Four Secrets of Effective MtF Voice Training

Your voice can be one of the biggest causes of and solutions to gender dysphoria and overall satisfaction with your gender presentation.

But it is also one of the hardest things to get right. Despite lots of resources and apps, making your voice to sound female can feel like a magic trick you don’t know how to do.

Luckily, it doesn’t take magic or a lot of money on a voice coach, or even surgery; all you need is a more focused approach. Work smarter not harder!

Learn the Basics

First things first, you need to learn the basics of what makes a feminine voice. There is a lot of information out there on how to sound feminine, but most of it is focused on the pitch of your voice. Women naturally have a higher average pitch (around 200 Hz) than men (around 120 Hz) and most training out there is about reaching this pitch consistently.

But, it turns out, there is a much more important part of your voice for sounding feminine that is overlooked; its resonance. Men have a much deeper resonance because of physical difference in the size of the throat and larynx. Even if you increase the primary pitch of your voice, you will still produce much deeper resonance tones. This resonance is why some trans men sound like men talking in a higher pitch, rather than female.

I highly recommend the TransVoiceLessons videos on YouTube for the science and specific exercises you can do to really feminize your voice.

Once you know the basics, the real work begins.

Tip 1: Get the right tools

Achieving a feminine voice takes a lot of practice, but a specific kind of practice: maintaining a consistent resonance pattern across all the sounds necessary to speak.

Our ears are finely tuned instruments, but it can be really hard sometimes to pick out the subtle lower resonances by ear alone. So the first tools you’ll need is a tuner and a spectrograph.

  • Tuner: a good tuner will tell you the average pitch of your voice and help you stay on target at the 200-220 Hz range. Ideally, it will also include a tone generator so you can hear the root G3/A3 pitch you are targeting.. I use a simple app called Pitched Tuner which can do both.
  • Spectrograph: a spectrograph shows all the different harmonics present when you speak. This is about the only way you can really identify the specific resonances present in your voice. There is a great iOS app called Audio Analyzer that gives you both a frequency analyzer and spectrograph.

These will be your roadmap during practice, helping you to identify the specific areas of your speech you need to focus on. I recommend also using a voice recorder so you can record and play back your different practice segments and really evaluate the weaknesses.

When using the tuner or the spectrograph to hone your female voice, the key thing is to focus on the lower ranges. Generally the female voice won’t dip below about 120 Hz; anything lower than that sends a strong masculine cue.

Using these tools effectively will get its own post, so stay tuned!

Tip 2: Get a voice template

Our brains are built to learn language by mimicking the sounds we hear. Someone telling you what a feminine voice sounds like will always be less effective than trying to mimic what you can hear. Even better is to find or create an example of the voice you want to have.

There are a few ways to get a voice template. First is to find a recording of a voice that you want to emulate. You’re looking for something that has a broad range of sounds and tones that you can practice against.

The second option is to use a recording of your own voice and change it to sound more feminine. This is the method I prefer, because it keeps your focus on pitch and resonance rather than learning someone else’s speaking patterns.

There are a number of tools you can use for this, but the ones I find work best come from the audio mixing world. I use Logic Pro and a plugin called IRCAM Trax V3 to generate the female version of the recording of your male voice. The results aren’t 100% perfect, but are good enough to help you isolate the specific parts of your speech you need to focus on, like specific vowel sounds or resonance.

Here is an example of a before and after of my own ‘male’ voice and template voice run through the plugin.

Male Voice

Female ‘Template’ Voice

Tip 3: Set up the right practice routine

Once you have the tools you need, the most important thing for effective voice training is practice. Like any new skill, your goal is to practice smarter not harder.

The goal of practice is two-fold: to ease you into using your feminine voice incrementally more each day, and to help you improve the quality of your voice.

Voice training is actually a lot of physical work. You are working muscles in your mouth and throat in a new way, and just like any other physical training, you need to build strength and endurance slowly over time. Overdoing training, especially early on, just leads to frustration.

So I recommend starting with small amounts of practice everyday, interspersed with more focused practice sessions every few days, then a rest day. Each week, you’ll add a few more minutes to continue building stamina.

Here is an example practice schedule for your first month:

  • Week 1: Four days of 15 minutes, two days of 30 minutes, one day of rest.
  • Week 2: Four days of 20 minutes, two days of 30 minutes, one day of rest.
  • Week 3: Four days of 25 minutes, two days of 40 minutes, one day of rest.
  • Week 4: Four days of 30 minutes, two days of 40 minutes, one day of rest.

Practice doesn’t have to be dedicated time at a desk or table; in fact, you’ll be better off practicing in the real world, while driving or out at stores. The more you use your voice in unscripted situations, the more quickly you’ll feel comfortable with it.

Tip 4: Focus on the right things

Progress comes from putting the time into practice, but also from focusing on the right things. If you spend an hour each day practicing the wrong things, you won’t make the steady progress you are shooting for. With that in mind, there are a couple of specific places you’ll want to put the majority of your practice effort.

There are two components to an effective female voice; pitch and resonance. Resonance is by far the harder challenge for most trans women because it involves changing the shape of your mouth and throat, and maintaining that shape consistently through speech. If you’ve worked on your pitch but still have a ‘male’ voice, its because your voice still has the lower resonant sub-harmonies of the male throat.

Practicing pitch before you’ve mastered resonance is the number one practice mistake. Pitch can seem easier and more fulfilling to practice because it is much easier for most people. But focusing on pitch, and neglecting resonance, leads to the ‘fake’ sounding voice that most trans women dread.

There is an easy way to work on resonance effectively: forget about pitch. The best way to really get resonance changes, and build the muscle memory and endurance required to maintain it, is to focus on that with your normal vocal pitch. If you can achieve the brassy tone and eliminate subharmonics in your normal pitch, then you’ll have a much easier time developing a natural sounding feminine voice at a higher pitch.

The second practice focus should be on vowels, and specifically the transition into and out of vowel sounds. A common mistake people make when practicing is dropping into and out of the feminine vocal range, and vowel sounds require the deepest range and resonance. Making the ‘eeeee’ or ‘aaaaa’ sound actually generate the lowest pitches, because they rely on an open throat. If you are not careful, it is extremely easy to let your throat relax and drop these vowel sounds down below about 150 Hz, at which point they become noticeably ‘male’.

Final Thoughts

As I said above, I highly recommend you watch the whole series of TransVoiceLessons videos. There are specific practice techniques and a lot of theory that will help you understand why you sound the way you do, and how to change it.

Unlike most other parts of transitioning, your voice is going to take months or years of dedicated practice to master. Anyone can do it – there is no magic trick or physiological barrier to sounding female. But it takes time and the results are slow and subtle, but entirely worth it.

I’d love to know if you have any tips or practice habits that have helped you to improve your voice in the comments.