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Motor Neurone Disease - Voice Banking

What is voice banking?

Voice banking is a process that allows a person to record a set list of phrases with their own voice. This recording is then used to create a personal synthetic voice. If you are no longer able to use their own voice clearly, you can use the synthetic voice in speech-generating communication devices to produce an infinite number of words and sentences. The voice created will be synthetic and not be a perfect replica of your natural speech, but it will bear some resemblance.  Not everyone will need to use the computer generated voice but it is a good idea to consider voice banking just in case.

How does voice banking work?

You will record a number of phrases that are then combined to create a synthetic voice. The number of phrases to be recorded varies between service providers but, generally, it will be between 600 and 3500 sentences. This will take a minimum of six to eight hours to record over a period of time, usually weeks or months. It may take longer if you need to take a lot of breaks.

Does voice banking work for everyone?

Not everyone will be able to bank their voice for future use. People with MND who have very slurred speech may not be able to bank their voice, as sentences need to be pronounced clearly as they are recorded. If speech is only mildly affected, it may still be possible to create a good quality recording.

What equipment is needed for voice banking?

Voice banking service

There are a range of voice banking services available. We are not able to make recommendations, but some of the available options are listed on page 8.

Computer

Voice banking services are accessed online, so a PC or laptop is required, with access to the internet for some or all of the time. Certain services may need to use a particular browser, such as Google Chrome or Internet Explorer. These are free to download on to any computer.

Tablets do not usually have the processing power needed for voice banking, so are not recommended for the recording process. They may, however, be used with the synthetic voice as a communication aid.

Microphone

A suitable microphone is important. This should be a headset model with a USB connection, that allows you to keep a consistent distance from the mouth to the microphone. Desktop or built-in microphones on PCs or laptops are not suitable. Individual companies will advise on which headset they feel works best with their software – see individual websites for details.

Recording environment

The recording environment should be quiet and have no background noise. Some of the services need a microphone test to be carried out first to make sure the recording environment is suitable. It is important that the same recording environment is used every time. Voice banking can work well when the recording is made at home, and it does not need to be as quiet as a recording studio to be successful.

Specialist support

You may need support from your Speech and Language Therapist if you are having any difficulties currently with your speech. 

Once your voice has been banked, your Speech and Language Therapist will be happy to help you set this up on a communication aid and show you and your family how to adjust the settings. 

The voice banking process

Depending on the service provider, the process will vary slightly, but follows a similar pattern:

1 Register with your preferred service provider and pay any required fees.

2 An initial test will take place to establish whether the recording environment and microphone are suitable. This is straightforward to do and no technical knowledge or skill is required.

3 You can change settings such as the language, if this is available.

4 An initial set of screening phrases are recorded and then automatically sent to the service provider for analysis.

5 If the recordings are deemed to be suitable, you will be notified that they can continue to record the remaining phrases. It may take more than one attempt to get the optimum sound when recording the screening sentences, don’t be discouraged if the first attempt is unsuccessful.

Professional support

Family members and carers may need to be trained how to support you with the process of voice banking, if help is needed to operate computer controls or set up the microphone. Professionals can also help with how to set up your computer and use the software if needed.

After recording

Once recording is complete, the voice banking service provider will create a synthetic voice. This can then be downloaded on to a suitable device, with software or a programme that allows selection and use of the personal synthetic voice. Any synthetic voice created should be suitable for use on Microsoft Windows-based software and may also be compatible with Android devices. Some apps will also allow use on iPads.

If you need any help downloading your voice onto your communication device or with changing settings you can contact your Speech and Language Therapist who will be able to go through this with you.  

Tips for successful voice banking

  • Use a headset microphone with a USB connection. A suitable device should be available to purchase for under £50. It is best to check with the voice banking service provider before making a purchase. See individual voice banking service provider websites for advice on which headset to purchase for each product.
  • Position the microphone to the side of the mouth, level with the jaw, to avoid feedback or audible breath noises. All voice banking service providers offer the chance to re-record any sentence if the recording is not good, and some will rate the recording as you go along.
  • Have a drink of water to hand and take regular drinks to keep the mouth and lips moist. This helps to reduce noises made when the lips part to begin speaking.
  • Record in the same environment each time. There is no time limit on how long to take to complete the recordings, so it is possible to do this over several days/weeks/months. However, it is recommended that the voice quality remains consistent throughout recording, so it is advisable to complete the process as soon as possible.
  • Try to record at the same time of day, if recording on multiple days. For people with MND it is often recommended that recordings are made in the morning, when the voice tends to be strongest.
  • If the person’s voice is not strong enough to bank, consider using a friend or relative who has a similar sounding voice to make the recordings.

