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The power of "um"

exercise nonbinary voice voice feminization voice masculinization Feb 09, 2024
The Power of "um"

Hey there, my fellow trans voice pals! Welcome back to another exercise in vocal exploration. If you missed my last post about the "Key-Oh" Exercise, don't worry, you can catch up on that either by giving it a quick read or watching the TikTok version.

This time, we're looking more closely at how we can create a voice we love. Last time, we discussed how using words like "Key" and "Oh" can help shape our vocal tract to achieve the desired resonance for masculinizing or feminizing our voices. But let's be real, remembering to set up that shape before every sentence can be a real challenge.

The Power of "Um"

One neat trick I've found incredibly useful with my students is utilizing the word "um" as a practice tool. Now, I know what you might be thinking – "Um, really?" Hear me out.

"Um" is a fantastic filler word. It's short, inconspicuous, and has that delightful liquid consonant we can stretch out while we get ourselves settled. Think of it as your vocal warm-up before diving into the main act.

Creating Vocal Habits

Remember when we talked about forming habits with cues to guide your brain quickly back on track? Well, "um" can serve as just that. By repeatedly practicing setting up your target voice swiftly and quietly on the word "um," you condition yourself to slip into your desired vocal resonance effortlessly.

Let me break it down a bit more. When you say "um," you're not just making a sound; you're also mentally preparing yourself to speak. It's like a gentle reminder to your brain: "Hey, we're about to say something, so let's get into position." Over time, this association between "um" and activating your target voice becomes almost automatic.

Using "Um" in Everyday Conversations

But here's where it gets interesting. "Um" isn't just a practice tool; it's also a natural pause that indicates someone is thinking. Picture this scenario:

*Barista*: What can I get you today?

*You*: Um... I'll have a medium iced coffee.

See how seamlessly "um" slots in, giving you that split-second to set up your target voice before saying your order? It's a simple yet effective way to bridge the gap between practice and real-life situations.

From Practice to Perfection

Now, I get it – starting every sentence with "um" might seem a tad excessive. But hey, it's all part of the process. Once you've mastered the art of using "um" as your vocal cue, you can move on to the next level: thinking "um" instead of saying it aloud.

Imagine this:

*Barista*: What can I get you today?

*You*: (Um) I'll have a medium iced coffee.

With enough practice, you'll find that even the mere thought of "um" automatically primes your vocal instrument into the desired configuration. It's like magic, but with science!

Building Confidence Through Consistency

Consistency is key when it comes to honing your voice. Incorporating "um" into your daily speech not only helps with vocal resonance but also boosts your confidence in expressing yourself authentically.

Think of it as a vocal anchor – a reliable tool you can always fall back on, especially in those nerve-wracking moments when you need your voice to be at its best. Whether you're ordering coffee or giving a presentation, "um" becomes your secret weapon, ensuring that your voice aligns effortlessly with your true identity.

Embracing the Journey

Finding a voice you love is a journey, not a destination. It takes time, patience, and a whole lot of practice. But with each "um" uttered and each sentence spoken, you're one step closer to creating rock-solid habits that will support you when you don't have the energy to think about your voice actively.

So, my dear voice explorers, embrace the process. Celebrate the small victories, and don't be afraid to stumble along the way. Remember, every stumble is just another opportunity to learn and grow.


And there you have it – the transformative power of "um" in finding and maintaining your authentic voice. It's a journey from practice to everyday application, with "um" paving the way for effortless vocal alignment.

So, my dear voice explorers, keep practicing, keep experimenting, and most importantly, keep being your amazing selves.

Happy practicing!

Renée ✨


Hi, I'm Renée! (they/them)

I'm a queer, nonbinary, and disabled singer, songwriter and gender-affirming voice teacher. 

I've been a voice teacher for over twelve years, I have four full-length albums out, and I have degrees in physics, jazz, and songwriting.

I love creating, I love figuring things out, but most of all, I love helping people.

Learn more about me

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