In A Better You

Voice Training for Transgender People

voice training

The news recently has featured a brand new app – Exceptional Voice App (EVA). What makes EVA newsworthy is that it’s a mobile app for transgender people to change their voices. It’s in the news because people are recognizing the many steps transgender people have take to express their real gender. The good news is about finding ways to make the process easier which include voice training.

When transgender men start taking hormones like testosterone, their voice lowers as part of that hormone therapy. When transgender women take estrogen, it doesn’t affect their voice. Without transgender voice therapy, feminization training, a transgender woman who speaks without a female voice will fail to pass. In the US people have expectations of how a woman sounds and how a man sounds. Sometimes those cues are as subtle as the length of time one says a vowel sound.

Passing is not just a goal, it can be vital to some transgender people in keeping their jobs, avoiding harassment, and preventing violence.

It’s never a transgender person’s fault that they are attacked just for being transgender no matter how much or little they pass. The fault and blame are always with the attacker.

As much as one might want it, there is no magic male to female voice changer.

Transgender women can find a number of how to make your voice higher webpages. Youtube, as always, has tutorials. There’s also a number of websites that gather resources for transgender people. They have recommendations for speech language pathologists, voice trainers, and people who help transgender women how to change voice. Additionally, there are centers at universities and hospitals to serve transgender people, often less costly than voice trainers.

There are also brick and mortar centers for transgender people in many cities where they can get advice on communication therapy, transgender therapy, and how to make your voice higher from people in their own city. Meeting with people who have similar experiences can be helpful. Living outside a large city with a supportive community is what makes these online sites so worthwhile.

Assuming one can find the financial resources to afford a speech therapist or voice training, women in speech therapy to have a more feminine sounding voice will probably go once a week. There will be different vocal exercises. They’ll get specific exercises, a kind of homework, to practice. Whatever the method, practice will be essential.

A speech-language pathologist, to be precise on the title, often works only with transgender individuals. They will focus on pitch, resonance, and intonation, how fast or slow the person speaks as well as volume/intensity, articulation, and social rules of communication. It’s a lot to work on, but this kind of communication therapy isn’t going to be without work and practice. No one changes their voice overnight, no magic available.

There are centers across the country that have a history of working with transgender people. That kind of history means people can feel safe attending these classes, supported by professionals who don’t question their very right to exist. That’s another reason when one is looking for a speech therapist or voice trainer, it’s worth it to start with recommendations from other transgender people.

There is even surgery for transgender women to make their voice higher. It’s rare and expensive. For many reasons, it’s generally only recommended when other things aren’t working.

So how does one change their voice?

What needs to change to make the voice higher is pitch. When the vocal cords vibrate more frequently, the pitch goes higher. Working on pitch is where the change happens.

A lot of voice training has similarities to the kind of training singers get. If a person has sung before, they can start by singing in falsetto. They can record that voice on their phone or computer and play it back to hear how they sound. Going from singing high to speaking high is a very similar process for the muscles involved. Singing has other advantages when it comes to changing the voice as well.

Close observation of what’s called the Adam’s apple and how the throat works helps. All those muscles that help us swallow are also muscles used when speaking with a higher voice. Close observation can be watching in the mirror or feeling the throat as one swallows or both. Men and women use their throat muscles differently when speaking. When one watches and observes, one understands better how to control those actions and muscle movements.

Singing helps as well, even if one hasn’t been trained. Specific singing exercises will loosen the voice box. Singing specific scales, going up, up, up, until one feels vocal strain repeatedly gives better vocal control. It’s practicing these kind of specific small acts of control that build the blocks to having more control of the voice.

Singing along with a female singer repeatedly is another step to try. In this case, a singer with a lower voice is better because here one wants to avoid the vocal strain. Because singing is about changing pitch, this is another exercise that helps one get in the practice of exercising and controlling the voice, making it more female sounding.

Observe the shape of the mouth when speaking. Observe how women speak on TV, or in person. Close observation will show women and men shape their words differently. Consciously copying the shape women make will get one even closer to the female voice and all that implies. There’s a lot of observation and practice involved in changing the voice, so many tiny muscles and levels of control that translate into slight movements that make the biggest difference.

To get a breathier sound that is associated with women’s voice, try holding the tongue in a different position. Higher and more flat will get the results one wants. Women’s voices are associated with a breathy sound, like Marilyn Monroe.

Record one’s voice speaking and listen to it and record again and again. This kind of practice and modification and practice and modification is essential to any change one wants to make. One wouldn’t expect to train for a marathon by running just once in a while. Changing the voice to speak higher is not the same level of exertion as a marathon, but it needs a lot of practice runs as well. It’s made up of thousands of steps taken over and over again.

Speech training involves a number of these same exercises but with guidance and feedback. They can often use sophisticated equipment to measure the results in pitch and frequency. Speech language pathologists can suggest exercises that aren’t found on the web or easily described. Plus, one gets the feedback of a professional who’s studied the voice.

It’s important to understand the differences between male and female voices. It’s not all cultural differences and learned behavior. Studies show women have a wider pitch range. The female vocal tract is, on average, 1.1 inches shorter than the male vocal tract.

Still, studies suggest that the difference between how women and men speak is more about learned behavior than physical differences. With some languages, both men and women speak in a higher pitch. There are a number of socialized cues when women speak, or when men speak. Women tilt their heads and use rising and falling pitches when they speak. Men keep their heads straight and convey things by increasing and decreasing volume. Men and women even sneeze differently. Laughter is different, too.

Differences between the way women and men speak also extends to articulation. Women speak more clearly, saying every syllable. Men speak more in a monotone and are more prone to slurring their words. It can be astonishing how many small things make up what we think of as how women are and how men are.

The more one knows about the differences, the easier it is to identify what needs to change, what can’t be changed, and the steps in that marathon.

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1 Comment

  • Sage Kibria
    Mar 09, 2016 at 04:32 am

    That app sucks

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