Am I right in thinking that falsetto is a quality that can be achieved at any pitch in the range? I have always defined it as that weak, hooty sound also but there seem to be different permutations of it in terms of vocal fold thickness? Yes, no?

Our experience is that it isn’t possible to achieve a falsetto quality on any pitch in the range – it tends to favour the upper notes and becomes too weak to be of much use lower down. And it doesn’t have to be a weak, hooty sound, although one of the tell-tale signs is a lack of harmonics in the middle of the sound. Some female opera singers use a falsetto-based setup and create enough power to cut through an orchestra.

One of the key elements of falsetto is a more lax vocalis muscle – the muscle that forms part of the vocal fold. This causes the vocal folds to move with a different type of vibration. On one of our Voicebox Videos, Modal To Falsetto 2 – Breathy Speech, you can see the difference in vocal fold behaviour between a breathy, non-falsetto sound, and a non-breathy falsetto sound. The falsetto is looser and less resistant to the breath, and the surrounding vocal tract is more relaxed. Most volume boosting in falsetto is done higher up in the vocal tract using resonance changes.

Falsetto is the setup that most untrained singers default to when the going gets too tough!