Voice type

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Not to be confused with Voice typing. Voice type_sentence_0

This article focuses on voice classification within classical music. Voice type_sentence_1

For other contemporary styles of singing see: Voice classification in non-classical music. Voice type_sentence_2

A voice type is a group of voices with similar vocal ranges, capable of singing in a similar tessitura, and with similar vocal transition points (passaggi). Voice type_sentence_3

Voice classification is most strongly associated with European classical music, though it, and the terms it utilizes, are used in other styles of music as well. Voice type_sentence_4

A singer will choose a repertoire that suits their instrument. Voice type_sentence_5

Some singers such as Enrico Caruso, Rosa Ponselle, Joan Sutherland, Maria Callas, Jessye Norman, Ewa Podleś, or Plácido Domingo have voices that allow them to sing roles from a wide variety of types; some singers such as Shirley Verrett or Grace Bumbry change type and even voice part over their careers; and some singers such as Leonie Rysanek have voices that lower with age, causing them to cycle through types over their careers. Voice type_sentence_6

Some roles as well are hard to classify, having very unusual vocal requirements; Mozart wrote many of his roles for specific singers who often had remarkable voices, and some of Verdi's early works make extreme demands on his singers. Voice type_sentence_7

Number of voice types Voice type_section_0

Many different voice types are used in vocal pedagogy in a variety of voice classification systems. Voice type_sentence_8

Most of these types, however, are grouped into seven major voice categories that are, for the most part, acknowledged across the major voice classification systems. Voice type_sentence_9

Women are typically divided into three groups: soprano, mezzo-soprano, and contralto. Voice type_sentence_10

Men are usually divided into four groups: countertenor, tenor, baritone, and bass. Voice type_sentence_11

When considering the pre-pubescent voice, an eighth term, treble, is applied. Voice type_sentence_12

Within each of these major categories, subcategories identify specific vocal qualities such as coloratura facility and vocal weight to differentiate between voices. Voice type_sentence_13

The vocal range of classical performance covers about five octaves, from a low G1 (in scientific pitch notation) to a high G6, although the extremes are rare. Voice type_sentence_14

More commonly the range is from a low C2 to a high D6. Voice type_sentence_15

Any individual's voice can perform over a range of one and a half to more than two octaves. Voice type_sentence_16

Vocal ranges are grouped into overlapping types that each span about two octaves. Voice type_sentence_17

Many singers fall between groups and can perform some parts in either type. Voice type_sentence_18

Female voices Voice type_section_1

Soprano Voice type_section_2

Soprano range: The soprano is the highest singing voice. Voice type_sentence_19

The typical soprano voice lies between C4 (middle C) and C6 (high C). Voice type_sentence_20

The low extreme for sopranos is roughly A3 (just below middle C). Voice type_sentence_21

Most soprano roles do not extend above C6 although there are several standard soprano roles that call for D6. Voice type_sentence_22

At the highest extreme, some coloratura soprano roles may reach to G6 (the G above high C). Voice type_sentence_23

Soprano tessitura: The tessitura of the soprano voice lies higher than all the other voices except the sopranino. Voice type_sentence_24

In particular, the coloratura soprano has the highest tessitura of all the soprano subtypes. Voice type_sentence_25

Soprano subtypes: As with all voice types, sopranos are often divided into different subcategories based on range, vocal color or timbre, the weight of voice, and dexterity of the voice. Voice type_sentence_26

Sopranos are often broken down into five subcategories: coloratura soprano, soubrette, lyric soprano, spinto soprano, and dramatic soprano. Voice type_sentence_27

Two types of soprano especially dear to the French are the Dugazon and the Falcon, which are intermediate voice types between the soprano and the mezzo-soprano. Voice type_sentence_28

A Dugazon is a darker-colored soubrette. Voice type_sentence_29

A Falcon a darker-colored soprano drammatico. Voice type_sentence_30

Mezzo-soprano Voice type_section_3

Mezzo-soprano range: The mezzo-soprano voice is the middle-range voice type for females; it lies between the soprano and contralto ranges, over-lapping both of them. Voice type_sentence_31

The typical range of this voice is between A3 (the A below middle C) to A5 (two octaves higher). Voice type_sentence_32

In the lower and upper extremes, some mezzo-sopranos may extend down to F3 (the F below middle C) and as high as C6 (high C). Voice type_sentence_33

