What is working on your voice?
Practising to change qualities of your voice that are associated with gender.
What does working on your voice do?
Raises or lowers pitch and changes sound
How long does working on your voice last?
Working on your voice normally takes a significant amount of practice, and may take practice over many months to achieve a dramatic change. The experience gained from practice may allow you to make a life-long change to your voice.
How do I stay safe?
If something you’re doing is hurting, stop. Practising changes to your voice should never be painful.
Before starting any practice with your voice, it is important to warm up properly. This involves stretching muscles, as with a warm-up before any type of exercise, but these muscles are in your neck, mouth, and vocal tract. You can watch a demonstration of how to do a vocal warm-up in this video by a NHS speech therapist.
Another important part of practising and maintaining your voice is good vocal hygiene. You can find out more about how to do that in this video by a NHS specialist in trans voice.
What else might I want?
You may find it much easier to work on your voice if you also have support from a professional with specialist expertise. You can find out about working with a professional on our speech therapy page.
How do I work on my voice?
There are many different aspects of your voice that you might want to change. Some aspects of voice are affected by physical changes that happen in puberty, such as pitch, resonance, vocal quality. Other aspects of voice are also often associated with gender, such as vocal onset, intonation, speech rhythm, and emphasis, but are not caused by physical changes.
This article cannot cover all of these aspects in detail, so you will need to look elsewhere for more information. A good starting point for learning how to do voice work is The Voice Book for Trans and Nonbinary People, written by two speech and language therapists specialising in trans voice who work at the London Gender Identity Clinic.
Some NHS gender services have created videos to demonstrate working on voice:
- these videos cover pitch and resonance, among other topics
- these videos focus on intonation and speech rhythm
There are some useful video resources on the Not A Phase website created by a voice coach. Some members of the trans community have also created their own videos, and some have particularly high quality information, such as the TransVoiceLessons YouTube channel.
You will ideally need to work on your voice both by practising by yourself, and also practising around other people.
How do I practise by myself?
To check aspects of voice like pitch and resonance, you can use a tool like Informant. To monitor your progress with other aspects of voice, it can be useful to record yourself to listen to how you are doing, and this can provide a helpful record to help you know that you are making progress.
If you live with other people, and you’re worried about maintaining your privacy while practising, consider:
- finding times of day when your home is empty
- using white noise sources like the shower or certain types of music to help disguise the sound
- going a walk, or walking the dog, as a reason to get out of your home to somewhere you can practice more privately
- practising while commuting in a car (if you do that), as cars are designed to be relatively soundproof
You may find you can build up some of the same skills you are using to alter your voice when doing other things. For example, practising singing might help with resonance, and playing many musical instruments can help with breath control.
How do I practise around other people?
While one part of changing your voice involves learning and practising technical skills, another important part is building up the confidence to use your voice around other people. This can be a major barrier to many people, especially if they experience social anxiety, but can be overcome with repeated practice of the new voice around other people, until the new voice is automatic and habitual.
Some easy ways to practise changes to your voice while interacting with other people include:
- online games which use voice chat
- online trans voice communities like Adi’s Nook or Scinguistics
- in-person LGBT+ events and meetups
- phone calls (e.g. make a food order on the phone, or phoning a new person in the workplace)
Practising your voice around other people can also give you really helpful feedback on how your voice is perceived by others. Changing your voice can often take a long time, and it can be easy to feel like you are getting nowhere, and feedback from other people about what they are hearing can help keep your morale up while you are learning.
You might want to think about who you can ask for feedback. Don’t forget to let your friends know you’re working on your voice before you try to practise around them. Surprising them with a new voice might provoke knee-jerk responses rather than useful feedback. If you’re struggling with a lack of feedback from other people, you might find some sessions with a professional useful.
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