gets you read faster than a voice that doesn't match your appearance.
Many gender folk dress up to the nines and look like goddesses... until
they open their mouths. Suddenly, in spite of the grace and curves they
turn into truck drivers or lumberjacks right before your eyes. Clothes
may make the man, but it is voice that makes the woman.
Whether you are a crossdresser or transsexual,
developing a truly FEMALE voice - not just a feminine one - is of
paramount concern. When I began my transition, there was electrolysis to
worry about, mannerisms... but it was voice that seemed to me the
Like most, I tried simply feminizing my voice,
softening the voice I had. I tried raising my pitch artificially,
arriving at that bad falsetto that forms the stereotype of the
transgendered marking them as parodies rather than the real thing.
Eventually I even consider vocal chord surgery as a last resort.
Voice surgery made me nervous though. I had a
fairly decent singing voice, I like to do character voices, I liked to
sound dramatic when I spoke. But the thought of being read every time I
uttered a word was enough to tip the balance to consider voice surgery,
even though all end-results I had heard were not very convincing AND I
had heard horror stories of those who as a result of the surgery lost
their voices completely!
I had just about resigned myself to that risk
when, a few months into fulltime, I stumbled into something quite by
accident that has made the difference in my career, my relationships, in
my life as a whole: I learned to sound female.
Notice I did not say "to talk like a woman", but
rather "to sound female". This is because the secret I found is not in
the way one speaks but the way one sounds. I had been trying out
different voices that day (as I did most days), sometimes trying to
sound like a squeaky teenager, other times like a mature matron. For
weeks I had been struggling with no progress to speak of. And then, this
one day, suddenly something happened. My voice "slipped gears" and came
down in a different place than it had ever been.
All at once, in one broad stroke, the TIMBER of my
voice had turned female. I couldn't believe it! I actually SOUNDED
female! I tried saying this and that and EVERYTHING sounded female. This
was incredible! After all my fears and yearnings... well, it was almost
like magically being transformed into a woman!
It was just about quitting time when this
happened. At the time, I was working as Melanie, but still going home to
my wife as Dave. The kids did not know about my transition yet. So each
night, I would leave work, take off the nail polish and make-up, change
my clothes and go home. So, I decided it was time to go back to my
"drab" voice and do Dave again for the night. But when I tried to
revert, I couldn't find my old voice. I tried again - nothing! Suddenly
I felt that I really HAD been transformed! That somehow my whole voice
box had been changed to a female form! But this was terrible!!! My wife
was going to kill me!
After half an hour of unsuccessful attempts to get
out of voice, there was nothing left to do but face the music. I drove
home, stepped inside. Mary said, "How was your day?" I replied, "Fine",
but it wasn't Dave's voice, it was Melanie's voice, and Mary threw a
"What's wrong with your voice?!", she demanded. I
explained what had happened and how I got stuck. She told me I had darn
well better figure out how to get my old voice back before the kids woke
up in the morning. Try as I might, I met with no success. But then, over
the course of an hour or so, my voice relaxed and the old voice came
back. I was saved!!! But then, I worried that I couldn't get the new
voice back again. After all, it happened by accident, and I really
didn't know what I had done. At first, I DID lose the new voice. But
then, I found it again, and practiced and practiced going in and out all
the rest of the night.
The next morning, the first thing I did when I
woke up was try to find the new voice again, and there it was, mine to
command! Over the following months, I worked on the fine points of my
voice, adding all the incidental elements that affected not only my
sound, but the manner in which I spoke. And now, over four years later
and two years after SRS, I can report that my new voice is fine. If I
choose I can still slip in and out of it at will. This voice has been
crucial in my career advancement, relationships and ,best of all, my
female voice has helped developed my sense of self as Melanie.
In this article, I will share with you how I did
it and provide all the steps you need to find your own female voice.
Scroll down to read more or purchase my Video,
Audio CD, or Audio cassette to start developing your female voice today!
To begin, as I looked back over the
path I had taken, I discovered seven important tools for developing a
feminine voice. Six of them work on the femininity but the seventh is
the "secret" that actually makes one SOUND female. I'll describe each
briefly, then cover them all in greater detail. By name, the seven tools
are Pitch, Resonance, Dynamic Range, Annunciation, Vocabulary, Grammar,
and Body English.
