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Head Voice vs Falsetto Voice: Differences You Should Know

Does your voice seem to break when you transition from a lower range to a higher range? If we aren't able to transition our voices properly, we may get a cracking or yodeling effect that sounds a little harsh and pitchy.

In vocal music, we have chest voice, head voice, and falsetto voice. How do you know which one you’re using? Keep reading to explore the similarities and differences between head voice vs falsetto voice, and learn how you can use them to improve your singing.

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So, What Is Head Voice Anyway?

To understand head voice, we must first touch on chest voice and note the differences between them. In vocal music, chest voice is the term for when lower, warmer tones are produced while singing (your lower range), which is most like your speaking voice.

You may note vibration in different parts of the body when singing based on where you place your voice. If your voice is resonating or vibrating in the chest to mouth level, you’re singing with chest voice. One test you can do to see if you are using your chest voice is to place your hand on your chest while singing and see if the vibration is there.

Chest voice is a stronger, more comfortable range than head voice. Head voice can be a bit trickier. Let's see why.

Characteristics of Head Voice

Head voice is one of the high registers of the voice in speaking or singing. This type of singing is above chest voice.

  • When using head voice, you can feel the sound resonating or vibrating up into your head region when singing in your upper range. Singers must learn how to filter their voice from above the mouth into the head.
  • The vocal folds contract and make more contact when using this type of voice. They also stay closed longer with each vibration—which, in turn, produces a strong sound instead of a breathy or airy sound.
  • There’s an easier transition or flow when you go from chest voice to head voice. Head voice is often described as a "mixed " voice, creating an even singing tone where there’s no breaking or cracking of the voice. It also resonates a stronger vocal sound than, say, if you’re using falsetto, but we’ll get to that.
  • Head voice is slightly referenced more towards female singers compared to male singers mainly because of the female's vocal range (typically higher than a male's vocal range). On the opposite end of the spectrum, most men have a broader chest voice due to their vocal range.

How Can I Learn How to Find My Head Voice?

Following these quick tips will help you hone in on your head voice!

1. Pick a high pitch sound like a siren or puppy whimper. Try a series of siren sounds with the mouth closed to open up and activate that area and feel the vibration in the upper region of the head. Start from the low end and work your way up to the high end of the scale.

2. Pick a closed vowel sound like an owl hoot.

Free Selective Focus Of Smiling Owl  Stock Photo

3. Quiet the tone and focus the sound into the head instead of making a loud sound from the chest. (Check out these 3 steps to finding your head voice in detail with the help of Spencer Welsh Vocal Studio).

What Are Some Examples of Head Voice?

  • Beyoncé is amazing at using her head voice. Check out these various examples of Beyoncé using head voice and be amazed!
  • Ariana Grande's first line in her hit song "No Tears Left to Cry" is another great example.

For further help, watch this quick video by Aaron Anastasi from Superior Singing Method for more information on how to strengthen your head voice.

Now that we know what head voice is and how to find and strengthen it, how does that compare to falsetto voice?

What Is Falsetto?

Head voice and falsetto voice are different but still very often confused because they do have quite a bit of similarity.

Both male and female singers can sing in this type of voice; however, males tend to be classified as falsetto more probably because it’s more dramatic when they switch from their deeper range to such a high-sounding voice. Put simply, falsetto is described as being able to sing notes higher than your normal range.

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Characteristics of Falsetto

  • When using falsetto, just the top edge of vocal folds come together. This produces a hollow, light, and airy type of sound. There’s a longer opening time in the vocal cords coming together.
  • It has also been described as a breathy, persistent sound. Singers can really let their voice go and make sure everything is staying relaxed when producing a falsetto sound. It also has to do with the size of our vocal cords. Women tend to have smaller, shorter vocal cords, and men have thicker, longer vocal cords.
  • Falsetto doesn't have that "mix" of chest and head to make it a strong voice like head voice.

What Are Some Examples of Falsetto?

  • Think of the song “Walk Like a Man” from Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons. He’s a great example of a famous singer who brought falsetto to life in the 1950s and early 1960s.
  • Prince in his song "Kiss"
  • Justin Timberlake in his song "Cry Me a River"
  • Bee Gees (any of their songs)

File:barry Gibb (Bee Gees) - Toppop 1973 2.Png - Wikimedia Commons

What Are the Main Similarities Between Head Voice and Falsetto?

  • Both head voice and falsetto happen in the upper range of our voice
  • Vibrations are in the head instead of the chest for both
  • Both in the M2 register (for more information on voice registers, check out this study)

What Are the Main Differences Between the Two?

  • Head voice is a fuller, stronger voice, and falsetto is hollower or lighter
  • Moving from chest voice to falsetto causes a break in the voice where it tends to sound like yodeling (the opposite is true when transitioning from chest voice to head voice)
  • Even thinner vocal cords are used in falsetto compared to head voice

Knowing the Difference Between Head Voice vs Falsetto Voice

We must remember that everybody's voice type and vocal range are different. All of these vocal techniques are important to learn. There’s no technique or voice type that’s better than the other. Chest voice, head voice, and falsetto all have their proper time and place. If you’re struggling with any of these techniques, check out some of the easy-to-follow videos in this article.

What do you think? Are you better at using head voice or falsetto? Can you tell the difference when you’re singing with your chest voice vs head voice or head voice vs falsetto? Tell us in the comments below.

Author

  • Head Voice

    My "day job" used to be teaching but I decided to give that up to play music full time. I have gigged all over the world playing in bands or as a solo act since then. I still have a passion for teaching others anything related to music. Writing content for InciteMusic.com gives me an opportunity to combine my love of music and education.

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