Male to Female Voice Training
Establishing a feminine voice can be an incredibly difficult process. While hormone replacement therapy can transform your body, it doesn't do anything for a masculinized voice. Surgeries exist to alter the voice, but they have not been proven to be effective in the long term. In addition to the dangers of surgery--including the potential loss of the voice entirely--speech therapy is still required after having surgery.
Because it's so difficult to adopt a feminine voice, some trans women will hire a professional to help them. This can be an expensive proposition, however, and not all vocal coaches will be familiar with the dangers of altering the voice or how to maintain vocal health. If you must hire someone for help, it's a good idea to see a speech pathologist. They'll be experienced in controlling the voice, keeping pitch changes slow so as not to cause stress or creating vocal fold nodules, which can cause discomfort and change the voice for the worse.
There are many self-guided programs that can be purchased which will guide you through changing your voice, though they'll lack the feedback and level of professional input of hiring a speech pathologist or vocal coach. One of the most highly recommended programs is Finding Your Female Voice from Deep Stealth. The program is narrated by Andrea James, a trans woman, who has developed a remarkably natural feminine voice. It also happens to be one of the most affordable programs, offered for less than a quarter of what many vocal coaches charge for a single session.
There are three basic methods for altering your voice, with many systems relying on a combination of the three.
The first and the one most commonly recommended is shifting from your chest voice to your head voice, which is sometimes referred to as a "Minnie Mouse" voice. This method has you speaking in a falsetto and training your voice box to only use its upper portion, until you can slowly lower the pitch of your falsetto to a natural sounding voice. One of the primary drawbacks of this method is that it's difficult to project much while using your head voice and it's tiring. It can lead to a weak sounding voice and when you raise your volume you may find yourself automatically dropping back into a male register. However, practicing a falsetto can allow you to better identify the higher range of your vocal cords and build up stamina with it.
Another method--often used in conjunction with the head voice--involves learning to speak while opening up the glottis more. A voiced sound like "Z" involves a closed glottis, while an unvoiced sound like "S" has an open glottis, simply allowing air to pass through. This method tries to find a halfway point between the two, so that you speak in a semi-whisper, instead of in a fully voiced masculine sound. Unfortunately, this alone tends to lead to a stereotypical voice that's husky and breathy, but not especially feminine.
The third method is more involved, but is also likely to be more rewarding. It involves extensive training and practice to gain the muscular control necessary, but enables you to find a pitch closer to what you had before puberty. First, it's necessary to identify the muscles controlling the movements of your voice box. If you swallow water in front of a mirror, you can watch as your Adam's Apple moves upwards. By learning to consciously control those muscles and hold it higher in your throat, you can get the normal projection from your chest while also gaining a higher pitch to your voice.
Because of the potential for damaging your vocal cords, it's important not to overdo any of these methods. If you are not seeing a professional vocal coach or a speech pathologist, you will need to be especially careful since there will be no one to warn you when you're doing something potentially damaging. It's best to stop what you're doing as soon as you feel any strain or discomfort in your throat and rest until the discomfort has completely dissipated. Some trans women can only practice for five minutes a day, which can be incredibly frustrating, but is far better than causing permanent damage to their voices.
As you practice, it's a good idea to find someone you can practice with, even if they aren't a paid professional. Conversational speech and instant feedback will help immensely.
In addition, recording your voice is nearly a requirement. How your voice sounds to your own ears is not how it sounds to others. Your voice will also change over time as you practice more and having a record of those changes will help keep you from getting discouraged. It's hard to recognize your own progress if you have no way of measuring it.
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