Reaching for the high notes

Science writer Emily Anthes has a fascinating interview with a speech therapist who works with male-to-female transsexuals to help make their voice sound more feminine.

It gives both an insight into a little known area of speech therapy as well as highlighting some of the often overlooked differences between male and female voices.

EA: So, how does speech therapy work for someone who’s transitioning? What does it involve?

EG: They go once a week, sometimes twice a week if they’re really eager to speed things up, and they do different vocal exercises. Pitch is one of the most important markers. Men on average speak at 110-120 [Hertz], gender neutral is 145-165, and women are 210-220. In most cases the goal is to try to get to gender neutral, which basically means that if you called somebody on the phone, and they speak in what’s known as the gender neutral pitch, you probably wouldn’t be able to tell if they were a man or a woman.

So that’s the first piece, but along with that, they have to learn other things, like posture and speech intonation. Speech intonation is how much your voice goes up and down in a sentence. Men tend to speak in a very monotone, even tone. Women speak in many, many different pitches; as they speak they go up and down, they go high, they go low. So that’s really important–a person who’s transitioning needs to learn how to use that range in their voice.

 

Link to ‘Learning to Speak Like a Woman’.

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  1. [...] post on retraining the voices of transexuals: Science writer Emily Anthes has a fascinatinginterview with a speech therapist [...]

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