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Encyclopedia > Falsetto

Falsetto (Italian diminutive of falso, false) is a singing technique that produces sounds that are pitched higher than the singer's normal range, in the treble range.[1] The term is also used to describe a slightly artificially-raised sounding pitch that often occurs momentarily, if repeatedly, in boys during puberty as their voice changes. Harry Belafonte singing, photograph by C. van Vechten Singing is the act of producing musical sounds with the voice, which is often contrasted with speech. ... Pitch is the perceived fundamental frequency of a sound. ... For other uses, see Singer (disambiguation). ... Puberty refers to the process of physical changes by which a childs body becomes an adult body capable of reproduction. ...


Technical description

During normal speech or singing, the vocal folds (when viewed with a stroboscope) are seen to contact with each other completely during each vibration, closing the gap between them fully, if just for a very short time. This closure cuts off the escaping air. When the air pressure in the trachea rises as a result of this closure, the folds are blown apart, while the vocal processes of the arytenoid cartilages remain in apposition. This creates an oval shaped gap between the folds and some air escapes, lowering the pressure inside the trachea. Rhythmic repetition of this movement, a certain number of times a second, creates a pitched note. This is how the chest voice is created.[1] // Bold textItalic text The vocal folds, also known popularly as vocal cords, are composed of twin infoldings of mucous membrane stretched horizontally across the larynx. ... Look up trachea in Wiktionary, the free dictionary. ... The arytenoid cartilages are a pair of small pyramid-shaped cartilages, at the upper rear of the larynx, to which the vocal cords are attached. ... Apposition is a figure of speech, in which two elements are placed side by side, with the second element serving to define or modify the first (ex: My wife, a nurse by training. ...

Vocal fold, scheme
Vocal fold, scheme
Glottal cycle, falsetto

In falsetto, the vocal folds are seen to be blown apart and in untrained falsetto singers a permanent oval orifice is left in the middle between the edges of the two folds through which a certain volume of air escapes continuously as long as the register is engaged (the singer is singing using the voice). In skilled countertenors, however, the mucous membrane of the vocal folds contact with each other completely during each vibration cycle. The arytenoid cartilages are held in firm apposition in this voice register also. The length or size of the oval orifice or separation between the folds can vary, but it is known to get bigger in size as the pressure of air pushed out is increased. [1] Image File history File links No higher resolution available. ... Image File history File links No higher resolution available. ... Image File history File links No higher resolution available. ... Image File history File links No higher resolution available. ... In music, a register is the relative height or range of a note, set of pitches or pitch classes, melody, part, instrument or group of instruments. ... A Countertenor is an adult male singer who uses the falsetto part of his voice more than usual to sing a higher range than the typical adult male voice. ...

The folds are made up of elastic and fatty tissue. The folds are covered on the surface by laryngeal mucous membrane which is supported deeper down underneath by the innermost fibres of the thyro-arytenoid muscle. In falsetto the extreme membranous edges, i.e. the edges furthest away from the middle of the gap between the folds, appear to be the only parts vibrating. The mass corresponding to the innermost part of the thyro-arytenoid musscle remains still and motionless.[1] The larynx (plural larynges), colloquially known as the voicebox, is an organ in the neck of mammals involved in protection of the trachea and sound production. ... The mucous membranes (or mucosae; singular: mucosa) are linings of mostly endodermal origin, covered in epithelium, and are involved in absorption and secretion. ... The Thyroarytenoid is a broad, thin, muscle which lies parallel with and lateral to the vocal fold, and supports the wall of the ventricle and its appendix. ...

Some singers feel a sense of muscular relief when they change from chest voice to falsetto.[1]


Use of falsetto voice in western music is very old. Its origins are difficult to trace because of ambiguities in terminology. In a book by GB Mancini, called Pensieri e riflessioni written in 1774, falsetto is equated with 'voce di testa' (translated as 'head voice'). Possibly when 13th century writers distinguished between chest, throat and head registers (pectoris, guttoris, capitis) they meant capitis to refer to what would be later called falsetto.[1] Chesma Column in Tsarskoe Selo, commemorating the end of the Russo-Turkish War. ... Physical representation of first (O1) and second (O2) overtones. ...

