Confusing Vocal Terms – Falsetto | Strengthen Your Head Voice

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Published: July 20, 2021

Confusing Vocal Terms – Falsetto

Have you ever found yourself totally confused by vocal terminology? Just when you thought you’d figured it all out, have you ever plunged back into the depths of confusion after hearing from a different teacher? You are not alone. The world of vocal terminology is a total and utter mess!

There is one vocal term that seems to have about 87 different meanings: falsetto. Ok, I’m exaggerating. It only has about 3 different meanings. It can mean:

1. Any vocal sound that is light and breathy for men or women

2. The register of the male voice that lies above the break and above head voice

3. One and the same with head voice

When it comes to falsetto, it historically was used only for men. It meant a vocal tone that was light and breathy due to only the top edges of the vocal folds participating in the vibration and the folds not completely closing all the way with each cycle. To simplify, it is that vocal sound a man might use to be funny or to imitate a female voice.

Today in contemporary vocal pedagogy, “falsetto” is being replaced by “head voice” for men, thus making the register terms for men and women more equal. The historical term “head voice” for classical male singers is therefore being replaced with “head-dominant mix,” again making the terms more similar for both genders. The modern use of “head voice” for both men and women, therefore means a head-dominant vocal production generally used (but not exclusively) on pitches above the vocal break, and where the singer can CHOOSE a pure tone or a breathy tone. We call it “falsetto” for men and women when that head voice is light and breathy.

Practically speaking, the situation with vocal terms is such that we all must define every term we use as we are using it. It can be rather cumbersome, but suck it up, everyone. That’s the way it is! 

Kathy  Alexander
VP Curriculum, Singdaptive

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