Mezzo-soprano tessitura: Although this voice overlaps both the contralto and soprano voices, the tessitura of the mezzo-soprano is lower than that of the soprano and higher than that of the contralto. Voice type_sentence_34

Mezzo-soprano subtypes: Mezzo-sopranos are often broken down into three subcategories: lyric mezzo-soprano, coloratura mezzo-soprano and dramatic mezzo-soprano. Voice type_sentence_35

Contralto Voice type_section_4

See also: Alto Voice type_sentence_36

Contralto range: The contralto voice is the lowest female voice. Voice type_sentence_37

A true operatic contralto is rare, so much so that often roles intended for contralto are performed by mezzo-sopranos. Voice type_sentence_38

The typical contralto range lies between F3 (the F below middle C) to F5 (the second F above middle C). Voice type_sentence_39

In the lower and upper extremes some contralto voices can sing from D3 (the D below middle C) to B 5 (the second B-flat above), one whole step short of the soprano high C. Voice type_sentence_40

Contralto tessitura: The contralto voice has the lowest tessitura of the female voices. Voice type_sentence_41

Contralto subtypes: Contraltos are often broken down into three subcategories: coloratura contralto, lyric contralto, and dramatic contralto. Voice type_sentence_42

A soprano sfogato is a contralto who has an extended high range reaching the soprano high C. Voice type_sentence_43

Male voices Voice type_section_5

Countertenor Voice type_section_6

While the countertenor is almost universally recognized as a voice category, it is not a voice type in the strictest sense. Voice type_sentence_44

Except for a few very rare voices (such as the American male soprano Michael Maniaci or singers with a disorder such as Kallmann syndrome), countertenors generally sing in the falsetto register, sometimes using their modal voice for the lowest notes. Voice type_sentence_45

The countertenor voice is therefore a product of the application of a specific technical approach, not the result of the biological factors which have long been credited with determining the other voice types included on this list. Voice type_sentence_46

These factors include vocal-fold length, thickness, and other elements of laryngeal proportions. Voice type_sentence_47

All countertenors, save those rare examples previously mentioned, also fall into the traditional male voice categories, such as tenor and bass. Voice type_sentence_48

Countertenor range: The countertenor is the highest male voice. Voice type_sentence_49

Many countertenor singers perform roles originally written for a castrato in baroque operas. Voice type_sentence_50

Historically, there is much evidence that the countertenor, in England at least, also designated a very high tenor voice, the equivalent of the French haute-contre. Voice type_sentence_51

Until about 1830, all male voices used some falsetto-type voice production in their upper range. Voice type_sentence_52

Countertenor voices span a broad range, covering E3 to E5. Voice type_sentence_53

Countertenor subtypes: Countertenors are often broken down into three subcategories: sopranist or "male soprano", the haute-contre, and the castrato. Voice type_sentence_54

The last actual castrato singer, Alessandro Moreschi, died in 1922. Voice type_sentence_55

Tenor Voice type_section_7

Tenor range: The tenor is the highest male voice within the modal register. Voice type_sentence_56

The typical tenor voice lies between C3 (one octave below middle C) to C5 (one octave above middle C). Voice type_sentence_57

The low extreme for tenors is roughly A 2 (the second A-flat below middle C). Voice type_sentence_58

At the highest extreme, some tenors can sing up to F5 (the second F above middle C). Voice type_sentence_59

Tenor tessitura: The tessitura of the tenor voice lies above the baritone voice and below the countertenor voice. Voice type_sentence_60

The Tenorino has the highest tessitura of all the tenor subtypes. Voice type_sentence_61

Tenor subtypes: Tenors are often divided into different subcategories based on range, vocal color or timbre, the weight of the voice, and dexterity of the voice. Voice type_sentence_62

Tenors are often broken down into eight subcategories: Tenorino, tenore contraltino, leggero tenor or tenore di grazia, lyric tenor, spinto tenor or tenore spinto, dramatic tenor, heldentenor, and baritenor. Voice type_sentence_63

Famous tenors include Enrico Caruso, Juan Diego Flórez, Alfredo Kraus, Luciano Pavarotti, Placido Domingo and José Carreras. Voice type_sentence_64

