This article is going to focus on head voice singing for the simple reason that a lot of people get it oh so wrong. You’d be surprised at the number of talented singers who do not know how to sing in head voice. We will attempt to remedy that, but only if you promise to come with us.
Okay, so let’s go…
Singing in chest voice comes naturally to almost every singer and it is easy to get away with. However, when it comes to how to sing in head voice, things could get really awry. The sound is often poor, airy, and weak. And then, in many cases, many singers don’t even get there at all. That is, they don’t achieve that head voice they hoped to achieve.
But the truth is that we all can sing in head voice. How do we know?…
Well, have you ever had to speak in a baby voice? If you have, then you, my dear, have used your head voice before.
When we make little baby noises, we naturally use our head voice. You can try it right now, and then try to feel for the vibration of the sound in your head. You will notice that the sound travels up from your mouth and into your head.
But we are getting ahead of ourselves now, aren’t we? It might be a better idea to start at the beginning.
What Is Head Voice?
To fully understand the head voice, you must understand the types of vocal ranges first. There are three registers in which a person can sing. These registers are the chest voice, the head voice, and the mixed voice.
We will strive to give you an understanding of these registers, and the differences between all of them. Ready?
Chest Voice: Whenever you read, see, think, or hear people say “full voice”, they were actually referring to the chest voice. The chest voice is the most commonly used register and you find it in almost every song you know across different genres.
The chest voice is also our speaking voice. It’s the normal tone we use for everyday conversations and the likes.
Singing in chest voice, you could say, is about the most basic singing technique that there is.
In chest voice, one can sing powerfully easily and cause their voice to vibrate. You’d easily be able to feel your voice resonating too.
Head Voice: In the simplest of terms, the head voice refers to the higher part of your singing voice. It is used when you sing in the upper part of your vocal range and you can hear the sound somewhere in your head. This is, by far, the simplest explanation. It should not be mistaken for falsetto, though. But we will get to that later…
Mixed Voice: This technique gives your voice the effect of falling somewhere between your head and chest voice. It’s like the balance between head and chest voice. But it is neither of the two. Singing mixed voice gives the impression of a big and powerful voice. And, of course, we won’t end this article without teaching how you can sing with it. But we have other business, first.
Now, for the sake of clarity and those that may be asking, let’s run a quick comparison between the head and chest registers.
Head Voice vs Chest Voice
In summary, the major difference between both registers is in their areas of resonance. In head voice, the vibrations are felt more around the upper face. In chest voice, on the other hand, the vibrations are felt much lower, towards the lower neck and sternum.
In the quality of sound to be expected from both registers, the chest voice always sounds deeper, thicker and richer. The head voice, contrarily, sounds lighter and brighter than the chest voice.
As for pitch, of course, you know that the chest voice produces a lower pitch than the head voice. By its very nature, the head voice is used to achieve higher notes, so of course, the pitch is going to be higher on the head voice.
So, we now know what is head voice and chest voice. However, since that’s why we are here, let’s stay a bit longer on the head voice, shall we?
The major reason the register has the name, “head voice”, is because when singing it, most people feel vibrations going on in their skulls. This register is very important, and you’d need it to be able to hit really high notes.
To feel the vibrations, try palming the crown of your head while you sing. The crown of your head is actually the top part of the back of your head. As you progress in pitch, you can feel the increase in vibrations at the back of your neck. And by the time you reach a really high note, you’d be feeling something at the top of your head.
Now, how exactly do we find this head voice that we have heard so much about?...
We will get to that, but before that, let’s sort out a very popular conundrum. We’re pretty sure you’ve faced it before even if you no longer face it now…
Is Head Voice and Falsetto the Same Thing?
No, no no. Head voice and falsetto are very different as night is from day. And we are about to show you how.
In falsetto, the singer sings in a breathy way, thereby producing a sort of hollow and fluty tone. This vocal range is found in the upper registers of singers (both male and female).
The breathy quality of the falsetto sure has its uses. Most times, a falsetto is used to give the effect of something beautiful, otherworldy or young.
And the range has no genre barrier. It is often used in all kinds of music from pop to rock music.
Seeing as we might not get to mention the falsetto again, permit us to spare a few minutes elucidating some facts…
The falsetto is actually really just a breathy phonation produced in the higher registers of your voice.
What is a breathy phonation? – Solid question.
Normally, when you sing with your chest voice, there is some resistance to air flow in your vocal folds. This is a pressed phonation. But with a breathy phonation, you guessed it, there isn’t any resistance. At the end, the breath leaves giving the sound a breathy, “fluty” sound without the strength that comes with the chest voice.
So how does a falsetto happen?
Most times, it occurs when a singer is too strained or pressed in their singing. When this happens, the vocal folds can “cave”, causing the pressed voice to get breathy.
Another way this can happen is this…
If you start out singing breathy from the start, it means that there isn’t even any resistance to air flow in your vocal folds from the beginning. So, guess what happens when you try entering a higher register? Yup, you lose more resistance, and this eventually ends up as a falsetto.
