As a singer, we all seem to want to know what is the difference between head voice and falcetto. Do we really need to know exactly when it switches from one to the other? I have had numerous singers ask me this question, so this is how I try to explain it.
The difference between head voice and falcetto can be recognized by the singer as a feeling or sensation, and a difference in effort level.
If you are in head voice, it will feel like you have good control over the volume and vibrato of your high notes. This is because the cords have the ability to hold back your breath, increasing and decreasing the amount of breath that you send through your cords as you desire. I classify this as head voice being “connected” or “mixed” with the rest of the singer’s voice. In other words, the singer would be able to descend in pitch and be able to keep the same “feeling” of vocal cord connection.
Falcetto, on the other hand, is the inability of the vocal cords to hold back enough air, that would otherwise be called head voice! Falcetto has a breathier quality by default, and feels totally different from the rest of your voice. It is hard to control the volume, and you run out of breath quickly. It usually follows a sensation of singing with control while ascending in pitch, and then being unable to maintain the same degree of control. The vocal cords suddenly feel like they “blow apart” or “let go.”
The reason it is hard to differeniate between head voice and falcetto at times, is because a singer can have a light head voice. Is light head voice the same as falcetto? IMHO, no. Falcetto will always feel like a loss of control of the higher register, and disconnected from the rest of the voice. Whereas, a light (mixed) head voice will be able to siren down and back up again, and feel the same throughout.
What is interesting is that singers like the Bee Gees, Aaron Neville and Leanne Rimes use their head voice and falcetto qualities to varying degrees in their singing all the time. Do we really need to label who is doing what?
Here’s my analysis anyway, ha ha, because I enjoy trying to “figure it out” and also hope some you readers will send me your thoughts and feedback.
The Bee Gees are using head voice (but not a mixed quality). They have a clear (although twangy), non-breathy, well established vocal musculature that they have total control of. It is disconnected from their chest register. Could this be considered falcetto? I’m sure many readers might consider their singing falcetto. In order to prove any such status, we would need to see their vocal cords in action, as well as have a pre-determined “picture” of what falcetto always looks like in the vocal cords. The entire professional vocal community would need to agree on these parameters. This hasn’t happened yet, so until the singing teachers and coaches of the world come together and agree on terminology and function, we will need to rely on other parameters. For me, it’s my ears!
Leanne Rimes, in the song “Blue,” has a yodel that some would classify as falcetto. However, she has the same quality in the low notes as the high notes. Sure, there is a defined flip, but her ability to engage her vocal cords in her head register the way she does, tells me this is definitely head voice quality, but not in a mix. It is disconnected from the chest register. In fact, that is what yodelling is. The ability to go back and forth from chest register to head register, with a flip, but with the same vocal quality in each register. One register is not breathier than the other.
Aaron Neville’s voice, is an interesting analysis. He has a beautiful mix of mostly head voice in his singing. When he flips to only head voice, he is simply releasing his chest register in the mix. Even though it has a breath-like quality, you will notice it is the same breath-like quality as his lower notes. Therefore, this is not falcetto. This is a defined flip between a mixed voice (mostly head voice) and his true head voice.
Do you have any questions about your head voice or falcetto voice? Can you tell the difference in your voice? Let me know!
I hope you enjoyed reading this post as much as I did writing it!