Many young men singers are like I was when growing up. We want to have a “real” man’s voice when we sing. Because of this, many of us fail to develop our falsetto voice. Falsetto in the male voice is a necessity if a man is to have a well-developed singing voice.
Though we shall not go too deeply into the anatomy of the voice, we shall mention a couple of things. There are many muscles involved in the vocal mechanism, but two are more prevalent in falsetto in the male voice. They are the “lateral cricoarytenoid” and the “cricothyroid” muscles. The “lateral cricoarytenoid” muscle closes the vocal fold. The “cricothyroid” muscle increases or decreased tension on the vocal folds.
As the young male grows he often begins to emphasize the muscle that closes the vocal folds. Maturing of this muscle causes it to lengthen and grow in mass. Hence, the voice begins to lower in pitch. It is during this phase of maturation that males begin to experience “breaks” in their singing voice. This is totally normal and not something to try to avoid. However, when it begins to happen it should be addressed.
Why address falsetto in the male voice
The reason that we should address this is not always obvious. Some young males are able to sing their way through this phase with little problems. More often than not, many have problems. It is during this phase that many young males quit singing. Many use the excuse that they just do not have a singing voice. Of course, this is not true. But it is a convenient excuse not to address the problem.
The other approach to falsetto in the male voice
Then there is the other approach. Some males refuse to accept their maleness. They emphasize the part of the vocal process which connects between the cricoid and thyroid processes. This is the part of the vocal process that controls the falsetto in the male voice. (A note: the same process occurs in the female voice but is not as obvious because of the range.)
Many of the contemporary singers rely exclusively on this part of the voice. Because of this they build the muscles related to this process. There is nothing wrong with this if that is the style one wishes to pursue. However, it becomes limiting just as developing only the opposite set does. One of the most successful to utilize this type of voice was Michael Jackson. His vocal production totally built on the “falsetto voice”. He had developed the related muscles to the point of neglect of the other vocal muscles. Because of this, he was able to sing for many years and often without damage to his vocal mechanism. That is not to say that he did not abuse his voice. He did abuse it through much overuse but not through misuse.
The reason for development of this style
The reason these contemporary singers are able to build a career in this style is obvious. Without electronic amplification, these singers would have no hope of success. But, because of this equipment, many have attained a high level of success.
The other extreme
Then, there is the other extreme. As the cricoarytenoid part of the vocal process develops the male voice begins ascendancy. When this happens many young men begin to emphasize their maleness. They avoid anything that would detract from a male-sounding voice. Their focus becomes the more massive muscle connected to the cricoid cartilage and arytenoid processes. This is contrasted to the less massive muscle used in the “falsetto” vocal production.
The muscle of the cricoarytenoid process is limited in its ability to produce higher pitches in singing. Its limitation lies in the fact that it increases pitch by increasing the pressure between the two opposing folds. This is contrasted to the muscle of the cricothyroid process which raises the pitch by increasing tension by stretching the muscle. The cricoarytenoid process is the one that causes vocal nodes to develop on the vocal process.
Reasons to develop the falsetto in the male voice
By not continuing to develop the muscles of the falsetto voice, young males open the door for vocal problems in the future.
There are other reasons for developing the falsetto voice in males. One of the most prominent is in developing the singing range. Just as contemporary singers have developed the falsetto voice, so should classical singers develop their falsetto voice. They should develop it not for its use in singing, but for the range that it brings to their singing. The range I speak of is not only pitch range, but also expressive range.
Yes, falsetto development will increase your singing range. It not only expands the upper limits, but it also expands the lower limits. You may find that interesting. By developing the relaxation that falsetto brings to lower pitches, you will find your lower range expanding. By adding the strength of the falsetto process you will find the upper range expanding beyond your expectations.
More reasons to develop falsetto voice
Just as in any physical undertaking, the more muscles involved, the more that can be lifted, or moved, or accomplished. So, by developing our falsetto voice we strengthen our whole vocal process. In so doing we develop a voice able to expand in expressiveness and in vocal range.
So, if you have neglected falsetto in the male voice, I encourage you to revisit it. Falsetto singing cannot damage the voice. Rather, it strengthens and enhances the voice. It enhances by extending the range downward as well as upward. The expressiveness of the voice is broadened.
Another good reason to develop falsetto voice
Probably the most important thing developing falsetto in the male voice is that it prolongs the vocal life. Emphasizing only one facet of the voice will overwork that part and will shorten the life of the voice. It will also necessitate times of recuperation and sometimes surgeries that would otherwise not be needed.
The great and long-lived singers have learned to develop and use the full voice. Those who develop only certain facets will pay the price. They will pay through shortened careers or through medical procedures and constant vocal problems.
So, to you male singers, if you have not developed your falsetto voice, consider it.
Let me make this note. There are many men who have developed their falsetto and never really knew it. I had a friend, in my college days, who tried to teach me how to approach high notes. He was naturally talented and a fine singer. My friend could sing a high note beginning full voice and go to pianissimo and back to full voice on one pitch. He could not explain that to me because he had developed his voice naturally, falsetto and all. As I grew in understanding of the process I developed the same ability. But, to do that, I had to develop my falsetto voice. If I had begun from that point, I would have achieved the goal much sooner.
Exercises for developing the falsetto in male voices
So, to achieve that goal you must first begin. Begin by checking out our exercises on developing your falsetto voice.
This has mostly been addressed to male singers. But, the female voice has the same muscles and can sing falsetto. We do not perceive it as the same “falsetto” as in the male voice. Nevertheless, it uses the same muscles. The best sopranos know how to utilize the “falsetto” muscles to extend their range and expression. We shall address that in another blog.