Falsetto is the uppermost range of the singing voice. It’s from the Italian word for “false” due to the loss of legitimate vocal timbre, which makes it sound different from the other notes you sing.
For men, falsetto replaces the head voice female singers tend to employ. It’s often their go-to for high notes. While the term most often describes male singers, however, women can also sing in this voice.
Learning how to sing falsetto is one of the key pieces to becoming a well-rounded singer. With these tips and exercises, you can take it to the next level with your high notes.
In this article, we’ll show you what falsetto is and exactly how you can use it to increase your skills.
What is Falsetto?
Everyone who has vocal cords also has a falsetto voice, among other vocal registers. It’s at the upper vocal range of sounds you can produce and sits just above the head voice.
Singers hit these higher falsetto notes by vibrating the thin, frontal edges of the vocal folds.
Note: falsetto voice comes only from the head, and results in less pressure on the throat itself.
Chances are, if you’ve heard famous singers such as Justin Timberlake perform, you’ve heard falsetto. Popular singers who commonly sing in this register include:
- Michael Jackson
- Smokey Robinson
- Thom Yorke
- Frankie Valli
- Jeff Buckley
- Justin Vernon (Bon Iver)
- Neil Young
Here’s the aforementioned Thom Yorke:
Why Learn This Technique? (The Benefits)
The main benefit is that singing in falsetto is a physical exercise that helps you better control your body and become a more competent singer overall.
With practice and training, you can learn to seamlessly transition from the chest or middle voice to head and finally into a falsetto voice.
Learning how to sing it properly, like all the other voice registers, takes time and practice. If you can move from low to high notes in a fluid motion, you push the limits of your singing range.
You can reach high and low notes in their full vocal range and perfect any performance in front of a crowd.
Extends Your Range
Recognizing the differences between the sounds and how you physically create each note can also help you learn to extend your range.
However, the main benefit of understanding how your body creates high notes and knowing what falsetto should feel like helps you protect yourself from harm and make sure you’re staying within the right pitch.
You can also use a combination of time, practice, and the help of a professional voice coach to learn how to extend your vocal range into higher or lower octaves safely.
Either way, this level of understanding helps to improve your singing. You might notice:
- Improved resonance
- Voice consistency
- Better transitions
- Stronger lungs
- Better muscle control
Gives You A More Diverse Repertoire
Finally, mastering falsetto provides the option to sing more songs for your performances.
Not only can you reach more notes in your range, but you can also learn to do so without compromising the quality of your voice.
What’s Going On (Physically)?
If you get squeamish, look away now! To better understand how to sing falsetto properly, it helps to know how your singing voice is formed. There are two muscles doing all the work – one that shortens your vocal cords and another that stretches them out.
The easiest way to sing falsetto is to start with a modal voice and reach for higher notes. As you ascend into a head voice, you release the weight from your chest or middle voice to create a lighter sound. Like a guitar’s strings, your vocal cords move to produce a high pitch. You should feel the vocal cord muscles stretch longer to reach high falsetto notes.
This is the reason many singers move their chins higher when singing ascending notes and pull the chin back in to reach low notes. The muscles in the chest and neck help the vocal cords expand to reach a full range of pitches. Controlling these muscles provide stability in singing falsetto, and especially in reaching top notes.
However, you don’t want the sound to squeak. You should feel the sound vibrating higher in your body, through your head. Make sure to avoid squeezing your throat the produce the sound.
5 Ways to Practice The Technique
The first thing you need to do is relax. Release any tension in your mouth, head, or upper body. Check-in with your tongue, jaw, neck, and shoulders. Purposefully relax each part of your body one at a time, particularly your throat.
The vocal cords won’t work if your surrounding body parts are tense. The muscles in your throat that control the vocal cords should be totally at rest to avoid overwork and fatigue.
Find a mirror and watch yourself. Make sure your body relaxes, and notice how the more relaxed you feel, the easier it is to talk in a Micky Mouse-like voice.
2. Take Deep Breaths
Breathing exercises are crucial to singing and improving your performances because they help you relax, no matter what range of notes you’re singing.
However, you should be especially aware of the tension in your body and the way your mouth moves to sing falsetto. Deep breathing allows the lungs to fully expand, which provides the power you need to reach the highest notes.
Pull air in through your nose, feel your stomach expand, and hold the breath for three counts. Then, slowly release the air through your pursed lips. Practice your high-pitched notes and pay close attention to how your vocal cords feel.
3. The Concert Woooo
Have you ever heard someone cheer at a concert? The “woooo” sound is perfect for practicing falsetto.
Start with yodeling for a few minutes to warm up as you move from chest to head voice, then try mimicking the sound of someone at a concert yelling “woo” in a high pitch at the stage. Keep the body relaxed and open you mouth wider as you increase in pitch. Avoid pushing the sound. Rather, allow the voice to find its path up in pitch.
4. Ghostly Singing
If it helps, you can instead think of the concert woo exercise like a ghost’s noise.
Practice a spooky sounding “oOoOOOooOOO” while moving from low to high notes, back and forth as you use your breath to alter the volume. Keep your shoulders back, neck elongated, and hold your chin in place. Stand in front of a mirror if you need to double-check your posture.
5. Open Wide
Pretend you’re an opera singer for this exercise.
Open your mouth wide as you sing high notes. Don’t worry about properly pronouncing the lyrics you sing in falsetto, but focus on your overall posture and wide-open mouth. It’s more about the sound you create than the words you sing.
So there you have it. Learning this technique is pretty hard, so we suggest you start with the help of a trained professional, either through coaching or online lessons.
It’s difficult to hear your singing voice as you actually sound, which is why many singers opt for the help of a professional voice coach or take singing lessons. Vigorous training lets you know how well you’re doing.
Beginners find these classes offer the learning tools needed to help you sing falsetto correctly, and they often offer helpful regimens or remedies to soothe your throat.
In training, you’ll learn how to:
- Sing comfortably – Avoid stressing or causing harm to the vocal cords by learning how to properly care for your voice.
- Breathe properly – Breathing exercises strengthen your vocal cords, teach you how to control your airflow, and help you avoid sounding hoarse after a performance.
- Use the diaphragm – Breathe and sing using your diaphragm to hold high notes longer and reduce more stress on the vocal cords.
Finally, practice your technique with care. Straining to reach a high note will only hurt your throat. You don’t want to cause irreversible damage, and always be sure to warm-up your voice before singing for a long period too.