As a singer you often hear terms like head voice, chest voice, and mixed voice and falsetto thrown around.
And it is important to understand these terms and what they mean.
It’s also important to not complicate these concepts, as that will often lead to developing bad techniques and habits.
Which is why in this tutorial I'll show you the easiest way to understand what your head voice is. As well as how it best fits into your voice.
So we'll cover:
To get a solid understanding of how to use your head voice, watch this video or read on below.
The definition of head voice varies widely depending which vocal coach you are listening to. As you’ve seen in the video, I like to think about head voice as when you’re singing in your upper range, and you’re hearing the sound high in your head.
You will also feel the vibration sensations more in your head as opposed to in your chest.
Now there are other ways coaches look at this, but this explanation is the easiest one to understand, and the easiest one to use.
My preferred method as a voice teacher is to keep things very simple and easy to understand.
However if you would like to understand head voice from a technical view, here are the most important points.
Now we'll get to some exercises in a moment, but first let me clear up a common area of confusion.
It can be easy to get confused about head voice and falsetto, because they can sound quite similar.
Here’s the difference.
When you’re singing in your head singing voice, your vocal chords are joined together. In other words you are “connected”. When you’re singing with your vocal chords holding together like this there is more depth and power in your sound.
On the other hand, in falsetto your vocal folds have come apart slightly.
This means your sound will have an “airy” quality to it.
Now falsetto can be useful when you use it to inject style into your singing, but for the most part it’s better (and healthier) to sing in your head register.
To learn more about singing in falsetto, check out this tutorial.
A female singer will usually be more comfortable at first singing in head voice (and falsetto for that matter) as opposed to a male singer. However both male singers and female singers are able to develop very good tone in the higher notes of their vocal range.
In my time as a vocal coach I've seen both male and female singers struggle with their higher notes in the beginning and over time develop the ability to hit higher pitches with ease.
Want to hear one of the most powerful words when it comes to singing?
Here it is…
It's important to never push or strain to get any note in your range, especially your higher notes.
Instead, when you’re singing up into your range, try to “allow” your sound to move into your head.
As soon as you start pushing, it’s very likely your vocal cords will come apart and you’ll move into falsetto.
Another little secret you can use is to “think” that your vocal cords are getting smaller as you sing higher.
On a guitar, when you fret the note the string gets smaller you get a higher note.
It’s the same with your voice. Your vocal chords will naturally shorten as you sing a higher note. And a way to make this a habit is to just “think” that your chords are getting smaller as you sing higher.
Almost magically you’ll find yourself getting into your upper range much easier!
Have you ever wondered the difference between head voice and mixed voice? (NOTE: Mixed voice is sometimes referred to as middle voice too)
These are two different tonal qualities your voice can produce. And they are both very valuable to have as a singer!
Your mixed or middle voice can go quite high in your range. And it has that really powerful, full sounding quality to it.
If you're singing rock or pop, your mixed voice is perfect!
On the other hand, your head voice can go a little higher, but isn't quite as powerful. Compared to mixed voice, your head voice has a sweeter, rounder sound.
Let's look at how you can use both of these voice registers, or qualities...
We'll start with head voice.
As discussed earlier, your head voice is the vocal register up the top of your vocal range.
If you make a high pitched, "Oooooo" vowel sound like an Owl, you will be using your head voice. Try this and notice how it feels like the sound vibrates in your head.
Sometimes head voice in singing can be mistaken for Falsetto, which is understandable because they do sound similar.
As I mentioned earlier, the difference is that in your head voice your vocal chords are still connected, whereas in falsetto your chords or vocal folds have come slightly apart.
Want to know how to find head voice?
Let's do an exercise. This is a simple trill that will allow you to experience your head tone.
Let's do some arpeggios with the trill, going up a semitone each time. You can follow along with me in the video at 1:11. (Press play on the video below to watch and listen to the exercise)
And here's an audio file so you can practice along.
A big key to finding your head voice is to never push your voice as you get higher.
Instead, try to "let go" and release into the higher notes.