Most people assume that the primary
difference between men's and women's voices is Pitch. But we shall see
that the actually difference in pitch between the sexes in minimal. In
fact, the overlap of range between the sexes allows for almost ANY
individual to fall well within accepted norms of pitch.
Resonance is the real secret of this
method. Resonance is the modulation of whatever pitch you have. It puts
the envelope on the voice that takes the pitch and assigns it Timbre. In
the course of this article I will describe a simple exercise anyone can
do to find that special place in their voice and develop a truly FEMALE
Dynamic Range describes the
difference between the highest highs and the lowest lows that a person
uses while speaking. Men use a very narrow dynamic range, even though
they are quite capable of extending that range. It is simply a matter of
training, not physiology. In contrast, women use a much WIDER dynamic
range, which is what gives their voices more of a "sing/song" effect.
Enunciation is the way you pronounce
your words. Just as one might do a dialect, there is a female dialect
that transcends languages and cultures. I will describe a means for
developing a fully feminine enunciation.
Yes there are masculine and feminine
words. In our culture, certain words are almost exclusively reserved for
males and others for females. I will cover some of these and show you
how to be on the lookout for more.
Being masculine or feminine has a lot to do with
brokering power. When one forms words into sentences, the ORDER of words
as well as modifiers and parentheticals change the position of power of
the speaker. We'll look into ways to adopt the "power level" appropriate
to the many roles played by either sex.
Body English is they way you move
while you talk. In fact, it has an actual impact of how the voice itself
will sound. By using the proper Body English while you speak, you can
improve the femininity of your voice - even on the phone!
Now that we've seen the overview of
what will be covered, let's move on to the first of these areas in
What do Susanne Pleshette, Marline
Detrich, Cher, and Bea Arthur have in common? They all have VERY low
voices! In fact, they have voice LOWER in pitch than most of the male
population. However, we would never mistake them for men! In fact at
least three of the four are generally considered rather sexy. When women
have low voices they are not considered masculine. Rather, their voices
are referred to as "husky".
How can they get away with that?
Because the difference between the average male voice and the average
female voice is only about 1/2 octave. That's right! Just 1/2 octave! It
is not the pitch that makes them sound female, but the Resonance!
Because each of us has at least a 1
1/2 octave range to their voice and most of us have two octaves or more,
there is a lot of overlap between the pitches of the two sexes if there
is only a 1/2 octave AVERAGE difference. That means there is just half
an octave higher that some women can go that no men can and only a half
an octave lower that some men can go that no women can.
My voice now is only 2 or 3 notes
higher on the scale than it was before I started. But the audible impact
is quite difference. That is because it is not how HIGH you pitch your
voice, but where you pitch it FROM that makes all the difference! Once
you get your voice coming from the right place, it doesn't really matter
what pitch it is at all. And the added bonus is, with the Resonance
secret we will discover, you get 2 or 3 notes of increased pitch as well
(which, though not crucial, doesn't hurt!)
So let's move on to that area without
Also, consider purchasing the video
or audio classes!
What is Resonance? Imagine an
orchestra. Now imagine the same not being played by a violin, a trumpet,
and an oboe. They all have different sounds, even though they are all
playing the same note. This is because the tone they play is "modulated"
differently. Each has its own unique Resonance.
In a trumpet, that resonance is
created in the coils. It is created in the body of the violin or in a
cello. That body is a chamber in which the sound can vibrate, mixing and
intermixing to create complex wave forms with many striking and
That chamber is like our own voice
box. Men have a larger voice box. That's what makes their Adam's apple
larger and their voices add more low-end resonance. Women have a smaller
voice box and as a result have less low end resonance. So, in a sense,
men have MORE harmonics than women. This is fortunate for those in the
masculine gender who wish to be perceive in the feminine. The whole
trick is to learn to us LESS of your voice. You've got it already, you
are using it already. Its not something you have to add to sound female,
but something you need to suppress. The problem is, that when men go
into a falsetto, they suppress ALL of the harmonics, resulting in that
silly high-pitched voice that is surely a dead give-away.
Let's try an experiment to drive the
point home. Put your finger of one hand on the top of your larynx, at
the top of your Adam's apple. Place the fingers of your other hand at
the very bottom of your larynx, below the Adam's apple. Now, speak aloud
in your normal masculine voice. You will note that both the top AND
bottom of the larynx vibrate almost equally as you speak.
