If you have ever listened to all those fantastic songs from the West End musicals, you will realize that there are different types of singing voices. These voice types range from the highest notes, which can soar all around the auditorium, to the lower tones, which serenades the soul. For a singer to begin his journey, he needs to know to which type of singing voice his voice belongs.
While you definitely need to listen to all these different types of voices to know your perfect match, you will still need to know the other types and understand them properly. That is where we come in. We will be providing you with a detailed explanation of all the different kinds of singing voices. We'll also show you how to distinguish between them successfully.
What Is Voice Type?
Carefully listen to all your favorite singers’ vocal ranges, and you will find that there is a wide range between them. This wide range makes it tough to know what a voice type is. Hence, before we even discuss the different types of singing voices, we must shed some light on what we mean by voice type. Also, we will tell you why it should be relevant to you.
In a nutshell, voice type refers to the classification of the voice of a singer. This classification is based on a variety of different criteria. These include vocal weight, vocal range, vocal tone, bridge location, and tessitura.
Why Do You Need to Know Your Voice Type?
We're confident you may be wondering why and how knowing your voice type is essential to you.
The classification of the different types of voices was first made in order for the singers to find it easier for them to be cast for roles. If you are aware that your singing voice has the tone and range of a soprano, this means you would be auditioning for the roles that are meant for the soprano part. Classic operas featured roles for a wide range of voices, which included soprano, tenors, basses, and alto.
Knowing your voice type means you can find out which singers have the closest singing voice to yours. In turn, you can easily choose which songs to sing that would work well with your voice type. An example is the following. If your singing voice type is a tenor, you would want to look for singers who are famously known for this particular voice type. Two examples are Sam Smith and Ed Sheeran. This means that singing their songs would be easier for you to sing because your voice and theirs have the same vocal range.
If all this seems confusing to you, don't worry. We will talk about what you need to know about these different types of singing voices and how you can find yours. Knowing your voice type also means getting in touch with yourself as a singer.
With this knowledge, you will know not to hurt or strain yourself to reach high (or low) notes that your type of voice cannot handle well.
What Determines Voice Type?
This question is one of the most controversial aspects of establishing the right voice type classification. This is because the nuances tend to be very subtle. A lot of times, that can confuse even the experts who cannot properly agree on how they can make these distinctions.
You have to understand that the type of singing voice isn't just organized by the categories that are based on a single criterion. This is a voice classification that responds to a broad set of variables that can define those nuances.
While there are indeed categories, you should never consider a voice type as something inflexible and strict. Instead, it would be best to consider it as an orientation that comes with a lot of gradations.
Different Voice Characteristics
If you take into account the characteristics mentioned below, not only will you be able to define your voice type but also discover your full potential.
- Vocal range refers to all the notes that your voice can produce.
- Tessitura includes the notes that your voice can comfortably sing.
- Weight refers to how light or heavy the voice can be. For instance, some can have a lighter voice, while others have a heavier voice. Some are dark, while others are bright. Some can even be agile, while others can be powerful.
- Timbre of voice refers to the texture and quality of the voice that makes it unique.
- Vocal register is the different sound groups that are capable of making up the production of the voice.
- Transition points refer to the points where the voice starts changing, from the chest to middle to the head voice.
- Speaking level refers to the voice level when speaking according to its physical characteristics.
When asking what type of singing voice you have, you are also, questioning several other aspects of your voice. These could be aspects like voice timbre or voice register. As such, labeling a singer as belonging to just one voice type will prove to be counterproductive for the singer's professional projection.
Types of Singing Voices
Among every variable you can use to determine the singer's voice type, the most important one is the tessitura. This reflects the tonal amplitude of the singer's voice. As mentioned, tessitura refers to the complete set of notes that a singer can sing comfortably without the need to force the vocal cords. The other remaining variables that we have mentioned above are useful in making more classifications.
The following types of singing voices listed below are the basic scheme.
It is important to note that these types of singing voices, while classified as those belonging to women, can also be heard from men. It's just that the following voice types feature higher notes, which you can often hear in women.
The soprano is considered the most acute voice. On a keyboard or a piano, this would range between Do4 (C5) and Do6 (C7).
Within the soprano, you will find the following:
- Light sopranos, which tend to have a more acute record but a lesser body
- Lyrical sopranos, which tend to have more volume than the light ones, but not as much acuteness
- Dramatic sopranos tend to have a brighter timbre and a more serious voice, making it ideal for dramatic roles
This singing voice is considered to be the second-highest type of voice for a woman. The mezzo-soprano, which is often referred to simply as a mezzo, is a voice type that is typically suited to lower notes. This is often used for singing a harmony line below the tune that the soprano sings. Like this, the musical number will have a richer and rounder sound to it.
