Feminine Voice Techniques
Second Edition, October 1997
This document is a collection of practical suggestions and ideas
for self-help in the feminisation of the voice, developed by a
group of male-to-female transsexuals within the Looking Glass Society.
Neither hormones nor genital surgery will 'un-break' a male voice, and
voice-changing surgery is widely regarded as inadvisable, in addition to
being at best only a partial solution. Thus, speech training is
necessary in order to produce a satisfactory 'female' voice.
At first, it may seem hard to concentrate on all the different facets of
producing a feminine voice, and lapses will happen. The only solution is
to practice and practice again until it gradually becomes second nature.
To loosen-up the voice box, extend your pitch range, and help
develop good control, it can be very helpful to choose a female vocalist
that you like, preferably one with a relatively deep voice, and sing along.
The musically-minded may also wish to perform singing exercises, such as
- Raise the position of the laryngeal cartilage
your voice pitch and decreases the characteristic male resonance. (The
laryngeal cartilage is the 'movable' piece of cartilage that you can
feel rising if you place a hand on your throat and sing a rising scale
"doh, re, mi, fa, sol, lah, ti, doh"
)). The point of this is to
try to gain a higher 'baseline' pitch than you have previously used, and
then increase the pitch further when placing emphasis.
For example you might decide that if you pitch the
baseline male pitch, raising your basic pitch to about
would be sufficient. But do not overdo the pitch-raising: a
squeaky, falsetto voice sounds very inappropriate on
an adult woman. The pitch adjustment is a compromise --- for the
technically-minded you should aim for above 160Hz; if you have access to
a musical instrument that's about the G below middle C.
Of course, everyone starts out with a different original voice and
some will be able to raise it more than others without sounding squeaky.
You might find it slightly tiring on your voice-box at first, as you are
unused to speaking in that register, but it should become comfortable
with a little practice. If it does not, then you are probably trying to
force your pitch up too high.
- Partially open the glottis when speaking
: The position of the
glottis controls how much air passes over the vocal cords. When
breathing rather than speaking, when whispering, or when producing an
'unvoiced' sound (where the vocal cords do not vibrate, like
), the glottis is fully open and all the air bypasses the
vocal cords. With the glottis firmly closed, all the air is forced over
the vocal cords, producing a fully-voiced and typically male voiced sound.
You need to try to find a 'semi-whispering' position that eliminates
the fully-voiced sound with heavy resonance in the chest, and imparts a
breathy quality to the voice.
You can hear the difference between voiced and unvoiced sounds by
comparing S and Z sounds (say
, and feel how
your vocal cords vibrate on the Z but not the S). You're trying to find
a midpoint between an unvoiced (whispered) sound, and a fully-voiced
Try saying the word 'hay', and pay attention to how you change between
the unvoiced H sound and the voiced A sound: say it very slowly (
) and feel the change in the vocal cords as your voice
slides from the unvoiced
sound to the voiced
vowel sound. Then try to stop before you reach the fully-voiced point,
and you should be producing a soft, breathy (feminine)
Then try to learn to always use that half-open position for all voiced
sounds. This is simply a matter of practice.
- Place emphasis with pitch, not volume
intonation places emphasis. Men place emphasis in their speech by
varying the loudness, but keep their pitch within a very narrow range;
on the other hand women tend to keep their loudness much more constant
but vary their pitch a great deal to express emphasis.
- Speak slowly, enunciate clearly
: Especially consonants at
the beginning and end of words. Don't mumble; clear voice requires
fairly big lip movements. On the whole, women enunciate much more
clearly and precisely than men.
- Pace your speech carefully
: Start and end sentences
do not sound clipped. Do not 'swallow'
pronouns, articles or other 'little words' at the beginning or end of
sentences. Male speech tends to be characterised by what speech
therapists call 'hard attack' --- the first syllable is pronounced very
hard, and quickly. Women usually start a sentence more softly.
- Use appropriate content
: Men and women tend to talk about
the same things in different ways;
you say contains gender
cues, just as much as
you say it. Women tend to concentrate
more on thoughts and feelings, while men concentrate on objects and
actions. Men generally use more 'short cuts', colloquialisms and bad
A simple illustration is to imagine someone asking a friend if they are
going to go for a drink after work. A male might say something like
'Coming down the pub?'
: rather abrupt, using the minimum of words
and concentrating on the desired action in a rather impersonal way. A
woman might say
'Do you feel like going for a drink tonight?'
concentrating on her friend's feelings and desires, personal, and not
- Pay attention to tongue position
: The tongue is
for female than for male. This gives 'dental' sounds
(ones that involve the teeth, like T and D) a softer, breathier, almost
sibilant quality in the female. Say
in male mode, then
the halfway position, that is the female position for the letters T and
D; likewise for a TH sound, etc. Use plenty of air to get a breathy
- Hold your mouth in the right shape
: A slight smile helps, and is
the 'resting' facial expression for a woman anyway. 'Rounder' lips (a
pout), and good lip movement, help produce a clearly
- Develop head resonance
: One of the biggest problems facing TS
women is, after learning to produce a soft, feminine voice, to then
learn how to speak loudly when necessary without the voice returning to
a masculine sound. Women gain loudness by using the cavities inside the
head as a 'sounding box' whereas men use the chest.
To gain a louder feminine voice, develop head resonance rather than
chest resonance --- open your mouth a little more, use more air, and
'push' your voice up into your head.
- Use Feedback
: Record samples of your voice and
to yourself. Read a passage of text, listen to yourself and keep
practicing. It can be helpful to actually read these notes aloud,
practising each point as you read it. Then listen to yourself and
successively refine your voice.
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