Keeping your fingers in place, go
into a falsetto and speak. You will note that there is hardly ANY
vibration in either the top OR bottom! The exercises we are going to
learn will allow you to create a voice that vibrates ONLY at the bottom
and NOT at the top. This effectively cuts the part of the voice box used
in half and thereby loses the lowest of the harmonics, leaving almost
EXACTLY the same range of harmonics as a genetic female voice.
The female voice I've discovered
feels like it sits "behind" your normal speaking voice. After I had used
it for a while, I found there were two easy to get to this place - a
place your voice does not usually go while you are speaking. The first
way is with Falsetto, the second way is by gargling.
Start with your highest falsetto.
If you sound like a cartoon character with big round ears that lives in
Anaheim, you've got it! Now take that voice and bring the pitch down as
low as you can WITHOUT BREAKING YOUR VOICE. You see, if you break your
voice it will "come out front" again, and you'll be using the full voice
box for modulation - just what you don't want.
Take your voice down as low as you
can go in falsetto. That's the spot. You will notice that neither the
top nor bottom of your larynx is vibrating very much, if at all. Now,
before I explain what to do once you get to that spot, let's examine the
other method of arriving there. If you try both methods, one will work
best for you. Also, by trying both, you will have a better sense - a
"cross reference" of where your voice needs to be.
Just go back in your throat the
way you do when you gargle and make that standard gargling sound. When
you do, you will automatically tighten up your throat. You will find
that your voice is resonating from exactly the same place either with
the lowest falsetto or the gargling. However, with the gargling, you can
actually feel both the top and bottom of your larynx vibrating.
The point you want to reach for
this voice is the center between where you put your voice to gargle and
the lowest falsetto you have. Some people like to do character voices
for fun. If you can do a little old man or old woman, say "The Alludium
Q38 Space Modulator, or do the Wicked Witch of the West, you are very
near the spot.
As I mentioned before, the first
time I found this voice I hit it by accident. Then I got stuck. So if
you try this exercise and are not living full-time as a woman, make sure
you have an hour or so to find your way back to male voice just in case.
Now, what you are actually
learning to do is develop one set of the muscles on your larynx while
not using the others at all. This is a tough trick - kind of like
wiggling your ears or patting your head while you rub your tummy. It
takes practice - LOT'S of practice.
But don't practice too much right
at the start. Once you find the voice it is such a magical experience
that you want never to come back. But you will find that using the lower
set of muscles to do all the work leads to hoarseness at first. This is
your body's way of telling you that you should knock off for a while.
I found that during the first week
I used this voice, I could only go about half an hour or so before I got
hoarse. Then, I had the good sense to rest my voice. Just like doing
exercises for the body, you don't want to do too much too fast of you
will injure yourself.
For me, it took about six months
to fully develop my voice to the point I could use it all day long.
Then, it took another six months to fully develop loudness and dynamic
range. But these things did come with practice and patience. I imagine
that eventually, the other muscles at the top might atrophy if, like me,
you just don't use them at all. However, for those of you switching back
and forth, both will stay in tone and like me, even now after four
years, I can still call up the old voice if I have to. For me, that's
about once a year when I need to demonstrate to a friend that it is
possible to do this.
So, don't push it. I'm no medical
doctor. I can't tell you exactly what's going on physically, nor can I
guarantee you won't cause yourself problems. I can merely say that for
me, I have been using this voice for over four years with no apparent
Now, trying to describe a voice in
a text article is a bit difficult. I understand this. That is why I've
created a VHS video tape called "Melanie Speaks!" where I demonstrate
these techniques so you can hear them, copy them, and learn to do them
on your own.
Having covered Resonance, and
discounted Pitch, its time to move on to the other five steps that can
feminize your voice. Remember, Resonance creates a FEMALE voice, these
other well-known steps are useful in FEMINIZING whatever voice you have.
When I first started using my new
female voice, the muscles were only developed enough to create a very
monotone sound. In fact, it took me six months to get a good Dynamic
As I mentioned earlier, Dynamic Range
is the difference between the highest pitch and the lowest pitch used in
conversation. Women use this range to put emphasis into their
conversation. It brings extra meaning to the words beyond their normal
definitions by putting a different "spin" on them.
Men use a different technique for
emphasis: they get louder or softer within a narrow range of tones. So,
in conversation, a man will "punch" some words and hold back others. In
this manner they "make their point". In contrast, women will rise and
lower in tone while keeping roughly the same amplitude or loudness. This
is a striking difference in speech patterns and is a key identifier of a
masculine or feminine personality. Keep in mind that masculine women
will adopt the loudness approach in monotone, and the feminine man will
rise and fall in tonality with even amplitude.