Additionally, mezzo-soprano singers are often associated with characters who would typically perform jazzier songs. Mezzo-soprano singers are also known to belt out show-stopping numbers capable of rounding off an entire performance.
A great example of a mezzo voice is those you will hear in a musical. This includes Idina Menzel as Elphaba in the famous musical Wicked, where she sings the popular song "Defying Gravity." Adele and Katy Perry are other great examples of mezzo-soprano singers.
Women who have a lower voice register tend to perform the contralto voice line. This type of singing voice is considered to be reasonably rare since they're in a low musical tessitura. Because of this rarity, the roles of this type of voice is quite scarce in operas.
The contralto voice line helps in balancing out all the high notes performed by the sopranos or the mezzo-soprano to help form a much fuller sound. Some great examples of contralto songs performed in a musical are "The Dark I Know Well" in Spring Awakening and "Broadway Baby" in Follies. Mercedes Sosa and Amy Winehouse are some of the more popular contralto singers of modern times.
Like voice types said to belong to women but can sometimes be heard in men, some females can also be classified as having a tenor, baritone, or even bass voice.
Just like with the female classification, tenors are considered to be the most acute voices in a very short vocal range, which is from Do3 (C4) to Do4 (C5). Tenors have the highest male voice you'll be able to find.
Just like a soprano, tenors are also divided into lyrical, light, and dramatic. They share the same characteristics, as well. Because of their small and higher vocal range, the tenor part is quite often associated with the young characters.
Some interesting examples of singers with this type of singing voice are Justin Timberlake, Adam Levine, and Zayn Malik. In musicals, Tony in "West Side Story" is an excellent example of a character who has a tenor voice.
A majority of male singers are known to have a baritone voice type. Unlike tenors, baritones aren't capable of performing songs with a lot of agility. However, they can reach those darker notes with ease that tenors aren't capable of achieving.
Baritones are considered to be in-between the tenor and bass. In fact, this voice type connects tenor and bass. As such, those who have a baritone voice are capable of singing notes of a typical male voice range with ease.
Some great and interesting examples of baritone singers are Ansel Elgort, Bradley Cooper, Josh Groban, and Eric Clapton. One great example of a Baritone song is the "Empty Chairs at Empty Tables" by Michael Ball, who performs the role of Marius in "Les Misérables."
The dark and low male voices belong to this singing voice type. A bass voice can sing the lowest notes that can leave the audience stunned. In fact, a bass part in a song is also known to bounce around an auditorium during a live performance.
A bass singer is not capable of developing this kind of voice until they are much older due to the male body's development. He often carries the tone and rhythm of a song, especially when that number is dramatic and moody. Furthermore, bass singers have voices with a lot of depth that often tend to resemble a cello's lower notes.
A very famous bass song that we are sure you have listened to is "What a Wonderful World" by Louis Armstrong.
In case you are interested in a comprehensive course that can help you find your type of singing voice and much more, then you may want to check out Singorama 2.0. A successful singer and vocal coach created this course for everyone ranging from beginners to experienced singers. If you are not sure whether you should invest in this course, you can first check out their free 5-part singing course.
Once you have determined which singing voice type you belong to, you need to learn how to make the most out of your voice.
To help you with that, here are a few expert tips to keep in mind:
- If you are a bass singer, you must work hard to sing an E4 as amazingly you possibly can.
- For a baritone singer, you will have to work towards singing to an A4 with the full and rich quality that your vocal weight has been built for.
- If your singing voice belongs to the tenor type, and you have a break between your head voice and chest voices, it is imperative that you don't stop until you get that fixed.
- For a contralto, it is essential that you make your A4 shine with all that amazing weight your voice is blessed with.
- If your singing voice type is a mezzo-soprano, you will need to sing at an A5 with a beautiful and full sound.
- Lastly, if you are a soprano, you have to ensure that you sing at a C6 with absolute perfection.
Keep in mind that every singing voice is created equally; there is no shame in being a contralto versus being a soprano. What you must concentrate on is continuously improving your singing voice, which you can do with constant practice and hard work.
Now that you already have an idea about which type of singing voice you have, you can start practicing songs and singing techniques appropriate to your needs. You can also look for singers with the same voice type as yours so that you can learn how they play with their voice to create beautiful music.