behind SOVT exercises is to improve vocal function and health by optimizing the relationship between airflow and vocal fold vibration.

These exercises are widely used by singers, actors, public speakers, and individuals recovering from voice disorders. They are considered effective for both vocal development and rehabilitation, underlining their versatility and utility in voice therapy and training.

SOVT Exercise Benefits 

Minimizing Vocal Effort and Reducing Strain

Semi-Occluded Vocal Tract Exercises naturally promote a more efficient way of producing sound by partially obstructing the airflow at the mouth, which in turn, reduces the effort required by the vocal folds to vibrate.

This physiological phenomenon occurs because the back pressure created by the obstruction helps the vocal folds to come together more easily and stay together with less force.

As a result, singers and speakers can produce sound with significantly reduced strain. This is especially beneficial during long performances or speeches, as it helps prevent vocal fatigue and potential damage to the vocal folds over time.

Enhancing Vocal Resonance and Clarity

The unique configuration of the vocal tract during SOVT exercises encourages optimal resonance, which is the amplification of the natural frequencies of the voice. By practicing these exercises, individuals can explore and discover the most resonant tones of their voice.

This enhanced resonance contributes to a fuller, richer sound that requires less physical effort to produce.

Plus, the clarity of the voice is improved as the exercises help to maintain a steady airflow, ensuring that the vocal folds can vibrate freely and produce a clean, clear sound.

Improving Vocal Range and Flexibility

Engaging in SOVT exercises can lead to noticeable improvements in vocal range and flexibility. The gentle resistance against the vocal folds encourages them to adapt and strengthen, making it easier to access both higher and lower notes with less effort.

This is particularly useful for singers who wish to expand their repertoire or for speakers who seek to vary their pitch for expressive or dynamic speech.

Additionally, the exercises promote smoother transitions between vocal registers, such as from chest voice to head voice, by fostering a balanced production across the vocal spectrum.

Serving as a Vocal Warm-up or Cool-down

SOVT exercises are highly effective for both warming up the voice before use and cooling it down afterwards. By starting with these exercises, individuals can gradually increase vocal fold vibration in a controlled and healthy manner, preparing the voice for more demanding tasks without the risk of injury.

Similarly, using SOVT exercises after heavy vocal use helps to relax the vocal folds and reduce swelling, aiding in the recovery process.

This preparatory and restorative aspect is essential for maintaining vocal health, especially for those who regularly engage in intense vocal activities.

6 Great SOVT Exercises

Lip Trills/Bubbles

Lip trills, also known as lip bubbles, involve blowing air out through the lips that are loosely closed, causing them to vibrate or trill. This exercise creates a gentle resistance to the airflow, which helps in reducing tension in the vocal cords and surrounding muscles.

By maintaining this trill while vocalizing different pitches or scales, singers can warm up their voice efficiently, promoting flexibility and range extension.

The vibration also encourages relaxation in the facial muscles and helps in establishing a connection between breath support and vocal production, making it a favored warm-up technique among vocalists.


Humming is performed by keeping the lips closed and producing a sustained "mmm" sound, which naturally creates a semi-occluded vocal tract.

This exercise is beneficial for several reasons. First, it helps in warming up the voice gently without strain. Second, the vibrations felt during humming can increase sensory awareness in the face, lips, and nasal passages, which aids in resonance and tone production.

Humming is also useful for focusing on breath support and control, as it requires a steady airflow to maintain the sound. This simple yet effective exercise can serve as a foundation for more complex vocal techniques.

Singing or Vocalizing Through a Straw

Singing or vocalizing through a straw channels the airflow through a narrow passage, creating back pressure that helps the vocal folds vibrate more efficiently. This can be done into the open air or into a water bottle for added resistance.

The back pressure eases the phonation process, allowing for a smoother, more balanced sound production. It's a versatile exercise that can be adapted to different levels of difficulty by changing the straw's diameter or the medium into which one is singing.

Phonating into an Occluded Tube or Pipe

Similar to straw phonation, phonating into an occluded tube or pipe involves singing or vocalizing through a tube or pipe that offers more variety in size and material. This method also creates back pressure, but the different tools can offer a range of resistances and tactile feedback.

The diversity in apparatus size and the ability to use materials like PVC pipes or commercially available vocal tubes can cater to personal preferences and specific vocal goals. 

Hand-over-mouth Exercises

The hand-over-mouth exercise involves placing a hand slightly in front of the mouth to create a small gap, then singing or vocalizing through this space.

This method creates a semi-occluded environment, similar to the other techniques, but with the added benefit of immediate tactile feedback from the hand.

This feedback can help singers adjust their resonance, airflow, and articulation in real-time. It's a simple and accessible exercise that can be particularly useful for focusing on the sensations of singing and for making subtle adjustments to technique.

Finger Kazoo

The finger kazoo exercise uses the fingers to create a slight closure at the lips while vocalizing, mimicking the action of playing a kazoo. This partial occlusion again generates back pressure, facilitating more efficient vocal fold vibration.

This exercise can be playful yet effective, helping to relax the vocal mechanism and introduce variety into the warm-up routine (great for kids!)

The finger kazoo is particularly good for engaging younger singers or beginners, making vocal practice more enjoyable while still reaping the benefits of SOVT exercises.

Yona Marie

As a session singer, writer, and producer that has worked with over 300 clients to provide high-quality jingles, singles, and features, Yona spends her time creating and marketing new music and helpful resources for creators. Check out Yona’s latest releases on her Spotify, her Youtube and share if you like it!

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