Acoustic vs Conductive Resonance
Updated: Nov 28, 2022
Have you tried using forward facing resonance, head voice, chest voice, or other vague terms like speak into the mask? If you've seen a speech language pathologist for transgender voice therapy, these terms might be familiar as they're used in voice therapy. For some they're helpful, but I've found it's faster, easier, and more reliable to change your resonance if you understand what you're doing. A little science goes a long way in gender voice training!
Conductive resonance is the experience of sound vibrations. When we shift where it feels like we're producing our voice we can concentrate the sensation of vibrations in different places in our body. While this can be a helpful tool, research has shown these types of shifts are unrelated to our sound quality. When we're looking to sound like our instrument has more or less first puberty testosterone exposure than it has had, we want to brighten or darken our resonance. Think about playing the same note on a bass cello or a violin- while the note is the same, the resonant sound is very different.
Human vocal tracts have five chambers of air through which our sound travels. When these chambers are larger our sound is darker, like a bass cello. When these chambers are smaller our sound is brighter, like a violin. First puberty testosterone exposure is correlated with larger chambers, which we hear as a deeper or darker voice. So if you're transitioning to a masculine voice, you may want to relax and expand your chambers. If you're transitioning to a feminine voice, you may want to hold your chambers in a smaller posture. You'll also want whatever changes to chamber size you make to work together- that helps us have harmonic voices, instead of soft, dull voices. We accomplish these resonant changes through specific soft tissue deformations. Knowing what sound quality we want, and how to change how we speak to accomplish that sound quality, can go a long ways towards gaining a voice that you love.
Want to reliably change your resonance? Try making your five vocal chambers smaller or larger, until you have a sound you like. Our vocal tract, where we make sound, starts at the source of our sound, our true vocal folds, and ends at our lips. Within our vocal tract our voice's five chambers are made up of the air inside of these spaces:
voice box or larynx (though technically we're referring to the epilaryngeal region, the chamber of air between your true vocal folds that make sound and your throat)
throat, or pharynx
mouth, or oral cavity
nose, or nasal cavity
lip space, the air between our lips and teeth
How to Find Resonance
Try experimenting with brown nose on a speaker as your sound source, instead of your voice. Place your phone's speaker where the brown noise is projecting into your mouth. While most exercises we use to become aware of our resonance are safe, this exercise is sure not to fatigue your voice. You'll know any sound shifts are caused by changing resonance, because you're not producing any sound at all!
Looking for guidance in changing your voice? We'd love to help. Set up a free consultation today at harmonicspeech.com
-Tallulah Breslin, MS, CCC/SLP (she/they)
Gender & Identity Affirming Voice Training @Harmonic Speech Therapy