High voice blues

Dear Alice,

I am a 28 year old male. I have an extremely high pitched voice that cracks when I have to raise my voice. When I speak loudly for extended periods of time, I lose my voice.

In my profession, I need to speak to large groups of people at one time who are, at times, 100 yards away.

Is there anything I can do about this, or can I somehow strengthen my voice?

It would be nice to call someone on the telephone and not be thought of as a woman before I give my name

Dear Reader, 

Thank you for speaking out about your vocal concerns! Put simply, there isn't much research on how to safely deepen your voice, but working on projecting it may prevent you from losing your voice and help boost your confidence over time. There are also different techniques that you might try to help strengthen your voice and avoid vocal fatigue. However, to start, it may help to understand a little about the anatomy behind the voice.

The sound you're concerned about is created by the vocal folds (colloquially referred to as vocal cords), smooth muscle tissues opposite each other behind the tongue and before the trachea. When a person speaks, their vocal folds snap together, creating sound that vibrates through the respiratory pathway and out of the mouth. When they're done talking, the folds open up to allow breath to move through. Each person's individual vocal tone, pitch, and volume is affected by the size and shape of the folds. In general, those with larger larynxes and longer vocal folds tend to have deeper voices; for example, the average male larynx is 20 percent larger than the average female larynx, and the average male vocal folds are about 60 percent longer than the average female pair. 

Aside from these anatomical differences, anyone can learn to project their voice for a more powerful sound. Learning how to use your voice in large group settings may help, as the voice loss you describe can happen to anyone, whether it’s very deep or very high. Many singing and acting classes begin with a vocal warmup that may help with breathing techniques. Breathing deeply from the diaphragm provides strength to the voice, and these techniques are designed to help just that. Plus, learning how to properly project one's voice rather than yelling can alleviate vocal fatigue and discomfort that may arise by trying to speak louder. Moreover, if you have control over the setting in which you're presenting, you may consider changing up some factors that could help your projection. For example, microphones, amplification systems, and carpeting (rather than hardwood floors) can all improve the volume of the speaker's voice. 

Finally, you may want to reflect on why you're concerned about deepening your voice. Have you always felt this way about your voice? Can you pinpoint any experience(s) that influenced your feelings about it? What would it mean for you to have a different sounding voice — you mention that you feel it's affecting you profesionally, but are there arny concerns affecting your personal life? Are any of these insecurities coming from social norms that specify what voices “typically” sound like for specific groups of people? You may find it helpful to unpack answers to these types of questions with a trusted friend, family member, or mental health professional. In the meantime, keep projecting that powerful voice of yours!

Always happy to listen,

Last updated Jan 12, 2018
Originally published Jan 15, 1999