Jon Robyns

What is a singing straw?

What is a singing straw?

If you've never heard of singing straws, you're not alone. But singing through a straw isn't just some wacky trend - it might just be one of the most beneficial things you can do for your voice.

It’s a legit technique grounded in science that professionals, including celebrities like Miley Cyrus, Noel Gallagher, Carrie Hope Fletcher, John-Owen Jones, Lara Chapman, Jon Robyns, and so many more swear by.

The "singing straw" technique has a foundation of rich science and is proven to promote optimal vocal chord (vocal fold) function, help you recover tired and fatigued voices, gain vocal power without straining, boost high notes, protect your voice from overuse, and generally just sing with more ease. That’s seemingly a lot of benefits to come from just singing through straws, but it all revolves around some amazing properties of physics and something called “back pressure”. Here’s what you need to know about singing straws.

Back-pressure occurs when we partially block the escape of air and acoustic energy from our body, like when using a singing straw or using a lip trill, an “Ooo” vowel, or other narrow embouchure. Instead of that energy dispersing into the air around us, it's trapped behind the singing straw and within the cheeks, recirculating within our vocal tract, giving our vocal cords a bit of a helping hand. Think of this process like recycling the energy you’ve just exerted to make an initial sound to now help make continued vocal function easier.

The back-pressure generated from using a singing straw is beneficial because it sets our vocal cords in the most favourable position or ‘posture’ for phonation, which allows them vibrate effortlessly. This means singing becomes less of a strain, and more of a breeze. Think of a singing straw as gym equipment specifically designed for your the vocal cords. In a gym, weights of different sizes cater to different muscle strengths. Similarly, drinking straws or "singing straws" of various diameters and lengths provide different levels of resistance or back-pressure.

Just as you wouldn't pick up any random weight to start your workout, not just any straw will do for this vocal exercise. Wider, shorter straws produce less back-pressure, making them the light dumbbells of the vocal workout world. In contrast, narrow, elongated straws are like the heavy weights, offering more resistance and generating more back-pressure. But here’s where it gets personal: each singer’s vocal cords have their own anatomically distinct characteristics. This means everyone has a unique 'starting pressure' required for their vocal cords to vibrate. It’s the minimum amount of energy you need to put into the voice in order to get a sound out. Thus, while one singing straw might feel perfect for one individual, it probably wont work for another. You have to find a size/configuration of a singing straw that provides your voice exactly what it needs relative to your unique anatomy, to the task your doing, or how tired your voice is feeling (and that might mean multiple configurations for one person to be used depending on those factors).

Choosing the right singing straw for your voice is akin to Cinderella’s shoe - it has to fit just right for you and only you. Only when a singing straw's back-pressure aligns with a singer's vocal cords' starting pressure does the magic truly happen. It’s this harmony that paves the way for more effortless, powerful singing. Naturally, the flip side to this is using an ill-suited singing straw - for example, a 3mm diameter by 10cm long cocktail style singing straw. Give it to 30 different people and the chances are they will all feel and experience something entirely different from each other. Simply, they will not balance their pressure and they will not get the most efficient use out of the technique. It’s exactly the same as going to the gym and lifting a weight that is too heavy for your body - you’ll strain loads and not get very far. We don’t want this for your voice!

In order to find a singing straw that works for you, I’ve developed a little “honing” protocol. It’s similar to getting an eye test at the opticians. For example, start with two extremely different singing straws, like a 3mm diameter (A) and a 10mm diameter singing straw (B). Do a pitch glide on each singing straw and select whichever one feels more comfortable and balanced. Then, once you’ve decided on either A or B, Keep that straw and change the other to something slightly closer to your preferred singing straw. For example, if your preference is for A, switch the 10mm “B” singing straw for something like a 9mm singing straw. Keep doing this until you’re happy with your choice.

Really think about the overall feeling of ease and efficiency when phonating (making a sound). Your singing straw should provide an appropriate amount of back pressure and resistance to allow your vocal folds to vibrate and produce sound without needing excessive physical effort or tension. Too much resistance, and the singing straw may feel constrictive or tight, but too little resistance and you may feel the need to compensate by pushing or squeezing, creating strain. Without sufficient back pressure, your vocal folds lose that "helping hand" effect. When a straw phonation setup provides freedom and flexibility without pushing or squeezing, you've struck the right balance tailored for your voice. Like Goldilocks, the perfect singing straw is not too much and not too little, but just right. I commend doing this several times at different points in your day, as well as when you’re feeling tired, or after a show/performance, or just as you get older. Why? Because the singing straw configuration that you find comfortable now might very well change, so it’s good to get an understanding of what resistance profiles work for you and when.

Do you notice a problem though? You could go out and buy a range of different sized straws (e.g. diameters of 3mm, 5mm, 8mm, 10mm, as well as various lengths), but using “normal” drinking straws as a “singing straw” (whether plastic, paper, or stainless steel) or any tube of a fixed length can only ever provide you with a single, fixed resistance. It’s therefore nearly impossible to change resistance easily during a task and you’ll likely end up just using whatever you have to end because it’s infinitely more convenient. Please, don’t buy a overly priced normal “singing straws” from companies that claim they’re designed for voice - they’re not. Any singing straw of a fixed length and diameter is just that, a straw.

So what’s the solution here? SHAMELESS PLUG. My company is dedicated to empowering singers. We develop innovative, patent-pending tools and products to help vocalists maximise their vocal development. Our flagship product, the Resono Pro is a revolution in “singing straw” technology and vocal training and offers dynamic, variable resistance equivalent to over 40 differently sized singing straws IN ONE. That means you carry only 1 device and get over 40 resistance profiles to choose from, no matter how your voice is feeling. The Resono Pro is trusted by professionals worldwide, including Broadway, West End, and Television/Film stars from various shows such as Les Miserable, Wicked, Hamilton, Frozen, Phantom of the Opera, and Some Like It Hot, Moulin Rouge, and SO many more! I really wanted to design something that was suitable for all voices and use-cases, and required very little effort to use.

Buy why? with the Resono Pro you instantly unlock the ability to dynamically shift between resistance in the middle of a vocal task. For example, if you do a pitch glide from low to high, your voice actually requires different resistance at either end. With a normal straw you’d have to switch them out mid-way or try and add more straws to blow through, which really does not work at all. Trust me. With the Resono, all you do is spin the dial to increase or decrease resistance in the moment, without interrupting your training. There’s a whole host of other really cool features too that would be too long to go into here, but think of the Resono Pro as a fully kitted out personalised gym for your voice (as opposed to one singular dumbbell within that gym).

Don’t forget - straw phonation / singing through a straw isn’t just a fad or an eccentric trick; it’s grounded in solid science. Offering a range of benefits, from reduced strain to improved vocal power, singing through a straw is revolutionising the way we approach voice training. So, next time you see someone serenading a straw, remember: they're onto something big!

Oren Boder

Oren Boder

BSc(Hons) MBPsS DipLCM(TD) DipNYVC 25+ CPD

Founder | Entrepreneur | Award Winner

Shop the story

Leave a comment

* Required fields

Please note: comments must be approved before they are published.