Developing Head Voice

Teaching Head Voice to Young Men

Common questions. . .

  • Are falsetto and head voice the same thing?
  • Does head voice develop naturally with age, or is it something that can be learned?
  • Do basses and baritones have head voice, or is this a tenor thing?
  • When should a singer begin to develop head voice?
  • What are exercises that contribute to the development of head voice.

Overview . . .

Young male voices are faced with developing head voice in a comfortable way without using falsetto.

Typical concerns

  • Carrying the chest voice too high (strain)
  • Using falsetto instead of head voice (weak)

Consciously developing head voice gives singers tools to deal with this challenge.

  1. Concept of the “flip”
  2. Uniformity of register
  3. Exercises for building the head voice

Common problems . . .

  • Bringing the chest voice too high
  • Leads to a strained sound
  • Inefficient
  • Singing in falsetto instead of head voice
  • Leads to a weak sound
  • Efficient for marking, but not for legitimate singing

Solutions. . .

  • Step 1 – Establishing a common vocabulary
    • The “flip”
    • Chest voice vs. head voice
    • Falsetto
  • Step 2 – There is a head voice
    • Keeping the chest voice “light” masks the problem
    • Before a singer can mix, they have to have something to mix with
  • Step 3 – Exercises for developing head voice

Step 1 – Vocal Register

  • Register Event, Transition, Shift, Break
  • Falsetto
  • Head (Chest)
  • Secundo Passaggio (Upper Middle Mix)
  • Primo Passaggio (Low Middle Mix)
  • Chest (Chest)

Richard Miller, Training Tenor Voices, 1993

A bit about the body . . .

CT (cricothyroid) lengthens the fold.

TA (thyroarytenoid) shortens the folds


What happens physiologically in falsetto?

In falsetto, TA muscle relaxes completely, and so the length of the folds depends solely on the degree of contraction in the CT muscle. Since the TA muscle is lax, it also does not cause the vocal fold cover to stiffen or thicken. Only the outer layers of the cover vibrate.

Characteristics of Falsetto

Weak in overtones

No Singers Formant

Head Voice

What happens physiologically in head voice?

CT and TA muscles are contracted

CT muscle predominates, and so the range of pitch for head voice is higher,

Since the folds are lengthened, thinned and stretched.

A smaller portion of the folds is in vibration in head voice; only the outer layers of the cover vibrate

Characteristics of the Head Voice

Rich in overtones


Falsetto should not be called head voice.” – Richard Miller

Make it real for me, audio examples:

Falsetto vs. Head Voice

Flammende Rose by Handel. Ian Howell Countertenor

Pavarotti, Nessun Dorma  2:06

Step 2- Plan for fostering evenness of register

  • Develop Head Voice
  • Develop First Transition
  • Develop Second Transition
  • Flexibility exercises throughout transitions

Step 2- Vocal Ranges

Step 2- Male Vocal Register Shifts

Step 3 –
Exercises for Head Voice

These can be done in a group or choral rehearsal
Exercises for First Transition
Exercises for Second Transition