Wonderful day yesterday. Not going to write here about the evening meet with a number of other trans activists and writers, cause its SECRET and hush-hush. 🙂
But I can talk about the day. Electrolysis, laser, clothes buying – and now speech therapy – with Christella Antoni. An introductory couple of sessions of speech therapy – not enough, by any means – but its got me started, and hooked.
I took the film crew along, too. Increasingly, they feel like a second shadow: mostly unobtrusive, although there is a moment (see my next blog on this) that they helped to bring out.
So first off, the mechanics (and how it makes me feel in the post after).
The mechanics of voice training
I turned up at the therapist’s “pad” – Harley St, doncha know! – at about 1 pm. I was then in for an hour of consult, measurement and, the first glimmerings of therapy.
The consult was fairly standard stuff, most of which I knew already. Its absolutely not all about pitch (I knew that from experimenting with an electronic “voice changer” a couple of years back): its about stress and pattern and intonation as well.
One interesting aside: Christella, who was in charge of the session, suggested that surgical work on the vocal chords is far less risky and quite possibly far more useful than I had thought. She reckons the “cricoid shave” – an operation commonly carried out on trans women to reduce the Adam’s Apple is actually more risky as regards the vocal chords, whilst if surgery on the chords is carried out AFTER some voice training, it is usually quite successful.
I shall think about that!
Machine that went ping!
Anyway, we started with a horrid baseline assessment. This involved taking recordings of me speaking ordinarily and reading a passage of text. I listened to myself speak and i am even lower than i had feared!
It all went into a piece of software that did lots of wonderfully statistical things that I’m sure I understood perfectly well before my brain got turned to girl and I gave up maths. (hmmm…is this the point i’m supposed to bend down, display my cleavage, and giggle?).
No. It was very interesting. Churned out mean, median and modal readings for frequencies used: my current readings for speech are a mode of around 85Hz, with an upper and lower range of 50 and 100 respectively. I do slightly better on reading.
The target range for what Christella termed “gender neutral” speaking is around 130 to 140 Hz. A way to go, except. I dropped, very briefly, back into where my voice had been pre-transition (I’ve been lifting it anyway over the last year) and that really did go Bass…So, uninstructed, I’ve made some progress already.
The analyser also churned out some graphs showing the distribution of sound and my speech, for all those statisticians out there, is both highly irregular and bimodal. Christella explained that as some quite bad speech habits I had developed, probably before I transitioned, which include the fact that I am naturally quiet, have a tendency to go breathy and…well, I just don’t project. These, together, are adding a second mode that is, weirdly, just below the first.
I need to lose it. Do I have a slight cough? Hoarseness? Difficulty maintaining the voice over long periods? Er, yes. That, christella suggested, was all down to some fairly unhealthy speech habits I have had for years.
Oh! Why didn’t I find out about THAT years ago.
Learning to go “Moo!”
We ended with some simple exercises designed to raise pitch and develop “muscle memory”: Ma, Me, My, Mo, Moo…with “Monday”, “Morning” and even “Monday Morning” for advanced level.
See if I can do that for ten minutes a day. Oh, yes. ONLY ten? Just try and stop me.
The pleasing thing about the session was that just that simple exercise lifted my voice considerably – into the 110-120 Hz range. To be expected, Christella warned: the easy bit is the first bit and anyone can lift their voice a bit. Even maintain it for a while.
Harder is what follows. Taking it to the place beyond. Maintaining it.
Another expense. But one well worth laying out.