So you’ve put in your time, done your straw work. Maybe you’ve had to deal with muscle tension or a vocal injury, so you understand the benefits of doing semi-occluded vocal tract exercises (SOVT).
If you’ve gotten into the habit of making the straw phonation part of your daily practice, great! Keep that up!
But just because you’ve done your straw work, doesn’t mean your work as a vocalist is done.
There is no denying the benefits of straw work or SOVT exercises in general. I use them frequently with my clients. (Lip trills, tongue trills, NG pitch glides, etc. those are all SOVT exercises). I see many singers and singing teachers expecting miracles from the straw. And so they should! The straw has been a proven way to rehab the voice and is used frequently in voice therapy.
What exactly does the straw do: there is no denying, straw phonation exercises provide relief from tension, re-align your instrument, promote the right balance of air/muscle ratio, and literally feed energy back into your vocal folds.
What the straw does not do: it doesn’t give you a free pass to go back to singing with imbalance. (yikes...I know)
What ends up happening when we go to sing actual words?….when we walk out on stage, or into an audition room…what muscle memory shows up when we sing?
Are we able to keep the same balance and ease as we felt in the straw?
Sometimes not, and this is where we need to go beyond the straw and work a bit more on conditioning.
What I mean by conditioning is, preparing your instrument to meet the demands of what’s required of it in the context of singing actual words in a song.
Would an olympic lifter who works on their form for years, go back to bad form habits during a competition? Nope. They spend countless hours learning proper form so as to avoid injury and perform optimally.
And the same thing goes with singing.
I’ve seen it all too many times: singers use their straws for warming up, but then go right back to:
-pulling up too much TA past the bridge (pulling chest)
-and many other habits….
Yes the straw can help with conditioning, but let’s go a bit further.
Let me give you an example. Let’s say you’re singing a phrase of a song and you’re finding it challenging. Yes you can totally put the song phrase through the straw. That’s a great start!
What did you notice about that? How can you keep that same coordination and balance?
The next steps would be to ask yourself:
-what vowels are in this phrase?
-what is my air pressure like? (too much or too little)
-what is my balance of air flow and resistance like (pressed, breathy or flow phonation?)
-maybe I need to sing this on a vowel consonant combination (this is where private lessons help!)
So what I’m trying to say here is to go a bit further. There are also many other tools out there for singers to work with. So keep doing your straw work. And also keep working beyond the straw!