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Last Updated: November 2022 | Article Details: 1994 words (11 – 13 minute read)
Are you trying to sing with the breathy smoothness you hear from singers who know use falsetto flawlessly?
In this post, we’re going to uncover exactly what falsetto is and give you tips on using it for effect to take your singing to another level and dimension.
The first thing you need to know is that not all falsetto is desirable or wanted.
Sometimes it happens as a result of not being able to hit notes – which leads to a breathy voice, sure… but it’s one that’s cracked, strained and without any singing power.
That’s not we want.
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When we’re talking about singing in falsetto, we’re talking about the full, breathy and sultry tone that comes from good control of your breath and vocal folds/cords.
Falsetto should not be an unexpected outcome, but a sought after effect.
So let’s start by understanding exactly how falsetto works.
What is It?
Falsetto is basically a mode of singing that is similar to head voice. But they are not the same thing (sometimes “falsetto” and “head voice” wrongly get used interchangeably).
Vocal Registers Explained
Head voice is one of two vocal registers (area of the sound producing mechanisms in your body). It refers to singing the range of notes at the “top” of your voice. It results from using THINNER vocal folds when you sing.
The other is known as chest voice – the range of notes at the bottom of your voice. This sound is produced when you use your THICKER vocal cords.
Great, so what’s falsetto?
Think of falsetto as the “breathy version” of singing the high notes in your voice’s upper register (i.e. head voice). It produces a sultry, “flutey” and hollow sound with lots of air/breath surrounding it.
In contrast, singing purely in your head voice will produce a much fuller and resonant sound of those same notes.
Since falsetto quite literally means “false voice,” people think only male singers use it. But even female singers can use it.
Good vs. Bad
Some of your favorite singers will use falsetto for dramatic and emotional impact – effect – in a song.
It can be a really useful tool.
But not all falsetto is good. Sometimes it’s the result of your voice cracking and breaking when you’re trying to hit high notes. It becomes breathy and loses power because the singer is straining or using too much pressure. The vocal cords just “give up.”
That’s not good.
You should not automatically go into falsetto to hit high notes just because you’re not able to find your proper head voice to hit those notes.
In order to sing it properly in the false, breathy style, you need to be able to hit those high notes in your regular head voice.
You can then use the breathy quality for a great effect.
Of course, the very tip-top notes in your vocal range may require a falsetto voice, but generally it should be a stylistic choice whether it’s for sung harmonies or a lead vocal.
Finding Your Falsetto
Unsure how to go into falsetto? Here’s a couple tips on where it sits in your vocal register.
- Start experimenting with high pitched voices (try to hit the highest pitch you possibly can)
- Use a “little boy” voice (pretend you’re 4 years old and just talk)
- Try imitating a woman like Marilyn Monroe’s voice (google her singing “Happy Birthday Mr. President”).
Use the “eee” or “ooo” sound when trying to practice.
You’re probably not able to produce a lot of sound when that high. That’s ok. It will be low in volume and power – especially when you’re first starting out. Over time you can work on strengthening your singing voice.
To notice the difference between how it feels to be in falsetto or head voice do the following:
- Use the “eee” or “ooo” sound
- Do vocal siren-style sounds (like a police/ambulance siren)
- Start low and swing to your highest pitch.
- Start at your highest pitch and swing lower.
Your vocal register should change as you go from low-high/high-low.
— Related Content: Better Singing Techniques for Low Notes —
Tips for Getting Better
In this section, we’ll give you some tips on how to use falsetto properly when you’re singing.
You’ll notice that some of the falsetto tips below apply to being able to do a lot of the different “singing techniques” aspiring singers wonder about.
As always, before you do any singing warm up your voice properly, first.
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IMPORTANT: Don’t Ruin Your Voice
This first tip is crucial, and you must remember it always.
DO NOT RUIN YOUR VOICE – it is possible if you do things incorrectly.
Hitting high notes in itself doesn’t damage your voice, but if you use improper technique or strain too much (causing lots of tension), you can do a lot of damage!
That’s why we HIGHLY RECOMMEND taking professional online vocal training. They have proper exercises and instructions, that will help ensure you don’t cause lasting damage to your valuable voice. Read our review of 30 Day Singer to see why it’s one of our favorite sets of singing lessons.
If you’re tense or using too much pressure and straining to do something, it will not work. You need to fully relax yourself and start from a position of calm.
Before you start practicing or singing, just take a few really deep breaths with your eyes closed. Stand up straight – DON’T SLOUCH or lean too far back.
