Day 6: My type on paper

You’re all being very studious and trying out the tips I’m giving you so I thought it was time we took a closer look at your own voices. Today, I’m back at the piano with an explanation of the six main voice types in opera, as well as approximate vocal ranges (i.e. lowest and highest notes for each type).

The lowest of the male voice types is bass. Ranging from approximately the second E below middle C to the E above. Man, these guys are deep. Then, come the baritones. Most men will fall into this category and these voices typically range from the second G below middle C to the F above. The third male voice type is tenor, ranging from the second A below middle C to the A above. Tenors are in high demand! The least common of the male voice types, we often joke that these high-voiced men will never be short of work as opera companies struggle to cast enough love interests and heroes opposite a plethora of leading ladies.

The lowest female voice type is contralto and these singers can typically go from the F below middle C to the second E above. This is the rarest type of female voice, especially in opera where singers need to have enough power, volume and clarity in these low registers to be heard over large orchestras. In the middle of the three female voice types is the aptly titled mezzo-soprano (literally ‘half’ soprano). This is my voice type and therefore, the best. Fact. We mezzos generally sing between the A below middle C and the second A above. And finally we reach the dizzying heights of the sopranos. They’ll happily drop to a middle C and soar two octaves above …and beyond.

That leads me on to mention some extremities and exceptions. There are some stratospheric sopranos that can sing much higher than the top C mentioned above and there are basses that can sing much lower than the typical low E – in fact, oktavists are low, typically Russian, male singers that rumble a whole octave below the standard bass range. Countertenors are also a more unusual exception – they sing higher than standard tenors and overlap into the female vocal ranges.

There are many variations and anomalies – some of you will find you have a bigger range than any listed above – and don’t even get me started on the vocal quality (richness, timbre, agility etc.)! That’s for another day. The important thing to note is that your voice type will be where you are most comfortable singing. I’m a case in point. I have some high notes – higher than the prescribed mezzo limits – but my voice sounds best and sits comfortably in the mezzo range.

Have a go at pitching some of the notes as I play through the voice types and hopefully, if you don’t already know, you’ll get an idea of where you sit most comfortably.

Stay cheered and healthy. Lots of love xx

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