If you’re a voice professional, voice student, or just someone who works on improving your voice, you’ve probably heard about straw exercises or straw phonation. That’s where you vocalize slides or scales through a straw. People say that straws are the way to save an injured voice. But how do they work so well to heal, condition, and train the voice? The answer: science!
Straw exercises are part of a highly effective group of voice techniques called semi-occluded vocal tract exercises, or SOVT exercises for short. With SOVT exercises, such as straw phonation, lip trills, cup bubbles, etc., you create a closure or partial closure, known as a semi-occlusion, to create resistance in the front of your instrument (the “lip end”). SOVT exercises lengthen the vocal tract and narrow the opening, creating increased acoustic back pressure that helps the vocal folds vibrate more easily. To explain: normally, when you sing or speak, the mouth is open. There is little or no lip resistance to the airflow coming up from the lungs through the vocal folds and out the mouth. If the vocal folds are closing with too much force, they create excessive resistance to that airflow. The airflow can now raise the larynx (the “voice box”) up into a higher, more tense position. That’s not a great thing for creating a relaxed easy voice.
Enter the semi-occlusion effect. With the lips closed around a narrow straw, that lip-and-straw resistance makes some of the up-flowing air/sound reflect off the lips. That reflected air then goes back down toward the vocal folds. This back-flowing air, known as back pressure, now balances the air coming up under the vocal folds.
That back pressure causes the vocal folds to “square up”, which spreads the force of impact over a greater area. The vocal folds don’t “crash” into each other. In fact, they barely touch, which is their optimal adjustment. So, if there are lesions on the approximating (touching) edges of the vocal folds, it’s more likely that they will be able to heal. Another way to think of it is, straw phonation causes less impact and collision between the vocal folds, and therefore less stress on them. It also keeps the larynx low and lengthens the vocal tract for optimal vocal function.
SOVT exercises even give your respiratory system resistance to “push against”, so you end up working on your abdominal breath support, even if you didn’t realize you were working on that skill!
These amazing techniques really create a more efficient vocal mechanism. With those sound waves bouncing off the lips and going back, and then bouncing up again, it’s as if the sound is created all by itself! You don’t have to force or work hard. So, in effect, you get a smoother, clearer, more flexible, all-around BETTER voice with LESS effort. (And isn’t that what we all want: to work less and get more out of it?). And all those sound waves bouncing into the front of your face create that beautiful buzzing mask resonance that is the hallmark of a great speaking or singing voice. (See Voice Science Works’ website for more great information on the science behind straw phonation: https://www.voicescienceworks.org/straw-phonation.html And here is the classic straw phonation “how-to” video by world-renowned voice scientist Dr. Ingo Titze: https://youtu.be/0xYDvwvmBIM ).
Now that we know all this voice science, we’re going to run for our plastic straws, right? Wrong.
Plastic pollutes the planet and is a danger to animal/marine life. Sure, you can use recycled paper straws (which might fall apart easily), or reusable bamboo straws, but you need to have those handy. Especially if you’re practicing, or on your way to a rehearsal, gig, or presentation (even a virtual one), you need to have that straw with you, or you may not achieve that buzzy, beautiful, effortless vocal tone you crave. Wouldn’t it be great if you could just wear a straw all the time, and never lose it?
Well now, voila! You can! Announcing the OOVO Straw Necklace and Sing Ring. The OOVO Straw necklace is a beautiful sterling silver mini straw, engineered with the exact length and diameter to give you that “buzzy easy” voice. The OOVO Straw necklace also comes coated in gold or rose gold, on a lovely long chain.
When you want to store your OOVO Straw necklace, OOVO gives you a beautiful storage box that holds a micro-suede pouch for the necklace, as well as a slide-out drawer that holds a silver polishing cloth and a mini cleaning brush.
If wearing your straw around your neck isn’t cool enough, you might also be interested in my favorite OOVO product, the Sing Ring.
The Sing Ring is also engineered to produce the perfect semi-occlusion, but with a very practical modification: 3 diamond-shaped holes that you can cover with your fingers. Cover one, two, or all three for differing amounts of resistance.
The Sing Ring also comes in a handy little case with a carabiner to attach it to your belt, gig bag, or purse.
For a fun look at the OOVO products in action, take a look at our video below. (Spoiler Alert: my dogs are in it, but they are not singing 😊).
Patrick Lundquist, the founder and CEO of OOVO Straw, has created a series of great OOVO Straw warm-up exercises; check out his YouTube series here: https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLdl0p0iESMzehZ96Naz2eyUQEZyezlFu0
You can practice along with your own OOVO Straw necklace or Sing Ring.
I recommend OOVO Straws not just for singers, but for teachers, public speakers, coaches, video-conference speakers…really anyone who uses their voice in their career, and wants to reduce vocal strain/fatigue and create a clearer, stronger, healthier voice. You can use OOVO straw to warm up your voice in the morning, and any time throughout the day when your voice needs a “reset”. And here’s one more really nice bonus: you’ll know you’re using a product that is made sustainably, with plastic-free materials. The company strives to maintain a minimal carbon footprint. OOVO straws are effective products that are good for the planet, and good for you!
Professional Voice Care Center is pleased to announce that we are now OOVO Straw Ambassadors. Use this link and the discount code VOICE10 to buy this great product with a 10% discount.
https://oovostraw.com/ref/Karen.Sussman/ OOVO products make great holiday or birthday gifts for that singer, teacher, or any professional voice user on your list!
*As an OOVO Affiliate, Professional Voice Care Center earns money from qualifying purchases.
So, take care of your voice and take your practicing with you anywhere you go…with OOVO Straws. As they say on the OOVO website, the best choice for a better voice!