Then consciously and purposefully relax every muscle in your head and upper body, one-by-one:
- your arms, neck and shoulders
- your tongue, jaw and throat muscles
- your stomach and diaphragm
If you know anything about singing, you know that breath control and breathing technique is absolutely crucial to everything including a good falsetto.
The only reason you can make sound with your voice is because air in your lungs vibrates and resonates when met with different types of resistance from your vocal cords/folds.
So if you can inhale and control a lot of air, you will be able to use it more effectively to produce the particular sound you want.
So keep practicing and mastering your diaphragm breathing for singing falsetto better.
Master Your Vocal Cord Movements
The way your vocal cords produce different sounds is through a group of muscles that either shorten or stretch the folds.
When they are shortened they are “thicker,” and when stretched they become “thinner.”
Think of a guitar, the thinner strings produce the highest pitches, while the thicker ones hit the low notes. And the more you “stretch” a string, the higher the pitch you’re able to create.
The best way to master these movements is to pay close attention (be conscious/mindful) when:
- practicing vocal exercises daily (get our free set of vocal exercises and practice plan below!)
- practicing breathing exercises daily
- keep your vocal cords and throat well hydrated at all times
Just sit and pay attention to the inner mechanics of your throat, chest and diaphragm as you sing low notes, mid-range notes and high notes.
That’ll give you a better understanding of how everything works, and how you can control it all for your benefit (like easily slipping in and out of your falsetto voice).
How to Practice Falsetto
Here’s a couple tips on how you can practice your falsetto voice at home so you’re ready when you need to be.
First, follow all the tips above to really get ready and relax and be in the right state to sing.
- use deep breaths of air from your diaphragm
- stay relaxed, not tense
- when in falsetto, the sound should be breathy; when in head voice the sound is resonant/stronger
- It may be easier to use a “woo” sound when practicing
Practice singing a couple of the higher notes in your vocal range.
Did you go straight into a falsetto voice? Stop.
Take the first note/pitch in your range that made you switch to falsetto. Focus on that note.
Try singing it in your normal head voice – without going all “mickey mouse.”
It might be difficult at first, and you don’t want to strain yourself or use too much pressure/tension to try and hit it.
Go slow. And don’t strain yourself. If you feel pain/discomfort, stop and relax.
Next, go to the note right before that note (the one where you don’t have to sing it in falsetto to hit it correctly).
Sing it in your normal head voice. Then GO MICKEY MOUSE on that particular note. Sing it in falsetto, even though you don’t have to.
That’ll give you an understanding of how your falsetto should feel and sound when used correctly.
Stay on this note and practice it.
You’ll know you’re in falsetto if you feel a sort of “muscle relief” and a resonance in the sinus are in front of your face
After that you can move up/down your range, doing the same thing…
When you automatically go to your false voice because you can’t find your head voice on that note, practice finding it.
And likewise, when you don’t need to go into falsetto for a note, do it consciously and purposely.
Now obviously, this all has to do with the upper portion of notes in your vocal range. And it has to do with your head voice. You don’t need to do this for lower notes/pitches in your range.
You’ll know you’ve dropped out of falsetto and back into chest voice if you start to feel vibrations in your chest.
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Mastering Your Falsetto
So now that you know how everything works, and how to utilize it properly you just need to practice.
Here are some tips on how to master this voice type.
- Open up your head (essentially relax your facial muscles and “open up” your face)
- Don’t worry about vibrato for now, master the technique first
- Master your breathing – it’s the only way to sing this way with power
- Keep your larynx low when singing (don’t let it move up when you sing)
Study The Greats
There are a few professional singers that use falsetto like true masters.
The best way to get better at your use of falsetto singing is to really study these singers. Pay attention to their voice, tone, articulation and expression.
- Michael Jackson
- Justin Timberlake
- The Weeknd
Try to copy them, then find your own unique and personal style.
The only way to really get better at anything, including falsetto, is to practice every single day. Consistency breeds proficiency.
Lucky for you we have a FREE set of singing exercises and a complete practice plan to help you get better at singing… 🙂
Frequently Asked Questions
No they are different voices – falsetto is literally your “false voice,” meaning its not a part of your natural voice. Head voice is a part of your natural voice, just like chest voice.
Yes, everyone has the ability to perform in falsetto voice. If you’re having trouble it could just be that you need some additional training and practice to do it right.
Although falsetto is a pretty high pitched voice, there is something that is even higher pitched that only some singers are able to pull off. It’s called the “whistle” register. Think of the highest highs that Mariah Carey is able to reach, and you’ll have an idea of what whistle sounds like.
And that’s that fam – how to sing falsetto properly. Make sure you grab the practice plan and singing exercises above.
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