Semi-occluded vocal tract exercises have been enjoying a revival in voice training – but what is the best way to practice them?
To find out more about the benefits of ‘S.O.V.T’ exercises, read these articles:
1. A Straw, Popularized by Ingo Titze
Ingo Titze is a leading voice scientist who recommends that you find a small narrow straw to hum through for 2-3 minutes, 2-3 times a day.
You should aim for a gentle vocal tone with minimal effort. Allow the vocal folds to naturally thin or lighten as you ascend through your range. You don’t want to force the voice.
This may feel and sound alien to those with big strong ‘belty’ voices, so this may take a while to master.
If your voice cracks, it may mean that you are pushing too much air, or that your vocal folds are tired/dehydrated, or that your vocal folds simply need more muscle toning to adduct efficiently.
As your skill level increases you can work towards using narrower straws.
2. Joseph Stemple’s Vocal Function Exercise CD
Stemple recommends these exercises twice a day. You are instructed to sing straight tones and on sirens through your whole range on the word ‘knoll’.
Holding straight notes is the equivalent of yoga for the voice – held positions will achieve a deeper stretch, producing more muscle tone and flexibility.
Also, you get the chance to focus on your breathing because the exercises are endurance based.
Puffing out your cheeks will help raise your soft palate and reduce nasality. You can test this by pinching your nose throughout the exercises.
Learn more about Joseph Stemple’s exercises.
3. The ‘Pocket Vox’ by Doctor Vox
This is a 2-in-1 easy to use accessory that enables you to practice bubble blowing, then with a quick switch and refill you can steam your voice too.
You must have a consistent but gentle air flow in order to create a steady stream of bubbles in the water. Singers with over or underactive respiratory habits will quickly become aware of them.
Again, nasality is addressed because you will only successfully blow bubbles if you are directing your voice through your mouth.
Because of the visual aid, singers who tend to over-think may be tricked into ‘going with the flow’ (or bubbles!) They may find that they allow the voice to work intuitively without being tempted to over-work.
Read more about Doctor Vox’s technology.
4. The ‘NG’ Siren from The Estill Voice Model
You are instructed to position your tongue and soft palate as if you had just finished saying the word ‘sing’: tongue high, in contact with the soft palate.
Then, glide through your whole range in this position with minimal vocal breaks. Aim for a low but consistent volume.
This exercise is often described as a ‘diagnostic tool’ because it reveals all of the register breaks and inconsistencies your voice really has.
Once you’ve mastered the siren, you can perform a ‘miren’ which is where you keep the ‘NG’ position at the back of your mouth but create the words at the front of your mouth. It’s a great way to practice repertoire without tiring your voice.
Find out more about the Estill siren on Tom Burke’s blog.
5. Lip Bubble and Tongue Trill
Some people find it difficult to produce a tongue trill, but for those who can lip bubble, the added benefits are relaxation of the facial muscles and a well-positioned jaw and/or tongue.
You may notice that as soon as you tense or start giggling, you are unable to maintain a lip bubble or tongue trill. Total relaxation is required.
The rule of thumb with all of these S.O.V.T exercises is little and often, and gentle and smooth. You are aiming for true efficiency of vocal fold closure and range flexibility.
Keep calm and semi-occlude!