Description: From soul music to indie rock, falsetto as a vocal technique has been popular with male musicians to express various emotions when singing. The late Michael Jackson perfected the use of falsetto to a T. Find out what this singing technique is all about and how it can be achieved and controlled.
“False voice” is the first thing that come to mind when “falsetto” is mentioned, the technique used by male singers to perform songs with notes that would be normally out of their vocal range. The most simple falsetto definition would be that it is an initial break in a male singer’s voice from his usual low range to a much higher one.
A male singer using his head voice feels vibrations in his chest when he sings falsetto.
This is mainly because his vocal chords vibrate along their entire respective lengths as they come together with air flowing between them. The resultant sound is broad and natural to the male singer’s range. For the male singer, knowing how to sing in falsetto means getting his voice out of his chest and into his head, a method that has traditionally aided female sopranos to hit the highest notes.
Some male singers, however, use falsetto singing only to reach several high notes before returning to the natural throat or chest voices that they usually sing in. Some, though, can sing in this technique throughout entire songs like Philip Bailey, one of the few musicians with the highest falsettos ever heard, who can hold it out for amazing lengths without any noticeable effort.
The Head Voice
- 1 The Head Voice
- 2 How to Sing Falsetto
- 3 How to Hit High Notes when Singing
- 4 Imitating A Little Boy’s Voice or Marilyn Monroe’s
- 5 Falsetto vs Head Voice
- 6 Still on the Head Voice vs Falsetto Debate
- 7 Can A Woman Sing Falsetto?
- 8 Tenors, Male Falsettists, and Baritones
- 9 Countertenors and Falsettists
- 10 No Reason Not to Use Falsetto
- 11 Can You Learn How to Sing Falsetto Like Chris Martin and Adam Levine?
- 12 What All Vocal Instructors Will Tell You
Falsetto is often used interchangeably with the term “head voice” in male singers. If you want to define falsetto in its most simple meaning, you just have to know that it is the upper register of a male singer’s voice. Falsetto is the head voice in male version, something which everybody has, including female singers. The head voice is essential in all genres of music because it allows all singers easy access to even the highest notes.
Does learning how to sing higher notes interest you? While some people will tell you that falsetto is difficult to master, it shouldn’t be if you are determined to master it. But first you have to know and understand how falsetto is produced. Your vocal chords are controlled by two principal muscle groups: the cricothyroids and the thyroarytenoids. The latter shorten the chords and the former stretch them.
Cricothyroids produce the head voice. Compare how they work to how string instruments produce sounds. The tighter and thinner a string is, the higher the pitch produced. The same principle applies to the vocal chords. Technically, the head voice is a register of your voice. The other voice register used often for singing by most singers is the chest voice which is dominated by thyroarytenoids.
How to Sing Falsetto
Before you can sing falsetto, you need to find your head voice. Talk like Mickey Mouse and listen to the sound you make: isn’t it so much higher and of different quality than the normal voice you have when you speak? When it comes to your head voice vs chest voice, you can spot the difference easily when you yodel. Yodeling requires the rapid switching from the chest to the head register and then back again.
Do this slowly and notice how your voice shifts from your “regular” one to that of a higher-pitched version. Knowing how to sing higher takes a lot of practice and if you want to familiarize yourself with how falsetto works and master the skill, here are some ideas on how you can start. Relaxing your vocal chords is the first step. You need to sing successfully in your head voice first.
Stretched-out and thinner vocal chords are unable to work if your body is tense. Look at yourself in the mirror and talk like Mickey Mouse. Notice how much easier it is to produce sounds in your head voice when you are relaxed. You need to check specific areas of your as you relax to produce these sounds like your jaw, tongue, shoulders, and neck.
How to Hit High Notes when Singing
Take a deep breath and yell “woooo” in your highest voice but maintain a relaxed body. This is how you begin to learn hitting those high notes when you sing. Opening your mouth as you go higher in pitch is necessary but make sure your voice finds its way up without force. Just keep on making those “woooo” sounds the way you would if you are excited.
Singing in falsetto voice requires you to open your mouth more as you perform those high notes. That’s the way opera singers sing high notes. Incidentally, no one cares about whether they understand the words of a song or not when the falsetto technique is applied because what matters is the sound that the singer makes. You can also mimic the sound of the siren of an ambulance, police car or fire engine.
