Vocal range varies from person to person and depends on several different factors – which is a good thing! Otherwise, we would all sound the same. Can you imagine how boring that would’ve been? Your vocal range is influenced by the vocal cords that you’re born with, your diction, speech and singing habits, as well as your hearing ability. And don’t forget about your training and dedication. It’s also important to keep in mind that your vocal range can change a lot before reaching a certain level of maturity – which is usually in our late twenties. But that doesn’t mean you will have the same vocal range for the rest of your life! There is always room for improvement.
In this article, we will discuss your own vocal range and give tips on what you should take note of while doing it.
Classifying Your Own Voice
Classifying your voice as a singer helps you in find a genre and music style that work best for you as a performer. Knowing what your voice is capable of will help you a great deal in making the best decisions for yourself with regards to training and taking care of your vocal cords.
Take a look at our brief explanation of the different voice ranges:
Female vocal ranges
Alto or contralto: This is the lowest female vocal range. In general, it’s very similar to the range of a male tenor and great in supporting the harmony of a soprano’s melody in choral work.
Mezzo-soprano: It falls roundabout in the middle of the female vocal range. This is the most common female range and usually, sings with the sopranos in choral work.
Soprano: This is the highest female vocal range. In choral music, the sopranos often get the melody line and a true soprano can reach a top E or even higher.
Male vocal ranges
- Bass: This is the deepest male vocal range. In Opera, basses usually have the biggest variety of roles and have rather monotone harmonies in choral work.
- Baritone: The middle range of the male voice, as wells as the most common vocal range.
- Tenor: This is the highest vocal range for males. Famous pop tenors include Freddie Mercury and Michael Jackson.
- Countertenor: One of the rarest male voices. A true countertenor is able to sing along with a soprano, without using his falsetto. However, many countertenors have developed a powerful falsetto.
Finding Your Own Vocal Range
Finding your vocal range is easy if you know how and have musical experience. So, if you struggle to find your vocal range, don’t worry. A good vocal coach will be able to guide you through this process.
It’s always great to start any exercise with a warm-up, as it plays an important role in preparing you for the upcoming activity. Warm-ups are essential for any singer.
Vocal warm-ups will help stretch out your voice and also avoid harming your vocal chords during the process of determining your range.
It’s easy to hurt your voice when aiming for those high notes, so a vocal warm-up is not something you should ever skip over.
In order to determine how wide your vocal range is, a musical instrument will help you to accurately find your own singing range.
But if you don’t have a suitable instrument, don’t let that stop you. Go old-school by singing scales, or better known in "The Sound of Music-language", or Do-Ri-Mi-Fa-Sol-La-Ti-Do.
The biggest downside to singing scales without the guidance of an instrument is that you don’t have a clear indication of what your highest note really is. But in that case, just remember that sopranos and tenors sing high, whereas altos and basses sing low.
Finding the lowest of your vocal range first is the ideal way to start because it puts less strain on your voice and also helps you to warm-up properly. And remember to focus on proper breath support to avoid any unnecessary tension in your neck or vocal chords.
With the assistance of an instrument or vocal coach, start your session by singing the middle C note and slowly moving downwards. Continue moving downwards until you’re not able to hear a clear and audible sound being produced by your instrument anymore.
From that lowest note, start singing upward (note by note) until you reach a note where you can sing audibly and sustain it quite easily. This note is then the lower limit of your vocal range.
In other words, you sing between the middle C note and the lowest note until you find the lowest note where you can produce the most stable note.
After you found the lowest note of your vocal range, repeat the process by singing upwards from the middle C note. Once again, continue moving up until you can no longer sing and sustain an audible note. This will then be the upper limit of your vocal range.
Keep in mind; it’s important that you include your falsetto (also known as your head voice) in finding your vocal range as it’s also considered a part of your full range.
After determining the upper and lower limits of your vocal range, you can count the number of octaves in between. An octave is compiled of eight notes following each other. The number of octaves will then give an indication of how wide your vocal range is in terms of octaves.
Knowing how wide your range helps you add a personal signature to your singing. But be careful of quick or uneducated classification of your voice. Not only can this lead to vocal injury, it can also limit your success because you're missing out on an opportunity to improve.
In the end, there is also the possibility that your voice hasn’t reached its maximum level of maturity. So, give your voice more time to develop. Like they say, your work as an artist almost never ends.
The English translation of the Italian word “tessitura” means texture. So in terms of music, it refers to the quality of the voice when it provides the most appealing sound. It is also known as the singer’s ‘sweet spot’ of his/her vocal range.
Even though it’s possible to find your vocal range and tessitura on your own, a good vocal coach will help you to polish the finer details and pick out the problem areas you might be facing. All of this will help you to select a singing repertoire that maximizes your singing range.
Another interesting point to remember is that your singing ability has no direct relation to the size of your vocal range. It comes down to how you use what you have and how you work that ‘sweet spot’ to your advantage.
With finding your own vocal range, selecting a suitable song repertoire, and the guidance of a vocal coach that can help you manage your vocal transitions, you will be touching the hearts of your audience in no time as you start nailing songs that complement your own vocal range.
About the Author: Julie Adams
I am a mom, a music lover and teacher from Tampa, FL. After completing a Bachelor of Music in Performance Arts, I traveled for several years before returning home where I started offering private piano and singing lessons as extra income. I met my husband in 2009 and 2 years later moved to Dallas where we settled down and I started focusing on vocal training to aspiring singers and performance artists of all age groups. I still enjoy playing the piano very much, and in my spare time you will catch doing some horse riding, drawing, doing some light reading, or just spending quality time with my family.