What is Straw Phonation?Feb 13, 2023
In this post I'm going to be answering the question, "What is straw phonation and how can I use it in my trans voice practice?"
Simply put, straw phonation is when you phonate (speak or make vocal sounds) through a straw. When you are phonating normally, air comes up from your lungs, and your vocal folds close around that air and are caused to vibrate. That vibration is what makes sound. Of course, when you are just phonating normally, you only have pressure from underneath the vocal folds (where the breath is coming from). That's called subglottic pressure.
In what we call a "semi occluded vocal tract exercise" like straw phonation, we are excluding the vocal tract and causing that air that's come up from your lungs to hit the walls of your mouth and turn around and become pressure on the other side of your vocal folds. So, when you're phonating with a straw, you get both subglottic pressure and superglottic pressure. This is really, really useful because your vocal folds are getting help from both sides to close, and they can close much more easily.
If you're trying to learn how to phonate with a thin vocal mass (something a lot lighter), you can train your vocal folds to do so by using straw phonation. It's a really easy tool that you can apply to many sound making exercises! They should start easy and get more challenging so that your vocal folds have to navigate that new pressure type (see the video for some examples).
This can help with masculinizing the voice as well, especially after testosterone. As we've discussed previously, after your vocal folds have been exposed to testosterone, you might have a little less space in the larynx and it might feel like it's harder to phonate because there's more back pressure. Using straw phonation can train your vocal folds to function a lot more efficiently, and then it'll feel a little more comfortable when speaking. So give straw phonation a try!
If you don't have a straw you can do the blowfish face exercise: put your lips together like a blowfish and puff out your cheeks, and your lips are essentially turning into a straw. I hope this helps!