Different Schools of Thought
When you hear the terms trans voice therapy or transgender voice therapy, this often implies a medical approach rather than a general or musical one. We will be comparing the pros and cons of trans voice therapy and transgender voice training approaches, so that you can decide which school of thought you feel is best for you.
Trans Voice Therapy
Transgender voice therapy is the term often used by speech language pathologists and medical professionals. It implies a mechanical, medical approach. These professionals come from a background of treating swallowing disorders, unhealthy voice habits, and voice damage.
You will find a few advantages to this approach, that may make it the better choice for some. First, speech language pathologists are able to accept insurance in some cases for offering trans voice therapy. Within this school of thought, gender dysphoria (with respect to the voice) is a medical condition, and can then be treated medically for insurance eligibility.
Another advantage of a medical providers is that they record progress in an objective way. This can be helpful for measuring progress of transgender voice therapy. You will have concrete data, and can understand the progress you are making. Some objective ways of measuring the voice include:
- Frequency: the number of times the vocal folds vibrate in a set amount of time. Frequency is typically measured in vibrations per second, or Hertz (Hz).
- Harmonics: frequencies that are multiples of the frequency that your vocal folds produce. This influences what quality we perceive a person’s voice to have.
- Volume: how loud or quiet a voice is, measured in decibels.
You will notice that while a medical approach to transgender voice training offers advantages, it can have its downsides as well.
Firstly, you may feel like a transgender voice therapy approach seems too boring and/or intimidating. You may have difficulty progressing and feel discouraged by how complicated it can seem.
You will likely notice that the cost of working with a speech language pathologist is often markedly higher, and not affordable out of pocket for many. In our case, it is not unusual for a speech language pathologist to charge double our rates if someone is paying out of pocket.
You will find many medical professionals that offer transgender voice therapy without having knowledge, experience, or connection with the transgender community. Unfortunately, you will find that this can be true of vocal coaches. However, we have heard many more stories of speech therapists offering trans voice therapy as a first-time experiment on clients. We are hopeful that more speech language pathologists in the future will demonstrate better trans affirming practices and/or belong to the transgender community.
Trans Voice Training
Transgender voice training is the term often used by voice coaches and teachers. It implies a more musical and/or multidisciplinary approach. These professionals typically have a background in education, acting, and/or music.
We have the advantage of using classical voice technique in our training. They are backed by centuries of teaching traditions and research, which makes them tried and true for vocal control and health.
Additionally, we often have a multidisciplinary approach. Your coach can use speech therapy ideas, classical singing, acting, Alexander Technique, and even exercise science to build an effective plan.
While we use objective measurements of the voice for voice training, we also have success using subjective markers. We as voice coaches use these, which include:
- Pitch: how high or low a voice is understood to be. You can likely describe or understand pitch easier than frequency.
- Resonance: the quality of a voice. You’ll learn that this is how we hear, and how we understand harmonics. Voices can be dark or bright, or booming or steely. You can feel resonance in different parts of the body. For example, you’ll feel it in the chest for a masculine voice, and more in the cheeks for a feminine voice. This allows clients to discover feelings that they can easily replicate to achieve their desired sound.
- Pitch fluctuations: how much a voice’s pitch changes as it speaks or sings. You will learn a more sing song pattern for a feminine voice, or monotone for a masculine voice.
It is also more common for a vocal coach to be transgender themselves. Among us, about half of our staff is transgender, which allows our clients and coworkers to benefit from lived experience. This can include understanding common struggles, knowing how a certain voice quality feels, or even just feeling like your coach is relatable.
If you are looking to use insurance for voice training, then a voice coach may not be your best choice. You will most likely not find a voice coach that can accept insurance. However, you will also notice that out of pocket cost for a session with a vocal coach is often much cheaper. Personally, we offer discounts for clients that struggle to afford sessions, as well as group lessons – our hope is to work with as many people as we can.
Lastly, we cannot treat any medical conditions related to the voice. Whether it’s voice disorders, vocal damage, or other health problems, you will have to see a medical professional.
While both of these approaches may be used for transgender voice feminization, masculinization, or androgynous voice, the means by which the client’s goals are achieved will differ. This is largely influenced by the background and training of the professional.
A speech language pathologist may work more on helping the client with fine motor skills to adjust the vocal tract and use objective measurement and medical knowledge to alter a client’s voice quality. They will sometimes have a much broader understanding of speech acoustics.
Voice coaches and teachers will most likely work on these techniques. However, we will mostly help the student explore their voice range in a musical way to reach their full potential. We still then have the ability to use other disciplines, and change our strategy as needed. There may be some overlaps, and some speech therapists may use something called melodic intonation therapy. Instructors will mainly address the subjective markers of someone’s voice, and change these elements to make it sound more feminine, androgynous, or masculine.
Since transgender voice training tends to be less expensive, we hope that you will consider that first. Should you want greater results or need treatment for a voice disorder, you can always go for speech therapy. If you connect with a certain approach better, that will also affect your progress.
Should you wish to try voice training with a coach, you can book a lesson with us by clicking the button below!