Pretty Boy Voice

So Betty & I both agree that Steve Miller Band is really fun music to listen to, and maybe the kind of music that people wouldn’t expect us to like. But we do, pretty regularly, & everytime we listen to him I’m struck by how damn sexy his voice is.

But today I also noticed – while once again noticing how sexy his voice is – that it’s damn high-pitched for a guy. You might even say it’s a pretty voice. That’s his singing voice I’m talking about; I have no idea what his speaking voice is like.

Put that next to Kathleen Turner’s voice, though, and you’ve got a deep woman’s voice that’s also considered very sexy. My point? None in particular, but if I can encourage more transwomen to drop the high pitched voices I’d be pleased indeed (& in good company, finally).

5 Replies to “Pretty Boy Voice”

  1. I remember learning in one of my Linguistics classes that there is a lot of overlap between the men’s and women’s natural vocal ranges — so a man’s voice only has to be a little bit higher than average to be fairly solidly in women’s natural range. However, men usually pitch their voices lower than their natural range and women usually pitch their voices higher than their natural range, which makes for much more of a separation in practice. This particular professor had done his fieldwork in Australia, and he knew, for instance, that Americans made much more of a distinction between male pitch and female pitch than Australians did.

    What does this mean? While American men do need to pitch their voices pretty darn high to get to ‘standard American female,’ they only have to go up a very little bit to get to ‘passable American female’. Even if you have a naturally bass voice (like I do), speaking at the top end of your comfortable range should be fine. (Which is also very natural for me–I’ve sussed out that in my dialect ‘polite speech’ has a rather exaggerated high pitch, so ever since leaving East Texas, I’ve been ma’amed a lot when being polite. Which used to annoy me.)

    (Way off the subject, I believe that the politeness register I learned growing up shares a *lot* of characteristics of standard female speech, not just pitch. Which is kind of interesting in and of itself.)

  2. phoebe

    your “politeness register” made my brain explode, because i was just thinking about the way “sunday manners” is a kind of effete change in manner for men, often. (i was thinking about the dominican men i used to live amongst uptown in nyc, who were all cocky on saturday night, but polite & nearly demure walking their moms to church on sunday).

    & how formal clothes are the most gendered, too.

    anyway, must go deal with exploding head. thanks for your comment. barbara, you are as always a wiseass, but funny.

  3. I recently read an essay by the writer Anne Carson that deals directly with this topic. The essay “The Gender of Sound” traces from antiquity to present day the uses of voice and timber so as to degrade. It is a very academic essay and took me months to actually finish but found it entirly captivating. The examples she gives are amazing and her way of threading together such dispartate sources is quite something. The essay appears in Carson’s book “Glass, Irony and God”

    also included in the book is “the glass essay” which is the most powerful piece of writing I have ever encountered.


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