It takes all types to make the world go around... There are plenty of different reasons people decide to sing. For many years, singing has been a noble pursuit, appreciated by both the social elite and the working classes. It exists in almost every language, too!
Even today, whether it be in live performances, reality TV, or just a busker on the tube, singing still remains fashionable.
In terms of learning to sing, there’s something for every singing voice. Whether you decide to scientifically learn music theory and how to read sheet music in a music school or join a group or choir, you’re free to express your creativity when you sing.
With the exception of prodigies like Michael Jackson, you’ll need to work on getting to grips with certain vocal techniques and how to use your voice, develop your own style, and learn how to sing in public.
If hitting those high notes seems impossible, don’t worry! We’ve put together a little guide and some singing tips for those who’ve set themselves the goal of expanding their vocal range.
What Is a Head Voice?
Definition of the Head Voice
There are a number of different definitions explaining this special use of your voice.
We tend to understand the head voice as a particular way of singing:
Children in choirs before adolescence kicks in and their voice breaks.
The types of vocal effect you’ll hear when people yodel.
The beautiful singing of certain African tribes.
However, none of these are the notion that we’re interested in. We’re interested in male singers that try to sing with a high pitch.
While this is sometimes wrongly thought of as singing like a girl, the male head voice uses the same range of notes as the female contralto and mezzo-soprano ranges and is referred to as the countertenor range for men.
Examples of the Head Voice
This type of singing was very popular in the 1970s and 80s with groups like the Bee Gees and more recently with artists like Mika. It’s also common in modern rock with groups like Muse.
When it comes to opera singers, the Rossinian singer Juan Diego Flórez is a fine example. He has an amazing ability to hit those high notes. He manages to do this with a different timbre to the other examples we just mentioned and he can sing powerfully while hitting these notes.
The Different Ways of Singing with the Head Voice
Since there are so many different understandings of head voices, there are certainly going to be some music professors that won't be happy with what we say here.
Nevertheless, let’s have a look at the three different types of head voices:
A powerful version that hasn’t been worked on and leaves a lot to be desired. You could say “dirty”. Muse’s Matt Bellamy would be a good example.
A version that’s less powerful than the previous but is more refined and “cleaner”. U2’s Bono is a good example of this.
The “baroque” version that has been perfectly refined and sounds beautiful to the ear.
Singing with the Head Voice in Three Steps
Singing with your head voice requires some effort as well as some work on your vocal cords and posture. Here are three main ways to start:
1. Warm Up Your Voice
First of all, it’s essential that before you do any vocal training, you warm up your throat. Just like athletes, a singer should always be warmed up before they perform.
Do enough to prepare yourself (around 3/4 of an hour) and not so much that your warm up exercises tire you out! Your singing teacher can help you with your vocal warm ups.
2. Work On Your Posture
You might often see popular singers raising and lowering their head as they attempt to hit high and low notes. However, this should be avoided at all costs! Raising and lowering your head is a gimmick!
In fact, the change in position comes with added tension on the muscles supporting the neck, the cervical vertebrae, and the larynx (the sternocleidomastoid muscle, the anterior and posterior scalene muscles, and the omohyoid muscle) and diverts the head voice by stretching the vocal cords more than you need to.
To sing well with the head voice, you need to:
Have a good posture while standing up with your shoulders lowered, your head facing directly ahead, your knees slightly bent, and your pelvis aligned with your shoulders.
Breathe in using your diaphragm with your stomach slightly pushed out.
Keep your larynx in the lowest natural position possible. In other words, don’t pull back your jaw. This allows you to safely optimise your vocal cords and extend the upper range of your voice.
Start singing with a note that isn’t too high and slowly tap your plexus as you attempt to reach a higher note.
3. Work On Your Chest Voice
To work quickly on your head voice, it’s recommended that you follow singers like Sting. You need to go as high as you can without resorting to using your head voice. The more you practise, the easier this will become. You’ll be able to reach higher and higher notes with your chest voice.
You should also learn how to do vibrato.
How Can You Go from Your “Chest Voice” to Your “Head Voice” without a Hitch?
What is a mixed voice? While we've been talking about chest voice and head voice, there is another voice that we haven't mentioned yet.
While "there is another voice" sounds like the cheesy tag-line for an American suspense series, the larynx can technically only vibrate in two natural ways in order to produce sound from the vocal cords:
The mixed voice is therefore a false register produced by the “light mechanism” which includes the larynx. According to science, the mixed voice doesn’t exist and is instead an illusion created by the ear and the larynx, a vocal trick created by passing from one register to another without breaking.
This vocal technique, once mastered, allows singers to climb up to the higher notes while including the maximum number of lower notes. A mixed voice can be made in a number of different ways.
A chest voice that reaches the higher notes with a light and fine sound that is progressively replaced by the head voice.
A head voice that can descend towards the lower notes with a heavier sound that will be replaced progressively by the chest voice.
What Is the Mixed Voice For?
Modifying the voice’s resonance in such a way allows the singer to compensate for the limits of their chest voice. In fact, by trying to sing as high as possible, the voice can become inaudible and uncomfortable for the singer to produce.
Thus, rather than suddenly changing register and “yodelling”, by going from the chest voice to the head voice, you can subtly change the timbre and the power.
By doing this, it’s more comfortable for the larynx and you’ll end up singing in a way that sounds nicer.
Can You Take Private Voice Lessons to Improve Your Head Voice?
Just like every human being is different, every voice is different. It’s essential that you start developing your voice in the simplest way possible.
In order to do this, you should look for singing lessons. You can do this either online singing lessons via Skype or by getting a vocal coach to come to your house. These lessons are easy to find, can be quite affordable, and allow the student to learn quickly, improve their vocal technique, and work on their performances and their repertoire.
Given that most of your voice comes from hidden organs that you need to discover, singing lessons are a really good way for absolute beginners, intermediate, and advanced singers to improve their singing with professional help.
You can look for a professional voice coach with a music degree, an experienced private singing tutor, or a retired voice teacher, there are plenty of different ways for aspiring singers to learn and there are options that can suit any budget.
You can learn more about the physical mechanisms that make up your voice such as the muscles, the tongue, the hard and soft palate, the pharynx, the uvula in order to become a better singer. There are plenty of tutors on Superprof, of course, that are happy to tailor their lessons for your learning style and will work with your strengths and weaknesses to get the most out of every hour that you spend together.
You should also learn more about working on the lower range of your voice.
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