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Transfeminine singing voice


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Are there other transfemme singers here on the forum? I'm continuing to try to develop my very limited alto range as a woman (my range in male mode was baritone) and am making some progress but finding it challenging. It does seem to be partly luck of the draw--transfemme people with higher ranges to start with probably have an easier time?

 

The most striking example I've heard was Gwendolyn Sierks, a guest I had on my gender identity interview podcast. Music is her main focus, and I've heard a recording of her singing after her transition, and you would never, never imagine she was trans from her singing voice. (If you want to hear an excerpt, go to https://allthegenders.com/?p=267 ... it's at about 29:00 in the recording there.) But I feel like, surely her natural range is a bit higher than mine, if she's able to sing like that? Based on her speaking voice, I think that's the case, but it's hard to know just from that. (Although I can always ask her.)

 

Anyway, is anyone else struggling with this, or has anyone found really good avenues for improving? Music is really important to me, and it will be sad for me if I have to limit my singing in future to this tiny little range.

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My suggestion would be to get involved in an LGBTQ Chorus where you will be given help and encouragement in getting your voice into your goal range.  I am part of the Trans Chorus Of Los Angeles which is a member of the GALA Chorus Intl

 

https://galachoruses.org/     

 

I mostly do technical work for TCLA, but my voice is in the Tenor1  range, although some of it depends on which musical arrangement we are doing, and some of it does go into the ranges up or down a bit.  TCLA does regular solo auditions for each or our concerts, and gives a chance for the changing voices to be tried and heard by others.  The advantage to an LGBTQ group is simply the support that the rest of the group gives us and the coaching from the music directors.  From Trans friends that I have in L & G choruses they are treated wonderfully and have a lot of fun. (There are currently only about three stand alone T choruses  in the U.S. -- some others were Covid casualties & Political casualties)

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@Ila I'm not transfemme, but I am a chorister. Seeing as you appear to be a seasoned singer, you are probably familiar with head voice (as opposed to chest voice)? It probably wouldn't have come up singing baritone, but sometimes an alto needs to access head voice to get into a higher register. I believe it should translate for a baritone seeking to attain higher tenor range (which is largely equivalent to alto range). Look for head voice tutorials on youtube. You can also consider a vocal coach who can help one-on-one. 

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Hi @Ila, I’m a baritone rock singer struggling with the same issues. I’m mostly untrained and have always sang pretty much however felt natural, so I find it hard to incorporate vocal-feminisation techniques into my singing. For me, coming to terms with this has been one of the hardest aspects of my transition.

 

Having said that, I do think there can be excessive focus on pitch in these conversations. Listen to Nina Simone, or Sharon van Etten for a contemporary example; both sing in very low registers, but both are clearly women. I sometimes listen to Cate Blanchett interviews if I want some inspiration too; these days she mostly speaks just as deeply, if not deeper, than I do, but her voice has a resonance and melodic quality that is clearly feminine.

 

Have you started voice feminisation training? There are so many other factors besides pitch. 

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this one definitely causes me problems. I tried all those on-line lessons aand took voice lessons and I try to think higher when I talk but I forget far too often. But using the warm up lessons I have increased my upper singing range.

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I can do it easily with most songs but struggle with music at church. I can do it sometimes so I guess practice makes perfect. Speech therapy helped me a lot. The exercises gave me range and pitch.

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  • 2 weeks later...

Thanks for the responses and shared experiences on this thread!

 

On 3/13/2024 at 8:35 PM, Betty K said:

I sometimes listen to Cate Blanchett interviews if I want some inspiration too; these days she mostly speaks just as deeply, if not deeper, than I do, but her voice has a resonance and melodic quality that is clearly feminine.

Oh, great example! I listen to interviews with Jennifer Connelly for the same reason. Those are two beautiful, lower feminine voices (though they can both go higher than I easily can, and often do).

 

 

On 3/13/2024 at 8:35 PM, Betty K said:

Have you started voice feminisation training? There are so many other factors besides pitch. 

 

Yes, thank you for mentioning that route--I've had years of voice training, with three or four main instructors over the years, each emphasizing different things! It's been a difficult road, but my speaking voice these days usually seems to pass, or at least not get in the way? Recently I was talking to someone about my voice, and she described it as having a softness to it, which is not the higher, warm, musical, lilting quality I might most want, but seems to suffice--the way I enunciate, the words I choose, not letting my pitch fall below a certain point, the up and down compared to the usually more flat male pitch pattern, etc.

 

The easy test for my speaking voice would be to use female voice on phone calls, especially with services that are more conservative in how they want their reps to interact so that you get "Sir"ed or "Ma'am"ed, but until  recently, I haven't wanted to do much of that. Now I'll be doing it nearly all the time, so I'll see what I get for responses. I'd love to bring up the pitch of my speaking voice a few steps, both extending my range and lifting my baseline, but that may or may not ever happen. Anyway, all of these things have certainly helped my singing voice, but I want to keep working on extending my range the way folks have mentioned here--but it's a good point, Betty, that it's not all about pitch!