Imitating A Little Boy’s Voice or Marilyn Monroe’s
Try doing an “ooohh” sound like those vehicles mentioned from your voice register’s highest level. That should result in your falsetto. The sound, however, has to be based on a legitimate note, otherwise it’s just noise. Another way to achieve falsetto and how to sing high notes is by imitating a little three- or four-year-old boy’s voice. Some vocal instructors tell their students to talk in their “little boy” voices.
Feel and hear the difference of that “little boy” voice and your normal speaking voice. If that doesn’t go well with you, keep it quiet. This means you should sound like Marilyn Monroe singing “Happy Birthday to You” during John F. Kennedy’s 45th birthday with a breathy and airy tone, not like Miley Cyrus screaming like a goat. Singing louder could make you fall right into your head voice.
Falsetto vs Head Voice
If your voice resonance changes and you feel them in your body, then you are no longer in falsetto mode. Falsetto’s airy tone is the result of small folds in the vocal chords that come very close to one another and although they don’t actually come into contact with each other, their edges vibrate as air flows in between them. This airy sound is the result from air which escapes through spaces between the vocal chords.
Something entirely different happens with the head voice. Before you learn about this voice, however, you need to know about the chest voice. With this kind of voice, your vocal chords get together and vibrate along the entirety of their length simultaneously with the air that flows between them. This is your lower vocal range. Once you start hitting higher notes, you will feel your vocal chords tighten.
That tone which goes from your rich and firm chest voice to a thin and airy voice in a space of only a single note is falsetto. While the effect of this sound can be awesome, it can be extremely frustrating when what you are trying to learn is how to sing a high note with your chest voice and you come out in falsetto mode. There are exercises, however, that can keep you from going falsetto in higher notes.
With the correct training, any singer can gradually fade from the chest voice and move into the upper, firmer range of the “head voice.” This term refers to the tone that starts to resonate in the sinus and nasal cavities, or the small spaces of a head, on singing higher notes. The head voice has your vocal chords in close contact with one another without producing airy sounds because of the absence of escaping air between them.
Still on the Head Voice vs Falsetto Debate
Case in point: a male singer’s chest voice will have a “crisis point” around notes like F, E, F-sharp or the G above the middle C; in a female singer, the notes would be B above the middle C, B-flat, A-flat or A. It is interesting to know that the first “crisis point” for the female singer is actually the second “crisis point” for the male singer. If you have mastered the art of “fading” into your head voice your vocal chords will not break apart.
Your vocal chords will “thin out” first, similar to falsetto, but they will stay together while they thin. Toward the highest notes, your vocal chords will eventually “zip up,” similar to the fretting of a guitar’s string. This results in keeping your vocal tone clear since your vocal chords stay in contact with each other but are not required to tense tighter in order to reach the higher notes.
One important tip to remember in singing falsetto is that straining the voice will not result in reaching high notes. Contrary to popular belief, less air, and not more, will enable you to hit your high notes much easier. Breathing heavily will strain your larynx since this action will force it to go higher and higher which could cause your voice to crack without any warning.
While it is true that the head voice is a powerful singing technique, falsetto adds a certain calmness and sobriety to a song. Many male singers have experienced that they are unable to close their vocal folds in full again, yet numerous male vocalists keep on trying falsetto to enhance and increase their existing vocal ranges. Both men and women, incidentally, are capable of singing in falsetto register.
Can A Woman Sing Falsetto?
For the longest time, it was commonly believed that only men can produce falsetto, which has been proven to be untrue, primarily because there is a more pronounced and stronger change in the timbre of the song when men sing in falsetto. This is explained by the larger number and longer length of vocal folds of the male singer. Studies have shown, however, that female falsetto exists and that a female singer – like the late Minnie Ripperton – can and does produce falsetto.
But women don’t have to do falsetto. Anatomically, the falsetto voice is the result of the stretching of vocal chords very thinly to make mucous membranes remain parted instead of the open-and-close motion that happens naturally when singing. The resultant higher-pitched voice, though, comes at the price of losing control and power over the singing voice.
Apparently, it has been confirmed by scientists that a female singer’s vocal chords remain open mostly when she sings falsetto, in the same way that they do with male vocalists. Untrained voices of male singers, though, break into this technique as they start to rise while, on the contrary, women’s voices simply “slip” into it. Incidentally, a male singer who sings falsetto should not be confused with a tenor.