You'll notice the difference in the
way women speak when you call them on the phone. If you are a man and
call a company getting the female receptionist, her voice will be up in
the scale, high in note so as to be cheerful and non-threatening. If she
hears a man calling her she will stay there at that range of pitch. But
if you are a woman calling in and get the same receptionist, she will
answer the phone the same way, but as soon as she hears that it is a
woman calling her, she will lower her tonal range.
This happens because men control the
power in the world, especially in business. As a result, as a woman,
unless you are very assertive by nature, you don't want to appear
threatening. Men in business compete with men and also with women who
are threatening. However, since women have to stick together to get
anything done in a male world, they must form a conspiracy.
When men in business get together its
a competition, when women in business get together its a conspiracy. And
this difference in approach and status is reflected in the higher or
lower tonal range that a woman adopts depending upon the gender of the
other party. Similarly, if a woman IS assertive and using amplitude to
punch her emphasis, a non-assertive woman will keep her voice high to
show she is not a threat.
Now, this is easily seen in women
because they naturally use a wider dynamic range. But have you ever
noticed how a man's voice goes up a few notes whenever he fears a
superior is angry with him?
Now another aspect of Dynamic range
is "stair step tonalities". What I mean by this is that in every group
of several words a woman will string together in a sentence, usually no
two are spoken at the same pitch. This is what makes women's voices
sound so "sing song". In fact, they ARE singing!
Sometimes the stair steps go down to
lower into that conspiratorial tone. Other times they go up to raise the
emotional stakes. Often they rise and fall like sine waves to rush up
under a phrase, then retreat like a wave on the sand. Speaking in stair
step tonalities is best learned by listening to others, but it is
learned, not intrinsic. Just like Dynamic Range, it is a function of
conditioning rather than biology.
So, Dynamic Range is largely a
masculine/feminine issue rather than a male/female one. How to learn it,
however, is best covered in our next area.
Annunciation describes the shape into
which words are formed. Men lean toward denotation rather than
connotation. In other words, men get the job done as quickly as possible
with the most focus. When speaking they hit the edges of words like
square waves, cutting each one like they were chopping carrots.
In contrast, femininity more
connotation oriented. Women are not as concerned with the meaning of a
word so much as its context, and that context is expressed in a more
flowing, graceful manner. Women will round the edges of their words to
avoid cliffs and walls.
Believe it or not, the best source
I've found as an example of this is with Valley Girls. Val Speak for
girls puts an envelope on the words that sing songs with stair steps,
rounds the words and flows the hidden agenda of meaning in the
I suggest that you rent either Whoopi
Goldberg's stand up comedy routine on video tape or the movie "Valley
Girls". Both of these have the feminine dialect down pat.
It is MUCH easier to go overboard to
an extreme and then tone it down than to try to build up from where you
are now. There is so much initial embarrassment trying to speak female
AND each step requires addition work and additional habits to be broken.
You learn one level of success then have to unlearn that to get to the
next. But if you jump all the way to the extreme and use that, it will
begin to average out with the annunciation you are using now and will
tone itself down until it is right on the mark for normal conversation
as today's woman.
Now, I referred above to the
"feminine dialect". But it is much more than that. IN fact, the
ennunciation and dynamic range of femininity is applied to every
language and every culture in the world. The words and grammar may
change, but the connotation of the feminine meaning is a universal
language that can be understood from woman to woman in times and worlds
Still, it is not stilted or defined.
In fact, it is quite flexible. Women do not live a single role, but
many, as mother, wife, career woman, friend. As such, she plays
variations of the feminine dialect depending upon the role without ever
losing the femininity. This can be accomplished by realizing that the
feminine dialect is not one thing but several blended together. As a
woman shifts from role to role, she uses the same tools, but with
different emphasis depending upon the situation.
The voice that I use with my
girlfriends is different than the voice I use when lecturing at work to
my interns. The voice I use with my boyfriend is different than the
voice I use with my wife. Get away from the binary, free yourself from
definition. Go with the flow, be flexible, and play with variations on a
Think about the phrase, "I Got a pain
in my gut." Who would say that, a man or a woman? A woman might say, "I
have a pain in my stomach.", or, if she really wanted to be obnoxious,
"My tummy hurts..." (GAK!)
