It's easy to compare yourself to others, particularly with something as personal and public as your voice. Most female voices are high, while male voices are characteristically low. But, as you know, everybody is different and there are some females with low deep voices. In this article, I will go into why this occurs.
Although a typical female voice has a fundamental frequency of 190Hz, some females may have a deeper voice due to the size and shape of their larynx. Those with longer, thicker and looser vocal cords, will naturally produce a deeper sound. This can be due to genetic or hormonal factors.
You can find more information about this further down, including everyday examples. I have also included information about how people can raise the pitch of their voice.
Why is my Voice so Deep as a Girl?
The depth of your voice is determined by the shape and size of your larynx. There is no doubt that male voices are mostly deeper than female voices, so looking at the difference between the two sheds light on this common question.
If you would need a refresher on how your voice works (anatomy and physiology), take a look at this article.
As I mentioned before, most female voices sit around the 190Hz mark (approximately G below middle C), while men sit around 120Hz (the second B below middle C). If you have the following three characteristics in your vocal cords, this fundamental frequency will decrease.
1. Longer Vocal Cords
Typical female vocal cords measure 0.5-0.75 inches in length, whereas male vocal cords measure around 0.75-1.0 inches in length.
The male larynx (voice box) is larger and sits lower than the female larynx, hence why men have an 'Adam's apple'. This makes the length of the vocal cords longer, as the space between the back and the front of the larynx (where the vocal cords attach) is longer.
As with most things, smaller or shorter objects have higher vibrating frequencies. So when shorter vocal cords vibrate, a higher sound comes out. Or, in the case of someone with a deep voice, longer vocal cords correlate to a lower sound.
Everyday example: have a look at a xylophone or glockenspiel. The shorter tone plates produce a higher pitch, whereas the longer plates produce a low pitch.
2. Thicker Vocal Cords
The thickness of your vocal cords will also determine the fundamental frequency of your voice. Thicker vocal cords produce a deeper sound, while thinner vocal cords produce a higher sound when they vibrate. This is because they vibrate at a slower rate.
This is why the pitch of your voice is increased as the vocal cords are stretched. Stretching the vocal cords makes them thinner, which is what your muscles in your larynx do to the vocal cords when you sing higher.
Everyday example: Take a look at a guitar. The thicker strings produce a deeper sound than the thinner strings.
Note: This can be confusing when considering the natural length of the vocal cords. As mentioned earlier, longer vocal cords produce a lower sound, but vocal cords that are stretched longer produce a higher sound because they become thinner and closer together.
3. Loose Vocal Cords
As we sing lower, the vocal cords loosen. They are no longer being pulled thin and tight. This is all controlled by muscles in your larynx.
One pair of muscles stretches the vocal cords tighter (cricoarytenoid muscles), while another pair (thyroarytenoid muscles) loosen and widen the vocal cords.
While you don't consciously move these muscles, having stronger TA muscles will give you naturally looser vocal cords and therefore a lower voice. This is certainly something that is more to do with training the muscles than anatomy.
Everyday example: As with any string instrument, loosening a strong will lower the pitch, while tightening it will increase the pitch.
But Why Are My Vocal Cords Like This?
The shape and size of your larynx and vocal cords is determined by both your genetics and hormones.
Although puberty doesn't change the voice as obviously in girls, you are probably aware that your voice as a child was different to your current voice. This is the effect of your hormones. But even children have different sounding voices, which is the result of genetics.
Genetics and Embryology
If you listen to every little girl before puberty, you will not find one voice that is the same. Although they all have that high child-like pitch, there is still some variation. Some are a bit higher and some are a bit lower in pitch. This comes down to your genetic code and how you developed in the womb (ie. embryology).
If your parents have deeper voices (or even someone in your ancestry), you have a chance of inheriting that deep voice. Alternatively, environmental factors while you developed in the womb can also determine whether you have a larger than average larynx. For example, exposure to various nutrients, hormones, etc.
Of course, hormones play the biggest role in the size of your larynx. During puberty, hormones surge and direct the development of various aspects of your body. The larynx is just one of many things affected.
In boys, the high levels of testosterone result in a larger and low-lying larynx. In girls, higher estrogen levels are responsible for a smaller larynx. Everyone produces different levels of these hormones throughout puberty, so your unique levels are what have given you a uniquely low voice.
How to 'Feminize' a Deep Voice
All voices are unique and, even if it is frustrating to hear, it's important for me to say that low female voices are still beautiful. In fact, I have included a list of just some of the famous deep female voices of today, including the lowest recorded female voice. All these women are feminine in their own way and I don't think twice about how their voice sounds.
That being said, you are probably reading this article because you're sick of being told that your voice is unique. You're frustrated at how many people mistake your voice for a male voice over the phone. If you want to 'feminize' your voice, below is a few tips for you.
Raising Your Fundamental Frequency
Your spoken fundamental frequency is the average pitch you use when you talk. This is determined by the anatomy of your larynx (everything I talked about above).
However, any voice can be trained to sing (or speak) higher or lower. This is similar to increasing your vocal range, which can be achieved through vocal exercises. In your case, you will be aiming to increase your upper range. You can find exercises to increase your upper vocal range in this article.
When aiming to increase the pitch of your voice more permanently, you will need to focus on singing vowels with a comfortably high pitch. Over time, this pitch can be increased in small increments. This is a common technique used in speech therapy.
The more you talk in a higher-pitched voice, the more comfortable and natural it will feel.
Changing the Way You Talk
You can also focus on changing the way you talk. Making your voice clearer and brighter will give the illusion that your voice is higher. This can be done with the following techniques.
- Adding twang or nasality to your voice
- Eliminating vocal fry (examples of vocal fry can be found here)
- Imitate feminine voices (eg. Disney Princesses or your favorite actress)
Women with Deep Voices
If you want confirmation that you're not alone in how your voice sounds, here a just a few famous women with deep voices. I don't know about you, but to me, each of these women still sound feminine in their own way.
- Shohreh Aghdashloo
- Julia Stiles
- Oprah Winfrey
- Scarlett Johansson
- Emma Stone
- Julia Roberts
While all these women do have deep voices, their spoken fundamental frequency still does not reach the level of others around the world. Below is an Australian girl who has suffered because of her deep voice.
Whether you choose to embrace your deep voice or choose to work towards raising your spoken fundamental frequency, you are not the only one struggling with this. I hope this article has helped you in some way, either making you confident in your unique voice or giving you the answers you needed.