VOICE TYPES GUIDE
Welcome to the “Voice Fach” Guide! Here you will be able to find out what type of singing fach or singing voice you have. Enjoy! Please pay attention to the “NOTES” left by the author as they will contain helpful advice.
DISCLAIMER: If you would like to use this on your website please link back to my website at http://bellsouthpwp.net/h/a/hamidmahdi/ and give credit where it’s due.
IMPORTANT: My understanding is there are pianos that play below C1. So the first note on the piano is actually C BELOW C1 and it ranges up to B7 (about 8 octaves). But most pianos don’t play down to that note so it’s often stated that C1 to B1 marks the first octave. The 6th octave is THE highest octave to sing all the way through. The 7th octave doesn’t count as a human voice range because the notes are almost impossible to actually SING. So far the highest anyone has actually sung is Betty Wright when she sang a scale up to Eb7 (when she appeared on “Making the Band II”) and held it for 3 seconds. The E7 Mariah hit in Emotions (album version) was probably done when she was congested or sick because she can’t do it anymore let alone G7 she hit in 2 live renditions of Emotions.
TERMS TO KNOW
Octave—refers to the scales whose intervals (ending & beginning) have 8 notes; C D E F G A B and then C’. Octaves can be counted from any note to the same note in the next octave. Ex. C to C’, D to D’ etc
Pitch—the ability to match a note EXACTLY as is should be sung or played on the piano
Flat/Minor—when the note has not been reached because the pitch is lower by a semitone; Eb and Bb
Sharp—when the note has not been reached because the pitch is higher by a semitone; C# F# and G#
Tessitura—the overall range a singer is comfortable singing in. In order to have notes a part of your range you have to be able to sustain them with ease.
Timbre—the tone of the voice; the traits found in the voice or instrument.
Piccolo—Italian word meaning light and sweet. This term is normally used to describe the range of a coloratura.
Lyric—the ability to emit stronger sounds than piccolo but is still light and considered feminine.
Spinto—a strong voice but not as strong as dramatic; edgy sound
Dramatic—is the ability to emit heavy sounds; sings over large orchestras.
Numbers (in notes)—give the octave in which the note should be sung in; for example C3 is C in the third octave.
Middle C—the fourth C key on the piano; C4.
Full Voice—often refers to the chest, middle, head, and super head registers joined together and being used to their best sound.
Super Head Voice—when the vocal chords are “zipped up” so much that the voice emits high-pitched sounds that resemble the sound of a light squeal, a piccolo, a whistle, or even a violin. In this range, air passes behind the soft palate. This voice is has a loud volume and is sometimes used to sing words. Ex: Mariah sang the chorus in Bliss in this voice. Contrary to popular belief this voice ISN’T forced when done right.
Head Voice—when the vocal chords are “zipped up” so most resonance is felt in the head. It sounds light and hollow like a flute. This is the voice Sopranos are taught to use more than anything else.
Middle Voice—when resonance is in the upper chest and head. It’s a mix of the head register and chest register and has the highest volume. This is the voice that most singer’s today use like Whitney Houston.
Chest Voice—the normal talking voice. The vocal chords are open all the way at this point. Soprano’s, Alto’s, and Tenors chest range goes all the way down into the 3rd octave (sometimes a little in the 2nd). Bass and Baritones chest range goes all the way down to the 2nd and sometimes the 1st.
Passagio—Italian word used to describe breaks in the voices. These are bridges that show transitions from a lower voice to a higher voice and vice-versa. They can be smoothed out with practice.
Falsetto—Italian word used to describe when men sing in women’s ranges.
Fry Tone—this is actually more of a style thing. It’s often used by rock stars or lead singers in hard rock bands like Kid Rock and Nickelback.
Nodes—are swollen areas (as of tissue). They develop in the throat from singing in uncomfortable ranges constantly. If the singer is going through puberty they will eventually correct themselves as he/she matures. HOWEVER if they don’t correct themselves they must be surgically removed and it can damage the singers range permanently!
Vibrato—is a wavering sound used to allow a singer to hold notes for a long period of time without letting their voice crack and add expression to what they’re singing.
MALE VOICE TYPES
Bass (Lowest male voice; Ranges from E2 to G4)
Timbre: dark, heavy and voluminous. (Hamid—only in my talking voice)
Baritone (Middle male voice; Ranges from G2 to F4)
Timbre: Thick, but not as heavy as Bass.
Dramatic: G2 to F4 (Lou Rawls)
Lyric: same as above but slightly lighter voice. (Larry Graham)
Tenor (Highest male voice; Ranges from C3 to E5)
Timbre: Light, and flexible.
Dramatic: C3 to A4 (Avant)
Spinto: C3 to B4 (Usher)
Lyric: C3 to E5 and is the lightest voice. (Justin Timberlake and Pharell)
NOTE: “Countertenor” often refers to a male who has a high voice in their speaking voice but it can also apply to the overall range and timbre of their singing voice.
