Vocal range

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Vocal range is the range of pitches that a human voice can phonate. Its most common application is within the context of singing, where it is used as a defining characteristic for classifying singing voices into voice types. [1] It is also a topic of study within linguistics, phonetics, and speech-language pathology, particularly in relation to the study of tonal languages and certain types of vocal disorders, although it has little practical application in terms of speech.

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Singing and the definition of vocal range

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. Vocal pedagogists tend to define the vocal range as the total span of "musically useful" pitches that a singer can produce. This is because some of the notes a voice can produce may not be considered usable by the singer within performance for various reasons. [2] For example, within opera all singers must project over an orchestra without the aid of a microphone. An opera singer would therefore only be able to include the notes that they are able to adequately project over an orchestra within their vocal range. In contrast, a pop artist could include notes that could be heard with the aid of a microphone.

Another factor to consider is the use of different forms of vocal production. The human voice is capable of producing sounds using different physiological processes within the larynx. These different forms of voice production are known as vocal registers. While the exact number and definition of vocal registers is a controversial topic within the field of singing, the sciences identify only four registers: the whistle register, the falsetto register, the modal register, and the vocal fry register. Typically only the usable pitches within the modal register—the register used in normal speech and most singing—are included when determining singers' vocal ranges. There are exceptions, [1] as in opera, where countertenors employ falsetto and coloratura sopranos use the whistle register; notes from these registers would therefore be included in the vocal ranges of these voices. [2]

Vocal range and voice classification

Vocal range plays such an important role in classifying singing voices into voice types that sometimes the two terms are confused with one another. A voice type is a particular kind of human singing voice perceived as having certain identifying qualities or characteristics; vocal range being only one of those characteristics. Other factors are vocal weight, vocal tessitura, vocal timbre, vocal transition points, physical characteristics, speech level, scientific testing, and vocal registration. All of these factors combined are used to categorize a singer's voice into a particular kind of singing voice or voice type. [3]

The discipline of voice classification developed within European classical music and is not generally applicable to other forms of singing. Voice classification is often used within opera to associate possible roles with potential voices. There are several systems in use including the German Fach system, the Italian opera tradition, and French opera tradition. [1] There are other systems of classification as well, most commonly the choral music system.

No system is universally applied or accepted. [4] Most of the voice types identified by such systems, however, are sub-types that fall under seven different major voice categories that are for the most part acknowledged across all of the major voice classification systems. [4] Women are typically divided into three main groups: soprano, mezzo-soprano, and contralto. Men are usually divided into four main groups: countertenor, tenor, baritone, and bass. When considering the pre-pubescent voices of children an eighth term, treble, can be applied. Within each of these major categories there are several sub-categories that identify specific vocal qualities like coloratura facility and vocal weight to differentiate between voices. [1]

Vocal range itself does not determine a singer's voice type. While each voice type does have a general vocal range associated with it, human singing voices may possess vocal ranges that encompass more than one voice type or are in between the typical ranges of two voice types. Therefore, voice teachers use vocal range as only one factor among many in classifying a singer's voice. [2] More important than range in voice classification is tessitura, or where the voice is most comfortable singing, and vocal timbre, or the characteristic sound of the singing voice. [1] For example, a female singer may have a vocal range that encompasses the high notes of a mezzo-soprano and the low notes of a soprano. A voice teacher would therefore look to see whether the singer was more comfortable singing higher, or lower. If she were more comfortable singing higher, then the teacher would probably classify her as a soprano. The teacher would also consider the sound of the voice; sopranos tend to have a lighter and less rich vocal sound than a mezzo-soprano. A voice teacher, however, would never classify a singer in more than one voice type, regardless of the size of the vocal range of the singer. [2]

Within the operatic systems of classification, there are six basic voice types. The ranges given below are approximations and are not meant to be too rigidly applied. [5] [ failed verification ]

Some men, in falsetto voice or as a result of certain rare physiological conditions, can sing in the same range as women. These do not fall into the female categories, instead called countertenors within classical music. Within contemporary music, however, the use of the term tenor for these male voices would be more appropriate. [2]

Within choral music there are only four categories for adult singers. First, for women: soprano and alto, and for men: tenor and bass. [6]

In the UK, the term "male alto" refers to a man who uses falsetto vocal production to sing in the alto section of a chorus. This practice is much less common outside the UK where the term countertenor is more often applied. Countertenors are also widely employed within opera as solo vocalists, though the term "male alto" is never used to refer to a solo vocalist.

Children's voices, both male and female, are described as trebles, although boy soprano is widely used as well. [1]

Male adolescent voices whose voices are changing are described as cambiatas or cambiati; it is considered nearly an adolescent equivalent of the tenor voice.[ citation needed ]

See also

Related Research Articles

Human voice Sound made by a human being using the vocal tract

The human voice consists of sound made by a human being using the vocal tract, including talking, singing, laughing, crying, screaming, shouting, or yelling. The human voice frequency is specifically a part of human sound production in which the vocal folds are the primary sound source.

