The Benefits of SOVTE Back Pressure for Voice Therapy

The Remarkable Benefits of Back Pressure in Voice Therapy: Understanding SOVTEs

When it comes to optimizing vocal health and performance, both singers and individuals with voice disorders can significantly benefit from understanding and utilizing semi-occluded vocal tract exercises (SOVTEs). At VocaLab, our aim is to bring the science of voice therapy into clear focus, explaining complex principles like back pressure in a way that benefits our clients. This blog explores the concept of back pressure created during SOVTEs, offering insights into how these exercises facilitate improved vocal function.

The Science of Back Pressure Explained

Back pressure arises during SOVTEs—such as humming, lip trills, or singing through a straw—when the outflow of air from the lungs meets resistance. This resistance creates a positive pressure that acts on the vocal folds, allowing them to vibrate with reduced effort and increased efficiency. For instance, straw phonation—a popular SOVTE where the individual phonates into a straw—creates a narrowed pathway that generates back pressure, enhancing vocal fold vibration (Smith & Titze, 2017).

How Does Back Pressure Benefit the Voice?

  1. Reduces Vocal Effort: By facilitating more efficient vocal fold vibration, back pressure reduces the physical strain on the voice, making it easier to produce sound.
  2. Promotes Vocal Health: The gentle nature of SOVTEs, supported by back pressure, helps in the rehabilitation of voice disorders and prevents vocal injury, making these exercises an essential part of vocal health maintenance (Smith & Titze, 2017).
  3. Enhances Vocal Quality: Regular practice of SOVTEs can lead to clearer, more resonant vocal tone due to the optimal vibration conditions created by back pressure.

Practical SOVTE Examples

  • Straw Phonation: Singing or speaking through a straw submerged in water can introduce varying levels of back pressure, tailored by changing the water depth.
  • Lip Trills: By lightly pressing the lips together and producing sound, a natural resistance is created, emulating the effects of back pressure.
  • Humming: A simple yet effective SOVTE, humming creates back pressure that benefits the vocal folds without the need for any external tools.

Understanding the Mechanics

The mechanics behind back pressure in SOVTEs involve complex interactions between airflow, vocal fold tissue, and muscle activity. The resistance encountered by the airflow helps balance the activation of laryngeal muscles, thus promoting a healthier phonation pattern. This balance is crucial for individuals undergoing voice therapy, as it ensures that vocal exercises enhance rather than strain vocal function (Smith & Titze, 2017).


Semi-occluded vocal tract exercises play a pivotal role in voice therapy and training. Understanding and harnessing the power of back pressure can lead to significant improvements in vocal health and performance. At VocaLab, we’re dedicated to providing our clients with the knowledge and tools to achieve their vocal goals, whether they’re aspiring singers or individuals seeking voice therapy.

For more information on SOVTEs and personalized vocal coaching, visit us at


Apfelbach, C. S., & Guzmán, M. (2021). Acoustic, aerodynamic, morphometric, and perceptual changes during and after semi-occluded vocal tract exercise: an integrative review. Journal of voice.

Savareh, S., Moradi, N., Yazdi, M. J. S., Soltani, M., & Latifi, M. (2023). Immediate effects of semi-occluded vocal tract exercises as a vocal warm-up in singers. Journal of Voice37(6), 875-880.

Smith, S. L., & Titze, I. R. (2017). Characterization of flow-resistant tubes used for semi-occluded vocal tract voice training and therapy. Journal of Voice, 31(1), 113.e1-113.e8.

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