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Can women have a falsetto voice?

If not, why not? If yes, do they just have a deep enough voice or does it depend on something else? Are there men that don't have a falsetto voice?

Edited to add a question from the discussion in the comments:

Is falsetto the same thing as "head voice"? At least in some usages? My impression was that head voice refers to use of resonance cavities in your skull, while falsetto refers to a certain use of your vocal chords, but wikipedia differs here, so some expert references would be appreciated.

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6 Answers 6

Again, from the wikipedia article referenced by slim:

It is an established fact that women have a falsetto register and that many young female singers substitute falsetto for the upper portion of the modal voice.

This means that many female singers tend to seamlessly switch to falsetto when it becomes too hard to reach the higher registers with their modal voice. The sound for a female modal register, and their falsetto register is quite similar, so it is often not recognized as falsetto even if it is. For men, the modal register and falsetto register are much more different in sound, and is more easily recognized.

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Isn't yodaling similar to the very common practice in pop music, now, of "flipping" one's voice over their break? I've heard Adele and Sarah McLachlan use this device often. I always thought that the voice over the break was technically falsetto.

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For a person to yodel it is necessary for the voice to achieve falsetto either in men or women. If a woman cannot achieve falsetto then she cannot yodel — that has been proven untrue by women like Suzy Bogguss and Patsy Montana. Could it be they have a lower voice range?

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I'm recently learning how to sing, and where I live "head voice" and "falsetto" don't mean the same thing. As I understood, when a man sings using his falsetto voice, he's only making a fraction of the vocal chords vibrate, resulting in a higher note. This also makes the air rushing escape more easily, resulting in, from what I'm told, some kind of pattern in the sound, which identifies the falsetto and differs it from a man who can reach the same note using his entire vocal chord.

Head voice is to make the sinuses and nasal cavities resonate when performing, and as I stated before, doesn't seem to relate to the concept of falsetto by itself. I really don't know anything about falsetto among women, I will keep in touch with this question, as I really want to know how it turns out. Sorry if I misused any terms, not used to all the nomenclature in English, I hope to be of some help.

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I've always heard head voice as the term for falsetto in women. (I've sung in many choirs over the years.) The same Wikipedia article that slim referenced indicates that they do mean the same thing, or at least used to.

I don't know where you're located, but if you're outside of the US, maybe there is a different term instead of "head voice". But here, I think "head voice" is used rather than "female falsetto" - so the answer to your question is yes, it's possible, but it's not often discussed because there's another name for it.

(Also cited in that Wikipedia article: A woman's head voice isn't necessarily the same range as a man's falsetto. My speculation: maybe that's why there are two names for it depending on gender?)

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I really don't think so. The literal translation of "head voice" to German certainly does not mean falsetto, it refers to which resonance parts of your body are primarily used which is either your chest or the hollow parts of your skull. –  Phira Oct 7 '11 at 17:45
    
Like I said, I've heard them used interchangeably, but it would not surprise me if that was a regional thing. "Head voice" and "falsetto" certainly do not have the same literal meaning in English, either, but isn't singing in falsetto singing so that it resonates in your sinuses? (I'm really curious if someone else has a better answer for this question; it's a great question.) –  Laura Oct 7 '11 at 17:57
    
I have added the question to the original question. –  Phira Oct 7 '11 at 21:51
    
My choir director instructs both women and men to sing in head voice. It's a different concept than falsetto, at least as I've been taught (US). –  Monica Cellio Oct 10 '11 at 13:36
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This is a perfect example of why we need a canonical answer; @MonicaCellio and I have different experiences with the terminology, and Wikipedia differs from what Phira has learned. I hope someone can come up with a definitive answer for us! –  Laura Oct 10 '11 at 14:20

Wikipedia says:

The issue of the female falsetto voice has been met with some controversy, especially among vocal pedagogists. Many books on the art of singing completely ignore this issue, simply gloss over it, or insist that women do not have falsetto. This controversy, however, does not exist within the speech pathology community and arguments against the existence of female falsetto do not align with current physiological evidence. Motion picture and video studies of laryngeal action reveal that women can and do produce falsetto, and electromyographic studies by several leading speech pathologists and vocal pedagogists provide further confirmation.

One possible explanation for this failure to recognize the female falsetto is the fact that the difference in timbre and dynamic level between the modal and falsetto registers often is not as pronounced in female voices as it is in male voices. This is due in part to the difference in the length and mass of the vocal folds and to the difference in frequency ranges. It is an established fact that women have a falsetto register and that many young female singers substitute falsetto for the upper portion of the modal voice.

So there you go. Females can and do achieve falsetto.

The Wikipedia article contains citations, should you wish to follow up.

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Ok, but this does not really explain why falsetto is commonplace among male singers and not well-known about female ones. –  Phira Oct 7 '11 at 15:06
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it is amazing that they don't make more experiments but rather argue and debate :) –  user1306 Oct 7 '11 at 15:38
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Men need to go falsetto to reach those notes. Women can reach the notes in a more conventional way. –  slim Oct 7 '11 at 15:49
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As to why it's "commonplace among male singers" but not with females, the point is, men and women have different physiology. The female vocal system is substantially different than the male vocal system. This is obvious by listening. The difference between regular voice and falsetto is obvious and dramatic in men, and falsetto is easy to achieve. With women, the difference is subtle, but falsetto is difficult to achieve and rarely used to the point that it's not really worth considering. Thus it's not part of teaching people to sing (vocal pedagogy). –  Wheat Williams Jan 8 '12 at 21:52

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