Straw Singing

 July 9, 2019   |    Songbird Studios   |    Tips & Tricks, Vocal Health

Written by Songbird founder and owner Whitney Nichole.

I walk around with a teeny tiny stainless steel straw hanging out of my mouth and people stare. I look like a total weirdo. What the hell is she doing, people think? 

Well folks, if you’re a Songbird Studios student, you most likely are familiar with Straw Phonation (or Straw Singing), but if you’re scratching your head right now – let’s dive right in.

Singing through a straw might look ridiculous, but it has major benefits that are rooted firmly in voice science. Don’t believe me? Just ask one of the most respected scientists in the field of Vocology, Dr. Ingo Titze

Here’s the thing, singing through a straw is a “semi-occluded vocal tract” (SOVT) exercise. What does that mean exactly? Semi-occluded translates to partially blocked – which means that the air coming out of your mouth as you sing is restricted. This means you feel a bit of resistance as you sing (the thinner the straw, the more resistance you feel), and that air restriction helps to send energy back to the vocal folds, balance the pressures in the vocal tract and re-align the vocal folds in an easy, efficient and optimal pattern. Sounds crazy, right? That’s why I think of it like voice magic 🙂

Seriously though, the benefits of straw phonation are extensive: 

  • 🎤 Makes singing easier
  • Helps you recover when your voice is tired or you are sick
  • 🎙️ Reinforces healthy resonance 
  • Reduces unnecessary tension and strain 
  • 🎵 Helps build flexibility and stamina

How do you use it? 

Well, first of all, get yourself a sustainable version. Plastic sucks. We love straw singing so much here at Songbird that our founder developed something unique – check out the Singing / Straw. You can also use any of those old (now almost out of style) coffee-stirring or cocktail straws. Now that you’re equipped, what exactly do you do?

This may sound obvious but sing through it. Get set up like you’re going to drink with it, and instead start vocalizing. Make sure all your air is going through the straw (none should be leaking out the sides – and if this is an issue, try two or three at a time / or larger diameter). Pinch your nose to double-check that you aren’t humming. 

Start simple, with some glides through your range or perhaps your favorite song melody – if you can’t think of anything just go with “Happy Birthday.” It doesn’t really matter, all that matters is that you’re phonating through the straw. A little goes a long way, so you can do this for a minute or so – then go back to singing and speaking and see if you notice a difference. If you’re doing it correctly, you’ll feel ease come into play – a lightening. That’s your voice getting more efficient. Boom, magic. 

The great thing about straw phonation is that the magic doesn’t stop there. It has a variety of applications that help singers develop, warm-up, train and rehabilitate their voices. Stay tuned, because we’ll dive deeper in future blog series. And if you’re in the SF Bay Area, schedule a free initial voice consultation at Songbird Studios to try it out in person!