The point is, that some words are
more masculine or feminine that others. Part of this again derives from
the brokering of power. For example, a man usually "wants" something
while a woman "would like" something. "Want" means "lack" and implies
"need" which further implies the right to have. This reflects the
aggressive side of the power equation.
On the other hand, "would like"
states a preference, not an intent, and therefore runs the idea up the
flagpole to see if anyone is against it before acting. This reflects the
submissive side of the power equation.
You can notice the difference in the
way men and women will order at the speaker of a drive-through fast food
restaurant. A man will say, "I want a Big Mac.", whereas a woman will
say, "I'd like a salad, please."
This point was driven home to me when
I was working on a movie as a Director of Photography. When I worked
this position as a man, I would just tell the crew exactly what I wanted
and they would hop to! But on the first day of this two day shoot I was
working with a crew I had not met before. AND it was my first D P job as
So, I went to work as usual, telling
everyone exactly what I wanted: "I want a 1K mini in that corner as a
set light and a half K kicker with a yellow filter as a hair light."
Nobody moved. I looked around wondering why nothing was happening.
Finally I just said, "Okay, let's go to work", and they did. But they
went ever so slowly. And the more I told them what I wanted, the slower
and less precise they became.
At the end of the day, we had only
accomplished half of what I had wanted to. We were WAY behind schedule.
These guys had moved five times slower than I was used to. So I went
home and thought about it and then it hit me... What if they didn't like
being told what a woman "wanted"?
So, the next day, I brought the crew
together and said, "Today I'd like to put a little light back there to
light up the set and could you rig something to get some yellow light on
her hair?" They looked at each other wondering if this was the same
person, then the crew captain said, "Okay, let's get to work", and they
moved twice as fast as the previous day.
By the time we were finished we had
made up all the lost time. Somehow by my telling them what I "wanted" I
had emasculated the crew, because I was putting myself above them in
skill. But by telling them what I'd like, they worked to give it to me.
Of course, they still worked only half as fast as they would have when I
was a male DP, but at least it was twice as fast as the day before. So,
as a woman, you're going to have make workers not give you the same
effort you would get as a man, but at least you can limit the damage by
telling them what you'd like, even though you know exactly what you
Now another thing men do is slur.
They might say, "I hafta gota the store". "Hafta" is not a word! "Gota"
is not a word! A woman might say, "I have to go to the store." Or even
more, she might say, "I ought to."
"Have to" is driven by need." "Ought
to" is driven by should". Its really a question of Instigation vs.
Obligation and is yet another example of the Power Equation in our
society. Look for those power words and if you want to be feminine,
avoid them like the plague.
Grammar deals with sentence structure
and parentheticals. Keeping on the Power Equation concept, men are
supposed to be assertive in our society, women submissive. Women can
have moods, but not opinions. Men might say they were "going to do"
something, but women would say "I'm thinking of doing" something.
Now, I use the terms "men" and
"women" because those are the standards for our society by sex. But it
is really (like all of these points) a matter of masculine vs. feminine.
It is the issue of cooperation vs. conflict. This article is not about
breaking stereotypes, but becoming a stereotype. Once you have arrived,
BELIEVE ME, you will find LOT'S of reasons to break them!!
But first you must go to the extreme
and then tone it back. Keep in mind that there is hardly a woman alive
who does all these things. But by using most of them regularly in
different combinations, you can have your overall speech pattern fall
more within the feminine range than it does now.
The last area we will explore is
Body English. This is simply the way you move when you speak. Body
English supports voice and voice supports Body English. If a feminine
voice is like a song, feminine Body English is like a dance. When you
put the song and the dance together, they create harmonies between them
that underscore and counterpoint, making the entire process a symphony.
The most interesting part is that
voice and Body English actually change each other. Try saying something
while standing absolutely still. Then try speaking with broad gestures.
You will hear a difference in your voice just because you are moving.
Many gender folk using the phone get
so nervous they freeze up physically and it can be heard loud and clear
in their voice. But if you move in rhythm to your thoughts, your voice
will follow. Even on the phone you will sound more feminine AND more
So, this is what I have to offer from
my personal experiences. I hope you find it of interest and use. Again,
if you feel you could benefit from some "real time" instruction, you can
order my video or audio class.
Good luck to you
in your journey
and my best wishes
for all you hope to do and be.