Vocal range is the measure of the breadth of pitches that a person’s voice can produce, although the study of vocal range has little practical application in terms of speech, it is a topic of study within linguistics, phonetics, and speech and language pathology, particularly in relation to the study of tonal languages and certain types of vocal disorders.
While the broadest definition of vocal range is simply the span from the lowest to the highest note a particular voice can produce, this broad definition is often not what is meant when “vocal range” is discussed in the context of singing. The most common application of the term “vocal range” is used as one of the major defining characteristics for identifying and classifying singing voices into groups known as voice types.
The following are the general vocal ranges associated with each voice type:
- SOPRANO: A soprano is a type of classical female singing voice and has the highest vocal range of all voice types. The soprano’s vocal range is from approximately middle C to “high A” in choral music, or to “soprano C” or higher in operatic music.
- MEZZO-SOPRANO: is a type of classical female singing voice whose vocal range lies between the soprano and the contralto voice types. The mezzo-soprano’s vocal range usually extends from the A below middle C to the A two octaves above . In the lower and upper extremes, some mezzo-sopranos may extend down to the F below middle C and as high as “high C.”
- CONTRALTO: a contralto is a type of classical female singing voice whose vocal range is the lowest female voice type. The contralto’s vocal range falls between tenor and mezzo-soprano; typically between the F below middle C to the second F above middle C, although at the extremes some voices can reach the E below middle C or the second B♭ above middle C.
- TENOR: A tenor is a type of classical male singing voice whose vocal range us one of the highest of the male voice types. The tenor’s vocal range in choral music lies between C3, the C one octave below middle C and the A above middle C. In solo work, this range extends up to (C5), or “tenor high C”. The low extreme for tenors is roughly A♭ below middle C. At the highest extreme, some tenors can sing up to two Fs above middle C.
- BARITONE: is a type of classical make singing voice whose vocal range lies between the bass and the tenor voice types. It is the most common male voice. Music for this voice is typically written in the range from the second F below middle C to the F above middle C in choral music, and from the second A below middle C to the A above middle C in operatic music, but can be extended at either end.
- BASS: is a type of classical male singing voice and is the lowest vocal range of all voice types. A bass is typically classified as having a vocal range extending from around the second E below middle C to the E above middle C.
A voice type is a particular kind of human singing voice perceived as having certain identifying qualities or characteristics. Voice classification is the process by which human voices are evaluated and are thereby designated into voice types. These qualities include but are not limited to vocal range, vocal weight, vocal tessitura, vocal timbre, and vocal transition points such as breaks and lifts within the voice. All of these factors combined are used to categorize a singer’s voice into a particular kind of singing voice or voice type.
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