What Sort Of Singer Are You?

Published: 06th March 2012
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One of the nice things about singing in a group is that each person has a different voice. Although the same vocal techniques are used by every type of voice - which means that many singing lessons are one size fits all - each voice has its most comfortable vocal range. As well as learning to sing, it's also important to find your natural range so you can sing comfortably.

When you take singing lessons, you need to find out what sort of vocal range you have and what category of singer you fall into. It is certainly true that lessons about breathing, interpretation and style can be applied across the board, but some songs are better suited for particular voices. If you plan on singing harmonies in a group - barbershop quartets, gospel or Gregorian chant, for example - it pays to know what sort of singer you are.

Soprano: This is the highest of the female voices and it is one of the most glamorous categories. Many women who sign up for singing lessons do so because they want to sing like one of the famous sopranos. Sopranos usually get the dramatic arias, the melodies when singing four-part harmony. The typical vocal range for a soprano starts at about middle C and goes up for two more octaves (two Cs above middle C) or even higher. Many sopranos take advanced voice lessons to increase their vocal range - these sopranos are sometimes known as coloratura sopranos, especially if they sing opera. Traditionally, sopranos tended to be plus-sized women (they used to believe that the bigger frame made for better resonance) but modern classical sopranos such as Hayley Westenra and Sarah Brightman prove that you don't have to be big to be a soprano.

Mezzo-soprano: A mezzo-soprano sits halfway between a soprano and an alto. It's not as well known as the soprano voice but it is the second-highest female vocal range. A mezzo-soprano's range starts at about the A below middle C and goes to the second A above middle C. Mezzo-sopranos don't usually get the glamour roles, in spite of having fuller, more sensual voices, but a notable exception in the operatic world is Carmen from the opera of the same name. Opera fans usually quip that mezzo-sopranos tend to get cast as "witches, bitches and britches" (i.e. villainesses, seductresses and young men if they can't find a guy who can sing high enough). Rock, country and pop singers don't have this problem.

Alto: Also known as a contralto, this is the lowest of the women's voices and the highest of the men's voices. Altos are better known than the mezzo-sopranos, as four-part harmonies usually include an alto part. An alto or contralto range begins at the F below middle C and goes to two Fs above middle C. Like the mezzo-sopranos, operatic altos tend to get the "witches, bitches and britches" roles rather than the female protagonists.

Tenor: This is the superstar category of the men's singing voices, and it's tenors like Andrea Boccelli, Placido Domingo and Pavarotti who get the glamour roles. Some men who sign up for singing lessons may want to follow in the footsteps of these singing superstars. The tenor part is always included in four-part harmonies such as barbershop quartet. In opera, tenors often get the hero's role, though not as often as the sopranos get the heroine's role. The typical vocal range of a tenor is from the C below middle C to the A above middle C.

Baritone: A baritone voice is not as well known as the bass and tenor parts and doesn't usually get included in four-part harmony. This is something of a pity, as it is one of the sexier male voice types, lying midway between bass and tenor - deep enough to be manly but not so deep that it sounds like an earthquake. A baritone's singing range begins down at about two Fs below middle C and goes to the F above middle C, although some baritones have a wider range. In the world of opera, baritones sometimes get the lead male role, especially in Mozart's operas: he wrote some good lead parts for baritone voices, such as Figaro, the main character in the Barber of Seville, and Don Giovanni, who stars in (no prizes for guessing this one!) Don Giovanni. Baritones often end up playing comic characters.

Bass: The bass voice is as low as the human voice can go. A lot of classic blues singers had voices that would be classed as basses. The bass voice starts at about the second E below middle C and goes up to the E above middle C. Some bass singers can get even lower, and these lucky guys are known as basso profundos - and yes, they probably take advanced singing lessons to improve their vocal range. A bass part is usually included in most four-part harmonies.

Counter-tenor: A counter-tenor voice is usually known as a falsetto voice. Basically, if a man sings up in a range that is usually associated with women's voices or if he sings the role of a soprano or alto, he's using a counter-tenor voice. Counter-tenors are rare in opera, but not unheard of, but are very popular in pop and rock music as well as in gospel music - think of some of the high notes sung by U2's Bono or by Michael Jackson. Singing lessons are a must if a man wants to make his counter-tenor voice sound natural rather than squeaky.

Treble: Not many people signing up for singing lessons will come under the category of a treble singer. Trebles are also known as boy sopranos. In other words, trebles are boys who haven't gone through puberty and whose voices haven't broken yet. In days gone by, you could find some grown-up trebles: these were the castrati - men who had undergone "the unkindest cut of all" in order to keep their perfect voices. As the age of puberty is lower now than it used to be, trebles are rare.

As well as taking singing lessons, you can improve your technique by listening to songs sung by others in the same category as you.


Learn how to sing well at Totally Vocals. (Click now to get SEO for real readers, not robots, using Semantic Writing by Rick Rakauskas)

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