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What is a Semi-Occluded Vocal Tract Exercise?

You may have heard your voice teacher or choir director use the term before, but what exactly is a semi-occluded vocal tract exercise, and why is used so often?

What is a Semi-Occluded Vocal Tract Posture?

The terminology sounds intimidating, but it simply means a narrowed vocal tract. A semi-occluded vocal tract exercise is a vocal exercise done with a narrowed vocal tract, and these exercises have been done for centuries.

Why Are They Used So Often?

Semi-occluded vocal tract exercises are incredibly healthy for your voice because they create a secondary resistance in the vocal tract that takes away about half the pressure. In other words, they help you to naturally sing in a healthier, less pressurized way, and when your voice gets used to this kind of ease, you can carry the muscle memory into other forms of singing. To understand why this secondary resistance is important, just imagine punching the air as hard as you can, without creating any resistance. What would happen? Your joints would probably hyperextend, and if you did this enough times, it’s very likely you’d get injured. Now imagine doing the same action in water. The resistance from the water would keep you from injuring yourself. If you carried this feeling of resistance with you when you punched the air, you’d be doing the action in a much healthier way. The same is true for semi-occluded vocal tract exercises.

Examples of Semi-Occluded Vocal Tract Exercises

Lip Rolls

Tongue Trills



You know you used to this when you were a kid! Well, good news! It’s very healthy (although not that easy) to vocalize this way.

Singing Through a Straw

Just what it sounds like! Put one end of a straw in your mouth, close your lips around it, and vocalize!

Bilabial Fricatives

Try singing with a “bv” sound.

Bubble Phonation

Place a straw in cup of water, and close your lips around the straw. Start to vocalize while blowing bubbles into the water.

Singing into Index Finger

Sing on an “OOH,” but add some resistance by blocking your mouth with your index finger.

Do you have any other favorite semi-occluded vocal tract exercises? Leave them in the comment section!

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