Emilia Slade

Training the Trans Woman Singer

Training the Trans Woman Singer
This blog will focus on working with the trans woman’s voice. I have worked with several students over the last few years at different stages of their transition and at different ages. 

It is based on my personal experiences as to what my students and myself have found useful. The main objective is to help the person find the sound they want from their singing voice. Like all singers it is very individual as to what they want. I undertook research into the area a few years back and keep up to date. It is still not widely written about.

Key Points

  • Be respectful find out what pronouns your student like to use. 
  • This is their journey and as with all students I program their vocal study around what they need, how they respond and their ability.
  • The long term journey is helping them find their voice, being respectful of what they want their journey to be.
  • Learn from each other.
  • Healthy technique is key.
  • It’s not just the sound of the voice but personal expression.
  • Maintain the joy of singing.
  • Train the voice as an instrument.
Training the Trans woman Singer

The Practical 
A transgender woman (male to female) will have gone through puberty as a male. Her larynx enlarged and descended in the neck, the vocal folds became thicker and longer and the voice deepened into an adult male voice. Once puberty is complete, there is nothing that can reverse the process so she may choose voice therapy to sound more feminine. Voice therapy should be undertaken with a speech language pathologist qualified to work in this area. Voice therapy goals include raising the average speaking pitch, usually to an androgynous pitch area and modifying voice quality, resonance and inflectional patterns. 

As with any vocal training the range can be developed to include head voice through to chest voice. So that the singer can choose the sounds she wishes to use.

The focus on the voice as an instrument has really helped my transgender students to give them options of what sounds they want to make and how they’d like to use them.

Case study Emilia
Training the Trans woman Singer
I’ve had the pleasure of working with the Bristol UK artist Emilia Slade for nearly two years. She transitioned a few years ago. 

Technical
Initially her objectives were to have a feminine sound to her singing voice and to be able to blend her voice smoothly across all the registers. 

  • The key is to start slow. I always use the analogy of developing the singing voice as being the same as training to run a marathon. You don’t just do 26 miles straight away. It takes months to develop the muscles, perfect healthy techniques, exactly the same with the voice. 
  • Setting realistic goals is key, otherwise students will give up. 

First sessions were finding out what her current range and technique was.

First objectives 

  • Creating excellent breath support. (0:15 in the video)
  • Blending exercises, starting with simple slides from E3 to E4, stopping just before her natural break into head voice. (2:43 in the video)
  • Using heightened speech to start tapping into head voice. Gradually using heightened speech to connect head and mixed register. 

(What’s heightened speech Vix? Think the sounds that the Clangers used to make an old BBC children’s TV show, 1:38 in the You Tube video)

This process of blending the registers took a year. 

Second objectives

  • Working on punk singing in which heightened speech is not first choice. (4:16 in the video)
  • Developed forward placement to create the edgier sound. 
  • Developing the voice as an instrument in which you learn multiple techniques of singing then you have the choice of the sounds you wish to use when you sing. 

Emotional
This is the long haul of the singing journey. As with all students it’s as a vocal coach about being supportive and encouraging whilst they are on their journey. It’s useful to have your own techniques to help students get out of negative ruts. So important to go to a fully qualified and experienced teacher as well as someone who has worked professionally as a musician. 

Everyone is different and as I advise early on with students there will always be ups and downs. It’s the nature of working on a new skill. 

  • Be kind to yourself. 
  • Set realistic goals.
  • Acceptance. Getting the point of saying I like how my voice sounds at this point in time. This changes over time as tastes change.

Over two years in Emilia has found her voice and developed excellent technique.

Performance –  Where are we now?
It’s been a joy to see Emilia’s songwriting journey and to hear her songs from her first EP. It was a pleasure to have her open our album launch gig for Hangover Square in 2024.

Emilia has become a musician on the performing circuit in Bristol, writing and performing her own songs. She is very active in also supporting other artists on their journeys. She is currently recording her first EP. 

” Starting singing lessons with Victoria has been incredibly rewarding. Without her instruction and encouragement, I doubt I would have gained the confidence to perform. Her positive and reassuring nature makes her a fantastic teacher, especially for those who might be unsure of their voice.” Emilia

I would like to personally thank Emilia for her friendship over the last two years, and for giving consent to write this article.

Check out all of Victoria’s masterclass sessions: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCp16t1dlLyZaq7vnMfIw3FQ

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