 

A counterexample for me to Nina Simone or Sharon van Etten is Tracy Chapman, who has a beautiful, low voice--but who, when I originally heard her music years ago, I assumed was male! That's exactly what I don't want.

 

I think it's harder to use some of the non-pitch vocal elements to distinguish a female voice in singing, because enunciation for males and females is more similar when singing, and varying pitch is determined by the music rather than by your speaking pattern, which leaves mainly pitch, vocal quality, and overtones.

 

I want to be sure to mention that my feeling is that a woman can have any voice that works for her, regardless of how other people might judge or gender a voice and regardless of pitch, inflection, also. It surprises me sometimes how many trans women are comfortable with voices that have some traits associated with masculine voices except I know what an enormous amount of work it takes to change that--and I am thrilled that not everyone needs to do that to feel and be whole in regard to their vocies!

 

Back to singing and extending range, if anyone has any particular exercises or YouTube videos or anything they would recommend, please do post!

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I'm taking voice lessons, but we don't cover singing. But some of the exercizes do seem close to singing (or sustained talking, as Prof Harold Hill would say). 

 

I did find that I can sing with what seems to be a more feminine voice, and it seems easier to do for me then speak with a feminine voice, cause once you find it you just sing the rest of the song, not as much variation as speaking involves. And probably cause the music and lyrics keep me from overthinking like I do when speaking. 


I've always enjoyed singing along with the Roches, the late great Maggie Roche sang the bottom parts and even before voice work she was someone I could aspire to sing like. 

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  • 2 weeks later...

I came across a video of Dylan Mulvaney singing and was struck by what amazing things she does with her voice. She presents herself in a hyper-girly, very assertive way that's a bit more intense than I'm generally comfortable with, but that's just a reflection on my being comfortable when I blend in and "fit", not any criticism of her being strong on the front lines. Anyway, for instance, check out this video of her singing with Chris Colfer:

 

 

For me, what seeing and hearing this underscores is @Vidanjali's point about head voice, which Dylan has mastered in an amazing way. If I find an instructor whose specialty is working with trans women's head voices for singing, then I can strengthen the muscles (literally and figuratively) that will let me use head voice (which from what I understand is essentially the same as or at least overlaps greatly with falsetto). So I think I feel a little inspired to go find that instructor!

 

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1 hour ago, Ila said:

I came across a video of Dylan Mulvaney singing and was struck by what amazing things she does with her voice. She presents herself in a hyper-girly, very assertive way that's a bit more intense than I'm generally comfortable with, but that's just a reflection on my being comfortable when I blend in and "fit", not any criticism of her being strong on the front lines.

 

Interesting observation and self-reflection. What you observe as hyper-girly and very assertive, I observe as slightly nasally and show-tune-y. Neither of those observations are meant as criticisms. Often when one is learning to sing in a high register, they are instructed to or experience spontaneously a vibration in the sinus area also called the "mask" area. This sensation helps the singer with resonance and tone. Sometimes when singers emphasize the mask awareness they can sound a bit nasally which is what I hear slightly with Dylan. Moreover, leaning towards the nasally or even what some might consider whiny helps some singers to increase range. Britney Spears comes to mind when I think nasally and whiny. Again, no shade on Britney in the slightest. I'm just using words like nasally and whiny to describe qualities that a singer may adopt skillfully to create a desired effect.

 

For more understanding, here's a video of a vocal coach speaking about Britney's "real voice" versus her "commercial pop voice".

 

And here's a video of another vocal teacher speaking about placement, resonance, and mask.

 

1 hour ago, Ila said:

Anyway, for instance, check out this video of her singing with Chris Colfer:

 

For me, what seeing and hearing this underscores is @Vidanjali's point about head voice, which Dylan has mastered in an amazing way. If I find an instructor whose specialty is working with trans women's head voices for singing, then I can strengthen the muscles (literally and figuratively) that will let me use head voice (which from what I understand is essentially the same as or at least overlaps greatly with falsetto). So I think I feel a little inspired to go find that instructor!

 

 

Adorable video & I'm happy to hear you're inspired!

 

Speaking of singing, I sang at an Easter celebration last Saturday. It was the first time I've sung publicly in a couple of years due to disability. And leave it to me to choose a song relatively high in my range with the highest notes on the words "free" and "He". For anyone reading who's not aware, it's most difficult to sing an eeee vowel on a high note because the inside of your face kind of flattens out when you make that sound compared to other vowels. I only had a few days notice, so I warmed up each day and then rested. On the day of the celebration, I warmed up much higher than the highest note of the song so that by comparison there would be greater ease. I felt nervous for a moment before I went on, but while I was singing I actually felt good and not nervous. It was a very affirming experience to not feel self-conscious or self-critical. My singing was well-received and I will probably have more opportunities to sing in this venue again :) 

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Thanks for this thread

I was a singer forever.  
Now it’s just open jam night once a week.  I’m doing more harmonies than leads.  

When Ive sang lead, the dive erupts.  
But i worry they’re clocking me when I draw attention by doing this.  Im not out but im post op and pass pretty good otherwise/ if i just sit there and shut up.
 

Figuring it out.  Need to devote time to voice because it troubles me to hear myself sounding masculine.  

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