There is still a lot of confusion between falsetto and head voice, and vocal teachers interpreting them differently just because they feel like it doesn’t really help. To the untrained ear, falsetto sounds the same as the head voice, although the truth is that even some singers who have been singing for a couple of years, still can not make the difference. Some singers might actually find that they are actually using their falsetto voice when they thought they were using their head voice.
The difference between falsetto and head voice is the vocal compression as the falsetto voice uses breathy phonation which makes the falsetto voice sound weak and breathy. On the other hand, the head voice uses flow phonation which is obstructing the airflow with your vocal cords, thus producing a richer and clearer sound. Other differences between the two voice types are variations in tone, sound volume, and in the case of the falsetto voice the possibility of developing vocal nodules.
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The main problem is that there is a subtle difference between your falsetto and your head voice, imagine that your falsetto voice is a color like dark green, while your head voice is light green. Some will see the difference while others will only see the color green. The truth is that the difference between falsetto and head voice will be different for each singer, this will make it more or less noticeable by other people.
Some singers who have truly mastered their head or their falsetto voice will have a noticeable difference between the two of them, and even people with the untrained ear will notice it. There are a lot of vocal coaches who favor one voice type for another, and as the falsetto and the head voice is mainly used for singing higher notes, they generally tend to prefer the head voice instead of falsetto. If you want to master your falsetto voice, then I strongly recommend you to read my recent article How to sing falsetto? ( Without straining or cracking ).
I won’t be going in-depth of what head voice and falsetto is, as you probably already know, what I am going to do is to show you what is the difference is between them. Generally, speaking the falsetto voice is a lot breathier, and higher pitched than the head voice, and this is mostly because of vocal compression. When you are using your falsetto voice you allow the air to come out unobstructed, on the other hand when you use your head voice you compress and limit the air that comes out.
This is why the head voice is considered to be somewhat of a richer voice than the falsetto one. While the falsetto voice is almost exclusively producing your highest-pitched voice, the head voice uses the head voice in combination with your mixed voice. When it comes to vocal compression and air control there are 3 main modes to achieve them:
- Breathy phonation: This is when your vocal folds do not compress or otherwise resist the air which is coming out. The breathy phonation is mostly used when you are using your falsetto voice, this is why it actually sounds weak and breathy at the same time. Most singers who have difficulty singing falsetto, is because they simply can not inhale enough air or because they release the air way too fast when singing and this makes their sound like a high pitched squeak.
- Pressed phonation: This is when your vocal folds resist and actively obstruct the airflow, only letting air out incrementally and in a controlled fashion. Generally speaking, the pressed phonation is mainly used when you use your chest voice, this is what makes your sound a lot richer and deeper.
- Flow phonation: this lies somewhere between the two other phonations, and it has a balance between letting out air and obstructing it. Most beginner singers will use this phonation until they start learning how to use their falsetto and their head voice. Generally speaking, the flow phonation is used by many singers when they sing with a combination of their head and chest voices.
Variation in tone
One major difference that you will notice between your falsetto and your head voice is the tone. Generally speaking, the head voice has a lot clearer tone, mostly because the airflow is controlled, on the other hand your falsetto voice often starts with a “hiss” which makes the tome fairly blurred and unclear, and this is also related to the control of air pressure. The truth is that you will need some level of air pressure control if you want to have clear tone.
If you are using your falsetto voice than you have probably already noticed that you can sing a lot louder with your head voice, even if your vocal range is fairly limited. The main reason why you can sing louder with your head voice is that, again.. the air pressure. While you are using your falsetto voice you will not be able to sing as loud as you normally can, because all the air just rushes out, which will make your falsetto voice weak and breathy.
Voice breaks in the falsetto voice are fairly common, as there is nothing to stop or limit the air coming out, you will have to inhale far more often. Every time you inhale, your voice will have a small break and pause, although this break is not only limited to the falsetto voice, but it is definitely a lot more noticeable with the falsetto voice. Some falsetto singers are extremely good at hiding this break and you might not even notice, especially if you are a beginner singer.
It is a well-known fact that singing with the falsetto voice could produce vocal nodules in the long run. These nodules usually appear when a singer has forced their voice too much, the problem is that even if you know how to sing falsetto as safe as possible you are still not guaranteed to not develop vocal nodules. Although I am not a doctor but I have a slight suspicion that the constant unobstructed airflow might also have something to do with the vocal nodules, with all that air sooner or later something has got to give.
Hopefully, I helped you out understanding what is the difference between the two voices. Now it might seem that there are a lot of drawbacks to using your falsetto voice, but hear me out for a second, even with these drawbacks there are plenty of singers who made it and they have one of the most unique voices in our times. So no matter if you are a falsetto singer or not, you should use whichever voice works the best for you.