If you want to improve your voice and learn how to sing properly, knowing your voice type is essential.
If you know your vocal range, you’ll know how high or low you can sing.
Therefore, you’ll be able to choose songs and vocal exercises accordingly.
In today’s article, we will tell you all about different voice types.
So, keep reading to discover more about each voice type and discover what is yours!
Understanding Voice Types
In essence, a voice type (or vocal type) is the classification of a singer’s voice.
It’s based on several criteria and vocal variables, such as vocal range, vocal weight, tessitura, timbre, and so on.
If you’re not familiar with these terms, let us explain them briefly.
Your vocal range encompasses the notes you can produce, from low to high.
In other words, it’s a measurement of the distance from the lowest note to the highest note you can sing.
And although your vocal range is specific to your voice, vocal ranges are normally categorized within 8 common voice types we’ll tell you about in a minute.
Most people have approximately a 2-octave range.
But some professional singers have a vocal range of over 4 octaves! Some of the most impressive vocal ranges of famous singers include:
- Mariah Carey: F2 – G7 (more than 5 octaves)
- Ariana Grande: D3 – E7 (more than 4 octaves)
- Michael Jackson: Eb2 – F#6 (more than 4 octaves)
- Beyonce: A2 – E6 (more than 4 octaves)
Vocal weight is the lightness or heaviness of your voice.
As a singer, your vocal weight determines how heavy (strong, powerful) or light (gentle, bright) you can sing certain parts.
So in a way, vocal weight is a perceived quality of voice.
In short, tessitura is the range of your singing voice that feels comfortable.
Don’t confuse tessitura with your vocal range though. A vocal range is a measure that determines your abilities, while tessitura determines the place your voice is comfortable and can rest.
It’s a range in which your voice produces its best quality.
For instance, you may be able to hit a G5 but only sing comfortably up to a C5. So, a C5 would be your tessitura.
And singing comfortably is the most important thing in learning how to sing.
A vocal register is defined as a range of tones produced in the human voice by a particular vibratory pattern of the vocal folds.
Singers use four main vocal registers when singing. This helps them to create vocal dynamics in a song.
Starting from highest to lowest pitch, the 4 vocal registers in singing are:
- head voice
- the mixed or middle register
- chest register
As a beginner, you’ll first learn how to sing in head voice and chest voice.
The chest voice is the range of notes at the bottom of your voice, and the head voice allows you to reach higher notes.
When you’re speaking, you’re using your chest voice. And when you sing, your chest voice will make you sound fuller, and you will feel the vibrations in your chest.
Singers can also blend registers, but these vocal techniques are challenging to master.
For now, it’s important for you to identify different vocal registers. And eventually, you’ll learn how to use them properly.
Another element you need to be familiar with is the location where your voice transitions between different vocal registers.
So when you move between singing with your chest to your head voice, it’s known as the passagio or bridge.
No matter what your vocal type is, this place of transition can be quite a challenge.
But with vocal training, you’ll be able to sing through your bridge comfortably.
Timbre is another huge deciding factor in determining your voice type.
Just like different musical instruments sound distinct from each other, the human voice has its unique tonal quality and sound. And that’s the easiest way to understand timbre.
So, timbre is the quality that makes your voice unique.
It’s the color of your voice.
Other factors that determine your voice type include physical characteristics or the anatomy of your vocals and body. This involves the length of your vocal tract (glottis to lips), the size of vocal folds, and body size.
This also affects your speaking voice, which is another thing to take into account when thinking about your specific voice type.
If you understand all of these elements, you’ll also be able to recognize important things such as the point where your voice switches to another register.
By the way, the majority of male singers will bridge around an E4, and most women will bridge around an A4.
And now that you know what is the bridge location, vocal weight, tessitura, timbre, and other deciding factors, you’ll be able to find your vocal range and voice type more easily.
But first, let us introduce you to the 8 singing voice types and their main characteristics.
The 8 Singing Voice Types
Generally, there are 8 voice types in singing:
- male: bass, baritone, tenor, to countertenor
- female: alto, contralto, mezzo-soprano to soprano
The bass is a rather rare voice type.
It’s the lowest male voice type with a tessitura of around E2-E4.
It’s usually described as dark, heavy, dusky, or thick. And it’s ideal for music genres and styles like jazz, country, and acapella.
Some of the most famous bass voices in music include Johnny Cash, Barry White, Bing Crosby, and Leonard Cohen.
The baritone voice types are normally characterized by a tessitura of A2-A4.
It’s a pretty common male voice type.
Baritone voices can also sing comfortably in tenor if they work on extending their vocal range.
But generally, a pure baritone sounds smooth and warm, and it’s associated with famous singers such as John Legend, Hozier, and Elvis Presley.
The tenor is a very common male voice.
It has a tessitura of C3-C5 and a lighter vocal weight than the basses and baritones.
So, tenor singers can reach high notes, and they usually sound very bright.
But they can also reach some low notes, which makes this voice type quite versatile.
Some of the most famous tenor singers include Chris Martin, Sting, Freddie Mercury, Sam Smith, and Michael Jackson.
Countertenor is the highest male voice type.
It has a tessitura of E3-E5 and a lighter vocal weight than other male voice types.