So, now that this is cleared, let’s get to what we said we would get back to… how to find your head voice…
How to Find Head Voice
We hope you enjoy a little exploration now and then because you’d need to explore a bit to find your head voice. We’ll give our top three tips.
Learn to speak in head voice first: Before you begin to sing in your head voice, you might want to learn to speak in it first. One way to do this is to read children stories, aloud, of course.
You could try “The Story of the Three Little Pigs”, “Goldilocks and the Three Bears”, or “Little Red Riding Hood”. If you listen to storytellers read any one of these stories, you must have them use their head voice when depicting the younger characters. You can imitate this when reading such stories.
Yawn sigh drills: This is kinda like an exaggerated, vocalized sigh. What you want to do is to slide from the top of your range down to the very bottom. While sliding, try to observe your voice’s variations. For instance, men might observe a natural break somewhere between their highest note (the falsetto) to the head voice.
Sing in your head voice: Now, we are going to sing in our head voice. In order to get it correctly, you need to get the correct positioning of your mouth.
It begins with a yawn sigh…
Try this exercise right now, if you can. Open your mouth like you want to fake a yawn. And yeah, actually fake a yawn. In doing this, your mouth was definitely wide open and you pushed your tongue down to the bottom of your mouth, right?
Great. That’s how everything in your mouth should be…
The upper part of your mouth is now in a perfect position to be used as an organ. Air will resonate here and thereby cause a deep, clear sound to be produced.
Now, let’s practice…
If you’ve got that fake yawn position perfected, singing won’t be a problem.
Begin by trying some notes (do, re, mi…) and move across scales while progressing in key, either higher or lower. In all, ensure that the position of your mouth doesn’t change.
As you do this, you might not notice that the notes are vibrating in your head… Congratulations, you are now using your head voice!
And if you’re consistent with this, you should have perfected this technique in a few years. We’re just kidding. You can master this in a few months, if you’re consistent.
Like we said, singing in head voice isn’t so difficult but then, a simple thing can always get simpler. And everything is simpler with tips, right?
So, here are some tips to help you nail that head voice singing technique to the “t”
Allow: The first tip you must learn in your singing career, and indeed apply to all areas of singing, is to “allow”.
Don’t try to force anything. Once you do, your vocal chords might just “cave” and then you’ll slip into falsetto. And that’s not what you were hoping to achieve.
Use mind power: You’d need to use the power of your mind here. Just imagine that, as you hit higher notes, your chords are decreasing in size and getting smaller.
If you’ve played the guitar before, you know that fretting the note makes the string smaller and the notes higher. That’s pretty much how your voice works too.
Your chords actually shorten when you sign high notes. If you make it a habit to think that your vocal chords are shortening when you sing higher, then you’ll find yourself slipping into your upper range much more easily.
You’ve learned a lot so far, haven’t you?
We have seen the three vocal ranges.
We have explored the difference between the head voice and chest voice.
We have seen the difference between the head voice and falsetto.
We’ve learned to find our head voice.
And finally, we’ve learned to sing with it.
Nonetheless, it’s one thing to learn to sing with your head voice, but it is a whole new level to be able to sing it like it’s your chest voice… Do we need to tell you that that’s a total game changer for any singer?
But how do you achieve that? Here’s how…
How to Make Head Voice sound like Chest Voice
In other words, you want to know how to sing mixed voice. Your mixed voice is when you combine your head voice and chest voice together. And, yes, there is a technique for that like for everything else.
Mixed voice makes your voice sound powerful and big. No wonder everyone wants to learn to sing in mixed voice.
However, the first step to singing mixed voice is to know how to sing in chest and head voice individually without thinking. So, you must have perfected your chest and head voice first before attempting to try a mixed register.
When you first attempt mixed voice singing, you should notice that there isn’t an automatic connect between your head and chest voice. There’s always that break in between the chest and head voice. However, individuals who have been able to develop a mixed register do not have this problem as their vocal chords have learned to “zip up”.
Now, How do You “Zip Up” Your Own Vocal Chords?
Firstly, you want to practice singing at both extremes of your range, by using scale exercises.
As you do this, note the notes you sing with your head and chest and then try to locate your vocal bridge.
What Is Your Vocal Bridge?
It is that point at which the notes are difficult for you to sing in a relaxed position either from your chest or head.
Now that you’ve located your vocal bridge, try several vocal activities within this bridge. In other words, try singing those notes that form your vocal bridge in all the vowel sounds.
Next, try to vocalize those sounds in your vocal bridge that caused a resonance. And then locate your middle voice.
You can do this by singing those notes, focusing more on your face as you puff your chest out. Then try to place the higher notes from your head voice lower to your mouth. This should help you achieve good resonance.
Then, finally, integrate in full melody, and you’re good!
Of course, we don’t mean that henceforth, you would begin to sing mixed voice flawlessly. But like we say, consistency is key. Keep at it and soon it will become second nature, we promise.
Wow! It’s really been a fun ride understanding the head voice and how to sing with it. We are super excited to have been a part of your head voice singing success. But don’t forget, the key is to practice and soon, you’d be a master.
Till then, you just keep practicing! Cheers!