VOICE TRAINING/REASSIGNMENT FAQ FOR TRANGENDER CLIENTS from Dr. Karen Wicklund, Chicago Center for Professional Voice©2013, Of Special Note, INC, All Rights Reserved
FOR M-F TRANS WOMEN:
Q: What will we work on in voice training/reassignment?
A: Voice training for the M-to-F Trans woman will consist of learning and using diaphragmatic breathing and an easy onset, flow phonation that will help place your habitual pitch more optimally. Not only will we work on pitch using Kay Visi-Pitch acoustic equipment in my clinic, but we will also listen to and model women’s inflection (prosody), easy onset in vowel-initiated words, and other parts of language such as semantics- increasing your vocabulary of adjectives, adverbs and tag questions- and pragmatic aspects of language such as gesture, posture, gait, eye gaze and proxemics. Also, if you appear to be hoarse at any time- at evaluation or during therapy, I may suggest you have your vocal folds looked at by an ENT who specializes in laryngology. This will help us determine if you have any systemic problems like Reflux or Allergies that may be interfering with optimal phonation.
Q: How many sessions will I need and how often do I need to come to therapy?
A: That depends on where you start with your biologic voice and your motivation to change. But most trans voice protocols take between 10 and 16 sessions to learn a female voice, with booster maintenance sessions to follow.
Q: What is pitch/frequency defined?
A: Pitch or frequency is measured in Hertz (Hz), or the number of times your vocal folds vibrate during one second. Higher pitches vibrate at higher frequencies, and lower ones at lower frequencies. Lower pitches also tend to be in chest register (on the thick edge of the vocal folds), and that is perceived more as male. Higher frequencies tend to be in head register (on the thin leading edges of the vocal folds) and are perceived as being more female. Hertz designations are also given piano pitch designations as well- e.g., 175 Hz= F3 (the third F on the piano keyboard). You can practice your assigned voice exercises using a tuner app on your phone or with a small keyboard to help you approximate your habitual pitch.
Q: What is an average woman’s habitual pitch/frequency?
A: Generally, to be perceived as female, your habitual pitch should be between F3 (175 Hz-alto) and B3 (247 Hz- soprano). If your biologic voice is already in a high tenor range, it will be potentially easier for you to raise your pitch to an alto level since you have not as far to go as does a bass speaker. However, I have had many bass clients who do a fine job keeping their habitual pitch in a high-alto range after some practice. It also helps to record yourself every other practice session or so to see if you are making progress toward your goals.
FOR F-to-M TRANS MEN:
Q: Will I need training to work on my voice as a Trans man? I thought that hormones will naturally lower my voice?
A: There is a common assumption that hormone therapy is like a “magic bullet” for the F-to-M voice. However, there is huge variability in each person’s response to testosterone and the pitch change may not be especially dramatic, and may sometimes be minimal. Also, Trans men may exhibit excessive laryngeal muscle tension behaviors with their first attempts at making a lower pitch. Excessive tension in the pharynx, tongue and jaw can actually lead to an unwanted increased pitch. So, just like the M-to-F Trans woman, the F-to-M man can benefit from learning appropriate breath-to-larynx coordination, resonant placement and vocal hygiene tips. Trans men can also benefit from working on male prosody/inflection patterns, vocabulary choices, posture, eye gaze, gestures and gait with an experienced voice therapist.
Q: What is the average male speaker’s habitual pitch?
A: In general, to be perceived as a male average habitual pitch needs to be from G2 (98 Hz) in a bass voice ranging to about an E3 (165 Hz) in a high tenor voice.
Q: How many sessions will I need?
A: Again, it depends on where you are starting from pitch-wise and also how much tension to overcome, but 8-14 sessions are generally needed, with monthly booster sessions to follow.
Any more questions? Please email me:firstname.lastname@example.org