The Female Voice: From Girl to Woman
Choosing the right voice talent for a project is crucial since the tone and pitch of a voice can shape how people perceive the message. Another key consideration is the age group the speaker belongs to since men’s and women’s voices go through significant changes over time.
Let’s take a closer look at how the female voice changes and how a girl’s voice becomes a woman’s voice.
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The Female Voice: Stages of Development
While men’s voices can drop a full octave during puberty, women’s voices go through subtler changes during their entire lives.
The Female Child’s Voice
Studies have found that people can correctly identify a child’s gender based on their voice as early as 5. Children have high-pitched voices with a frequency of 250 Hz or above, but girls tend to have a slightly higher pitch compared to boys.
The female child’s voice can also have a ‘singsong’ quality, and some sounds might not have the correct pronunciation, like R, L, S, TH, or Z.
This voice type evokes innocence and happiness. It can have an endearing quality for your audience, especially if you’re addressing parents.
Prepubescent Female Voice
A girl’s voice will typically transition to a prepubescent voice around the age of 8. There are a few physical changes, such as a slight elongation of the larynx and an increase in resonance as the child’s oral and nasal cavities grow.
As a girl matures, her voice control will also improve as she learns to modulate sounds with her laryngeal muscles. Socialization also helps children figure out an appropriate tone and volume when speaking.
Many children will also start mimicking the patterns they hear around them. Reproducing the patterns they hear in adults helps make them sound more confident.
The prepubescent female voice still sounds innocent and childlike due to its high pitch, but it makes your message sound more confident.
Pubescent Female Voice
Puberty takes place between 10 and 14 for most girls. The voice of women typically drops by three tones during these years, which isn’t as drastic as the changes a man’s voice goes through but remains noticeable.
During puberty, the neck grows, and the voice box adopts a lower position. The vocal cords also become longer and thicker as the larynx grows.
Girls also experience slight changes in their facial structure. The oral and nasal cavities get slightly larger as their skull grows, which gives their voice more room to resonate.
Teenage Female Voice
A teenage girl’s voice will continue to evolve after puberty ends at 14. She will get used to these physical changes and develop better control of her voice now that her voice box sits lower.
The voice typically stabilizes around 17 or 18 years of age. Most women will develop a pitch that is somewhere between 165 and 255 Hz. By comparison, a man’s voice can be as low as 85 Hz.
However, teen girls and young women tend to adopt a lower pitch compared to previous generations. A study found that the average woman’s voice is 23 Hz deeper compared to 50 years ago.
As teen girls and young women navigate the world, they often develop a lower pitch to project a sensation of confidence.
This practice can backfire when vocal fry appears. Vocal fry happens when a woman speaks in a lower pitch but is unable to push enough air through the larynx due to the vocal cords being too relaxed.
Vocal fry often appears during the teen years. It can sound breathy or creaky, but some voice over artists are able to play with vocal fry to sound natural, relaxed, and relatable. Kim Kardashian is a notable example of this vocal style.
Young Adult Female Voice
As a young woman’s voice settles, her vocal type will emerge. There are three main female voice types.
Sopranos have the highest pitch. These women speak with a bright tone and a strong head voice. Their musical range is typically between B3 and C6 while their pitch ranges from 260 to 880 Hz on average.
Maria Callas is one of the most famous sopranos of all time, but a more recent example would be Christina Aguilera.
We tend to associate soprano voices with youth, innocence, and purity.
Mezzo-soprano is by far the most common voice type for women. It’s a diverse group, but the most common range is G3 to A5.
These women sound darker and deeper compared to a soprano, and they have a strong middle voice.
Mezzo-soprano voice talents are in high demand because they evoke a familiar woman’s voice. These voices can be comforting and positive since they’re likely to sound like the women who raised us. They often play the mother or the wife.
Famous singers with mezzo-soprano voices include Selena Gomez, Beyonce, and Adele.
Contralto is the lowest female voice type. It’s a lot less common. It ranges from E3 to G5, which isn’t far from the male tenor voice.
These voices are dark and rich. They tend to be memorable since it’s not a vocal type we hear often. Famous examples include Toni Braxton and Annie Lennox.
If you’re wondering how to describe a female voice, referring to soprano, mezzo-soprano, and contralto female vocal types is a good starting point for finding the right voice talent for a project.
Adult Female Voice
A woman’s voice will typically continue to mature until the age of 40. With age, a woman will often increase control over her voice and develop a way of speaking that sounds more confident and soothing.
The female voice can become slightly breathy with age. Women have a larger air gap behind the vocal cords, which can give the voice a breathy quality compared to a man’s voice.
Over time, some women also develop a raspy voice. This phenomenon can result from a thinning of the vocal cords or even from nodules, but some women are able to achieve this effect by simply modulating their pitch. Famous examples include Lindsey Lohan and Scarlet Johansson.
Menopause usually starts between 45 and 55. Hormonal changes can affect the voice and give it a deeper quality. A study found that professional women singers tend to encounter difficulties with reaching high registers after menopause.
Senior Female Voice
Over the years, a woman’s voice will develop a lower pitch. It can also become breathy and lose some of its projection and resonance.
These changes stem from a loss of muscle tissues in the larynx. The mucous membranes also tend to become thinner with age, and the vocal cords can become weaker. Changes to the respiratory system can further affect the voice.
A senior female voice with a lower pitch can feel comforting and evoke wisdom, since we often associate these voices with age and experience.
Why Do Older Male Voices Sound Younger Than Older Female Voices?
A man’s voice will usually stabilize after puberty and won’t go through as many changes. As a result, it can be difficult to tell a 30-year-old’s voice apart from a 55-year-old’s voice. Men’s voices sound younger because we’re not used to noticing significant differences as a man ages.
Women’s voices continue to evolve and mature until they reach the age of 40. The female voice goes through additional changes with menopause 10 to 15 years later.
We’re used to hearing older women with a slightly deeper or breathier voice, which is why it’s easier to tell a woman’s age based on her voice alone.
Why Do Female Voice Talents Often Play Young Male Characters?
Women have always played young men in plays and operas. Nowadays, it’s common to see women voice young protagonists in cartoons and anime. The trick is to emphasize the high register and speak faster to sound younger.
The advantage of using a female voice is that the actor’s voice will remain constant over the years. For instance, Nancy Cartwright has been voicing Bart Simpson since 1989, while Junko Takeuchi voiced Naruto for five years.
There are other advantages to hiring an adult voice talent to voice a child or tween. There are no child labor laws restricting how many hours the voice actor can work, and an adult will often have more developed acting skills.
Why Are Women’s Voices Not as Loud as Men’s Voices?
During puberty, a teen boy’s vocal cords become longer and thicker. The vocal cords develop more vibrating power, which means they can emit louder sounds. Men being slightly taller on average also means their voice has more room to resonate.
Women’s voices go through significant changes over the years, and it’s easier to tell a woman’s age based on her voice compared to a man’s.
If you’re looking for a voice talent for a project, take the time to think about what kind of speaker would be ideal for your message. Picking a female voice talent with a high-pitched soprano voice can evoke youth and innocence, while a voice actor with a lower voice can express confidence and wisdom.