Head Voice Vs Falsetto [The Best Head Voice Technique]
Many singers struggle with the definitions given to the various registers of their voice, with the low range labelled clearly as Chest Voice, and both Head Voice and Falsetto interchangeably used to describe various parts of the high range. The difference between Head Voice Vs Falsetto is a common question I get as a voice coach, and there IS a very clear difference and one that will open up your high range with connection to your chest voice when you learn how to sing with the best head voice technique without resorting to falsetto.
Let’s start with Chest Voice first.
Singing Chest Voice Notes
Chest voice occurs when there is an engagement of the TA muscles, the Thyroarytenoid, which contract and thicken the vocal folds. This, in turn, allows your folds to vibrate at the lower frequencies and physically the lower speed needed for your low range. Many male singers sing predominantly with this engagement, while many Female singers struggle to sing chest voice notes consistently. In the resting phase, the voice isn’t actually in the ‘chest voice’ setup, Chest Voice is the result of vocal fold contraction – so it’s important you’re not confusing your speaking voice with chest voice.
The Speaking Voice
Now, there is some confusion around the Chest Voice and the speaking voice – Singing and Speaking are ultimately two separate processes, even if they involve the same mechanism. Think about it, do you breathe using the diaphragm when you speak? No. Do you shape your vowels with the back of the tongue when you speak? No. Do you make use of your full range of frequencies when you speak? No. These are just some of the MANY differences between singing and speaking, and there are numerous. I like to use the analogy of walking and running to illustrate the difference between singing and speaking. Running isn’t just “fast walking”, it’s actually a completely different process of the same mechanism – just like singing and speaking are ultimately unrelated in the manner in which you perform both tasks.
This brings me to the difference between chest voice and your speaking voice – they are two separate processes. When you sing into your low range, it’s important that you still shape your vowels properly, sing with resonance and allow proper resonant space rather than simply resorting to using your speaking mechanism ‘at pitch’.
Head Voice Vs Chest Voice
Now, Head voice occurs via expansion of the vocal folds by engagement of the CT muscles, the cricothyroid. While this is a separate process to chest voice, they two muscles overlap and can function in a central balance. The problem that many singers experience with head voice is that they believe that their head register is a weak and disconnected part of the voice, such as falsetto, when in fact there IS a direct connection between chest voice and head voice – this leads the singer to ‘avoid’ head voice and resort to contracted vocal folds for their higher notes, leading to voice cracks and vocal strain, not to mention a shouty and yelled tone.
In a tonal sense, I like to think of chest voice as the first half of a gradient, and head voice as the second part of a gradient, from black to white – and everything else in the center of the two extremes is a balance of grey between chest and head, weight and tension.
Head Voice Chest Voice connection occurs over time with training and perseverance, but once you achieve this ‘holy grail’ register connection, you will no longer fret about the state of your registers, or your ‘mix’, or how ‘chesty’ you sound, you will simply sing, and sing well.
Head Voice Vs Falsetto
Now, falsetto IS a disconnected and weak part of your range and occurs with improper vocal fold closure. This flutey and airy sound is sometimes mistaken for Head Voice, or worse, used interchangeably as a term for head voice, when in fact the mechanism between Head and Falsetto is totally different. A great way to differentiate is to practice a resonant crescendo between a light, but balanced onset and a fully resonant and powerful sound – this is possible in head voice but isn’t actually possible in Falsetto due to the lack of vocal fold closure.
Many singers actually make use of Falsetto in a stylistic sense, but in terms of efficient use of the vocal mechanism, Falsetto really isn’t a healthy or practical part of a great singing voice.
The problem with Head Voice
Now, the problem many singers experience with head voice is that when they first start singing, their head register ISN’T connected, and doesn’t have a resonance sound – for various reasons, and so they avoid using it altogether. This is like ignoring your left leg and favourite your right leg predominantly when running because it is a little weaker – sure, it might seem easier to hop on one leg for a while on your strong leg, but ultimately, you will suck at running. Singing is much the same – the longer you avoid developing your head register, the more imbalanced your voice will become, and the weaker your voice we become in the long run.
Stop thinking of head voice as ‘weak’ and identify it as the powerful register that it is, even if it’s currently under-developed in your voice. Remember, chest voice is a contraction of the vocal folds, while head voice is an expansion of the vocal folds – these two aspects of your vocal mechanism DO meet in the centre and you can connect chest and head voice with some practice and the right approach.
Consistency in your registers really stems from the strength of your foundation. You can practice ‘chesty-mix’ exercises all day long, but if the base you’ve build your voice upon is shaky or weak, then this will translate into your high range and result in a wobbly connection, or lack of connection, between chest and head voice. A great place to start is the free foundations courses available here at Bohemian Vocal Studio which will show you how to set up a strong and reliable foundation for your vocal range to be built upon – then when you’re ready to take your voice to the next level with professional voice coaching, you can book a Skype Session and we’ll start extending your range and building control and consistency in your voice every time you sing!
Are you singing with head voice, or falsetto? Let me know in the comments below and I’ll help you develop a stronger connection and better resonance in your voice.
Kegan DeBoheme is Bohemian Vocal Studio’s resident vocal coach and voice expert. He teaches professional singing and voice technique to students all around the world and enjoys providing tutorials like this one on how to improve your voice.