What are the acoustic markers that we need to identify male and female speakers? Pitch is an obvious one. Women talk with a higher pitch than men, right? Not always. I know plenty of women who have a lower speaking pitch than me and I still identify it as a woman’s voice. Are you thinking of Dorothy Zbornak from The Golden Girls?
The other main markers Speech Pathologists and Voice Coaches use to train a more ‘female’ sounding voice are: intonation or pitch variation, vocal intensity, vowel formants and voice quality. But, as highlighted by this research paper, it’s not all as it seems and there’s a lot more work that needs to be done. I’ll highlight a few of the main points from the journal article.
Acoustic Features of Transfeminine Voices and Perception of Voice Femininity. by Kimberly L. Dahl, and Leslie A. Mahler, Kingston, Rhode Island. Journal of Voice.
What they found
- A higher fundamental frequency has a strong correlation with the perception of a feminine voice.
- Intonation variance did not provide significant difference between identifying male and female voice. This is in contrast to other studies.
- Vocal intensity doesn’t have much to do with it. I think what they’re saying is that speaking quieter doesn’t make you sound more feminine. (Can someone can clarify this for me?)
- Transfeminine identified their voice as more masculine than did others in the study.
One of the main points the researchers highlighted was the significant lack of research available to call on which should be expanded. For the voice experts to be effective in helping those who’s goal is to communicate with a more feminine voice, it leaves them with some certainty but much more research is needed.
What do you think? What needs to be researched, what needs to done? Comment below, join one of our groups or simply ask a question on one of our forums at The Masters of Voice.