Disclaimer – I am not qualified in any way as a voice therapist. The tips and instructions provided here were given to me by a qualified speech therapist, but have been designed for my own individual needs. These exercises may not be appropriate or necessary for you and are only an illustration of potentially useful voice adapting methods. Look after your voice, it’s the only one you have, and please consult a professional before making these potentially damaging and permanent changes to your voice. I am nowhere near achieving a passable voice or a strong understanding of these vocal concepts and am as much in the dark as any other beginner. Some of the ideas, concepts and additions below are borne of my own mostly ignorant interpretations and opinions. Try these at your own risk.
This one is for my girls, with achy throats compounded with vocal confusion. I had my second voice therapy appointment and have learned a lot. I don’t know about you, but before seeing a professional I had waded through a ton of YouTube videos, bought the Kathe Perez and Andrea James voice feminization programs, and even the EVA voice app.
I spent months working up the courage to try the exercises, and when I finally got around to it, I did the exercises, but I didn’t see what the point was, I didn’t see what I was trying to achieve. I’ve had no basis of comparison to know whether what I was doing was correct, or whether the changes I was making were improvements, or a steady way of destroying my voice.
In my last post I outlined a few basics I learned in my first lesson, and I would like to share now the techniques I learned in the second lesson.
Firstly, anything I’ve encountered has suggested I practice for at least an hour a day, my voice therapist said the same (too much will over-strain the voice), but suggested doing 4 sessions of 10-15 minutes per day to optimize progress, rather than lumping the entire hour into one daily session.
If you feel the need to clear your throat, DON’T; take a drink of room temperature water instead. I’ve been nicotene free for a little bit now and get goo in my throat but still don’t clear it because it’s doing damage. If you have acid reflux or any other vocal/throat anomalies, I would advise not doing these exercises and speaking with a doctor or voice professional first.
Technique 1 – The Straw Method
This exercise is scientifically shown to reduce vocal chord tension and feelings of tightness in the throat. It may seem silly, but the results are frankly astounding for such a simple activity. It takes a little bit of practice to begin with but is quick, easy, and can be done in 5 minutes.
“The aim of these exercises is to build air pressure below the vocal chords to enable them to come together with less effort”
What you will need:
- A bendy cocktail straw (small diameter)
- A glass filled with about 2 inches of water
- Holding the glass in one hand and the straw in the other (have the straw in the water not touching the bottom, top, or sides), blow a steady stream of air into the water. Keep your shoulders down and relaxed. You will see bubbles in the glass. Do this 5 times. Your throat should seem more open.
- Blow through the straw into the water, this time adding the prolonged sound ‘uuuuuuuuuuuuuu.’ Use a pitch that is comfortable for you. Ensure a good lip seal is maintained around the straw so no air leaks from the sides of your lips or down your nose. This is tricky and may take several attempts (be careful not to blow water everywhere!). Repeat this 5 times. You throat should feel even more open.
- Pulse rhythmically on ‘uuuuu’, increasing the volume. Repeat x5.
- Again, on the sound ‘uuuuuu’. Glide from high pitch to low pitch 5 times.
- Now glide from low pitch to high pitch and back down again 5 times.
- Hum a simple tune like Happy Birthday (or Iron Man by Black Sabbath =P) through the straw.
- Finally imitate the intonation of speech by humming through the straw, e.g. Gliding up as if you were asking a question, e.g. ‘How are you today?’
- Remove the straw and begin to speak. Notice a feeling of openness and effortless in your throat.” 
Paraphrased from  – Titze, 2006. Voice Training and Therapy with a Semi-Occluded Vocal Tract: Rational and Scientific Underpinnings.
From the first try on this exercise I noticed the openness. After a couple of days I was surprised by the quality of my voice immediately after following these steps.
Technique 2 – Humming
For these exercises I was asked to try them in different pitches to find what was comfortable for me. Online voice programs will generally ask you to aim for an A3 note (220HZ); however I was informed my A3 was unnatural, and a G3 or G#3 worked better and was still within the ‘feminine’ range. Use an online piano, free mobile piano app, or a tuned musical instrument if you have one to find these pitches. If your throat gets tight whilst doing these exercises, try step one of the straw again exercise to reduce the tension.
- Begin breathing down the nose and add the hum ‘mmmmmm….’ Gently place two fingers either side of your nose and feel for the vibrations. Also, experiment with placing your hand on your chest, checking for vibration and resonance. When done correctly there should be very little buzzing in the chest. There will always be a little buzzing in the throat as this is of course where the vocal chords are located. Imagine your voice coming from the front of the lips and/or the centre of the tongue.
