T is for Tenor

I’m a singer. Not a pro, but maybe if I were a little more single-minded, I could have been. I’ve been told I have a really pure, rich tone. I’m no Broadway belter or X-Factor diva; my most recent voice teacher described me as a lyric soprano in style with a contralto range and substance. I’ve done a lot of Early Music and Renaissance-style singing, and my friends tell me I’m particularly good at singing bluesy country-western. At present I only sing in my church choir, but it’s a small church, and I’m well known for my singing there.

Testosterone lowers your voice. (Duh.) My research indicates a lot of transmen who sing go through serious vocal instability as their voices change, and some never recover their singing voices, so I was pretty apprehensive about that aspect of transition. My friend and housemate DK suggested that I ought to make some recordings and document the ways my voice changes as I physically transition, which I intend to do. I don’t have any recordings yet, but I can at least write about it.

I have (had) a big range. Before I started T, the bottom of my range was a D3 (the D below middle C), and the tippy-tippy top was around A5 (the A two octaves above middle C) which, according to Wiki (which I know is not a citable source, but it’ll do for this), is pretty much dead on for a contralto (F3 – F5) and then some.

Vocal Ranges

Here’s the exciting thing: since I started my low-dose T in June, I’ve noticed very little in the way of obvious vocal changes, but that formerly rumbly basement D3 is no longer the bottom of the barrel; it’s comfortable and resonant. My new ground floor is currently a B2-flat. That means all the tenor and even some of the baritone range stuff I’m singing now is sounding sweet. My lower voice has taken on a new resonance, too. It’s subtle, but it’s there, and it is so damn awesome.

Of course I’ve lost some range off the top, but so far not a lot. I’m still pretty comfortable vocalizing up to an E5, although there’s been change there, too. Unless I’m thinking about it, I sound more thin on top. Like, funnily enough, a guy singing falsetto.

I’ve also found that in general, while I’m not having massive pitch instability, I do have to work a little harder at singing. My ear has no trouble discerning whether or not I’m matching the pitch, but my vocal muscles are a little squirrelier, presumably due to changes in my vocal architecture as my vocal chords lengthen, and my brain is a litle more taxed managing it all. (Also, I’m having to learn to read bass-clef. Sight-reading was already a challenge for my dyslexic brain, it’s nigh unto impossible now, especially if the music is in bass-clef.)

My speaking voice is maybe a little lower and a little raspier. I’ve had a low-level sore throat for the last couple of weeks, too, which might be allergies, but might also be from the T. As of last week I’ve doubled my dose to 50 mg/week, which is half the standard replacement dose. At 25 mg/week my blood levels were just under the bottom of the normal range for men, so we’ll see what 50 mg does for me.

I’m hoping I end up a tenor. I’m singing tenor in my choir now and hitting the notes just fine, but I still don’t quite have the right resonance. With a little more change, though, that should come. My voice teacher told me that guys who sing alto in boys’ choirs usually end up tenors, while boy sopranos become baritones and basses. She also said I have a tenor’s build: barrel chested, broad-shouldered, short-necked — like Pavarotti. Hey, a guy can dream, right?

Luciano Pavarotti

Luciano Pavarotti

I’ll say this anyway: it feels fantastic to sing low. It feels different than it did before. More resonant and rich, more supported, more solid. I’m still apprehensive that it’s all going to go haywire any minute now — that I’ll get typical teenage boy vocal cracks, or transguy rasp. But I’m also secretly hopeful that I could be one of the lucky ones who manage the transition with singing voice not just intact, but better than ever.


~ by Nezu on 16 September 2011.

5 Responses to “T is for Tenor”

  1. I am totes demanding a song in our next phone call.

  2. I have also noticed you sounding more comfortable in the lower range. \o/

  3. I look forward to hearing these new changes in your voice. I am so excited for you!

  4. I admit I know next to nothing about singing or vocal ranges, etc, but what I can say is that you sound excited and comfortable, and how wicked great is that?

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