Finding your female voice
Hi everyone. I’m sure a lot of trans women and nonbinary trans DMAB folks out there would like a clear explanation of how to find your “fem” voice from someone who has succeeded. The way I do it doesn’t feel like it wears you down, so you don’t get a tired voice from using it for more than a few hours. It also came super fast and super natural for me but that doesn’t mean it will for everyone. I recognize that I may have unconsciously trained a bit before learning about how to do this.
For example, I first discovered my fem voice when I sang “Make Your Own Kind of Music" and attempted to mimic the resonance as best I could. I had the music turned up really loud because I was scared of how stupid I would sound. However, I noticed that my voice would "lock" into a fem type of voice for a few hours, where it would eventually get tired and need another go. I did this for about one or two weeks before really getting serious and approaching everything scientifically. Therefore, I recognize that these may have been necessary warmup steps for the following information.
Pitch isn’t perfect
Probably most of you have tried making your voice more girly by increasing the pitch. What you’re really doing is just increasing the pitch of your masculine voice, and staying within a masculine range. All that really does is make a falsetto, fake voice. It really just makes the voice sound like Mickey Mouse. Girls sometimes have higher pitches than boys but they sometimes have lower ones. Yet we still identify them as women. So what’s going on here?
Well, it’s not as if playing an F# tells you that an instrument is a violin. Pianos can play the same octave F# as the violin; yet you know the difference when you hear them. Clearly they are different instrumentations of each other—called resonance. Sound is more complicated than just some two-dimensional oscillation. It actually oscillates in three dimensions, which leaves many different degrees of freedom for a given sound to have various properties of pitch, resonance, and tone.
When you change pitch, you’re just using your vocal cords and some of you probably use the Styloglossus muscle. This is found just under the tongue and gives what people refer to as head resonance. This is still a sort of “fake” resonance as the sound is not coming from the throat in a way that sounds fem, but rather is being converted at the last second in your mouth. This is why it’s so tiring to keep this up: partially because you’re using one muscle and partially the extra strain on the vocal cords.
So how do you change instrumentation? By changing the instrument, of course. DMAB people usually have a larynx which sits forward on the throat, allowing excess air to pass through it. This collection of new cartilage and bone changes the default human (or perceived “fem”) voice to “masculine”. Your goal is not to use the larynx (much) when speaking. Ideally, you accomplish this by folding the larynx in so that it’s not visible or being used. First, know your instruments:
This is the Stylopharyngeus muscle, which runs from your ear to your neck, behind the larynx. It’s one of three muscles in charge of moving that area around, including helping keep your larynx in position.
This is the Stylohyoid muscle. It’s a very small rubber-bandy muscle that runs from the hinge of the jaw to above the larynx.
This is the Digastric muscle—the specific part we’re interested in is called the posterior belly (on the right of the image). The whole muscle runs from the ear to the tip of the jaw, circling near the larynx like a rubber band.
Note that these muscles are all fine, rubber-bandy cords that stretch around and near the larynx. That’s how they can be so useful. The trick to this is using them, much like you would use your fingers, to pull the larynx back and upward. You can pull the larynx in any combination of back, forward, down, and up, however the combinations which include “forward” and “down” usually result in more masculinity (in fact, death metal growlers use this same trick to get the hardass sounds, and different masculine combinations get you the different metal growls and screams).
Pulling it back and upward will make the larynx almost disappear and this reverts you back to how a person without a larynx, or a DFAB person would be able to control their voice. This may not be instantaneous for everyone else like it was for me. I saw the diagrams, I truly understood them, and I just did it. After over 12 hours of streaming Dark Souls, I had no problem with voice fatigue nor anyone clocking me.
Since, as I said, everyone will not have this come naturally, you may want to know some tricks and perspectives to help with changing the resonance in your voice.
First, you can try to pull the larynx back and up, using the three muscles above and taking care to avoid the Styloglossus under your tongue. If you can feel your tongue getting fatigued, you’re using the wrong muscle! Tilt your head back slightly and rub your finger down your throat, feeling to make sure the larynx is only barely (or not) noticable. Using less of it means a more fem voice, though some masculinity left in it is actually fine. Hold that there and try speaking. At first, you may sound ridiculous, like how you sound upside down hanging off your bed—kind of winded. But the point is getting used to the muscles being in that position.
Another thing you can try is the hump method. Go really really low in your masculine resonance, then work the “ahhh” note up to your highest pitch, and try to go over a sort of hump feeling when you do it (your larynx should end up backward and upward for this), then start going down slowly from high to about midrange, which should be within your female resonance and should demonstrate your fem voice. This may actually have been what my voice was doing when singing the song at the beginning of this post, so try not to discount it as silly.
Naturally, this may take practice and time, as the use of any unused muscle usually requires exercise. Remember that this is your voice and your life. You can practice as little or as much as makes you feel comfortable, but I highly encourage you to ignore anyone who may be listening and just do it. I have severe anxiety, so I know how that feels.
An important note: You do not have to change your voice! That is completely a preference thing. If you think it’ll make you more recognizable as a female in daily interactions, you can go for it. But never feel pressured. You’re a girl. If you sound that way, then that means girls sound that way too. If you need to take it slow due to anxiety or dysphoria, do so. Don’t rush this, if that’s not what you want.
Thanks everyone for reading this post, and I hope it helps a bunch! What I really want to see from you girls is a comment or reblog with your own tips and stories about how you changed your voice if you’ve been successful thus far. We should spread the knowledge. Also, please feel free to reblog with audio/video of your voice progress while trying this method! It’s definitely possible and it gets better.
We were grabbing a bite of lunch at a small cafe, in a mall, right across from a booth that sold jewelry and where ears could be pierced for a fee. A mother approaches with a little girl of six or seven years old. The little girl is clearly stating that she doesn’t want her ears pierced, that’s she’s afraid of how much it will hurt, that she doesn’t like earrings much in the first place. Her protests, her clear ‘no’ is simply not heard. The mother and two other women, who work the booth, begin chatting and trying to engage the little girl in picking out a pair of earrings. She has to wear a particular kind when the piercing is first done but she could pick out a fun pair for later.
"I don’t want my ears pierced."
"I don’t want any earrings."
The three adults glance at each other conspiratorially and now the pressure really begins. She will look so nice, all the other girls she knows wear earrings, the pain isn’t bad.
She, the child, sees what’s coming and starts crying. As the adults up the volume so does she, she’s crying and emitting a low wail at the same time. “I DON’T WANT MY EARS PIERCED.”
Her mother leans down and speaks to her, quietly but strongly, the only words we could hear were ‘… embarrassing me.’
We heard, then, two small screams, when the ears were pierced.
Little children learn early and often that ‘no doesn’t mean no.’
Little children learn early that no one will stand with them, even the two old men looking horrified at the events from the cafeteria.
Little girls learn early and often that their will is not their own.
No means no, yeah, right.
Most often, for kids and others without power, ”no means force.”