Monday, May 24, 2010

Voice Classes

"Cause sometimes,
I said sometimes, I hear my voice
And it's been here,
Silent all these years."
 -- Tori Amos, Silent All These Years

Egads! Has it really been a month since I've posted? And did I really just type "Egads!"? Bleh. I guess I should talk about the voice classes I recently finished while it's still semi-fresh in my mind, as much as it annoys me.

When I was still early in transition, voice classes were one of the things "on the list" that I definitely wanted to do, since hormones don't change the voice for male-to-female transpeople. Back then, I researched it the way I research everything: with the interwebs, but I couldn't find any. I know there are at least a few local speech/voice therapist/coaches, but I don't know if any of them work specifically with trans people. At the time, I was still afraid to tell even complete strangers that I was trans, which stopped me from ever calling and asking.

After a while, I put off the idea in favor of other things, and just practiced here and there on my own. I also did a lot of research; I read and watched how-tos, I learned about speech-patterns, pitch, resonance, vocal chords, and so on. I have a lot of the technical knowledge, but even with all that, it can be difficult to put it to use without someone to tell me if I'm doing it correctly.

A few months ago, I got an email on the Pride Center mailing list which said that a licensed speech therapist would be doing voice classes specifically for MtF trans people in March/April/May. I excitedly emailed the teacher to find out more about it, and she quickly replied to tell me that the class was $70 per person, and that we would work on expanding vocal range, flexibility, expression, pitch, resonance, intonation, "feminine" language choices, non-verbal communication, etc., via modified Fitzmaurice voicework, which is apparently something originally designed for actors. It sounded perfect, so I mailed a check.

A few days later, she emailed me to let me know that she received the check, when and where the first class was, and to bring workout clothes, a yoga mat, and water. Wait, what? Eh, apparently she incorporates yoga techniques... I wish I'd been informed of that earlier, but oh well, I decided to go anyway.

The class was only eight people, and I already knew a couple of them from elsewhere, which was nice. The first class ended up being mostly strange yoga-type positions, trying to find a "tremor", which was supposed to "shake up the voice". It was odd, but I figured that it was groundwork, and that I couldn't really judge its effectiveness until after the rest of the technique was revealed.

A few weeks/classes later, and we were still doing the same thing. What's worse, she never definitively tied these exercises in with the voice. Sometimes she would go back to vaguely explaining something about loosening up the voice, or show us a picture of the various tendons in the human body that run between the feet and the throat, still without giving us a definitive tie-in.

Eventually we moved in to learning about the muscles that control breathing, and how to be aware of them, which at least felt a little more relevant. It wasn't until around class 5 that we started learning some exercises for expanding vocal range, and experimenting with tone and such, yet we were still spending around 2/3 of each class doing stretches. By the end of class 6, I wasn't sure if I wanted to come back, though I kept reasoning that perhaps I'd learn something big in the last couple of classes that would make it all worthwhile. From class 7 on, we finally stopped doing any of the yoga stuff, and it suddenly felt like she was struggling to catch up.

To make things worse, there were supposed to be 10 classes, but she wasn't sure if we would have the venue for the final class or not. We were supposed to find out at class 9, but I forgot to go that day, and realized afterward that I didn't feel badly about it, so I didn't bother finding out about the last week.

Maybe I'm being a bit harsh... I'm only semi-pissed about the money, as it's a lesson learned, but I feel like it was the time I spent there that was the big loss. Oh well, some would say I have too much time on my hands already. ;) I hope the other people in the class felt better than I did about it. A few people had to rearrange their schedules and even bus to get there each week.

I think I've gotten my voice to a fairly androgynous place through my own practice. My current voice is usually enough to be passable in person, but my main concern is on the phone and online video games, where my voice has to represent me without the visual reinforcing. In games is the only place that I don't tell everyone about my past, mostly because I don't feel like constantly explaining, and because people online can be extremely cruel.

A friend recently asked if I'm afraid that I'll sound fake. I do worry about that (to be fair I worry about everything), but I know that practice will help make it sound less fake, and people can just deal with it in the mean time. I do get a lot of compliments on my voice, so I must be doing something right. Erin also says that it "freaks her out" when I accidentally switch to my old boy voice. I guess it's just going to take time. At least now that I'm fully socially transitioned, I practice every day, whether I like it or not. ;)

1 comment:

  1. First time I heard you after not seeing you for several months, during which time you had started the hormones, I definitely noticed your voice was higher pitched. So I wouldn't say that the hormones do nothing.