SOUNDING LIKE A WOMAN
Fortunately for us, there is no such thing as a ‘normal female voice’. Our voices are almost as individual as our faces, and any individual voice is capable of great variation. We can speak nasally, harshly or huskily almost at will.
You will, no doubt, think your voice is too low in pitch, but bear in mind that pitch is only one factor in a voice, and other factors can compensate for low pitch. Earth Kitt’s voice, for example, is very low pitched, but is unmistakeably feminine. In fact, a low pitched feminine voice can sound very sexy.
It is important to remember that your are not trying to get a completely new voice, just to feminise your own existing voice. Your dialect or accent should be preserved, and you should be careful to keep your individuality.
Relaxed self confidence is a necessary first step in developing your new feminised voice. Undue tension in any part of the body will interfere with the easy functioning of the vocal chords. This is often accompanied by excessive concentration which also prevents natural speech.
Before starting an exercise, stretch your muscles to remove any undue tension, and then relax. As much like a cat as possible, stretch and relax.
Try to avoid doing the following speech therapy exercises when there is too much background noise – complete silence would be ideal. It may even be a good idea to draw the curtains to help dampen the sounds of the outside world.
Stretch, and relax….
After relaxation, breath control is the next most essential in feminising your voice. Good speech stems from breathing correctly and in a controlled way. If you cannot control your breath you will not be able to control your voice.
Stand with your body weight slightly forward, with heels lightly on the ground, shoulders loose and head erect. Take a deep breath and allow it to escape slowly and evenly.
Practise this once or twice before attempting to use your breath to speak. When you do speak, be careful not to spend all of your breath at the beginning of the phrase. You should have enough to last comfortably until the end of the phrase, or even have a little left over. Allow any extra breath to escape without sound. A puff of air at the end of the phrase is both unnecessary and unfeminine.
Controlling your breath as above, repeat the following phrases:
I am going shopping today Could you tell me the time please? Can I try this blouse on please?
Practise these over and over, until you’re happy with your breath control.
Male voices are generally lower in pitch than those of females. Therefore, a woman with a very low voice and male inflection stands out. Pitch and tonal range are not the only differences between male and female voices – only a part of the difference.
The object of these exercises is not to produce a falsetto, but to incorporate higher notes into your speaking range.
The voice is closely integrated with personality. Inflection, volume and voice quality are used to express emotion. Trust your natural femininity and have fun with the exercises! Continued relaxation is very important – stretch and relax…
Pitch is determined by the degree of tension in the muscles controlling the vocal chords, which are in turn controlled by your own perception of the sound you are making. When you want to sing a note, you don’t tense your vocal chords deliberately – instead, you hear the note in your mind and the vocal chords adjust themselves, the process is subconscious. Speech works in the same way.
Vocal muscles can, however, be exercised – and flexibility improved – provided that you have plenty of breath and keep your neck and throat muscles relaxed.
Before starting any exercise, here are a few points to remember:
Avoid smokey areas Avoid stress so you can develop a pattern of relaxed and easy breathing Develop a different speech rhythm – melodic rather than a business-like staccato pattern based on a narrow range of notes.
Bearing this in mind, try counting 1-2-3… 1-2-3… 1-2-3……
Then, raising the pitch a little (though still speaking, not singing), repeat again. Keep practising at different pitches, and the exercise will help you to add a more melodic character to your voice.
In this exercise, the voices you use should all be very different. Try to approach each as best you can, but don’t be disheartened if your first efforts are disappointing. Variety is the spice of life – try as many different voices and pitches as you want…
Husky Feminine Voice – “It is time I went home now”
Low pitched, but less husky voice – “It is time I went home now”
Medium pitch feminine voice – “It is time I went home now”
Higher pitched voice – “It is time I went home now”
Try them all again and again until you feel confident in a variety of voices – you can learn to use all these voices in everyday speech to express your different emotions, just as we all use our own male versions naturally.
Setting the tone
A further difference between male and female voices is their tone. In puberty female vocal chords lengthen and the lining of the pharynx becomes thicker and softer. This produces a mellow, soft tone. Male vocal chords increase in mass and length, and the pitch descends.
These tonal differences can be manipulated by using exercises to lengthen the vowels.
Working on neatening your pronunciation will also pay dividends. Research shows that women’s pronunciation is ‘correct’ for a greater proportion of the time than is men’s. However, this does not mean that you need to change your accent – merely to be more careful in the way you speak.
Stretch and relax. Breathe easily…
Sound the first letter of the phrases softly, feel your mouth forming the sounds, and stretch the vowels a little:
OO L-ah L-ah Ahoy ahoy – stretch to A–hoy ahoy that ship ahoy Cold, cold, it is so very cold Boom, boom, the gun went boom
Stretch and relax. Breathe easily… now try it again…
Once you are satisfied with your lengthened vowels, at least for the present, you can move on to your inflection.
When we speak we do not do so in a monotone. Rather, our pitch rises and falls naturally. This modulation of pitch is known as inflection, and it is this that gives our voices their expressive qualities.
Inflection is especially important in personal conversation – it shows whether or not we are listening attentively. Many of the diffferences between male and female voices – especially in inflection – arise from the kind of things we say. An employer does not coo softly at someone receiving a reprimand, nor does one bellow sweet nothings into the ear of a lover.
Generally speaking, women use inflection more than men. This reflects their nurturing role with children – although the quality is still visible in women who do not have (or want) children. The next exercise is designed to improve your inflection.
Stretch and relax. Breathe easily. Then try saying:
OH – (pitch drops) No – What (pitch drops) a (pitch drops) pi – (pitch drops) -ty
I can’t (pitch drops) and I (pitch drops) won’t (pitch drops) believe (pitch drops) it
Step (pitch rises) up
Step (pitch drops) down
Be (pitch drops) qui- (pitch drops) -et!
Putting it all together
It is time to put together everything we have learnt so far. So, stretch and relax, breathe easily, then repeat the following nonsense rhyme, trying out all that you have learnt:
Dong Dong Dong! Bonged the great big gong. The Hong Kong gong Had a long sad song Of woe and wrong, Of woe and wrong! Bong Bong Bong Dong Dong Dong Bong Bong Bong Bong! Dong Dong Dong You can hear the gong In old Cantong. The Hong Kong gong In old Cantong You can scarcely hear the gong The Bong-Dong gong
Remember, it is all a question of practice – and if you can manage to clearly recite the above rhyme, while paying attention to the techniques we’ve covered, you’ll know you’ve made excellent progress.
Try listening to yourself with a tape recorder, and continue to work on your breath control, tone, variety and inflection until you are happy with the way you sound.
Stretch and relax, breathe deeply… Stretch and relax, breathe deeply…
For a more in-depth guide to elecution, please see our Speech Therapy Course which includes four audio cassettes, which take you through voice exercises allowing you to practice and evaluate your progress.