In voice acting, it is important to be skilled at playing a wide variety of characters. The bigger your vault, the more likely you are to access jobs and build your career. Women have no problem playing male characters, but men have a much harder time playing female characters. It can seem impossible to master the vocal pitch.
With a few tips, it can be easy to overcome this seemingly impossible hurdle. Read on to learn just how you can perfect the female voice as a male actor in the voice acting industry.
Is It Possible For A Guy to Sound Like A Girl?
Before you begin this process, you might be curious if it is even possible for a male voice to sound female.
The difference between male and female voices lies in a few things:
- Pitch: Whether a voice is high or low in tone
- Breathiness: How much air escapes with the words when an individual speaks
- Fullness: The frequency of the way a person speaks
Along with these, the shape and size of your vocal cords and mouth tend to have an impact on the sound of an individual’s voice, along with other nuanced factors.
In short, a guy can sound like a girl. However, accuracy and full believability are hard to achieve. This is why so many female cartoon characters played by men have scratchy, comical voices.
These tips will help you achieve a female-sounding voice for your next voice-acting gig. It is crucial to practice each and every one in order to master the style.
Pick a Character as a Starting Point
Before we get into any of the tips, it is important that you pick a character that you can model your progress after. Female characters have a wide range of styles, from husky to sweet and everything in between.
There are many kinds of female voices you might select. They are all different, and you must do your research before landing on one.
Picking Your Character
How do you pick a character? It is as simple as listening to your natural voice. What intonations do you have? Is your voice rough? Smooth? High? Low? The character you want to be needs to have some grounding point that can connect your voice with hers. Start with a definitive trait you hold and work from there.
Some definitive traits might include:
- Breathy: This means that you can hear the breath in a person’s voice as they speak. It is often as if they are trying to release their lung’s supply of air completely as they talk
- Hoarse: This type of voice may sound as if a person has been screaming all day, yet in them, it is their natural tone
- Nasal: People with a nasal tone sound as if they are talking through their nose. Often, they exhale through their nasal passage as they are speaking
Once you have pulled out a definitive trait in your voice, you can start to add to it and formulate a female character. This entire process will move in baby steps. Hold on to this trait and keep it in the back of your mind to stay grounded throughout the duration of your learning experience.
Make Your Mouth Smaller in Size
Men typically have larger mouths than women and use them when speaking. Their voices come out with a big gust of air. This leads to a deep, harsh tone. By making your mouth a little smaller and using less force, your voice will emerge softer.
If that is not the type of character you are pursuing, you can continue by keeping your natural talking position. This will help you shift into your character without stretching out of your comfort zone.
Lean In To Breathiness
The breathiness of the voice is essentially what you are controlling with this technique. A female voice is often more breathy than a male, but it is important to keep it controlled so that your words are not enveloped in the noises of the exhale.
To clarify, breathy means soft, not shaky and scattered. You must have full control over this technique.
Adjust Your Range to Fit the Character
The range is what most people think of when they attempt to change their voice to sound like a female. This is one of the easiest parts. You simply need to make your voice higher or lower depending on whom you want to sound like. The other elements stack on top of this one.
It is important to use proper techniques when doing this so that you do not damage your natural voice. You can do this by:
- Raise your voice to a natural point, not anything too high
- Embrace the excited voice and emphasize it
- Avoid forcing anything that does not go along with your existing voice
The female voice should work in tune with your existing intonations. If you are straining, you are not approaching the task correctly. If you strain, this is not something that you can slip in and out of when performing. Keep that in mind as you practice.
Use a Melodic Tone
Female voices are much more complex. When speaking, women tend to use a melodic tone rather than a straightforward pitch. Although men also use melody when speaking, women use it at a much faster pace and more often.
You can add melody to your voice by attempting a few things:
- Emphasize what you are saying: Make your words count and highlight the points in your sentences that are important
- Utilize pitch variation: Take note of the natural rises and falls of your voice. Emphasize that to a more feminine degree, more quickly and frequently changing the pitch
- Talk as if you are telling a story: When you tell a story, your voice will start to shift into that of a singer. Make those tones exaggerated
While these techniques might seem silly at first, they will help you get a grip on the constantly changing voice of a female. Slight shifts make all the difference. A sing-song voice will sell that shift in gender.
Speaking a Song
One technique you might use to master the melodic tone is speak-singing. You can use this strategy in a few simple steps:
- Pick a song: Choose your favorite song, one that you know all of the words to. It is critical that you are familiar with the lyrics of this exercise will not work
- Sing the song through one time: Sing the entirety of the song, from beginning to end, focusing on how the voice changes throughout the piece
- Work through the song by speaking: Rather than singing along, speak the words as if you are singing. Keep the same tone changes and pitches that you would if you were singing
Speaking a song should solidify the idea of melodic tone in your mind, and make it easier to implement it for your female voice. You might even come back and attempt speaking the song in your brand-new voice once you have mastered it further.
Adopt An Accent That You Know
Pick an easy accent to practice your new voice with. We are all familiar with our accents, so try something new. By enhancing your new tone with something unfamiliar, you can catch when it sounds wrong. Using an accent will:
- Help you with specific vowels in the voice
- Force you to focus on the details
- Pull you out of yourself and into this new character
Adopting an accent is simply a disruptive method that will force you to begin the process of becoming this new female character. It is important to commit to both the accent and the voice, at least until you have it down.
