In a world where things seem to be involuntary, how do we make them voluntary? This question 

lies at the core of training the non-speech sounds of your voice: coughing, sneezing, laughing, clearing your throat, and yelling. These sounds are considered to be reflexive, meaning that we make them when we are reacting to a stimulus. For this reason, there is an incorrect notion that these vocal sounds cannot be altered. Yet, for trans folks across the world, finding a way to make non-speech sounds in an affirmed way may be crucial to comfort and happiness. After all, we all want to laugh at a good joke don’t we?! 

At Seattle Voice Lab, we offer a straightforward solution to the non-speech conundrum. These sounds are not mysterious or unfathomable, in fact, they are a straightforward extension of how you use your voice. Thus, as you learn to train your voice, you thereby gain the skills to train your reflexive sounds. 
In today’s blog we’ll explore Seattle Voice Lab’s unique method for training your non-speech sounds. Curious to learn more about transgender voice training at Seattle Voice Lab? Click here!

First, build a strong foundation with gender-affirming voice coaching

Success in transforming your non-speech sounds is made possible by the strength of your technical foundation. For this reason it is important to do your training under the guidance of a qualified coach. Trans voice is just like any other skill; it takes precise training, practice, and consistent application to be achieved. However, not all training methods are made equal. We can understand this better by looking at other skills: Why are some singers able to sing into their 80s, while others get injured and retire at 30? Why do some dancers dance into their 50s, while others are so prone to injury that they leave the stage before they’re 20? Of course, we all have unique bodies and genetics will play a strong role here, but the equally important contributor to this is technique. Your technique is the foundation for the skill that you are trying to learn. It guides how you use your breath, how you use your muscles and even how you use your mind. And when it comes to advanced skills, such as classical voice, ballet, or transgender voice training, you can expect your technique to be put to the test. A strong technical foundation will give you the knowledge, physical strength, and experience needed to find a unique and comfortable voice that can last a lifetime. On the contrary, a weak technical foundation is likely to cause problems that can snowball over time.

At Seattle Voice Lab, we teach a powerful method that is founded in science, lived experience, and most importantly- positive results. We are proud to have helped over 3000 trans folks to find their true voices, and we would love to help you find yours. At Seattle Voice Lab, we help you to build a rock solid technical foundation that gives you the freedom to choose your voice, rather than boxing you in. And when it comes time to train your non-speech sounds, your foundation will already have given you the knowledge and physical ability you need to succeed. Thus, transforming the way you clear your throat, cough, sneeze, laugh and yell is only a straightforward extension of a method you already know how to use.

Building awareness of your non-speech sounds

Once you have the technical foundation of trans voice at your disposal, you’ll be able to focus on the first step of training your non-speech sounds: awareness. We often think of reflexive sounds as being completely out of our control. We don’t control how we sneeze, cough, laugh…or do we? In reality, these non-speech sounds are not truly involuntary. They are shaped by decisions you make with your voice.

Awareness starts by noticing how your non-speech sounds physically feel and how they sound. Do they match the gender expression of your new speaking voice, or are they different? Do they feel like they are coming from the same vocal posture as your new speaking voice, or are they different? Are they affirming like your new voice, or not? In this way, you will use your new voice as a barometer to discover how your reflexive sounds need to change. You can see now why having a strong technical foundation is so important. If your new voice is clear, efficient, and true to you, then your non-speech sounds can transform in the same way. If your voice is painful, hard to sustain, or not affirming to you, your non-speech sounds will follow suit.

Clearing your throat with trans voice training

At Seattle Voice Lab, we start training non-speech sounds by teaching you to clear your throat. Why? Because clearing your throat is never an accident. You do so because you choose to, making this action easy to practice outside of real world situations. In order to bring this non-speech sound into your chosen gender expression, you must learn to perform it with your newly trained vocal posture. In other words, the posture you’re using to create your new voice is the posture you will use to clear your throat. If there are any small tweaks that are needed to strengthen and solidify this sound, you will use the same skill set you used previously to fine tune your speaking voice. It is very important to remember here that clearing your throat is not a healthy vocal action. Done in moderation it does no harm, but repetition of this action can cause fatigue or damage to your voice.1 For this reason, you should only practice clearing your throat for 30 seconds at a time, and only attempt this practice under the supervision of a qualified coach.

