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What is R1, R2 & R3 & How do they effect the sound of your voice

What is R1?

Within the vocal mechanism, there are different areas where the voice will resonate- or ‘vibrate.’ The term R1 refers to the resonance area containing the laryngeal space (located inside your neck where your voice box is) and the pharyngeal space (located in the back of the throat). R1 is often called the primary gender control knob, and it will be the most decisive factor in the feminization of the voice.

Where the voice resonates will determine what type of tone and range it will have. The word ‘tone’ describes the color of the voice- bright, dark, warm, round, rich- these are all words that describe tone. The word ‘range’ describes how high or low the voice will sound.

R1 will have a significant effect on the tone and range of the voice because it controls the amount of bass. Testosterone in the body will enlarge the pharyngeal and laryngeal areas, causing R1 to drop. This position for R1 will add bass- creating the low range and rich tonal quality associated with the male voice. By contrast, a high position for R1 will minimize the amount of bass, producing a voice that is perceived as female. The primary challenge in feminizing the voice is learning to create and maintain a high R1 position. In fact, 70-80% of the work will be targeted here.

With specific vocal exercises, it is possible to train the body to narrow the pharyngeal/laryngeal areas, counteracting the effects of testosterone. This allows R1 to move to a higher position, producing the tone and range of the female voice.

R1 can be complex. If you want to learn more, schedule a consultation here.

What is R2?

Within the vocal mechanism there are different areas where the voice will resonate or “vibrate.” In our previous article we discussed R1. The second resonance area, R2, is the oral cavity — or in simpler terms, the mouth. It is the secondary gender control knob in trans voice.

While R2 is an important factor in vocal style and vowel control, it is less vital to vocal feminization than R1. However, out of all the vocal resonance areas, R2 can create the widest range of possible frequencies (low – high sounding pitch). This means that there is a great variation of sound that can be created by R2, making it an important area to understand in mtf and ftm trans voice training.

R2 is primarily controlled by the position of the tongue—more specifically, it is controlled by the position of the tongue apex (tip of the tongue) and the tongue body (center of the tongue). As the tongue moves during speech and singing, it will either increase or decrease space inside the mouth. When the tongue is bunched up or lifted close to the roof of the mouth, the space inside the mouth becomes smaller. When the tongue lies flat against the floor of the mouth, the space becomes larger.

Through vocal exercises, the tongue can be trained to sustain specific positions, thereby creating whatever frequencies are desired. These frequencies will contribute to the perceived gender of the voice. This training will also increase control, clear pronunciation, and personal style.

Need help getting a handle on R2? Schedule a consultation with us here.

What is R3?

In previous articles, we discussed how resonation in R1 and R2 factors into trans voice training. In this article we will discuss R3, the third resonance chamber in the vocal tract.

R3 is primarily controlled in the area between the tongue apex (tip of the tongue) and the teeth and lips. While this resonance chamber will usually produce sounds in the high end of the frequency spectrum, it can drop much lower when the tongue is in retroflection. Retroflection is when the tongue apex is lifted and bent backwards. This happens during the creation of certain consonants such as “r.”

Precise treatment of consonants in R3 can create a powerful resonance that is used in overtone singing— a rare type of performance where a vocalist sings multiple pitches at the same time. However, for most trans singers, R3 will be an area of fine-tuning. Since the placement of the tongue apex can affect the entire tongue position, R3 can have a domino effect on R2 and R1. Proper use of the tongue apex and lips will allow a singer to access laser sharp resonance, more precise tuning, and clear pronunciation. For this reason R3 is vital to gaining full vocal expression, and is an important area of study in trans voice training.

Are you ready to sound more like yourself? Schedule a class or consult with Seattle Voice Lab here.