 

Options for Voice Banking

Below are details of companies who offer a voice banking service online.  They are not provided as recommendations for any specific organisations but are included to help you in your search for further information.  The contact details are correct at the time of print, but may change in between revisions. The MND connect helpline can help if you have further questions.

Voice banking services

CereVoice Me Online voice cloning tool that allows you to create a computer version of your own voice. CereVoice Me voices are compatible with various text to speech software programs on Windows, Apple OSX (Mac) and Android devices.

Website: www.cereproc.com/en/products/cerevoiceme

ModelTalker Speech synthesis software package designed to benefit people who may lose or are losing their ability to speak. ModelTalker voices are compatible with various text to speech software programs on Windows, Apple OSX (Mac), Android and iOS devices (iPads and iPhones).

Website: www.modeltalker.org

My-own-voice This web service allows you to create a synthetic voice using your own voice. My-own-voice voices are compatible with various text to speech software programs on Windows, Apple OSX (Mac), Android and iOS devices (iPads and iPhones).

Website: www.acapela-group.com/voices/voice-replacement/

VocaliD Online synthetic voice creation for people who are losing the ability to speak. VocaliD voices are compatible with various text to speech software programs on Windows devices.

Website: www.vocalid.co

Other options

Message banking

Message banking is a recording process that allows you to record particular phrases that you may say on a regular basis, such as ‘Hello’ or ‘My name is....’

It can be used to record particular phrases that are particularly meaningful to them, their family or friends. Messages could be used for humour or include terms of endearment. They may also be recorded in different languages. It may be useful to involve family members or friends to suggest ideas for specific messages.

The recorded messages can be played back directly on devices, such as smartphones or tablets. There is no limit to the number of phrases you can record, but as a synthetic voice is not being produced, it is important to bear in mind that bespoke sentences cannot be created from the recordings at a later date.

If a large number of messages are recorded, thought needs to be given to how these messages are organised. Your Speech and Language Therapist may be able to help with this.  

You can access a message banking service at www.mytobiidynavox.com/messagebank

Alternatively, any Microsoft Windows PC (from Windows 7 onwards) will have a feature, either called Sound Recorder or Voice Recorder, that allows a person to record and save individual phrases. If these messages are saved in mp3 format, they can be used in certain AAC software.

What if I can’t bank my voice?

If you can’t bank your voice for any reason, you can still use low and high-tech AAC to communicate with others. This includes using the built in voices on text to speech software. These voices may not sound like you, but should be of a good quality. In most cases, there will be a range of male and female voices on offer.

Alternatively, a family member or friend with a similar accent to you may wish to bank their voice for you, if you are both comfortable with this choice.

Useful resources

MND Connect

Information and support on all aspects of motor neurone disease (MND) for people living with MND, carers, family members, health and social care professionals, Association staff and volunteers and anyone else affected by MND.

Monday to Friday 9am to 5pm and 7pm to 10:30pm. Calls to this helpline are free from landlines and mobile phones within the UK and do not appear on itemised bills.

Tel: 0808 8026262

Email: mndconnect@mndassociation.org

The Aidis Trust

Charity that provides electronic communication aids and specialised computer equiment to people with disabilities to aid their communication.

Address: 10 Ironmonger Lane, London EC2V 8EY

Telephone: 0808 800 0009

Email: via the website contact page

Website: www.aidis.org

Communication Matters 

Communication Matters is a UK-wide organisation supporting people of all ages who find communication difficult because they have little or no clear speech.

Address: Leeds Innovation Centre, 103 Clarendon Road, Leeds, LS2 9DF

Telephone: 0845 456 8211

Email: admin@communicationmatters.org.uk

Website: www.communicationmatters.org.uk

 

  • Last Updated:
    01 September 2021
  • Review Date:
    01 September 2025
  • Author:
    Melanie Taylor
  • Summary:

    Voice banking is a process that allows a person to record a set list of phrases with their own voice. This recording is then used to create a personal synthetic voice.

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