Learn The Exact Vocal Exercises I Taught Les Misérables
The cast of Les Misérables are truly amazing and are a beacon of talent in the West End. They are hard-working and dedicated to their craft, and I was lucky enough to work with them the other week to teach them how to integrate Straw Phonation into their vocal training and rehearsal routines. It was an experience I'll never forget. The singers were all so kind and so eager to learn something new that would hopefully help them through the show - especially after such a long time off due to COVID!
Your voice is an instrument. It's your most powerful one, too! Combine that with the power of straws and you've got a recipe for some seriously powerful vocal exercises. I wanted to share with you the exact method I used with the cast of Les Misérables, so you can begin to benefit from these techniques too!
Table of Contents
What is Straw Phonation / Straw Singing
Straw Singing / Straw Phonation is a type of Semi-Occluded Vocal Tract Intervention (SOVT). When we sing through a straw, we prevent the normal outflow of air and acoustic energy, as a result, only some of this energy is able leave the body. The rest gets trapped in the oral cavity, where it begins to build in pressure just behind the cheeks and lips, whilst simultaneously propagating backward down the vocal tract, toward the top of the vocal folds where it gets recycled back into the system to help you more efficiently make sounds.
Why Would Someone Use Straw Phonation?
That's right, as a result of the way the voice changes when using a singing straw or SOVT Straw, you actually recycle the energy you've already exerted, helping you to get more efficient use out of your intricate vocal muscles. Ultimately, these changes help you to cushion the vocal folds (vocal cords) from intense vibration forces, as well as lowering something called Phonation Threshold Pressure (PTP). This is a really, really good thing. PTP is basically the minimum level of energy you need to put into the system (from your core muscles and lungs) in order to make a sound. When you sing through a straw, you lower this minimum level even more, making it even easier to make sounds.
So, you can imagine, if you're fundamentally making it easier to make a sound when using a singing straw, you'll also get lots of other amazing benefits too. SOVT Straws / Singing Straws / Straw Phonation can literally help you gain vocal power without straining, strengthen your voice, recover tired and fatigued voices, get high notes more easily, and so much more! If you're a singer or an aspiring singer, these exercises are something you need to make time for in your daily routine.
Examples Of Famous People Using It
Don't just take my word for it. The pros are using this technique as part of their daily vocal training routines, rehearsals, warmups, and cool downs. Of course, you know about the cast of Les Misérables using SOVT Straws, but did you also know singers like Miley Cyrus use these techniques too? Check out some of the pros below!
Miley Cyrus using SOVT techniques as a warmup before a show!
Carrie Hope Fletcher using our SOVT Straw to train and warmup whilst working on Andrew Lloyd Webber's adaptation of Cinderella in the West End.
Watch Carrie's full video on her YouTube channel.
Shan Ako using the SOVT Straw as well during a full company warmup with Les Miserables
Follow Shan on Instagram: @shanofficially
The Exact Exercises I Taught The Cast Of Les Misérables
I taught the cast of Les Misérables some incredible ways to use an SOVT Straw with 3 different goals in mind.
We explored 3 awesome ways to warmup your voice, with the specific intention of preparing the voice for singing a show. The aim was to provide a mix of easy to do tasks as well as something that represented normal singing as well, but incorporated the benefits of singing straws.
🎹 1-3-5-3-1 x3
🗣 1x Straw into 1x Vowel Sound into 1x Straw
💡 This vocal warmup is basically a sandwich of straw phonation and normal singing sounds. Basically, we repeat the pattern once through with a straw to create the efficient environment, then we go through again but change to a normal vowel sound, and then finally once more through with the straw again.
🎹 Comfortable Range
🗣 Pitch Glides
💡 This is a super simple vocal warmup, and you can do it pretty much anywhere. What's great is you don't need any piano backing tracks, you just need a straw and your own voice. The idea is to gently pitch glide (glissando) up through your comfortable vocal range, then back down. Do this a few times stretching a little more each time through.
🎹 1-2-3-4-5-4-3-2-1 x5
🗣 Rotating Vowel Sounds (ee, eh, i, oh, oo) into funnel + straw
💡 Similar to the first vocal warmup, but this time we're taking the concept and expanding it into an awesome new intervention. With this, you'll want to rotate between vowel sounds whilst following the pattern, and there's a couple of ways to achieve this. Either, you use your straw throughout the entire vocal warmup, but you internally change the vowel shapes in your mouth, OR, you can use a silicone kitchen funnel to cover your mouth with, then "plug" the straw into the end of it. This will allow you to fully articulate into the funnel, whilst also getting the benefits of the straw!
Vocal Cool downs / recovery
🗣 Straw Phonation in water with super low energy, comfortable range only
💡 This vocal cool down is a great way to reset the voice after a long day of singing or after a show. We've purposefully selected really small intervals, as we don't want to stretch the voice at all. We want to keep things nice and comfortable, allowing for gentle working of the voice in order to return it back to normal speaking functionality.
🗣 Straw Phonation into water, sliding down and releasing to minimum effort
💡 This vocal cool down is another great way to relax the voice and recover from fatigue. This time we're taking a descending approach, starting with the fifth and gently gliding down. The benefit to this is that it allows us to ease off of the intense and heavy singing muscles, allowing for a smoother transition back to normal registration.
Specific Vocal Development Areas
🎹 2x Each Note Ascending Scale
🗣Straw Phonation (no water) OR a fricative "vvv" sound
💡Now we're moving into some of the more specific areas of vocal development. This exercises focuses on building vocal stamina, and acts as a full body workout. The idea is to quickly bounce across two of the same note, breathing in-between, then move up to the next, and the next, etc. You're releasing your core muscles after every single note, which allows the system to engage and relax, giving you a really powerful workout.
🎹 1-3-5-8 (HOLD) - 1 (GLIDE)
🗣 Straw Phonation, releasing back to minimum effort for the glide to the root
💡 This vocal exercise is great for stretching the voice and muscles on higher pitches, allowing the intricate vocal muscles to stretch, hold, and release. We initially move up to the octave, engaging the voice and achieving the top notes, then we let everything "go" and relax as we return to the starting note.
How You Can Transform Your Voice Too
Alright, so how can you benefit form Straw Phonation and transform your voice? Well, you're in luck. We've been developing a vocal training tool that leverages the power of these techniques in order to give you the most benefits from a single device. It's called the SOVT Straw, and it's the very same tool that the pros are using above!
Our patent-pending singing straw can be used in different ways to ensure you're always getting the right resistance for your unique voice. We have spent 1000's of hours researching, developing, and designing our vocal development tool using state-of-the-art technologies, allowing you to modify the length, aperture, attachments in order to customise the tool to suit your vocal needs.
Read some of our latest reviews below...