Countertenor voice type is generally very rare, and there aren’t many countertenor singers in pop out there.
But Bruno Mars is often categorized as a countertenor – he is a light lyric tenor with a naturally high tessitura with a small vocal weight.
The contralto is the lowest of the female voice type with a tessitura around E3-F5 and a decent amount of vocal weight.
And just like male bass voices, it’s very rare.
However, there are several iconic female singers with a contralto singing voice.
Some of the popular contraltos include Annie Lennox, Nina Simone, Sade, and Cher.
As the second-lowest voice type for women, the alto has a tessitura of F3-F5.
This voice type has a good amount of weight, but with vocal training, many altos can extend their range to reach high notes.
Some of the popular alto singers include Amy Winehouse, Lana del Rey, and Tina Turner.
The mezzo-soprano vocal range (or mezzo) has a tessitura of around A3-A5, and it has a lighter vocal weight than the alto or contralto.
A mezzo-soprano voice can sound dark and velvety, and it’s actually quite common in popular music.
Some of the famous mezzo-soprano voices in the music industry include Madonna, Lady Gaga, Adele, and Beyoncé.
Finally, a soprano is the highest female voice type.
Sopranos have a tessitura of C4-C6, and they usually have a stronger head voice.
And although they’re the highest female vocal type, soprano voices are usually very flexible.
But if a mezzo and a soprano were to sing the same pitch, the mezzo’s note would probably sound brighter.
Famous soprano singers include Ariana Grande, Hayley Williams, and Kate Bush.
Finding Your Voice Type
Now that you understand the main characteristics of each voice type, you can start thinking about your own.
If you want to improve your singing voice, it’s important to know your voice type. That way, you’ll be able to treat your vocals as you should – mindfully and carefully.
Singing should always feel comfortable.
And choosing songs suitable for your voice type and vocal range will ultimately help you work on your singing technique.
So, how are you supposed to determine your voice type?
How to Find Your Voice Type
There’s an easy way to find out what type of voice you have.
You can find your vocal range by using a piano.
Alternatively, you can download a free piano app.
Before doing anything, do simple vocal exercises to warm up your voice. Simple humming, lip thrills, or vocal sirens will do.
Now, find the Middle C note on the piano and sing the “Ah” vowel. You should then move downward from Middle C until you hit your lowest note.
Write down the lowest note you can sing comfortably, without straining your voice.
Now repeat the same process for higher notes. Write down the highest note you can sing comfortably.
You should then compare the lowest and highest notes you can sing to the voice types we explained earlier.
But be careful – just because you can sing low notes, doesn’t mean you’re a bass. Make sure you’re singing the notes comfortably.
If you’re able to sing something with ease, you’ve found your voice type!
There are also many vocal range calculators, online vocal range tests, apps, and so on. You can use one of those, but it would be great to do this ‘traditional’ method of finding your voice type first.
Can You Extend Your Vocal Range?
Once you determine your voice type, you can use this information to choose songs to sing.
And don’t worry – just because you have a certain voice type, it doesn’t mean you can’t sing anything else.
On the contrary.
With proper vocal training, singers can expand their vocal range.
But before working on expanding your vocal range, you should try to get the most out of your voice.
In other words, you should first practice with the notes suitable for your voice type. That way, you’ll get the rich, full tone your voice was initially ‘made’ for.
For instance, if you’re a bass singer, you should be working to sing an E4 the best you can. And if you’re a soprano, you should become a master of high notes.
Of course, you won’t be able to sing these notes perfectly, especially if you’re a beginner. But the point we’re trying to make here is that you shouldn’t rush.
Work with what you have first.
This will also help you nurture your natural voice and your timbre.
If you want to become a great singer, working on your natural voice is a must – that’s the only way to make real progress and eventually stand out from the crowd.
Every popular singer you know worked on getting the best out of their natural voice.
When you’re ready to work on extending your vocal range, you can start with simple vocal exercises.
If you integrate vocal exercises into your daily routine, you’ll be able to improve your voice significantly.
And you should never forget about maintaining good posture while singing.
The same goes for breathing – controlling your breath and singing from your diaphragm is a crucial part of improving your voice.
Furthermore, you can use a piano or a piano app to hit the lowest note you can comfortably sing. Then move down one half-step. If you sound too breathy or off-key, practice until it feels more comfortable.
Use the same process for the highest note. Make sure you can sing that note without cracking, and then move up one half-step.
Once you’re able to sing these two notes naturally and smoothly, you can move on to the next note – higher and lower.
So, let’s summarize our tips to expand vocal range:
- do vocal exercises regularly
- maintain good posture while singing
- breathe with your diaphragm
- practice singing high and low notes
But extending your vocal range takes time.
And you certainly shouldn’t push yourself too hard.
If singing notes out of your vocal range doesn’t feel good, maybe it’s not time to do it just yet.
Either way, it will be possible eventually. And with enough practice, you’ll be able to sing songs made for other voice types effortlessly.
If you want to improve your singing voice, the first thing you should do is determine your voice type.
And with the information about different voice types and their characteristics we gave you today, you’ll be able to find your voice type easily.
And once you do, you’ll be able to start with your singing lessons and truly enjoy them!
If you don’t already take singing lessons, I’ve rounded up a list of the best online singing lessons that will help you on your journey.