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Head voice, Falsetto, and Whistle Register - Explained!

July 23, 2020

Updated on 5/21/24

By Camille van Niekerk

Head voice, falsetto, and whistle register are the three highest-pitched registers of the voice.

The term 'falsetto' refers to a type of vocal phonation that enables you to sing higher notes than the chest voice vocal range.

This range is the highest vocal range before entering your whistle register.

In this online voice lesson we'll unravel what these different upper registers are all about.

What is head voice? 

Head voice is the primary register you use to sing high pitches. To raise pitch, your vocal folds elongate. 

In order to observe how longer, thinner cords produce higher pitches, you can do an experiment with a rubber band.

Pluck the rubber band and continue plucking it as you stretch it out. The pitch produced by the rubber band will become gradually higher!

In head voice, the CT (cricothyroid) muscle pair is dominant. This is the set of muscles that stretch your vocal folds longer.

The difference between head voice vs chest voice is a bit more straightforward.

Chest voice can be easily defined as your speaking voice.

If you want to learn how to sing, check out 30 Day Singer for the best online vocal lessons.

What is the difference between falsetto and head voice?

They are very similar!

The current understanding of falsetto is that it is a more loosely connected form of head voice.

In both head voice vs falsetto, the vocal folds are stretched long and thin.

But in falsetto, the folds remain slightly more open than in head voice.

The resulting sound is light, thin, breathy and airy.

Bonus Tip

Falsetto, head voice and whistle register are a different thing than your vocal range or vocal type.

These registers, including chest voice and mixed voice, are all singing techniques you can use within your vocal range.

Check out a voice ranges chart to see where your range lays.

Do only males have falsetto?

Some singers hold that females have “head voice”, while males have “falsetto” as their main upper register.

As explained above, they’re really the same vocal fold function, but with different levels of compression (cord closure).

If someone asks you to use “falsetto”, they probably mean head voice.

But you can always clarify what kind of sound they’re asking for. 

What vocal exercises to use for falsetto/head voice?


• Decompress the vocal folds with an initial “H” sound

• Keep the sound small and narrow

Head voice

• Encourage head resonance with exercises using MM, NN, and NG

• Use narrow vowels like OO and EE to get into head voice, especially if you tend to pull chest voice

• Be careful to not push extra air at your vocal folds, maintaining a steady, smooth flow of air 

• Because higher pitches often require more space to resonate, consider dropping your jaw and employing some vowel modification in tricky areas of your range (like very high notes or notes around your passaggio)

What is whistle voice?

Whistle voice is the highest vocal register. It has a very bright, thin, edgy sound: like a whistle!

Because the vocal folds are difficult to visualize in whistle voice, there are a few different theories on how whistle is produced.

Some singing coaches say that only a small front portion of the vocal folds vibrate to produce whistle (rather than the full fold, as in chest, mix, and head voice).

Others say that the folds are not vibrating at all: instead, the folds remain still while air “whistles” through the space between them. 

Can everyone “whistle”? 

It’s possible that most singers can “squeak” above their head voice range; but a relatively small number of singers can consistently access their whistle register with clarity, control, and good intonation.

Granted, whistle voice certainly makes an impact on listeners, as fans of Mariah Carey and Ariana Grande will tell you.

But whistle voice is a fun extra - not an essential component.

Even if you can “whistle”, the vast majority of your practice time should be spent exercising your chest, mix, and head registers. 

How can I learn to sing in whistle register?

Try the following steps to learn to utilize your whistle register:

1. Practice inhale phonation by speaking as you inhale (instead of exhaling) 

2. Add vocal fry to the beginning of your inhale phonation 

3. Take it up into your head voice/falsetto register

4. Work on matching pitch within this register

5. Use the above steps, now on an exhale (instead of using inhale phonation)

6. Exercise your whistle register with vocal warmups


Exercising your upper register increases your flexibility and dynamic range in all registers.

If you are looking to increase your vocal range, practice these falsetto and head voice techniques regularly.

Eventually it will become second nature to you.

Understanding and mastering different vocal registers like falsetto, head voice, and whistle register can significantly enhance your singing abilities.

You can master these registers by utilising singing lessons online.

While falsetto is a loosely connected form of head voice, they are different in the level of cord closure used.

Incorporating specific vocal exercises into your practice routine can help you develop control and clarity in these registers.

Remember, while whistle voice adds a unique flair to your singing, focusing on chest, mix, and head registers will provide a solid foundation for vocal flexibility and range.


What does falsetto mean in singing?

Falsetto is a vocal register that allows singers to hit notes higher than their normal range. It has a light, airy sound and is often used to reach those high pitches without straining.

Do females have falsetto?

Yes, females can sing in falsetto too. Although it's more commonly associated with male singers, women can use this technique to reach higher notes.

Why is falsetto not allowed?

Falsetto isn’t really "not allowed," but some traditional singing styles or genres may discourage it in favor of a fuller, more natural vocal tone. It all depends on the style and context of the music.

Is falsetto good or bad?

Falsetto isn’t inherently good or bad; it’s a tool that singers can use to achieve a specific sound. When used well, it can add a beautiful, ethereal quality to a song.

Is singing falsetto cheating?

Not at all! Singing falsetto is just another technique in a singer’s toolbox. It’s no more cheating than using any other vocal technique to achieve the desired sound.

Can falsetto damage your voice?

If done correctly, falsetto shouldn’t damage your voice. However, like any singing technique, if you strain or use poor technique, it could potentially cause harm.

Why is whispering bad for your voice?

Whispering can strain your vocal cords because it forces them to work harder to produce sound without fully engaging. This can lead to vocal fatigue and potential damage over time.

Who was the first singer to have falsetto?

It's hard to pinpoint the very first singer to use falsetto, as it’s a technique that’s been around for centuries in various cultures and musical traditions. Early examples can be found in classical and choral music.

Why is falsetto attractive?

Falsetto can be attractive because it adds a unique, delicate, and often emotional quality to a song. It stands out and can create a beautiful contrast to the singer’s regular voice.

Who is the greatest falsetto singer?

That’s subjective and depends on your musical taste, but many people consider artists like Frankie Valli, Prince, and Justin Timberlake to be among the best. Each brought their own unique style to their falsetto singing.

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