In my last video, I mentioned the usefulness of straw phonation for learning to use breath generously when you speak. Straw phonation simply involves the act of making sound through a drinking straw. Before we get to the fun part, you should understand what it does, and that requires a bit of vocal science, so bear with me. Straw phonation is just one of a group of vocal exercises classed as SVOT, semi-occluded vocal tract. That just means partially closed voice channel. Humming, lip trills and straw phonation all work on the principle of a semi-occluded vocal tract because they have the effect of narrowing and/or lengthening the channel used to produce sound. SVOT benefits your voice because it causes more acoustic energy to bounce back to your vocal folds.
Whaaat? I know, you’d think sound is just coming out when you speak, but a certain amount of sound energy is actually reflecting back into your vocal tract. Increasing this bounce-back makes vocal fold vibration easier much like giving your voice a gentle push on a swing. Straw phonation also encourages better alignment of your vocal folds and helps to balance the pressure above and below your vocal folds. Those two effects produce more efficient vocal fold vibration. So, straw phonation helps your vocal folds vibrate more easily and efficiently.
What sort of drinking straw are we talking about? While conventional plastic straws will work and they’re readily available, I suggest searching for paper or metal straws because they’re more eco-friendly. We all know that single-use plastics cause a lot of environmental damage. You can play with different diameters. Larger straws are easier because there’s less restriction of air flow. Smaller straws like coffee straws are more difficult but ultimately more effective. I recommend starting with larger straws and moving toward smaller straws as you get better at it. You’ll quickly realize which size straw is the best fit for your current voice. Place the straw between your lips and produce a gentle unforced sound. [demonstrate] Make sure no air is escaping around your lips or through your nose.
Staying within your optimal speaking range, start by producing a sound that slides from high to low. [demonstrate] How easy does the sound feel? How steady and consistent is the sound? Can you feel the straw vibrating with sound? Experiment with that for a few minutes. Now produce a sound from low to high and down again [demonstrate], looking for ease, consistency and lots of vibration. Then do that three times on one breath. [demonstrate] Continue that practice for a few minutes. Make sure you’re breathing deeply into your belly before each attempt. Don’t rush into the next repetition with no breath. There are two other things to avoid with straw phonation. One is the tendency to tense your lips around the straw.
Another is the tendency to pull your tongue away from the end of the straw. Those are not habits you want to reinforce. Straw phonation is great because it helps you focus on… the physical sensation of producing sound, rather than the words you’re speaking. That is a common and persistent problem, especially for beginning students. Anything that helps you focus on… the feeling of how you’re producing the sound, rather than being distracted by the words you’re saying, is a huge help in your training. I highly recommend adding straw phonation to your list of voice exercises. It’s great for warming-up, cooling down after practice and for soothing a tired, overworked voice. Thanks for watching. Tell me what you discover, experimenting with straw phonation. I’ll see you in the next video. Voice Exercise: Straw Phonation