Thursday, May 10, 2012

Vocal Subversion

Want a deeper voice? But aren’t sure which tricks to follow and which to avoid?  Not to worry!  I’ve got some basic info on how to gain better control over your voice and how to lower it, pre-T or on T.*

For a lot of us, our voice is a main factor contributing to us being misgendered, seen as younger than we are, feeling less confident in public, and general dysphoria.  Those who are no-ho, but would like a lower voice, can use the following tips, as can those who are on T.

*Disclaimer: I have about a decade of vocal work and training under my belt. However, I am not the definitive source on vocal health and work, nor a doctor. I cannot, nor do I intend to provide medical advice.

Speaking in  a Lower Register – This is the most common tip I’ve seen, and apparently the easiest. Just try to speak in the lowest register you can, right?  This can be helpful, and may slightly lower your voice over time, but it won’t produce dramatic results.  And, if consistently pushed low without the proper technique, you can injure or strain your voice.

Vocal Therapy – Though most often used by people wanting to speak in a higher register, there are vocal therapists out there who can help coach you to a lower speaking range. The upside is that they are experienced and can help you stay safe and find your limits.  The downside is that they typically charge a fair amount per session, and you’ll need a number of sessions to make substantial progress.

Vocal Exercises – There are several sets of vocal exercises you can do to lower your voice on your own. These take between five and fifteen minutes each day, and, if you stick to it, there can be noticeable changes.  You can buy a kit or “program”, but there are several free ones out there. I’ve found the following exercise most helpful:  

When using these, keep a few things in mind:

1. Make sure that you use a quick exercise to warm up your voice first. These exercises strengthen vocal tissue in certain areas. Like any muscle, if you don’t warm up properly before exercising it, it can be very easily injured. Vocal tissue is very tender, and can take a very long time to properly recover. 

You can try a singing exercise where you sing a short melody in a variety of increasing, than decreasing octaves. Or, if you don’t sing, say “Mee, may, my, moh, moo”. On each word, start at your natural speaking pitch (not the lower one you may try to speak at), hold out the vowel sound, and just slowly increase pitch as high as you can and then decrease it until you can’t go any lower.

2. NEVER do anything that hurts or makes your voice uncomfortable. If your voice does hurt or feel very uncomfortable afterwards, take a break for a few days, and don’t push it as hard the next time. As with exercise, quick results aren’t worth long-term injury

3. DON’T rush it. It may take you a few weeks to even start to see a change, but if you keep with them, the change will continue for months. 

The important part is then implementing this in your speech. After a few weeks of any of these exercises, start trying to speak in the range of whatever word or sound you use a level or two lower than your natural pitch. (For example, aim for the “dong” or the “king”pitch you use from the video exercise.) If you’re on T, a combination of some short exercises (for example, the first part of the video exercise), and being mindful of your target speaking range can really help you feel more comfortable in your new natural register, and give you more vocal control.


Screaming regularly. This will make your voice horse and perhaps a little lower. But you can cause serious vocal tissue inflammation and destruction this way.

Smoking. If done for the sole purpose of lowering your voice, it really isn’t worth it. You get damaged vocal tissue and less vocal control, and if you do start T, a voice affected by smoking will make your voice more prone to strain and cracking

Vocal exercises during the first several months of T or a bad cold. While some very light warm-ups might not be a problem, your voice is already going through a lot of physical changes, and your brain is already trying to adapt to those in how you speak. Doing exercises during this transition period won’t help significantly, and could cause damage to your voice where they otherwise wouldn’t.

Questions? Other tips? Comments? Feel free to write to us at !

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