So far, we’ve looked at the head voice and the chest voice. Of the two, the chest voice is the more powerful, both in terms of volume and strength of the voice, while the head voice is used primarily used to reach higher notes or to give notes an ‘airy’ sound. Most singing is done using one of these two voices or a combination of the two, which is called a mix. However, there is also another voice, called a falsetto, that can be great to master. Many people think that a falsetto voice is the same as a head voice, but they aren’t at all the same thing.
First, we should define falsetto. To borrow a good, accurate definition, falsetto is the vocal register occupying the frequency range just above the modal voice register and overlapping with it by approximately one octave. This sounds hard to understand but isn’t. The modal voice is the vocal range that a person is comfortable singing without forcing it. The falsetto is the range just above that comfortable, ‘normal’ range.
What use is it? Well, different people have different vocal ranges, depending mostly on the length of their vocal cords. It is for the same reason that most women can sing higher than most men, though there are exceptions. Some women can sing alto with no problem and some men can effortlessly sing soprano. Still, this is based on the length of their vocal cords. It is quite possible to extend your vocal range, however, you are still limited by that vocal cord length.
The head voice can help push the range higher because the mouth, throat, and sinuses are being used for resonation. (The chest voice uses the chest for resonation.) The head voice has its limitations though, which is where the falsetto comes in.
In a falsetto, the ligaments around the vocal folds vibrate and resonate to produce higher notes. Falsetto is mostly used by men, particularly those who normally have a tenor range but may want or need to slip into a soprano. Women occasionally do use falsetto, though. It has value because a woman who can sing soprano can push her voice even higher. I’ve shared examples of this, though I didn’t explain that falsetto was being used.
A little later, I will share an example of a well-used and honed falsetto, used by a man; specifically Barry Gibb, originally of the Bee Gees. Once you can identify when a person is singing with a falsetto voice, you can then begin practicing honing your own falsetto. This can lend an additional facet to your singing.
Did you really know what falsetto was before reading this?
I previously thought it was the same as the head voice