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My vocal category is technically "Bass" (not Baritone). But I can hit some pretty high notes easily; I have a wide range. When I hit high notes though, it always sounds unmistakably male I think.

I'd like to sing my own vocals from some breathy high-pitched female parts... Do you have any recommendations about generally what effects chain and parameters I should use to get the most realistic quality? I don't want to sound falsetto or strained.

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Audacity for pitch-shift, followed by 5% white-noise generator? :-) –  Carl Witthoft Dec 12 '13 at 12:52

2 Answers 2

The breathy/husky female voice type is not a reasonable target for a bass. To get a consistent range, you'll want to extent your falsetto as far down as possible. It is different from "head voice" in that the larynx basically has two antagonistic muscle groups for pitch control: one is stretching the vocal folds long for increasing pitch, the other tenses the material of the folds themselves.

The mechanisms for chest voice has the fold muscles primarily responsible, the falsetto relaxes those and just relies on longitudinal tension. There is no stable equilibrium in between. The normal "head" voice used by tenors is usually an extension of the chest voice configuration, but navigating the unstable equilibrium with a "mixed voice" smoothly blending into actual falsetto takes years of practice.

For a bass-based countertenor, it's usually easiest to work your way from the falsetto downwards. The low notes, once you get them in the falsetto configuration, are more of a raspy than husky sound quality. Huskiness basically is a sign of bad vocal closure, and with bass vocal folds, you can't expect reasonable volume. Microphones make a difference, of course, but they cannot do everything.

Think about finding a voice teacher who is willing to work with you and your range and possibilities.

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Interesting description of falsetto for a bass, it hadn't occurred to be that it would be different depending on your underlying voice. –  dumbledad Dec 20 '13 at 10:08
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"Falsetto" as such is not depending on the underlying voice type. Where and when and how to get in and out of it, what range and volume you can access with it, and the "continuity" you build with it are. When your aim is to "pass off as a female", that implies projecting a character and gives you the challenge of finding ways to access and combine your various registers in a manner consistent with your character. It also means you need to work on a speech register consistent with your vocal image. In contrast, an "art voice" separated from a "character" can focus on beauty instead of sex. –  User8773 Dec 25 '13 at 11:00

Which genre? You explicitly mention not wanting to sound falsetto but I wouldn't give up on that completely. In the classical music scene there's been a big revival in the countertenor voice since it was popularised by Alfred Deller. One hugely talented contemporary practitioner is Andreas Scholl. Countertenors often approach repertoire that was written for castratos (don't go there) but which had mainly been taken over by sopranos. The male falsetto voice, or head voice, is weaker and has a smaller range than sopranos or castratos but these recent proponents have shown that with training they can approach the required range and power. One of my favourite pieces of Scholl singing has him drop, for a few beats, into his tenor voice - it's quite startling. However I cannot put my hands on that now so try this as an example of how beautiful he sounds: "Ombra mai fù" (the opening aria from Handel's 1738 opera Serse)

(N.B. I know this isn't an answer, it gets you no closer to the breathy female voice, but it felt too long for a comment.)

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I think it's relevant, at at least covers the "female" aspect if not expressly "breathy". –  NReilingh Dec 14 '13 at 3:15

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