If you sing at all, you’ve likely heard the term “head voice” and wondered what it actually refers to.
Is it breathy and light? Is it powerful and operatic? Can only women sing in head voice?
Defining head voice
Also known as your upper register, “head voice” refers to a singer’s top range of notes that often feel lighter and perhaps even breathier than your regular speaking voice.
Where does this term come from?
Hundreds of years ago, before science allowed us to look into the larynx, people categorized the voice based on what it felt like to the singer. They found that for most people, when singing above a certain pitch, the voice was perceived as being placed somewhere in the head. This is how we got the term “head voice.”
While there may be other more anatomically accurate terms for this upper register of high notes, the term “head voice” is still useful for us as singers because it speaks to our experience of what it feels like to sing in that part of our voice.
Head voice also has a little brother called “falsetto” that may feel similar to it.
What does it sound like?
Head voice is a true chameleon. Whereas in most beginning singers it has a weak and often breathy sound, it can be built into a soaring classical soprano sound, or within the thrilling high notes of a tenor, or up to the piercing top notes of a rock or R&B singer.
Check out these examples of three vastly different singers, all using their head voice to great effect:
- “Sugar” by Maroon 5, lead singer Adam Levine
- “Nobody Love” by Tori Kelly
- “Almost Real” by Kelli O’Hara
How do I find it?
Try to find head voice for yourself now. Inflect up in your voice as high as you can on a “WHOO” sound, as if you were cheering at a concert or a football game.
Do you feel the vibrations in your head? If you don’t, that’s totally fine!
But it’s likely you’ll feel a sensation quite different from your speaking voice.