Head Voice vs. Chest Voice: What’s The Difference? [EXPLAINED]

(Last Updated On: December 26, 2022)
Head Voice vs. Chest Voice

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The human voice has four distinct vocal registers, each with its own timbre, vibratory pattern, and pitch range.

The chest voice (or natural voice), head voice (which includes men’s falsetto), vocal fry (the lowest register of your voice), and whistle (flute or flageolet) register which is the highest register of your voice (think of Mariah Carey and her crazy whistle notes.) However, the last two vocal registers are frequently considered extensions of the head and chest registers rather than separate registers.

All four vocal registers originate in the larynx, which houses your vocal cords (or folds) and generates sound, regardless of what the vocal register is called or how it is described.

However, today we will only discuss the chest and the head voice, so let’s go over these two vocal registers and see how they differ.

What is Chest Voice?

Simply put, your chest (natural or modal) voice is your speaking voice. You sing in the same range as you speak, using your natural low and middle notes. When utilizing your chest voice, your vocal folds vibrate along their entire length, creating a fuller and deeper sound than when you use your head voice.

The term “chest voice” refers to the vibrational sensation you feel when you place your hand on your chest while singing in your chest voice. The term “chest” doesn’t imply that the voice originates from the chest, as both the chest and head voices come from the larynx.

What is Head Voice?

Your head voice is used when you’re singing higher notes and using your upper range. As opposed to your chest voice, which is produced by your thick vocal cords, your head voice is a result of thin vocal chords.

The term “head voice” refers to the fact that when you sing in that vocal register, you do not experience the same vibrations as when you sing using your chest voice. Instead, you feel some pressure behind your eyes and between your ears.

It’s also important to note that the terms “head voice” and “falsetto” are not interchangeable. Falsetto has a lighter, airier quality than head voice because it has a more relaxed, looser closure of the vocal cords than head voice, which results in a breathier quality.

Tips on how to transition from the chest voice to the head voice

chest voice to the head voice

You can always connect your chest voice to your head voice, but you want that transition to be seamless and smooth, which is where things become a little more challenging. This transition or passaggio generally happens around E4-F#4 above middle C4 for men and Ab4-Bb4 for women.

In order to achieve that seamless transition and maintain a consistent mixed voice, it is crucial to practice and exercise your voice to achieve the results you’re looking for.

Here are some tips and exercises to help you easily connect those two registers.

Vocal Slides

You can warm up your entire vocal range by performing exercises like the “siren,” which will eventually prevent your voice from breaking when you switch from your chest to your head voice.

Select a vowel like “E” as your starting point, take a deep breath, and then slowly begin singing from the bottom of your range all the way up to the top, then back down to the bottom. You will notice that the higher you go, the more you have to open up. Use another vowel, such as “A,” and repeat the process by singing it and sliding from the bottom to the top of your vocal range and vice versa.

Continue performing this exercise until you notice no more vocal cracks or squeaks as you transition to your head voice and that the transition is happening smoothly.

Singing Scales

Every musician should be familiar with a few main scale types and forms in music. These include major, minor, chromatic, pentatonic, and whole-tone scales. Major scales are usually the first type introduced to singers and musicians. It consists of a series of whole and half steps with the pattern WWHWWWH. (W = whole step. H = half step.) Any scale you play on your keyboard using this pattern will be a major scale.

To start practicing, start with a C4 on the piano, then begin singing along as you slowly slide up using the WWHWWWH pattern until you reach C5, then gradually sing back down to C4 using the same pattern.

Continue doing this exercise until it sounds perfect and free of vocal cracks.

Once you feel comfortable tackling more difficult scale exercises, move on to a scale exercise with larger note jumps over a wider range of intervals. So, for instance, if you’re singing a C major scale, skip two or three semitones rather than singing the entire scale, making this exercise a little trickier.

Feel free to use other scales and patterns to practice and improve your pitch.

The most crucial step is to record yourself singing and then play it back because you’ll hear mistakes you weren’t aware you were making while recording.

Maintain your Support

Maintain your Support

Instead of changing or dropping your support as you transition from chest to head voice, you must move through it. This is the area of your body that needs the most of it as you get closer to your head voice. And your transition from chest to head voice will be smooth if you have enough support. As you rise to your head voice, focus on your body and increase your support as you perform the exercises we mentioned earlier, and make sure not to change or drop your support to achieve that seamless transition.

You can always experiment with nasal sounds, using your lower larynx if necessary, using sustains with vibrato, and always remember to take a deep breath and relax.

Check our guide on How To Train Your Voice To Sing.

FAQ

Is your chest voice your real voice?

Yes. Your chest voice is your speaking voice. It consists of the low and middle notes, which are the same notes you use when speaking.

Do opera singers use head voice or chest voice?

Opera songs, also known as arias, typically have a very wide range of notes throughout the entire song, ranging from very low to very high. Opera singers must therefore learn to master their mixed voice (which is a mix of both head and chest voices and where these two vocal registers meet), in addition to their head and chest voices. Every opera singer must be capable of expanding their vocal range and mastering all three of these vocal registers to give an outstanding and flawless performance.

Can you mix chest and head voice?

The combination of chest and head voice is referred to as "mixed voice." To be more specific, “mixed voice” is the voice you use to bridge the gap between chest and head voice. You'll know you've mastered your "mixed voice" when you can seamlessly switch between your chest and head voice.

Does the head voice require more air?

No. as you sing higher, the vocal cords widen and tighten and need less air to move as there is a reduction in overall mass or thickness. Using too much air as you sing higher will tear up your vocal cords, resulting in a tone break. You must reduce airflow to eliminate tension, which makes it easier to go into your head voice. You can always lower the volume to reduce the amount of air you send to your vocal cords and help you sing higher.

Head voice Vs. Chest Voice – Final Verdict

Your chest voice is your real voice, the voice you use every day to communicate with your friends and family. This refers to all the notes you use before you reach your vocal break or passaggio. It is warm, deep, and low and which allows for belting and powerful singing.

Your head voice refers to all the notes you use above your vocal break. It is soft and light and requires you to expand your vocal range. In addition, the head voice is more challenging to develop and perfect than the chest voice.

You can always work on your chest and head voice, but it will only be perfect if you develop a flawless mixed voice that makes the transition from the chest to the head voice seamless and smooth. It is then, and only then, you will be able to say that you’ve perfected your vocal training and achieved excellent results.

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