An Overview of Voice Training Phases
It's hard to say exactly what each program might look like or how how long each might take since each program is non-prescriptive and highly individualized and also depends on the voice health, skill and confidence, but for a general idea of what training might look like, consider these phases for voice training:
Foundation and Health
Develop a healthy, strong voice foundation with advanced and therapeutic voice exercises for long-lasting voice use and flexibility. Foundations in Voice Health will be integrated throughout our program, but some voice may benefit from some extra TLC before beginning with our athletic vocal explorations!
Play and Blend
Build vocal control and flexibility while exploring a variety of vocal qualities, shapes and colours. You will learn about and demonstrate the primary voice pillars, including pitch, resonance, mass/weight, pocket boundaries and quality variations. We begin playing with combinations until we start to find a blend that starts aligning with your taste.
Build with Control
Build stamina and control with your blend in controlled situations with conscious attention, for example, in reading or in-session conversations. We will continue to finesse along the way!
We'll begin extending practice and in-session targets slowly into real-life situations, in a controlled and purposeful way. We'll make a plan for carry-over and we'll consider not only the duration of time in our target, but also additional variables such as the context (phone, in-person, work-related, social), your general feeling of safety with your listener, familiarity with the content you're speaking to, emotional charge (ordering a coffee, navigating conflict), pressure to perform (ordering a coffee alone, giving your pitch at an interview).
Optional Tune-Ups and Beyond
Some people like to check-in every now and then to fine-tune, refresh training, continue advancing unconscious carry-over, to re-optimize voice health, or to advance to complex goals, such as preparing for presentations, podcasts or working on singing voice!
Meet Alyssa, Your Gender Affirming Voice Coach
Alyssa McCarthy (she/her)
BA Mus., MSc SLP, SLP(C), Reg. CASLPO
& Voice Therapist
Alyssa (she/her) is a registered Speech-Language Pathologist and Voice Therapist, Clinically-Trained Gender Affirming Voice Coach and Singing Voice Specialist, and Classically-Trained Singer.
As a cis woman, there is so much about a Trans person's lived experience that I cannot begin to understand. As a Voice Therapist, Coach, and Singing Voice Specialist - there's a lot about voice I do understand. I have collected many voice tools and techniques over the last decade and a half and I'm happy to share them with you!
I will work with you to learn about your voice ideals and support you in discovering, practicing, and training stamina and carry-over with that ideal. We'll take an individualized and person-centred approach to find and maintain a healthy, feel-good voice. My personal approach is to initially play and train based on feelings and sensations rather than sound ideals. Let me be your ears for the initial play! I have good ones, I promise.
As a Voice Therapist, I regularly provide Voice Therapy and Rehabilitation for those who are looking to heal or recover from a voice injury (e.g. vocal nodules, vocal polyps, muscle tension dysphonia) or surgery (e.g. voice feminization surgeries, pathology excision). As a Singing Voice Specialist, I support Singers in healthy technique - and yes, I also support folks in their Gender Affirming Singing Voice goals. As a Voice Coach and singer, my experience isn't solely clinically-based. Voice work can feel abstract, and I embrace balancing creative ways to experience the physiological shifts in playing with sound. Don't worry - we will have plenty of structure, and each session will have assigned exercises and next steps.
My first foray into Gender Affirming Voice was in 2014 in Halifax and ever since, I've continued working heavily in what just so happens to be my passion area! It's an honour to be able to put the best of my art and science skills to the test.
There's a lot of fun to be had in Voice play and training, but it can also feel especially vulnerable at times. Safety and trust in our space is a priority. For this reason, I offer a free Meet-and-Greet for Gender Affirming Voice. Let's connect!
What Will It Look Like?
HOW LONG? I suspect you may already know what I'm about to say: It's different for everyone. There are so many factors that may contribute to training duration, such as having a safe practice space, voice health, voice skill and flexibility, time resources, financial or insurance limitations, previous experience with voice training, comfort exploring voice variations, and the number of opportunities you have to actually carry voice out into the real world when we're ready. When starting with a healthy voice, building a usable base typically ranges from 8 to 18 session hours. You will realistically still need to have some conscious and purposeful attention to voice at this stage.