Coughing voice tips for trans voice

Learning to cough is an extension of learning to clear your throat. However, in this case you don’t want to practice ahead of time because this action can be quite damaging. Instead, you will use the ability you gained in clearing your throat to prepare for when you actually have to cough. At Seattle Voice Lab, learning to clear your throat will instill in you the correct vocal posture and breath support that will be needed for coughing. Then, when a life event occurs where you actually need to cough, you’ll be able to call on these skills in the moment and learn to adjust the cough in real time.

Laughing voice exercises for trans voice

Laughter is a further extension of the skills you’ve learned from the two previous non-speech sounds. If you’ve gone through the Seattle Voice Lab program, you will already know how to shape your vocal mechanism and how to use your breath effectively. Thus, the most challenging part of laughter is often figuring out how to practice it!

One simple and fun way to do this is to watch a movie that you find funny. Most of us have no problem laughing at the same jokes over and over, so pick something you’ve seen before. When the funny scene approaches, connect to your breath support and prepare your vocal posture. When the joke arrives you’ll be ready to experiment with a new laugh! Mindfully repeating this practice will allow you to further hone your laughter each time.

Sneezing voice techniques

While sneezing is a highly reflexive sound, it is still possible to practice a pseudo sneeze ahead of time. Under the guidance of a teacher, this sound will be shaped using the same techniques that you’ve used to adjust your previous non-speech sounds.

Yelling (shouting) voice feminization & masculinization

Learning to yell efficiently can be one of the most elusive skills in trans voice. However, if you have a solid technical foundation, this non-speech sound is a straightforward extension of the knowledge you already have. It’s crucial to remember that yelling is not something that should be done often. Most of us have had the experience of losing our voice after yelling at a sports event or screaming for our favorite artist at a concert. Even if done with proper technique, extensive yelling can cause swelling and damage to the vocal folds.2,3 Thus, it should always be trained carefully and under the supervision of a qualified coach.

Finding stability in your non-speech sounds over time

Transgender voice training is the same as any other skill, the more you do it the easier it gets. Did you ever learn to read, or ride a bike, or perhaps learn to say the alphabet or type? Perhaps you’re so good at one of these skills that you’ve completely forgotten that you couldn’t always do it. We learn skills little by little. And if we learn them well, one day they can become effortless. Training your non-speech sounds is the same. At first it will be difficult and you’ll have to focus hard to apply your trans voice skills. But over time, your chosen vocal posture will become more and more settled, until you need little or no effort to maintain it.

Find your voice at Seattle Voice Lab

The coaches and staff of Seattle Voice Lab are passionately dedicated to helping you find your voice. We are proud of our program because we know it works. Click here to connect with our friendly staff, or here to read about our fabulous coaches. We would love to meet you!

References

  1. Bunch M.A. (2009). “Dynamics of the Sing Voice.” Springer Wien New York, doi: 10.1007/978-3-211-88729-5_10 ↩︎
  2. Zang, Z. (2021). “The physical aspects of vocal health.” Acoustics Today, doi: 10.1121/at.2021.17.3.60 ↩︎
  3. Clements-Cortès A. (2013) “Vocals disorders, injuries and conditions: Considerations for music educators.” Canadian Music Educator. Retrieved from:
    https://www.researchgate.net/profile/Anita-Prest/publication/277800219_Challenges_and_place-based_solutions_in_rural_music_education_a_UBC_study_sponsored_by_the_Rix_Family_Foundation/links/63c18d97d9fb5967c2d33947/Challenges-and-place-based-solutions-in-rural-music-education-a-UBC-study-sponsored-by-the-Rix-Family-Foundation.pdf#page=37
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Categories: All Voices