- Once this has been achieved, the hum can be prolonged, remembering the lips should make light contact while the teeth remain apart. Imagine the sound forward onto the lips. This will allow the tongue to assume a neutral position, and because the hum is very close to quiet breathing, it will also put the larynx in a neutral position. While you prolong the hum, not only will you feel the vibration around the face and lips, but also listen to the ’rounded’ quality of the sounds.
- Vowel sounds can be added to the hum, making sure initial the focus remains on the hum rather than the vowel, to prevent any increase in glottal tension. You may then be able to produce the hum with simultaneous onset of breath and voice.
- Try the following sounds, 3 times each in a row at a pitch that feels natural and comfortable [in your preponderantly ‘female’ range] (i.e. Mmm … ah, Mmm … ah, Mmm … ah).
- Mmm … ah – Mmm … oo – Mmm … ee – Mmm … ay – Mmm … oh – Mmm … eye.
- Once you have mastered these, you can move onto words and phrases, maintaining an intoned voice and initially prolonging the hum at the beginning of words (You may also want to first sing, and then say the words and phrases at your preferred pitch).
- – Main – Mine – Mean – Moan – Moon – Mourn – Many – Money – Morning – Moaning – Mining – Meaning
- Short Phrases: – Many moons – Many more – Morn or noon – More money – My name – Many miles – Moaning Minnie – Manage money
- Longer Phrases:
- My name is Naomi More
- My mum makes mince on Mondays
- My money may go missing
- Mad Max moans from morning till night
- Noisy monkeys made away with it
- Mean Mary mocks Mike
- Many miles more to the mountain
- Martin has marmalade in the morning
- Mandy like mince and minestrone soup”
 These exercises were graciously provided to me by my voice therapist. They are shared without permission, though I hope by sharing them that it can take a little pressure off NHS voice resources and help some of the transwomen who either cannot gain access to vocal therapy, or those who are thoughtlessly destroying their throats with bad practice in understandable despair, bearing in mind my disclaimer).
Remember to breathe diaphragmatically in general and before speaking and to drink at least 2 litres of water per day.
Once these exercises are completed you may want to try a few other speech patterns out. A dictaphone may be helpful in gauging your progress.
- Trying singing and speaking 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10.
- Try humming then speaking the days of the week, or the months of the year.
Another little tip is to practice saying ‘mmhmm’ as a confirmation tone at different pitches. This could be helpful in social situations rather than using words like ‘Sure’ and ‘Yeah’ which may sound inherently masculine for us, and potentially end in a downward inflection, a big difficulty in voice ‘feminization’ and a sure-fire tell.
Think Gumbel 2 Gumbel from Family Guy –
You might be able to use a Spectogram (download at your own risk) to gauge the pitch and inflection of your voice. A set up guide for this Spectogram can be found HERE, again courtesy of Deep Stealth Productions.
Through doing these vocal exercises I’ve subtly been able to help myself take the voice away from my chest. There is still a little resonance there often enough, but through gentle experimentation I can find what reduces that chest resonance to almost zero. Remember this is a journey of change, not a switch that flicks between ‘male’ voice and ‘female’ voice. I’ll be honest, I sound like a horrible transsexual, and you have to be able to deal with that for a while, maybe at the very least 6 months, maybe 2 years, maybe forever, because this is a transition, and it is usually very difficult, and probably impossible without a concerted effort and desire to improve.
Remember, the people who love and care about you will understand you are going through changes, your efforts will show them how serious and dedicated you are. Strangers won’t know any different and will assume that it’s just your voice.
The good news is, my voice therapist said that when you “Get it”, progress becomes exponential and real results can be achieved.
Whilst making inroads with my vocal technique, I find it somewhat emotionally taxing already to go back to my old voice. Even in private, when I tried a couple of times to bring the chest resonance back in, I just really didn’t like how it sounds, and I never want to hear it again, it is almost intolerable. It is fine for a male voice, but it is not my voice. Be prepared to feel like this, as it is a common experience. Say goodbye to your old voice, realise that it’s most likely goodbye forever.
I hope these tips help you to understand the early stages of the process from the inside even just a little bit. It is difficult and embarrassing at times, but remain courageous, stay focused, committed and determined, and you will reach your goals.
You can do it!