As human beings, we express ourselves in many ways. Body language, facial expression, clothing, hairstyle and speaking voice are all ways that we telegraph our inner spirit to the outside world. The speaking voice in particular holds immense power. We have all experienced how someone’s tone of voice can change the way a message is received. We understand innately that the voice conveys more than just words; it conveys emotion. It can also express many details about a person, such as age, personality, nationality and gender. Today, we are going to look specifically at vocal masculinization, the trans voice training method that is used to cultivate masculine qualities in the speaking voice. Read on to learn how to do voice masculinization therapy!
For newcomers the idea of “training” the voice may seem strange. However, training speech is no different than training any other skill. If you wanted to be a dancer, an artist, a car mechanic, a surgeon…the process would be the same: you would study the skill, and you would practice the skill. Any skill, no matter how complex, is approached this way.
Learning to listen actively
As students of trans voice training, listening is one of our greatest allies. However, it can also prove to be a bit tricky! The reason? Because your voice sounds different inside your head than it does outside of your body. We’ve all had that moment where we hear ourselves on a voicemail recording and say “Whoa! That’s what I sound like?” For this reason, it is very helpful to record yourself when practicing your training exercises. Let’s try a little exercise to practice the process of active listening:
1) Start your recording device and speak the phrase “Are you going to the party?” Use your current speaking voice. Listen back immediately afterward.
2) Start your recording device and speak “Are you going to the party?” This time, give your voice a more masculine quality: low, strong, and full. Just give it your best shot! Listen back immediately afterward.
3) Start your recording device and speak “Are you going to the party?” This time, try a more feminine quality: high, light, and soft. Listen back immediately afterward.
4) What did you hear? Was what you thought you did the same as what you actually heard on the recording? If not, try the exercise again. Now that you know what your voice sounds like, you should be able to get closer to the specific qualities that the exercises ask for.
Visual learning with spectrograms
Another wonderful tool for trans voice training is the spectrogram. A spectrogram is a live graphical representation of the voice. Have you ever seen the sound wave appear when you record a voice memo? A spectrogram is similar to that sound wave, but it has more detail. It will allow you to see what frequencies are present in your voice as you speak or sing. Vocal masculinization and vocal feminization both require us to cultivate certain frequencies, while minimizing others.
For IOS: Spectrogram Pro ($3.00)
For Android: Spectroid
For PC (GNU/Linux, macOS, Windows): Friture
Learning to associate sensations with sound
Recordings will help us hear better, spectrograms will give us a visual guide, and the sensations of the body will help us put it all together. Did you know that every sound you make has an accompanying sensation in the body? Have you ever felt a sharp zing in the nose from sneezing, a scratching sensation in the throat while yelling, or a gentle tickling sensation in your face while humming? These are all examples of how vocal production creates physical sensation. In trans voice training, learning to feel vocal sensations will guide us on our journey towards vocal masculinization, and will help us gain consistency at a faster rate than just listening alone. Let’s try a simple exercise in feeling the voice.
1) Feeling & hearing a more masculine tone: First, drop your jaw and take a breath through your mouth. Then perform the vowel AHHH for 5 seconds on a low pitch. Listen to the sound, and scan your body from your forehead down to your ribcage, what do you feel?
Reflection: You have just performed a more masculine vocal tone. You may have felt a gentle vibration happening in the back of your throat, or inside your neck. You may also have felt a vibration on your collarbones or sternum. If you didn’t feel anything, try the exercise again and check these areas. The sensations may be subtle at first.
2) Feeling and hearing a more feminine tone: Even though this is not the tone we want, it’s important to do this step so we can feel contrast. Take a breath through your nose while keeping your mouth closed. Then, perform the vowel EEEE for 5
seconds on a high pitch. Listen to the sound, and scan your body from your forehead down to your ribcage, what do you feel?
Reflection: You have just performed a more feminine vocal tone. You may feel a gentle buzzing happening in your sinus and across the roof of your mouth. If you scan your body downward, you may feel gentle hints of vibration in your throat and sternum/collarbones, but not as strong as when you performed AHHH.
3) Alternating between tones: Now, let’s go back and forth between these two tones. The breath you take beforehand is very important, so don’t skip that part of the process.
A) More masculine: Drop your jaw, breathe through the mouth, and perform AHHH on a low pitch.
B) More feminine: Breathe through the nose with your mouth closed, and perform EEEE on a high pitch.
C) Do this several times, back and forth.
Reflection: Did you notice how the AHHH and EEEE had different sensations? The AHHH had more low frequencies in it, creating a tone that was darker, richer and more masculine. We felt this sensation primarily in our throat, collarbones, and sternum. By contrast, The EEEE had more high frequencies, creating a brighter, sharper, and more feminine tone. We felt this sensation primarily in our sinus and across the roof of our mouth.
3) Speaking in a more masculine tone: Now that we’ve felt what it’s like to create a more masculine tone, we will try to perform multiple words.
A) Drop your jaw and take a breath through your mouth. Then perform the vowel AHHH for 5 seconds on a low pitch. Listen to the sound, and feel the sensation.
B) Drop your jaw, breathe through the mouth, and slowly speak the word “On” on a low pitch. Try to keep the entire word in the same place where you performed AHHH in the step above. Repeat a few times. Listen back before moving on.
C) Drop your jaw, breathe through the mouth, and slowly speak the phrase “On every apple” on a low pitch. Keep the entire phrase in the same place that you performed AHHH.
Reflection: Listen back and reflect on what you heard. Where you able to keep every word in the same tone? If so, you have achieved tonal consistency. If you struggled, try it again and focus more on feeling your voice. You should feel your
voice in your throat and sternum bone on every word. If you drift upwards and away from these locations, your tone will become more feminine.
The next step
We hope that today’s trans voice training exercises in vocal masculinization have been helpful! If you’d like to learn more about vocal masculinization, check out our other blog posts “voice feminization surgery” and “FTM voice training and voice therapy.”