Baritone Voice type_section_8

Baritone range: The baritone voice is the middle-range voice type for males; it lies between the bass and tenor ranges, overlapping both of them. Voice type_sentence_65

The typical baritone range is from A2 (the second A below middle C) to A4 (the A above middle C). Voice type_sentence_66

A baritone's range might extend down to F2 or up to C5. Voice type_sentence_67

The baritone voice type is the most common male voice. Voice type_sentence_68

Baritone tessitura: Although this voice range overlaps both the tenor and bass ranges, the tessitura of the baritone is lower than that of the tenor and higher than that of the bass. Voice type_sentence_69

Baritone subtypes: Baritones are often divided into different subcategories based on range, vocal color or timbre, the weight of the voice, and dexterity of the voice. Voice type_sentence_70

Baritones are often broken down into nine subcategories: baryton-Martin, lyric baritone, bel canto or coloratura baritone, kavalierbariton, heldenbaritone, Verdi baritone, dramatic baritone, baryton-noble, and bass-baritone. Voice type_sentence_71

Bass Voice type_section_9

Bass range: The bass is the lowest singing voice. Voice type_sentence_72

The bass voice has the lowest tessitura of all the voices. Voice type_sentence_73

The typical bass range lies between E2 (the second E below middle C) to E4 (the E above middle C). Voice type_sentence_74

In the lower and upper extremes of the bass voice, some basses can sing from C2 (two octaves below middle C) to G4 (the G above middle C). Voice type_sentence_75

Bass subtypes: Basses are often divided into different subcategories based on range, vocal color or timbre, the weight of the voice, and dexterity of the voice. Voice type_sentence_76

Basses are often broken down into six subcategories: basso profondo, basso buffo, bel canto bass, basso cantante, dramatic bass, and bass-baritone. Voice type_sentence_77

Children's voices Voice type_section_10

Voice from childhood to adulthood Voice type_section_11

A human voice will alter as a person gets older. Voice type_sentence_78

The vocal range and timbre of children's voices does not have the variety that adults' voices have. Voice type_sentence_79

Boys and girls before puberty have a similar vocal range and timbre because both groups have a similar larynx size and weight and a similar vocal cord structure and color. Voice type_sentence_80

With the onset of puberty, women's, and particularly men's, voices alter as the vocal ligaments become more defined and the laryngeal cartilages harden. Voice type_sentence_81

The height of the male larynx becomes much greater than in women. Voice type_sentence_82

Size and development of adult lungs also changes physical capabilities of the voice. Voice type_sentence_83

During puberty, the human voice is in an in-between phase where it is not quite a child's voice nor an adult one yet. Voice type_sentence_84

This is not to suggest that the voice stops changing after puberty. Voice type_sentence_85

Different singers will reach adult development earlier or later than others, and as stated above, there are continual changes throughout adulthood. Voice type_sentence_86

A classic example for this continual change in men particularly is a loss of a more extreme bottom range gained at the beginning of puberty, only for this range to very often return in older age. Voice type_sentence_87

Treble Voice type_section_12

Treble can refer to either a young female or young male singer with an unchanged voice in the mezzo-soprano range. Voice type_sentence_88

Initially, the term was associated with boy sopranos but as the inclusion of girls into children's choirs became acceptable in the 20th century the term has expanded to refer to all pre-pubescent voices. Voice type_sentence_89

The lumping of children's voices into one category is also practical, as boys and girls share a similar range and timbre. Voice type_sentence_90

Most trebles have an approximate range from A3 (the A below middle C) to F5 (the F one and a half octaves above middle C). Voice type_sentence_91

Some trebles, however, can extend their voices higher in the modal register to C6 (high C). Voice type_sentence_92

This ability may be comparatively rare, but the Anglican church repertory, which many trained trebles sing, frequently demands A5. Voice type_sentence_93

For higher notes see, for example, the treble solo at the beginning of Stanford's Magnificat in G, David Willcocks' descant to Mendelssohn's tune for the carol "Hark! Voice type_sentence_94 The Herald Angels Sing", and the even higher treble solo in the "Nunc dimittis" from Tippett's evening canticles written for St John's College, Cambridge. Voice type_sentence_95

Many trebles are also able to reach higher notes by use of the whistle register but this practice is rarely called for in performance. Voice type_sentence_96

