Archive for April, 2012

Our speaking voice naturally conveys information about each of us.  Our voice serves as a primary means by which we project our physical (gender & age), psychological (happy or sad) and social characteristics (confident or reticent) to those with whom we’re communicating.

Although voice is central to a wide range of human experiences, it is difficult to provide a single, useful, all-purpose definition of voice, even though several meanings of this term are in common use. Voice can be defined narrowly as sound produced by vibration of the vocal folds, or broadly as essentially synonymous with speech, or referred to collectively/metaphorically as in the Latin phrase vox populi (“voice of the people”).

The elements of phonation and articulation, pitch and amplitude variations, and temporal patterning all contribute to how a speaker sounds, and broad definitions of voice reflect this fact.

In regard to feminizing your voice, we’ve narrowly defined your voice in terms of:

This month, April, we’re looking at Step 4 in your “Year through the Steps.”  We’re defining voice quality very narrowly – the manner of vibration of your vocal folds.

Our voices can sound breathy (video) or scratchy (video) or just right (video). A breathy voice (when there is no medical reason for it) is often a style of speaking that is very connected to personality (very feminine) or circumstance (speaking softly in a movie theater). What’s happening mechanically is that the vocal folds aren’t completely approximating (completely coming to mid-line) when you speak. Listen to this breathy female voice of an actress who is a voice over artist.

Breathy Female Voice

The airiness you hear in her voice is related to the manner in which she is speaking.

In this next video, listen to a young woman who has a cold (infectious or acute laryngitis) and has a scratchy voice. The sound you hear in her voice is because the vocal folds are not vibrating in a smooth and symmetric fashion.  In a “normal” voice, the vocal folds are entrained to oscillate so that they come together and blow apart again at the exact same millisecond. This oscillating behavior changes when the vocal folds are inflamed due to a upper respiratory infection (URI) and the resulting sound is a hoarse voice.

SICK VOICE

I think she was putting on a sicker voice than maybe she really had.  What do you think?

Normal Vocal Cord Vibration

At this point, you might be asking yourself, “Why is all this important to me?”  Here’s why.

The quality of your voice reveals important information about the state of health of your vocal cords (folds).  If you have specific medical problems such as acid reflux, allergies or chronic sinusitis (to name a few), the voice is often affected.

Are you hoarse after eating?
Is your voice scratchy in the morning?
When your sinuses act up does it affect your voice?

Another important consideration is that training your voice is not without its pitfalls.  Hoarseness, soreness and voice fatigue often DO occur and MUST be treated effectively.  Be aware of how your throat feels and how your voice sounds after you’ve been practicing your voice exercises.

Use this simple rating scale.  Generally, how would you rate the quality of your voice?  Breathy? Weak? Airy? If so, assign a value to it, -10 would be an extremely weak voice. I suspect that very few of you reading this would score yourselves a -10, -9, -8, or -7.

If you’re purposefully using a breathy voice to sound more feminine, are you happy with the sound? Is it functional, meaning does your voice carry in a noisy restaurant? Does a breathy voice really convey the essence of who you are?  Is it really feminine?

I would rate the breathiness of the female sample video above as -1 or -2.

Then consider if your voice is scratchy or hoarse.  I would rate the “sick voice” from the video above about +5 or +6. The hoarseness in her voice definitely draws attention to itself, but it’s not so severe that we can’t understand what she’s saying.  Are you hoarse?  If so, what does that say about you? Tired? Sick? Allergic?

How would you rate your voice over all?

Step 4:  Voice Quality

For the month of April, your goal is to listen carefully to the different qualities of people’s voices according to the above continuum.  Try to separate pitch and resonance, (which we’ll talk about next month) and make some decisions about what you think of their voice quality and what you feel that reveals about them (health, mood, personality).

Can you find a sample of a feminine voice you love that isn’t breathy?  Can you find a sample of a feminine voice that sounds raspy but not irritatingly so?

I’d LOVE to know how you’re doing with Step 4. Stay in touch over the month.

Keeping you and your voice close to my heart,

Kathe

Denver, Colorado

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