By the 16th century the term falsetto was common in Italy. The physician Giovanni Camillo Maffei in his book Discorso della voce e del modo d'apparare di cantar di garganta in 1562 explained that when a bass singer sang in the soprano range, the voice was 'called falsetto'.[1]

The falsetto register is used by male countertenors to sing in the alto and occasionally the soprano range, and was before women sang in choirs. Falsetto is occasionally used by early music specialists today, and regularly in British cathedral choirs by men who sing the alto line. A countertenor is an adult male who sings in an alto, mezzo or soprano range, often through use of falsetto, or sometimes natural head voice. ... In music, an alto or contralto is a singer with a vocal range somewhere between a tenor and a mezzo-soprano. ... This article is about the voice-type. ... This article or section does not adequately cite its references or sources. ... Early music is commonly defined as European classical music from the Middle Ages, the Renaissance and the Baroque. ...

In Opera it is believed that the chest voice, middle voice and head voice occur in women.[2] The head voice of a man is, according to David A. Clippinger most likely equivalent to the middle voice of a woman.[3] This may mean the head voice of a woman is a man's falsetto equivalent. Although, in contemporary teaching, some teachers no longer talk of the middle voice, choosing to call it the head voice as with men. Falsetto is not generally counted by classical purists as a part of the vocal range of anyone except countertenors. There are exceptions, however, such as the Bariton-Martin which uses falsetto (see baritone article).[4] Human voice is sound made by a person using the vocal folds for talking, singing or crying. ... Human voice is sound made by a person using the vocal folds for talking, singing or crying. ... For other uses, see Baritone (disambiguation). ...

In Hawai'i, many Hawaiian songs feature falsetto, called "leo ki'eki'e", a term coined in Hawaiian in 1973. Falsetto singing, most often used by men, extends the singer's range to notes above their ordinary vocal range. The voice makes a characteristic break during the transition from the ordinary vocal register to the falsetto register. In Western falsetto singing, the singer tries to make the transition between registers as smooth as possible. In Hawaiian-style falsetto, the singer emphasizes the break between registers. Sometimes the singer exaggerates the break through repetition, as a yodel. As with other aspects of Hawaiian music, falsetto developed from a combination of sources, including pre-European Hawaiian chanting, early Christian hymn singing and the songs and yodeling of immigrant cowboys during the Kamehameha Reign in the 1800s when cowboys were brought from Mexico to teach Hawaiians how to care for cattle. Falsetto may have been a natural and comfortable vocal technique for early Hawaiians, since a similar break between registers called "ha'iha'i", is used as an ornament in some traditional chanting styles. The music of Hawaii includes an array of traditional and popular styles, ranging from native Hawaiian folk music to modern rock and hip hop. ... Yodeling (or yodelling, jodeling) is a form of singing that involves singing an extended note which rapidly and repeatedly changes in pitch from the vocal chest register (or chest voice) to the head register (or head voice), making a high-low-high-low sound. ...

There is a difference between the modern usage of the "head voice" term and its previous meaning in the renaissance as a type of falsetto, according to many singing professionals. The falsetto can be coloured or changed to sound different. It can be given classical styling to sound as male classical countertenors make it sound, or more contemporary as is the case in modern R&B music (Justin Timberlake[5] or Frankie J for example). It can be made in different tonalities as is often the case of its use in progressive rock (for example,Roger Meddows-Taylor, Matt Bellamy of the band Muse), heavy metal (for example, King Diamond of Mercyful Fate), and especially power metal (for example, Michael Kiske of Helloween). Chris Martin of the alternative/indie rock band Coldplay also frequently uses falsetto as does Irwin Sparkes of the Hoosiers. A countertenor is an adult male who sings in an alto, mezzo or soprano range, often through use of falsetto, or sometimes natural head voice. ... Justin Randall Timberlake (born January 31, 1981[1]), sometimes known as JT, is an American pop and R&B singer, songwriter, record producer, dancer, and actor. ... Frankie J (born Francisco Javier Bautista, Jr. ... This article does not cite any references or sources. ... Matthew Bellamy (born June 8, 1978) is the lead singer and guitarist of British rock group Muse. ... For other uses, see Muse (disambiguation). ... King Diamond (born Kim Bendix Petersen, June 14, 1956, Copenhagen, Denmark) is a heavy metal musician known for his shock rock image. ... Mercyful Fate is an influential Danish heavy metal group who are often cited among the influences in the black metal, thrash metal, power metal, and progressive metal genres. ... Power metal is a style of heavy metal music typically with the aim of evoking an epic feel, combining characteristics of traditional metal with thrash metal or speed metal, often within symphonic context. ... Vocalist Michael Kiske was (born January 24, 1968 in Hamburg, Germany), best known as the lead vocalist for the German power metal band Helloween from 1987 to 1993. ... This article is about the power metal band. ... This article is about the Coldplay musician. ... Alternative music redirects here. ... Indie rock is a subgenre of rock music often used to refer to bands that are on small independent record labels or that arent on labels at all. ... Coldplay are an English rock band. ... Irwin Sparkes is currently the lead singer of indie band The Hoosiers. ... This page is about the movie Hoosiers. Hoosiers is also the nickname of Indiana University athletic teams; see Indiana Hoosiers. ...