Classifying singers Voice type_section_13

Vocal pedagogues generally consider four main qualities of a human voice when attempting to classify it: vocal range, tessitura, timbre, and vocal transition points known as passaggio. Voice type_sentence_97

However, teachers may also consider physical characteristics, speech level, scientific testing, and other factors such as vocal register. Voice type_sentence_98

Voice classification into the correct voice type is important for vocal pedagogues and singers as a guiding tool for the development of the voice. Voice type_sentence_99

Misclassification of a singer's voice type is dangerous. Voice type_sentence_100

It can damage the vocal cords, shorten a singing career, and lead to the loss of both vocal beauty and free vocal production. Voice type_sentence_101

Some of these dangers are not immediate ones; the human voice is quite resilient, especially in early adulthood, and the damage may not make its appearance for months or even years. Voice type_sentence_102

Unfortunately, this lack of apparent immediate harm can cause singers to develop bad habits that will over time cause irreparable damage to the voice. Voice type_sentence_103

Singing outside the natural vocal range imposes a serious strain upon the voice. Voice type_sentence_104

Clinical evidence indicates that singing at a pitch level that is either too high or too low creates vocal pathology. Voice type_sentence_105

According to vocal pedagogue Margaret Greene, "The need for choosing the correct natural range of the voice is of great importance in singing since the outer ends of the singing range need very careful production and should not be overworked, even in trained voices." Voice type_sentence_106

Singing at either extreme of the range may be damaging, but the possibility of damage seems to be much more prevalent in too high a classification. Voice type_sentence_107

A number of medical authorities have indicated that singing at too high a pitch level may contribute to certain vocal disorders. Voice type_sentence_108

Medical evidence indicates that singing at too high of a pitch level may lead to the development of vocal cord nodules. Voice type_sentence_109

Increasing tension on the vocal cords is one of the means of raising pitch. Voice type_sentence_110

Singing above an individual's best tessitura keeps the vocal cords under a great deal of unnecessary tension for long periods of time, and the possibility of vocal abuse is greatly increased. Voice type_sentence_111

Singing at too low a pitch level is not as likely to be damaging unless a singer tries to force the voice down. Voice type_sentence_112

Dangers of quick identification Voice type_section_14

Many vocal pedagogues warn of the dangers of quick identification. Voice type_sentence_113

Premature concern with classification can result in misclassification, with all its attendant dangers. Voice type_sentence_114

Notable vocal pedagogue William Vennard has stated: Voice type_sentence_115

Voice type_description_list_0

  • I never feel any urgency about classifying a beginning student. So many premature diagnoses have been proved wrong, and it can be harmful to the student and embarrassing to the teacher to keep striving for an ill-chosen goal. It is best to begin in the middle part of the voice and work upward and downward until the voice classifies itself.Voice type_item_0_0

Most vocal pedagogues believe that it is essential to establish good vocal habits within a limited and comfortable range before attempting to classify the voice. Voice type_sentence_116

When techniques of posture, breathing, phonation, resonation, and articulation have become established in this comfortable area, the true quality of the voice will emerge and the upper and lower limits of the range can be explored safely. Voice type_sentence_117

Only then can a tentative classification be arrived at, and it may be adjusted as the voice continues to develop. Voice type_sentence_118

Many vocal pedagogues suggest that teachers begin by assuming that a voice is of a medium classification until it proves otherwise. Voice type_sentence_119

The reason for this is that the majority of individuals possess medium voices and therefore this approach is less likely to mis-classify or damage the voice. Voice type_sentence_120

Choral music classification Voice type_section_15

Unlike other classification systems, choral music divides voices solely on the basis of vocal range. Voice type_sentence_121

Choral music most commonly divides vocal parts into soprano, alto, tenor and bass (SATB). Voice type_sentence_122

As a result, the typical chorus affords many opportunities for misclassification to occur. Voice type_sentence_123

Since most people have medium voices, they are often assigned a part that is either too high or too low for them; the mezzo-soprano must sing soprano or alto and the baritone must sing tenor or bass. Voice type_sentence_124

Either option can present problems for the singer, but for most singers there are fewer dangers in singing too low, than in singing too high. Voice type_sentence_125

See also Voice type_section_16

Voice type_unordered_list_1

Credits to the contents of this page go to the authors of the corresponding Wikipedia page: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Voice type.