WILL IT BECOME UNCONSCIOUS? Unconscious voice carry-over is attainable possible, but it takes time and application across many different scenarios and contexts. We will focus together on the "extend phase", making sure you have a good amount of access to usable voice with some or lower-level conscious attention. Occasional troubleshooting and check-ins can be helpful at this point, but most people don't require as much support from me during the unconscious carry-over stage as it simply requires time living in voice.
HOW OFTEN? It ultimately depends on your learning style and the support level needed. Generally speaking, I see the best progress with regular bi-weekly meetings in the beginning stages. As we begin to build stamina and consistency, we reduce the meeting frequency and sometimes also the session duration. Some people really excel with half hour sessions in these phases. As you become more independent in bringing voice out into real life situations, you'll need me less!
SCHEDULING? Booking in advance is recommended to secure a meeting time, but there is no requirement to book in advance, and we can always change our meeting schedule as long as there's at least 24 hours notice. We can pause any time - in fact, sometimes planning for a pause between phases makes for the best progress! After each session, we'll chat and decide together when we should meet next based on our progress.
PRACTICE? Yes, you'll receive home practice exercise, handouts and occasionally recordings after each session to guide your play!
Gender Affirming Voice FAQ's
How do I know if Gender Affirming Voice Training is right for me?
Gender affirming voice training an option for people of all genders who feel that their current voice is not representative of who they are, is not aligned with their gender, or is not as strong, complete and consistent as they'd like.
I want my voice to be more femme sounding, but my pitch is really, really low. Is this a problem?
If the voice is healthy, and you have some ability (with support) to modify pitch, low starting pitch is usually not a problem! Some people choose to pair voice training with voice affirming surgery, particularly if they have difficulty matching pitch. And for those who do opt for voice feminization surgery, I tend to help with other features such as post-op rehabilitation, and shaping resonance, inflection, and other speech characteristics to help you achieve the voice you're looking for.
Will HRT alter the pitch of my voice?
Testosterone lowers the pitch of the voice. Estrogen, Estradiol, Spironolactone, etc. does not change the pitch of the voice.
What are your thoughts on Voice Feminization Surgeries?
Voice feminization surgeries can be especially useful for people who cannot match pitch, or for people are wanting a quick and immediate shift in voice. Most often, it's recommended to try voice training first before surgery. As a voice rehabilitative therapist, I help to get the voice in optimal shape before surgery to improve outcomes, and after the surgery to recover quickly and safely. Since surgery impacts pitch only, post-surgical voice training is often required for additional training around resonance and other features.
I'm taking Testosterone, how could training help?
Some folks on or following T are dissatisfied with the timbre, tone, or stamina of the voice. Common goal areas include developing rich and resonant voice, working on projection and stability, or smoothing out the breaks in the voice, as well as building vocal endurance.
Is feedback available between sessions?
Yes! I have found great success with providing a bit of feedback on short voice play and practice clips between sessions. Voice comes with us everywhere, and especially with gender affirming voice training it's it's important to develop confidence in play and exploration early on.
Will insurance cover this?
Since I am registered Speech-Language Pathologist, our sessions will be eligible for you to claim. Check with your insurance provider if you are unsure of budgets, as there's no way for me to know your plan's specifics. You must be an Ontario resident.
When can I start?
You can start whenever you feel ready. I do not require referrals. I am occasionally asked if various transition-related items must be completed to begin - the answer is absolutely not! Come as you are. All I ask is that you, to the best of your ability, arrive with a flexible and creative mind, and patience. If you under the age of 18, guardian consent is required, but guardians are not required to participate or attend.
How do I start?
The first step is to book an Intake/Assessment session. Don't worry, it's nothing too formal. We'll get to know each other and set some voice goals. We'll also snap some recordings and complete some questionnaires for our baseline analysis. Please meet via a device (laptop, desktop, tablet) and "bring" your smartphone to the session to take recordings from your end. If you want to meet before jumping in, book a complimentary Online Gender Affirming Voice Meet-and-Greet!