  1. ^ a b c d e f g THE NEW GROVE Dictionary of MUSIC & MUSICIANS. Edited by Stanley Sadie, Volume 6. Edmund to Fryklund. ISBN 1-56159-174-2, Copyright Macmillan 1980.
  3. ^ Clippinger, David Alva (1917). The Head Voice and Other Problems: Practical Talks on Singing. Oliver Ditson Company, Page 24. Project Gutenberg etext
  4. ^ THE NEW GROVE Dictionary of MUSIC & MUSICIANS. Edited by Stanley Sadie, Volume 2. Back to Bolivia. ISBN 1-56159-174-2, Copyright Macmillan Publishers Limited 1980.
  5. ^ Justin Timberlake: 'FutureSex/LoveSounds' by Christy Lemire - Associated Press - Sept. 11, 2006 - Timberlake's falsetto layering on top of one other as the songs build to their crescendos. link

See also

Look up falsetto in Wiktionary, the free dictionary.
Wikibooks has a book on the topic of

By Mark Squires Wikipedia does not have an article with this exact name. ... Wiktionary (a portmanteau of wiki and dictionary) is a multilingual, Web-based project to create a free content dictionary, available in over 150 languages. ... Image File history File links Wikibooks-logo-en. ... Wikibooks logo Wikibooks, previously called Wikimedia Free Textbook Project and Wikimedia-Textbooks, is a wiki for the creation of books. ... Creaky voice (also called laryngealisation, pulse phonation or, in singing, vocal fry or glottal fry), is a special kind of phonation in which the arytenoid cartilages in the larynx are drawn together; as a result, the vocal folds are compressed rather tightly, becoming relatively slack and compact, and forming a... The human voice consists of sound made by a human using the vocal folds for talking, singing, laughing, crying and screaming. ... Yodeling (or yodelling, jodeling) is a form of singing that involves singing an extended note which rapidly and repeatedly changes in pitch from the vocal chest register (or chest voice) to the head register (or head voice), making a high-low-high-low sound. ...

External links

  • A Video where Russell Oberlin demonstrates the difference between falsetto and head voice

By Jack Squires (Mr boo) who is a big fatty

  Results from FactBites:
falsetto - Encyclopedia.com (0 words)
falsetto [Ital.,=diminutive of false ], high-pitched, unnatural tones above the normal register of the male voice, produced, according to some theories, by the vibration of only the edges of the larynx.
Falsetto tone is usually thin and expressionless, but can be used with good effect.
Trilogy" - "In Trousers," "March of the Falsettos" and "Falsettoland" - is schlumped in...
Finding the Falsetto (0 words)
Falsetto is a detour, and singing always imposes detours upon a blank and neutral surge of air.
Though falsetto was scapegoated, and associated with degeneracy, detour, and artifice, it has long represented a resource: the castrato Tosi speaks of the feigned voice as something "of Use", particularly when it is disguised by art.
Falsetto is not a sin; the sin is breaking into it undisguisedly.
  More results at FactBites »



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