Picking an Accent
If you do not know a good accent to attempt this technique with, there are a few that are rather easy to master. You do not need to be an expert at the accent. You can improve on it as you also improve on your female voice.
The easiest accents to imitate are likely ones that you have come into contact with before. Some that you may want to impersonate include the:
- Australian accent
- Irish accent
- German accent
Though you may not get the hang of it right away, you will be focusing on the nuances of it. That will be perfect when you add your brand-new female voice on top. It is a double practice, and you will come out on the other side with two new talents under your belt.
Practice Your Speaking Speed
A study done at upenn.edu proved that men tend to speak faster on average than women. Although the difference is not big enough to be obvious, it is big enough to be proven. This might be a surprising discovery since most think that it is the other way around.
This can help you when perfecting your voice in several ways. To zone in even further on that female voice, you need to:
- Slow down your talking a tiny amount
- Focus on making each world stand out
- Make yourself change the pace
This one can be hard to do. We all have a standard rate that we speak at, and it can be nearly impossible to change. Force yourself to slow down a tiny amount. Pronounce everything. Emphasize every syllable, every letter, and every word.
Tips for Slowing Down Speech
If you are struggling with figuring out a way to slow down your speaking rate, there are some tips that may help you conquer this learning curve. The advice supplied is to:
- Think before you speak: Keep your thoughts in mind before making them into words, so it will slow you down as you process
- Monitor your speaking rate: Always think about the speed at which words are flying from your mouth because the more aware you are of how you speak, the easier it will be to slow down a tiny bit
- Ask for someone to help: You might want to ask a friend to monitor your speaking for you, because they may be able to aid you in the process of slowing down your words a little bit
Just like learning the voice itself, this step takes practice. It is important to master each tiny portion of the voice for it to sound accurate. By repeating things over and over, it will become ingrained in your head and help you in the long run.
Find a Vocal Coach
Another thing you can do is to seek out a vocal professional. Though they tend to be expensive, a vocal coach can help you nail down your female imitation. It also helps to have a person whose sole job is to keep you on track.
A vocal coach can speed the process along much faster than if you were going about this solo. They catch things that you never would if you were alone.
Average Cost of Vocal Coaches
In Los Angeles, the cost of a vocal coach can depend on a lot of factors. Some of these include:
- Location: If you are near or in the city chances are the coach will have prices to match, so the further out of the city you go, the more reasonable prices will become
- Experience: A well-trained coach can help you the most, but their cost might be more than the average. It is possible, however, to find a good vocal coach with minimal experience
- Specificity: If you want a coach specifically trained in this expertise, it may bump the price up more than one who generalizes
- Privacy: A private class will cost more than one that is one-on-one with the instructor but with classes, you get the benefits of partnerships and friends
Overall, the average cost of a small group vocal coach in Los Angeles is around one hundred dollars. You need to be prepared to drop several hundred to gain a beneficial learning experience.
Cheaper Alternatives for Vocal Coaches
There are a few alternatives for vocal classes if they are not in your budget. Although they are not quite as intensive, they will still provide you with some experience:
- Online vocal training: Lessons online tend to be cheaper, and are often more practical for people who are always on the move
- YouTube: Look up videos of actors, lessons, and everything in between because it is a great environment for someone who is self-driven
- Application: There are a few apps out there that might help you practice your skills
Anything you use to better yourself in perfecting the female voice will help you in the long run. It is a skill that will come in handy during your career, and it is worth it to learn it with any method you can.
Mimic Characters On Screen
The best way to master something is to put it into use. Many female cartoon characters are voiced by men and may be imitated by you in some sort of fashion:
- Edna Mode: The fashion designer from the Incredibles is a great example of an androgynous female voice, played by Brad Bird
- Lola: This Big Mouth character, voiced by Nick Kroll, is high in pitch but still keeps the essence of the male tone
- Roz: The giant slug secretary from Monsters, Inc is practically perfect. Bob Peterson did an excellent job with this
There are plenty of other excellent female characters in the cartoon and movie universe that were voiced by men. Find one that fits your voice, learn the lines, and practice along with the characters on screen. You can only get better.
Put Your Voice Into the Real World
Once you feel as if you have mastered the female voice, it is time to put it into practice. Go out into public and talk in it to your friends. Make sure you hit a variety of people. Talk to males and females alike, and make sure you are not just practicing it on people who are actors. You need a variety of opinions to achieve perfection.
You might even attempt your new voice in public space, to gauge reactions. Some locations you can attempt your character might include:
- A local coffee shop: Try ordering your favorite drink in your new voice
- A small grocery store: Attempt reading your grocery list out loud in the middle of an aisle
- The post office: Mail your packages with a flair
- A friend’s house: Surprise your friend with this new talent you have been working on, and their genuine reaction will let you know how you are coming along
Anywhere you feel comfortable attempting your voice, you should speak your character into existence. Your confidence will grow, and soon you will be able to speak in that voice with no problem. Take any reactions or suggestions into mind.
When you have your advice gathered from your outings, you can continue to tweak the voice until you settle into the character that you would like to pursue. After all of this work, it should be easy to go in and out of the new person you have created. Now, you can become the female cartoon character you have always wanted to be.