Fancy treating yourself to a little singing prezzie to upgrade your singing game? Here are my favourite purchases that don't break the bank and will have a REAL impact on your singing ability!
Voice straws work by creating an extension to the vocal tract and causing a back pressure of air when sung into. This is a form of a SOVT exercise (semi-occluded vocal tract exercises) which can help us to work through our passaggio (the 'break' in our vocal registers), warm the voice up gently, connect to the breath, reduce facial tension, and ease the voice back to full health following a vocal injury or fatigue. To practice SOVT work with a straw is commonly referred to as Straw Phonation.
There are LOTS of straws out there, and lots of straws designed specifically for singers. While these look great and often come in a variety of sizes (and therefore intensities; the narrower the straw, the greater back pressure is produced), they can also come at a price.
I have worked on Straw Phonation for years, and I always used a basic plastic straw (sorry environment!). As I've become more environmentally aware across the years, I switched to metal and silicone straws.
Below are the metal straws I use to practice day-to-day, singing into them almost like a kazoo. They are narrow enough to create a substantial back pressure, reusable, come in a pack of four with a nice little bag for storing too! For the whole lot... I paid THREE POUNDS! Have a look at these metal straws on Amazon - that's a steal in my opinion!
The other straws I use are silicone straws. These are substantially wider, more flexible and great for practicing straw phonation into water. I like to vary between the metal and silicone straws depending on how my voice feels and how much I have used my voice that day!
Below are the silicone straws I use. They came in a pack of six with a cleaning brush, individually wrapped and with the same eco-friendly benefits as the metal straws. Take a look at the silicone straws on Amazon - again, an inoffensive SIX POUNDS, at one pound a straw (and a free brush if you want to look at it that way!) that's a pretty good deal.
And you can use the spares for a milkshake... right!?
Face Steamers & Nebulisers
Hydration is key when it comes to singing. We know we stay hydrated by drinking water, but it's easy to forget that the glass of water you just drank won't go straight to your vocal folds. It actually bypasses them (down your oesophagus, not your airway, or you'd choke!) and goes to your stomach and then on to hydrate your vital organs. This is called systematic hydration; your vocal folds may never see any of the water from that cup by the time your more important organs are done with it, that's why it's so important to make sure you drink enough! Read my post on 'Why Water is Important for Singing' to find out more.
To get instant hydration to your vocal folds, known as direct hydration,
give steaming a go.
Breathing in steam sends that hot water vapour directly to your vocal folds, so you get all of that moisture to lubricate your cords instantly. That's why it feels so good to sing in the shower (and also, no one's listening!).
It's really up to you if you choose to go with a steamer or nebuliser. They both have great benefits and it just depends which you prefer!
A steamer works by producing hot steam, and therefore fairly large water droplets. There are studies that show the heat from steaming can be damaging if it is too hot, but otherwise it is a fantastic form of direct hydration. This is the face steamer I use, which is one that requires your whole face to go into it, so it's not very practical if you're planning on doing other things/staying mobile. However, it's also great for your skin, and a great excuse to zen out for 20 minutes!
If you want something less facially intrusive, the Dr Nelson steamers are well known amongst singers and voice users. They come in at a slightly higher price on Amazon but are a great investment or present!
A nebuliser is most commonly used for administering medication through mist for respiratory conditions such as asthma. However, it's a great way to directly hydrate your vocal cords without heat, so there's less risk of inflammation. Nebulisers also use 0.9% saline solution instead of water, which passes through mesh before turning to vapour, so the droplets are far finer than those produced by a steamer. This is the nebuliser I use, which is handheld and cordless, so it's great for hydrating on the go and doing other things at the same time. It has optional pieces depending if you want the vapour going to your nose and mouth or just your mouth. I love the nebuliser and have definitely seen results since using it!
Both of these steamers & nebulisers are around £20-25, which again makes them a nice, affordable present for yourself or someone you know who is looking to improve their singing ability!
Do you want to know more about straw phonation or direct hydration methods? Why not chat through some options in an online singing lesson with me?