I am a male in my 20s and have begun voice lessons recently. The teacher said I am most probably a light tenor. Out of curiosity, I have attempted an upward scale and downward scale in my natural voice to get an idea of my passaggio and vocal timbre. Is it true that the entire passaggio (primo + secondo) terminates at the point at which one's voice suddenly breaks into falsetto especially when he is untrained ? I have also discovered that I have some sort of extension above the high C5 which leads to F#5 but I am not sure if that is considered some sort of reinforced falsetto.

I have attached both clips to illustrate my points: 1.)


Appreciate if you could advise on my doubts. Thank you very much

  • 1
    Yes, F is usually the "break point" or passagio for a tenor. I'm not sure what it is you wish to ask. Can you clarify your question?
    – user1044
    Commented Apr 5, 2015 at 14:11
  • Thanks for reply. If you listen to the clips attached, this means my secondo passaggio is around G4? And is that E5 to which I vocalized considered some sort of extension of full voice? Commented Apr 5, 2015 at 14:30

1 Answer 1


There's two parts to your question: (1) "Where does my passaggio end?" and (2) "What's going on when I sing up to E5 like this?"

(1) Unfortunately, there's a lot of disagreement in the terminology and classification of the vocal registers, especially in the male voice. Some vocalists don't even really consider passaggio to be a real thing, since your vocal cords are either vibrating modally or they're not (I consider it to at least be a useful mental classification in some contexts).

The most useful thing I can say is that by your first recording, your voice is clearly naturally breaking into falsetto/head voice right at A4. This is about what I would expect of a high tenor. I have modal voice one full tone higher, and that's a little unusual. True countertenor voices have modal voices a good bit higher than that, but that's extremely rare.

One thing to pay particular attention to is the two notes around the point you tend to naturally flip into falsetto, G4 and A4. Those will tend to be your trouble notes. You have a little play with exactly where that switch happens, and preventing a flip (or flipping early) is an extremely useful technique to master to help keep those notes from feeling tentative.

(2) When you sing up to an E5, it sounds like you're attempting to force chest voice. It also sounds like you're hurting yourself. Instead of trying to sing that high in chest voice (you may be technically capable of forcing it, but it's a very, very bad idea), try to develop a fuller head voice. A true light tenor flips between the two effortlessly, often nearly unnoticeably.

If you want to gain a little more useful modal range or more solid head voice, and you're singing a contemporary style, ask your vocal coach about vocal fry, which can help keep your vocal cords connected. Be careful using that technique unsupervised, as it can do serious and permanent damage to your voice if you misuse it.

  • Thanks for great advice! Actually I am taking classical voice lessons and yes, I do agree my attempt of the high E5 is flawed and that was the last time I would ever do that. In operatic music terminology, most light tenors are high tenors and vice versa, i.e. leggieros and light lyrics. So what kind of tenors are high but not light? Dramatic tenors and Spinto tenors certainly have powerful trumpet-like high notes and some can sustain high tessitura but their secondo passaggio ( i.e. the point at which they naturally flip to falsetto or head voice) is usually around F4 and F#4 respectively. Commented Apr 28, 2015 at 5:07
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    Classical instructors may or may not be willing to teach you vocal fry or even acknowledge it as a legitimate vocal technique. I'm not extremely familiar with operatic terminology, but (after reading Wikipedia) maybe a Spinto? I have a classical education, but none of it operatic. We describe voice types differently than opera does. And once you get into pop/rock, it's mostly which singer you resemble :) Commented Apr 28, 2015 at 5:19

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