If you are straining to get to your higher notes, you're basically forcing your chest voice upwards. This means there's no head voice coming through.
But if you "let go" before the higher notes, and the head voice starts to come in.
Another tip to help you to "let go" into the higher notes is to think to yourself that you're singing down into the notes.
The thinking down will help prevent you from pushing up.
"Let go", and think to yourself that you're “singing down.”
Once you get this, you'll find that you'll be able to find your head voice and get that sweet, round tone quality on your higher notes.
Now let's look at our Mixed voice and how you can discover fuller sound on your higher notes.
Everyone wants that mixed voice. It makes sense, because all popular music is sung pretty much in that mixed voice.
What does “mixed voice” mean, exactly?
A mixed voice means that you're combining your natural voice—which we think of more as your chest voice, which is your speaking voice — and your head voice, which is higher in your range.
The result is a well balanced, stronger sounding tonality that can go high into your range. So if you want to know how to strengthen head voice, developing your mixed voice is the answer.
The beauty of mixed voice is you can get high notes that sound like they are being sung in chest voice. To check out a step-by-step tutorial for singing high notes with this "chest like" quality, click here.
How do we bring the head voice and chest voice together, to find that mixed voice? It is all about vocal posture.
If you don't move your larynx around too much, then your vocal cords will have the freedom and control to be able to adjust to bring the head voice and chest voice together.
The best way to think about it is you are bringing the head voice down and the chest voice up.
Let's check out an exercise that will help you develop this middle register.
Let's do an exercise to help you find your mixed voice.
We’ll use a long “A” sound. I’m going to start off on A, and go up by semitones. You can follow along at 1:40. (Press play on the video below)
When you get to the top of the scale, remember not to push.
Instead try to gently bring your head voice down.
Also, remember to mentally "let go" of that highest note.
Just mentally picturing yourself "letting go" as you go higher is enough to direct your body to physically let go. It sounds strange, but it works!
Doing this will help you to avoid building up any tension or pressure around your vocal folds. So your larynx stays in place.
To be the best singer you can be, it's good to have the ability to get into either your head voice or your mixed voice depending on the situation.
For a pop or rock or more modern sound you'll often want to sing with a mixed voice, so you get the sweetness of your voice as well as the power from your chest voice.
For something a little gentler though, your head voice might be just the ticket!
So practice both exercises on on this page and experiment with both parts of your voice. Before you know it you'll be able to smoothly switch from head voice to mixed voice, and vice versa.
Here's another demonstration of how you can blend your vocal registers together to get a perfectly balanced tone.
As I discussed in the video within your singing voice you have three different qualities you can sing in.
Your chest voice which you hear more of in your lower range. Your mixed voice which is where you are blending both your chest voice and your head voice together. And then your head voice which you will hear more of at the top of your range.
I also talked about how what you want to be doing is having a mixture of these qualities throughout your range. This is what is going to give you a really balanced sound.
So when you're singing in your lower range, in your chest voice you can still bring a little head voice into it to give your voice an extra sweetness to it.
And when you sing in your upper range you can bring a little chest voice quality to give you more power.
In the video above I demonstrated how you can start to "bring in" head resonance into your sound. And when you watch you will hear how as I do it, it brings some lovely sweetness into the tone.
One of the easiest ways to begin to do this, is when you go up for your higher notes, just "think" to your self that you're pulling your head voice down into the note.
It's something that you don't need to force and once you practice it a bit it gets a lot easier.
The vocal technique of mixing the different registers will lead to your voice sounding more balanced and professional sounding. Having a command of your chest voice, middle voice, head voice and falsetto also gives you maximum flexibility.
Of course while important, your head vocal register is just one component of your voice!
In fact, when things are working well you won’t even be thinking about singing in mixed voice or head voice. It will just happen automatically.
So I hope this tutorial has helped you develop a strong head voice!
The next step to improve your singing technique is to take this free video series, which will lead your through all the most important voice lessons and exercises.
A few weeks practicing with these singing tips and you’ll have a brand new voice!