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Your voice has the ability to command, soothe, and entertain. But if you don’t like the way it sounds, it may affect your confidence to do those things.
The way you sound is just as important as the words you say. While not everyone who wants to change their voice can become a Grammy Award-winning singer, there are steps you can take to improve the overall sound, tone, texture, and quality of your voice.
Keep reading to learn about what determines the sound and texture of your voice, and what you can do to change it.
The sound and texture of your voice are determined by multiple factors.
Heredity is one factor. You may have noticed that people within the same family often have voices that sound similar. That’s because the larynx, which contains the vocal cords, has uncountable physical variations, just like every other part of your anatomy.
Gender also plays a role. From birth, boys develop larger vocal cords than girls do. At puberty, testosterone acts to enlarge the larynx.
The vocal cords also lengthen and thicken as you age, generating a deeper resonance and vibration. That’s why male voices lower and deepen at puberty, while female voices remain relatively high.
Hormones and weight
Hormones and their impact on weight can also affect how you sound. Men with obesity produce an overabundance of estrogen, causing their voices to raise. On the other hand, women with obesity produce an overabundance of testosterone, which may deepen their voices.
Being overweight may also affect breath control, making the voice sound raspy or breathless. Being underweight, in reverse, may also affect your voice by reducing your endurance and making your vocal cords more prone to injury.
Height also influences the sound of your voice. Taller people tend to have larger lower airways and lungs, causing them to have deeper voices than shorter people.
Your age, emotional state, overall health, and the cleanliness of the air you breathe can also alter the pitch, timbre, sound, and texture of your voice.
The first step to changing your voice is to decide what about your voice you don’t like. Is it too nasal? Do you have an accent you don’t like? Are you a breathy speaker?
Consider what about your voice is displeasing to you. This will make it easier to figure out how to change it.
Work with a speech therapist
If you have a speech disorder, working with a speech therapist will help. Speech disorders can include difficulties with articulation, such as lisping, or difficulties with fluency, such as stuttering.
Hire a vocal coach
If you wish to make your voice more powerful, eliminate an accent, or improve the overall quality of your speaking voice, working with a vocal coach, either in person or online, can help.
A voice coach will help you learn how to shape vowels and consonants differently and isolate various elements of speech. They’ll also help you focus on the following:
- how to hold your lips and mouth
- tongue position
- eliminating jaw tension
- posture and breath control
- diaphragm voice projection
- pitch range
You can find a speech therapist or a voice coach through the Voice and Speech Trainers Association.
There are a number of surgical procedures that can lower or raise the pitch of your voice. They include:
- Voice feminization surgery. Your voice can be altered surgically so that it no longer makes low pitched sounds. This is called voice feminization surgery or feminization laryngoplasty. During voice feminization surgery, the voice box is made smaller and the vocal cords are shortened. Trans women sometimes undergo this procedure.
- Laser vocal cord tuning. This procedure uses a laser to tighten the vocal cords, which helps raise pitch. It may also be used to shrink smokers’ polyps, which will also raise pitch.
- Pitch lowering surgery. This procedure lowers pitch by loosening the vocal cords, or by rearranging soft tissue to add mass to the vocal cords.
If you want to be your own vocal coach, there are voice exercises you can do at home. First, you need to know how your voice actually sounds.
First, make a recording of your voice
Your voice may sound different to you than it does to everyone else. That’s because when you speak, your voice travels simultaneously through the air and your skull.
The sound your voice makes is transmitted into your eardrums via air, where it vibrates three tiny bones: the malleus, incus, and stapes. It then travels to your cochlea and, ultimately, to your brain.
While this is happening, the vibrations from your vocal cords propel sound directly to the cochlea. That’s why you may not recognize the way your voice sounds when you hear it on a recording. For that reason, it makes sense to record your voice first.
To identify the differences in your speaking patterns, experts recommend recording your voice in multiple scenarios, such as:
- speaking to a friend
- reading a book to a child
- giving a business presentation
Read up on vocal training
Evidence shows that you can manipulate your voice to have more accurate pitch. There are many books, including audiobooks on vocal training, which include warmup exercises and tips. A good one to try is “Set Your Voice Free” by Roger Love with Donna Frazier, which you can find online.
Relax your voice using vocal exercises
Some vocal warmups and exercises you can use to relax your voice include:
- lip buzzing
- tongue trills
- loosening your jaw by opening your mouth wide, then gently closing it
- deep breathing
- gently massaging your throat to loosen tense muscles
Practice throwing your voice
It’ll also help to practice throwing your voice, or speaking from another part of your body, such as your:
- mouth and nose
Try emulating a voice you like
You may find that it helps to emulate a voice you like. To do this, make sure to listen carefully to the enunciation, tone, pitch, and timbre of that voice.
Vocal cords age just like the rest of the body. That’s why voices change over time. To keep yours healthy and optimized, try these tips:
- Stay hydrated and drink plenty of warm beverages like tea.
- Don’t smoke cigarettes, vape, or inhale smoke from any substance.
- Reduce your alcohol intake.
- Be kind to your voice by not yelling or talking loudly.
- Avoid mumbling and whispering, which can also strain your vocal cords.
- Keep your sinuses clear by taking medication for allergies, a stuffed nose, or for respiratory conditions, if needed.
- Avoid polluted air and breathe in clean air whenever possible.
When you speak or sing, the process that creates your voice starts with your lungs. If your lung capacity is diminished, your voice may sound weak.
Your ribs, diaphragm, and abdominal muscles provide physical power to force air out of the lungs and into the trachea and larynx, which holds your vocal cords.
The air flows between your vocal cords, making them vibrate. Your voice, like all sound, is energy made by vibrating air particles. Your pitch is determined by the number of vibrations your vocal cords make. This is referred to as frequency. Fewer vibrations generate a lower pitch. More vibrations generate a higher pitch.
The vibrations propel the particles of air to continue traveling to your mouth and sinuses, where your voice acquires resonance, tone, and the uniqueness of your own particular sound. If your sinuses are clogged, your voice may acquire a nasal tone at this point in the process.
If you don’t like the way your voice sounds, there are several ways to change it. These include at-home vocal exercises, emulating a voice you like, working with a voice coach, and surgery.