FEMALE VOICE TYPES
Contralto (Lowest female voice; Ranges from D3 to E5)
Timbre: Dark and smoky. (Toni Braxton and Anita Baker)
Mezzo Soprano (Middle female voice; Ranges from C3 to B-b5)
Timbre: Soulful and dark.
Dramatic: C3 to C6 (Whitney Houston)
Lyric: same as above but lighter (Celine Dion)
Soprano (Highest female voice; Ranges from E3 to at least F6 in full voice)
Timbre: Light and sometimes sweet.
Dramatic: E3 to E-b6 in full voice (Jill Scott)
Spinto: E3 to F6 in full voice with edgy sound. (Christina Aguilera)
Lyric: same as above but is the lightest voice out of the three. (Jessica Simpson)
Coloratura (The ability to sing fast and high melismas; Ranges B5 to B6 in full voice)
Timbre: light and high pitched.
--Piccolo: The voice is light like the Lyric Soprano but without the power of a Lyric Soprano. They don’t have to use vibrato to sing high notes. They can normally sing up to B6. (Minnie Riperton and Amel Larrieux)
--Lyric Coloratura: The voice is light like the Lyric Soprano but with the range and agility of a Coloratura. They can normally sing up to Bb6. (Shanice and Angela Via)
--Dramatic Coloratura: The hardest sopranos to find because they’re voices have the power and stamina of a Dramatic Soprano to sing over large orchestras but also the range and agility of a Piccolo. They can normally sing up to Bb6 as well (Mariah Carey and Rachelle Ferrell)
NOTE: All vocal ranges will sometimes overlap depending on the natural voice range of the singer (plus or minus a few notes in the top and bottom ranges). High notes are fun but not everyone can do them. So as a rule:
Sopranos sing in the 3rd, 4th, 5th, and at least halfway through the 6th
Mezzo Sopranos sing in the 3rd, 4th, and 5th
Tenors/Altos sing in the 3rd, 4th, and a minor in the 5th
Bass/Baritones sing in the 2nd, 3rd, and 4th
When you’re measuring a range you count from a note to the same note in the next octave. The number of C’s, D’s etc you sing, however, doesn’t mean that’s your octave range. People think that if they can sing four C’s they have a 4 octave range—it’s really only a 3 octave range. It’s like this:
Two C’s=1 octave range
Three C’s=2 octave range
Four C’s=3 octave range
Five C’s=4 octave range
Six C’s=5 octave range
It goes the same for other notes as well—ex: four D’s=3 octave range, three F’s=2 octave range, etc.
Also there are rumors going around that Jessica Simpson, Christina Aguilera and Mariah Carey have the exact same range. To clear that up: Mariah Carey has a full 4 octave range due to the fact she’s a Coloratura. Christina and Jessica have about the same range. Neither one of them are Coloratura’s because they can’t sing A6 with ease. The highest I’ve ever heard from them was G6# but they were straining to sing the notes (Christina singing on her Stripped in London DVD, and Jessica on Newlyweds singing an ascending scale). There is some talk about Christina being able to sing C7# on the Christmas Song. If that WAS C7# it doesn’t count because she couldn’t sustain it. On her DVD she tried singing up to A6 but wound up only getting to G6# meaning while she has the RANGE of a Coloratura she doesn’t have the AGILITY of a Coloratura.
SOME SINGERS AND THEIR VOICE TYPES
Mariah Carey is a Dramatic Coloratura possessing over 4 octave range. She sang her lowest note C3 at the end of My All. The highest she can actually sing is a D7. The E F and G Mariah used to sing were probably done when she was sick or congested though because she can’t do them anymore (talking about All In Your Mind, and Emotions).
Shanice is a Lyric Coloratura possessing a 3 ½ octave range. The lowest she sang was E3 in Ain’t Got No Remedy and the highest she’s sung in her recordings was a Bb6 in I Wanna Give It to You.
Whitney Houston is a Mezzo possessing a 3 octave range. She can sing as low as C3 but she hit a C6 in How Will I Know.
Alicia Keys is an Alto possessing about a 2 ½ octave range. She sings her lowest note C3 in The Life and her highest note E5 in You Don’t Know My Name.
Hamid is a Dramatic Coloratura possessing close to a 5 octave range. Being a baritone I can sing down to Bb1 and can go up to G6 without warming up and then up to about B6 when I do warm up.
Adam Lopez is a Dramatic Coloratura possessing over a 4 octave range. He can sing up to D7 (although he hit E7 in Stay with Me but again no one has actually SUNG E7+) and being a tenor he can sing down to about C3.
Trey Lorenz (one of Mariah’s backup singers) is a Countertenor possessing a 3 octave range. The lowest he went down to was C3 and up to sang C6 in a duet with Mariah in I’ll Be There.