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New Macs and Voice Training

I am in love with the new M1 Macs! The reason? Voice therapy. Okay, it's not the only reason, these are really, really, good computers, but for the context of this blog, it's voice. 😄

So, I haven't made it a secret that one of the biggest sources of gender dysphoria for me is my voice. I have hated my voice since it changed, all too long ago now, and I have been working with a voice therapist since last Fall to improve that. My practice and therapy training setup was, to say the least, rather cumbersome prior to getting M1 Macs.

So, how was it set up?  I had my main desktop, where I would run a bunch of apps, with a microphone attached. Typically, that would mean Zoom, Scriviner (where I keep my notes and exercises), a time keeper, and a voice recorder. To support this, and to monitor pitch, I also had a iPad mini in front of me, also with an external microphone, running an app called Voice Tools, an awesome app written explicitly to support trans voice therapy. There is also another app, SpectrumView, useful for monitoring resonance, that I could also run on the iPad mini, but at the cost of valuable screen space.

Now this all worked, but it was quite the setup with two mics and multiple screens sitting on a rigged up desk extension held to the desk with two spring clamps when I needed it. It also made getting ready to practice bit of a chore and also a pain to tear down afterwards.

Enter the new M1 Macs. I have both a MacBook Air and a Mac Mini and this has been awesome because both of these run the apps that I needed the iPad for and so now I can have two voice monitoring setups that enable me to move around easily. Add to that, the new Macs are just fast and run all of the things I need without any hiccups. 

The first configuration I have is with the Mac Mini, which allows me to run all the previously mentioned Mac apps, plus Voice Tools and SprectrumView, with just the microphone already on my desk (a Blue Yeti). Setup basically is immediate, since I generally just leave the apps running, and I can use it for keeping an eye on my voice even when just doing regular Zoom calls. This gets me practicing more readily.

The second configuration I have is with the MacBook Air sitting with my work laptop. This lets me, again, monitor my voice habits when on work calls, which means I normally just have the two iPad apps running side by side. The microphone on that is the Shure MV88+, which is designed for tablets, but naturally works just fine on the MacBook Air. 

While this is definitely a solution to a relatively minor "problem" of my setup in the grand scheme of things, I wanted to write about it because a lot of other trans people have similar voice dysphoria and might be looking for tools to help. Even if you don't do formal therapy, having good tools is half the battle! You want to be able to see and hear what is happening, and that means good apps and good microphones to ensure that the sound you record and play back is the sound you actually made.

Speaking of tools, all of this can be expensive, not going to lie. While the M1 MacBook Air is actually cheaper than prior versions of that laptop, it's still expensive for many. Throw in a good microphone, one that accurately records your sound, and we're out of the reach of a lot of people. Voice therapy is also not cheap, but there is some help there and one place to start is a book called The Voice Book for Trans and Non-Binary People which contains a wealth of information and exercises you can use to practice. So, while I trained coach is really hard to beat, this book will still really help.

So, Mac M1 verdict? Very worth it to me, not just for voice therapy, but also for when I do art and photography. I think Apple has a hit on their hands, they've got me really interested to see where they take these next.

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