Thursday, 14 May 2015

On other female sounds

This is a follow-up to my last post, saying more on some things, and dealing with topics that were not mentioned.

First, there is what you talk about.

I hesitate to go on about 'female subjects' - I really don't think there is any such thing. It may be true that a group of mums is more likely to talk about children and pets and domestic matters generally, but I think they are equally likely to talk about the job they used to have, and if professionally trained, the career they still struggle to carry on with, and how they manage the balancing act.

Sticking my neck out, I would say that 'people', 'home projects', 'children', 'pets', 'family events', 'personal diet and fitness', 'holidays' and 'relationship issues' are the typically female areas of conversation. And it follows that a trans woman wanting to seem 'typically female' might do well to keep steering the talk onto these subjects, and away from the discussion of 'things' and 'technicalities'. But really there is no rule on this, no handbook that lays down what is proper to do. For example, my niece's very well-paid career is in programming - as is her husband's - and although she is a lovely human being, she would be willing to talk for hours on programming problems if I were able to oblige her. Fortunately I can't.

But you do I hope see the danger in confining your talk to -say - camera lenses, power tools, or the best Ford Mondeo they ever made; and worse, doing it in a male-type monotone!

At least in the UK we can't own handguns and discuss them. To be truthful, I have no clear idea what, recreationally speaking, one would do with a handgun. Becoming an expert in shooting at a fixed target in an indoor range seems a most sterile pursuit. As for rifles, taking pot-shots at innocent birds or superannuated stags has no appeal either. Surely all guns are dangerous weapons designed for killing people with - and you shouldn't play with them, nor even touch them, unless a trained soldier. But what do I know?

Let's move on to the other aspects of the female voice that I wanted to cover.

Posts may abound on the Internet about this, but I have yet to see them. What about female laughter?

It deserves a lot of attention. An impressive ability to laugh loudly with sparkling eyes, exactly like an excited woman, really gets you noticed! When (despite my famously undeveloped sense of humour) something strikes me as funny, I tend to shriek with laughter - to the amazement of those around me. I'm actually rather proud of my ability to do that. But I think that anybody can train their voice to do the same.

Many MTF transitioners have seen the need to express polite agreement, gentle amusement, or even mild condescension, with a light laugh that is hardly heard. You can go very far, thank goodness, with just a well-practiced light laugh.

But there are several other kinds of laughter. For example, girls go in for giggling, and older women may chuckle.

Giggling is likely to be sudden and spontaneous, and therefore a bit harder to control than a light laugh, and it has anyway to be reasonably high-pitched to seem natural in a younger person. Natural and appropriate. If you are older, and somewhat more conscious of your dignity, then chuckling is an option and probably the easier thing to do. But the sound made mustn't be too deep and throaty. That said, an obvious smoker can get away with a very chesty chuckle - heavy smokers notoriously ruin their voices. The same applies to someone with a bad cold, as respiratory complaints always lower the voice. So faking a cold may be a standby excuse!

Uncontrollable laughter - when no power on earth can make you stop - is very, very tricky indeed to cope with.

This is when it really pays to have trained your voice to go very high. I'd say it's asking for trouble to be in any situation where something may send you into a laughing fit. For example, to be in the audience when talented comedians are on stage. Given the social situation, you will be compelled to laugh a bit anyway. The rest of the audience will prompt you. But if the act is genuinely funny, then you may be beside yourself, and only ingrained voice training will save you guffawing like a Limehouse docker.

A woman's hysterical laughter can so often tip over into hysterical crying. It seems to me that the vocal effort is much the same, the voice becoming a strained sob, with a contorted red face, and copious tears flowing. If really laughing, the expression on the face and the body language will make it clear that the woman's sense of humour has been tickled beyond endurance. If really crying, then the face and body always betray desolation beyond hope. In either case, you are in the grip of something overwhelming, and the fit must take its course. There is little you can deliberately do in the meantime to make your laughter or tears unmistakably feminine, because you won't be able to think. The only answer is, once again, to keep out of trigger situations if you possibly can.

In my last post, I mentioned sneezing and coughing and singing.

Sneezing and coughing both come on with little warning. But there is usually just enough time to make sure that the explosion has a high-pitched ending to it, disguising any gruffness. It's just a matter of practice.

It's one positive reason to welcome the onset of a cold, because (of course) in the early stages there will be many opportunities for sneezing, and in the closing stages many opportunities for coughing. I don't recommend artificial attempts to induce sneezing or coughing. Playing around with fine-ground pepper (to make you sneeze) or smoke (to make you cough) might be harmful. Nevertheless incompetent home cooking provides constant opportunities for practice. I'm thinking here of being too heavy-handed with seasoning, and leaving things flaming under the grill for too long. It's not a complete disaster, if it helps you perfect your female sneeze or cough! And if you are lucky enough to have a garden big enough for bonfires - or barbecues - then again, there is a chance to practice coughing elegantly.

To sing properly in a strong and convincing woman's voice really requires lots of personal application and a professional tutor. Assuming, of course, that the vocal range is there to be developed. But any voice can be worked on and improved. It's entirely feasible to learn better breathing control, and gradually strengthen the voice so that it doesn't waver or crack below its natural upper limit.

One way to hear the illusion of yourself singing in a ringing soprano voice is to put on earphones and sing along to a female singer. The sounds you are producing are actually thin and weak, but with earphones on they do seem rather good! I've been singing along in this way every time I do some ironing, and I'm convinced that over time it's very gradually raised my pitch when I try to sing for real. And I'm sure it's made it easier to sustain a high pitch when speaking.

You can't shun singing entirely. At some point, you will get drawn into a social situation that demands at least a minimum singing effort. In the last post I mentioned birthday parties. What about Christmas carols, or Auld Lang Syne just before midnight on New Year's Eve? It should be a consolation that few women can sing well, mainly because they have never had the training. You can be one of the many women who can only come up with a vague silvery noise. It's quite enough.

4 comments:

  1. Coughing, whilst sounding feminine, it not easy, but my voice tutor gave me this excellent advice: "Try to move the phlegm up your throat, using little coughs, with your mouth closed. Then cough out-loud in as high a pitch as you can comfortably manage." With practice, this definitely avoids that 'deep down' masculine cough.

    Most importantly, cough like this always, not just when others are listening. Believe me, it does eventually become natural.

    As for giggling, you once remarked that mine was very feminine, but my Sue's a great giggler, so I had a good role model. And again, the more you do it, the more natural it becomes.

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  2. Absolutely. I consider you a far better giggler than myself!

    Lucy

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  3. Unused as I am to consuming a fizzy drink I was shocked by the sound which followed! A most unladylike burp. Should I drink more fizzy drinks to practice?

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  4. Some talented people can burp at will, you know.

    Lucy

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