Guest blog by Christella Antoni, Voice Specialist
Voice change is often cited by many trans individuals as a crucial aspect of their transition and social comfort, this is especially true for trans women as oestrogen hormone treatment has no effect on the larynx or the sound of the voice. As an expert in voice feminisation, I have worked with trans women for more than 20 years, helping them to achieve a greater level of comfort with their voice as they transition.
Over the years I have honed my expertise into what has become known as the ‘Antoni Method of voice feminisation’ which comprises a range of exercises and techniques performed together with a therapist who can offer practical support.
Sadly, access to trans voice therapy with an experienced clinician has become increasingly difficult, waiting times to treatment on the NHS are lengthy and many people are unable to afford private care. This combination of factors, together with the increase in patients looking for support in this area, led to me developing the Christella VoiceUp app, a tool which distils the Antoni Method into an easy to use programme available at the touch of a button.
Our voice, and the way we sound, is closely linked to our feelings, confidence levels and motivation, this is particularly the case when a patient is uncomfortable with the way they come across (as with a trans person who may be suffering from voice dysphoria). It is a common misconception that picking up a few voice tips will be enough to change your voice as, for most people, true voice change requires guidance and practice. This is why the tips and tutorials available on YouTube are rarely effective in significantly altering a person’s voice long-term.
Voice feminisation exercises
The Christella VoiceUp app was developed to provide a comprehensive, low cost resource based on the staged model of voice feminisation that I practice clinically with my trans clients. Having it available as a download, means users can easily practice in the comfort of their own home, in their car or wherever they find space and time to play the app and follow the exercises.
Developed in collaboration with experienced app developers, Speech Tools Ltd, the app, which has been used by psychologists and psychiatrists as far a field as Washington D.C USA and South Africa, can be used as a stand alone resource or in conjunction with a speech and language therapist (SLT). It includes an assessment tool to provide pitch information at the start of stage one and at the end of each of the three stages, to help you to track your progress.
Stage 1 covers all the basic voice feminisation skills and introduces the tone modification work unique to The Antoni Method.
Stage 2 helps clients develop vocal stamina and conversational ability.
In Stage 3, the exercises progress the client to more advanced voice aspects such as telephone voice, sustained conversation and further naturalising the practise voice to become the client’s everyday voice.
Tips when starting voice feminisation
For anyone thinking of voice feminisation, a good starting point is to begin with gaining awareness about resonance (where your voice vibrations can be felt and placed). The goal is to reduce chest resonance and in increase face or ‘head’ resonance. You can feel face resonance by placing two fingers on the side of your nose and saying uhum as if you are agreeing with someone.
Combining head resonance with a higher pitch works well – practising the uhum sound again and extending a hum in a slightly higher pitch can help you get a sense of this. You can keep two fingers on the side of your nose to help you feel the vibrations in your face as you do this.
Feeling and placing your voice as forward in your face as possible and practicing words that begin with /m/ like: /Meet/. /make/. /mine/ /more/. /move/. is a great way to start the process of voice change. To help the sound stay lifted in the face, think of speaking more from the tip of your tongue and your lips.
Safe and effective voice change is very possible if you follow professionally guided and supported exercises.
How to get the voice feminisation app?
The app is free to download and contains a sample of the first stage and also voice analysis.
Visit the Speechtools/Christella website HERE
Download it on iOS HERE
Download it on Android HERE
Watch it on YouTube HERE