Tenors, Male Falsettists, and Baritones
The same untrained male singers often confuse their falsetto techniques as that of a countertenor. While the tenor is actually the higher-pitched male voice, the countertenor is the male singer who can use his falsetto technique with great resonance and whose voice has a full sound. Contrary to popular notion, a male falsettist may not even know how to sing tenor-style but is, in fact, a baritone.
Over 65% of male vocalists are actually baritones who have the capability to hold back incredibly large amounts of breath within the body to develop the strength for falsetto with amazing agility. In crossing over between the low and high registers of his pitches, the male falsettist accesses the so-called middle voice which has been shown to be useful in singing styles such as pop, musical theatre, country, pop, gospel, and opera.
With accessing this mid-level voice, a singer could get stuck in a particular pitch and reach a ceiling in which singing louder is required since each note eventually gets higher. Given that, the singer’s throat gets tighter; it could also, possibly, crack under the strain. Countertenors like David Daniels almost always use falsetto of the reinforced variety, often called the “female sound” of the alto, soprano or mezzo-soprano.
Countertenors and Falsettists
The vocal folds of falsettists stay open while they sing. Additionally, only the edges of these vocal folds vibrate. In contrast, the vocal folds of countertenors open as well as close normally with each cycle of vibration; these vocals folds can even billow like they do in a natural singing technique. Both falsettists and countertenors can sing similar notes with one difference: the latter can sing in a full voice and utilize vibrato.
A male singer who has two different vocal ranges – baritone and countertenor – can be called a baritone a well-developed falsetto but he cannot be considered a countertenor in the pure sense of the word. Moreover, neither countertenors nor male singers who sing falsetto should be categorized as castratos. These are men with singing mechanisms that have not fully matured as a result of hormonal imbalances.
No Reason Not to Use Falsetto
All male singers can do falsetto if they can imitate either the singing or speaking voice of a woman. High tenors may be unsure if they can sing in falsetto since they are capable of singing high notes in full voices which may be good thing. Why is this? Male singers who perform classical tradition music are usually disparaged when they use falsetto because they can always sing high notes in their full voices.
And, unless what you want is to become a classical or opera singer, there shouldn’t be any reason not to use falsetto. Many directors of known choirs, in fact, encourage their male singers to use falsetto to reach higher notes and give these certain finesse once they have reached them. But always remember that the characteristics of a falsetto voice are not the higher version of the singing voice of a male singer.
Can You Learn How to Sing Falsetto Like Chris Martin and Adam Levine?
Although harsh to say, falsetto is a disembodied, fake, and artificial sound that was begun and encouraged in the tradition of singing sacred music because women were prohibited from participating in choirs; you haven’t heard of the Vienna Girls’ Choir, for instance, because there never has been or will there ever be one. Up to the late 16th century, little boys in European choirs sang the parts written for sopranos.
Melodic lines, however, became much too difficult for pubescent boys to sing and necessitated calling in those who can do falsetto. Thus was born the falsettists who, at that time, used only falsetto when singing. If we go by this rule today, Chris Martin and Adam Levine are considered falsettists and not countertenors. So can you learn how to sing falsetto?
What All Vocal Instructors Will Tell You
Taking the basics of singing in an online singing course can start you off. As mentioned earlier, you have got to first master certain skills like breathing, posture, etc. Like learning another singing technique such as vibrato, you have to initially develop the regular singing voice that you have into hitting high notes. That means going on a top-rated online singing program that has been created by a professional vocal coach.
Most people aren’t use to the sensation of vibration which occurs within their bodies when singing up high since the majority of us speak in a much lower range. When you begin your singing lessons, you will get to know how these vibrations can go around in your head, what classical or opera singers refer to as “finding focus.” Although one vocal instructor’s teaching approach will differ from another, they will all tell you that:
- You shouldn’t push on your vocal range.
- Shouting is not singing and neither is yelling out a song’s lyrics.
- Doing scale exercises will enable your voice to become thinner and lighter.
- Releasing all tensions in your jaw and throat is the first thing to learn.
- Master how to sing high notes with controlled breathing.
- Always take on a good posture.
- Practice, practice, and practice.
- You must learn how to open your throat when singing.
- Let the high notes get into a head voice mode first before expanding your vocal range.
- Drink only warm – but not hot – water, to help clear out any sugars that may be in your throat, before singing.
- Do not “belt” out the high notes.
- Never do falsetto without proper and adequate training because you might do damage to your vocal chords.