Vocal range and voice are about how one’s vocal cords and overall voice change, such as if one goes into puberty. Vocal range and voice also refer to singing and speaking in a choir, opera, or play. A person with a high vocal range will usually have an operatic style of singing while someone with a low vocal range will usually sing in the baritone or bass tone of the choir.
For some it is common knowledge what kind of voice they have but for others they may be curious. It is important to know what kind of voice range one must know one’s vocal limits, whether it is low, middle, or high. It also helps when having fun with friends on the stage and performing for family. Most people do not think about their vocal range, but it is important to know what kind of voice type one may have. The best way for a person to find out what kind of voice they have is through practicing singing above an “ah” sound in a song that has an even tune.
Identifying your voice type
They are many forms of voice types and we will cover each of them below.
- Bass, contralto or tenor-bass
- Countertenor or sopranist
This is the highest of the female voices. Sopranos are usually young women. They tend to have high, clear voices. It is often said that sopranos have the most beautiful voice of all. Such singers include Barbra Streisand and Cindy Lauper.
The contralto is the second lowest female voice. A contralto still has a high pitch, but they are much lower than sopranos, and are usually middle-aged women with a voice like of a mezzo-soprano or alto’s in quality. A contralto should never attempt to sing as if they were a mezzo-soprano or alto though, because when they try, they sound like they are being forced to sing flat (way too low). Examples of famous contraltos are Leontyne Price and Jessye Norman.
Also known as a “soubrette”, this voice is not as high as a soprano but slightly higher than a mezzo-soprano voice. An alto voice is often very smooth and light. The term soubrette can also be used to describe another singing range, usually deeper than an alto’s normal range, with much more emphasis on acting skills than singing skill. The term has historically been applied to youthful (often ingenue) female roles in opera or operetta.
Mezzo-sopranos are the second highest female voices. Mezzo-sopranos usually sound like they are a tenor because they have a lighter voice than the contralto or alto, like the baritone voice type. Mezzo-sopranos can also sing with lower notes but still have a breathy quality unlike a contralto or alto. Examples of famous mezzo-sopranos include Diamanda Galas and Carla Fracci.
Tenors have the highest male singing voice, usually younger men. A tenor is usually between 20 and 35 years old. A tenor’s voice has more of a natural vibrato than that of a baritone. Examples of famous tenors are Franco Corelli and Placido Domingo. It is possible for a man to sing in the tenor range up until his early fifties.
Baritones are usually older men with a mature, booming sound. They range from 20 to 45 years old. Examples of famous baritones include Lauritz Melchior, Nicolai Gedda, and Luciano Pavarotti. It is possible for a man to sing in the baritone range until his late fifties or early sixties, but most do become basses at that point. This is not a voice type that a person can sing in for a living.
Bass, contralto or tenor-bass
The bass has the lowest male voice. It is usually the biggest and burliest voice of the male voices: men who are 40 years old and up are more likely to be basses than any other type of men besides tenors and baritones. They tend to have an even, strong tone with no vibrato. The best known basses were probably Lars Ulrik Mortensen, who sang in “De Feen” and Hans Zwijsen who was cast as Hans Sachs in “Der Rosenkavalier” and had an exceptional bass voice throughout his career. Examples of famous basses are Hans Hotter, Ben Heppner, and Paul Plishka.
Countertenor or sopranist
A countertenor is a male singer who sings in the female range (countertenor) which is near that of a mezzo-soprano voice type. Countertenors often take on roles for women in operas, such as Orpheus and Orfeo in Gluck’s “Orfeo ed Euridice” or Donna Elvira in Mozart’s Don Giovanni. Some famous countertenors include David Daniels, Max Emanuel Cencic and Matthew White.
A baritone-soprano is a male who has a high voice and usually has a female voice. It is usually a tenor but can be in the same range as a countertenor in vocal quality, but with much more power. They are usually about 45 years old or older and have been trained for many decades to learn how to sing in this area of vocal production. Examples of famous baritone-sopranos include Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau, Fritz Wunderlich and Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau, who sang the male characters in Wagner’s “Lohengrin” and “Der Ring des Nibelungen”.
Often confused with the bass-baritone, a bass-baritone has a very powerful voice. A bass-baritone usually sings in the range of approximately mezzo- or bass-baritones but can go into higher or lower ranges that might be called tenor or baritone. Basses with high voices tend to have strong voices in general and have a commanding presence on stage. They are usually about 45 years old or older and have been trained for many decades to learn how to sing in this area of vocal production. Examples of famous basses are Kent Nagano and Richard Tucker.
Whats Your Vocal Range and Voice Type?
In conclusion, it is possible for a person to possess more than one type of voice. This can be very confusing for both singers and listeners alike, but this does not mean that one should become discouraged. It does not matter what kind of sound a person has, all that matters is the vocal range, vibrato, musicality, or timbre. If a person speaks softly or has a high-pitched voice and is able to maintain their pitch when they sing, they are most likely an alt, alto or contralto.