SOVT Straw Exercises for a Strong Speaking Voice

If you want a strong speaking voice, then keep on reading. Let me introduce you to an easy and fun exercise that will improve vocal cord closure and therefore give you more vocal power without taxing your voice. Let’s talk about SOVT straw exercises.  

And if we’ve met before, then you know that I am a big fan of any type of SOVT exercises, especially straw exercises. I’ve made many posts and videos on this topic but there is still a lot of misunderstanding about these exercises, so … here we go again. 

 SOVT Straw Exercises

If you have not heard about SOVT or straw exercises, no worries. Here is a quick recap.

SOVT exercises stand for semi-occluded vocal tract exercises, which means that there is a narrowing or occlusion in the vocal tract. This narrowing creates back pressure that makes the vocal folds work more efficiently. That’s because the pressure below and above the vocal folds equalize. Simply said, you get more bang for the buck.

Straw exercises are just a wonderful example of SOVT exercises and the narrowing is right here at the lips where you blow into the straw. Straw exercises, or straw phonation as voice scientists may call it, have many benefits for a speaking voice.

Benefits of SOVT Straw Exercises

Straw exercises improve vocal cord closure so they may be a good choice for people who want to eliminate breathiness from their voice or want to build more vocal power.

Straw exercises give you nice feedback about airflow, so they are good for people who either push too much breath through the vocal cords or withhold their breath. If you push too much air through the vocal cords, two things can happen. The vocal cords either cannot resist the pressure and they leak air, and you will sound breathy. Or the vocal cords resist this pressure by tightening, which results in pressed phonation and vocal strain.

Straw exercises also decrease muscular and vocal effort when making sounds, therefore these exercises are often used for people with strained voices.

If you are experiencing vocal strain, tension or even pain when speaking, and you are ready to work towards a free, strong and confident voice, you can apply to our Vocal Freedom System coaching program. Click this link to learn more.

You can use straw exercises to warm up your voice before a speaking task, you can use them to cool down after a long day of talking. You can use straws to release tension or help with  voice recovery or improvement of vocal function.

 How To Do SOVT Straw Exercises? 

So, what do you need for this exercise? A straw or even better several straws with different diameters. It does not matter what the straws are made of, but the size matters. The length is somewhat important but the most important characteristic is the diameter. That’s because the diameter will determine the resistance and the resistance level will dictate the difficulty level of the exercise. 

 The smaller the diameter, the more workout you’ll get. Narrow straws are good for strengthening exercises and for people who really enjoy the sensation of the back pressure. Wider straws will provide less resistance, and we generally use them more for cool downs and relaxation purposes. 

Here is the most basic exercise you can do right now. Put the straw in your mouth and make a good seal with your lips around the straw. Don’t let the air escape through the nose. If you are not sure if air is escaping through your nose, you can plug it and vocalize in this way. Blowing through the straw can be somewhat useful but you can exercise your vocal folds when you make sounds. Use the vowel “ooo” when blowing through the straw. Keep the tongue tip behind your lower teeth.

The sound you are making is soft, it is not supposed to be loud. Focus on the sensations. Where do you feel the vibrations? Can you hear and feel the airflow through the straw? How much air do you need? Can you feel the back pressure? How does it feel?

Inhale and then blow through the straw and make a sound. Choose a pitch in your comfortable speaking range. Sustain the sound for as long as you can but don’t push the last bit of air through. Notice how little air you are using for making these sounds. Put a hand in front of the straw and feel the air coming out. Feel the vibrations in your lips, in your soft palate, in the straw. Well done.

Watch the video below for demonstrations.


Misconceptions About SOVT Straw Exercises

This exercise is not a magic trick. If you have a vocal issue, straws will most likely not solve it. Straws are just one tool and vocal issues usually require a more complex approach. I often meet people who tell me that they practice with straws but they still get hoarse. That’s because you need a different type of exercise.

Straw phonation exercises have short-term benefits. Don’t expect to have long lasting changes in your voice after doing straw exercises for five minutes. To achieve long-lasting changes you need to explore your voice with awareness and a variety of exploratory exercises. 

Having said that, I believe that straw exercises are wonderful. I recommend them for people with vocal issues as part of a more comprehensive approach or for maintaining vocal health after they recover. I really encourage all people with healthy voices, especially professional voice users with high demands on their voice, to use them preventatively either as a warm up in the morning or as a cool down at the end of the day. Whether you’re a singer, teacher, salesperson, public speaker, actor, or maybe a busy parent, your voice is your greatest asset. That’s why you need to keep it in good shape. And SOVT straw exercises will do just that. They are gentle, relaxing, and can encourage your vocal folds to work together in the most optimal way.


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