A soprano ([soˈpraːno]) is a type of classical female singing voice and has the highest vocal range of all voice types. The soprano's vocal range (using scientific pitch notation) is from approximately middle C (C4) = 261 Hz to "high A" (A5) = 880 Hz in choral music, or to "soprano C" (C6, two octaves above middle C) = 1046 Hz or higher in operatic music. In four-part chorale style harmony, the soprano takes the highest part, which often encompasses the melody. The soprano voice type is generally divided into the coloratura, soubrette, lyric, spinto, and dramatic soprano.

A countertenor (also contra tenor) is a type of classical male singing voice whose vocal range is equivalent to that of the female contralto or mezzo-soprano voice types, generally extending from around G3 to D5 or E5, although a sopranist (a specific kind of countertenor) may match the soprano's range of around C4 to C6. Countertenors often are baritones or tenors at core, but only on rare occasions they use their lower vocal range, instead preferring their falsetto or high head voice.

The musical term alto, meaning "high" in Italian, historically refers to the contrapuntal part higher than the tenor and its associated vocal range. In 4-part voice leading alto is the second highest part, sung in choruses by either low women's or high men's voices. In vocal classification these are usually called contralto and male alto or countertenor.

A tenor is a type of classical male singing voice whose vocal range lies between the countertenor and baritone voice types. It is the highest male chest voice type. The tenor's vocal range extends up to C5. The low extreme for tenors is widely defined to be B2, though some roles include an A2 (two As below middle C). At the highest extreme, some tenors can sing up to the second F above middle C (F5). The tenor voice type is generally divided into the leggero tenor, lyric tenor, spinto tenor, dramatic tenor, heldentenor, and tenor buffo or spieltenor.

A contralto is a type of classical female singing voice whose vocal range is the lowest female voice type.

A mezzo-soprano or mezzo (; Italian: [ˈmɛddzo soˈpraːno]; meaning "half 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 (i.e. A3–A5 in scientific pitch notation, where middle C = C4; 220–880 Hz). In the lower and upper extremes, some mezzo-sopranos may extend down to the F below middle C (F3, 175 Hz) and as high as "high C" (C6, 1047 Hz). The mezzo-soprano voice type is generally divided into the coloratura, lyric, and dramatic mezzo-soprano.

Falsetto is the vocal register occupying the frequency range just above the modal voice register and overlapping with it by approximately one octave.

A sopranist is a male singer who is able to sing in the vocal tessitura of a soprano usually through the use of falsetto or head voice vocal production. This voice type is a specific kind of countertenor. In rare cases an adult man may be able to sing in the soprano range using his normal or modal voice and not falsetto due to endocrinological reasons, like Radu Marian, or as a result of a larynx that has not completely developed as in the case of Michael Maniaci.

Head voice is a term used within vocal music. The use of this term varies widely within vocal pedagogical circles and there is currently no one consistent opinion among vocal music professionals in regard to this term. Head voice can be used in relation to the following:

Passaggio is a term used in classical singing to describe the transition area between the vocal registers. The passaggi (plural) of the voice lie between the different vocal registers, such as the chest voice, where any singer can produce a powerful sound, the middle voice, and the head voice, where a powerful and resonant sound is accessible, but usually only through vocal training. The historic Italian school of singing describes a primo passaggio and a secondo passaggio connected through a zona di passaggio in the male voice and a primo passaggio and secondo passaggio in the female voice. A major goal of classical voice training in classical styles is to maintain an even timbre throughout the passaggio. Through proper training, it is possible to produce a resonant and powerful sound.

The German Fach system is a method of classifying singers, primarily opera singers, according to the range, weight, and color of their voices. It is used worldwide, but primarily in Europe, especially in German-speaking countries and by repertory opera houses.

Breeches role

A breeches role is one in which an actress appears in male clothing. Breeches, tight-fitting knee-length pants, were the standard male garment at the time these roles were introduced. The theatrical term travesti covers both this sort of cross-dressing and also that of male actors dressing as female characters. Both are part of the long history of cross-dressing in music and opera and later in film and television.

The tenore contraltino is a specialized form of the tenor voice found in Italian opera around the beginning of the 19th century, mainly in the Rossini repertoire, which rapidly evolved into the modern 'Romantic' tenor. It is sometimes referred to as tenor altino in English books.

In music, an extension is a set of musical notes that lie outside the standard range or tessitura.

A voice type is a group of voices with similar vocal ranges, capable of singing in a similar tessitura, and with similar vocal transition points (passaggi). Voice classification is most strongly associated with European classical music, though it, and the terms it utilizes, are used in other styles of music as well.

Vocal pedagogy Study of the art and science of voice instruction

Vocal pedagogy is the study of the art and science of voice instruction. It is used in the teaching of singing and assists in defining what singing is, how singing works, and how proper singing technique is accomplished.

There is no authoritative system of voice classification in non-classical music as classical terms are used to describe not merely various vocal ranges, but specific vocal timbres unique to each range. These timbres are produced by classical training techniques with which most popular singers are not intimately familiar, and which even those that are do not universally employ them.

Soprano sfogato is a contralto or mezzo-soprano who is capable—by sheer industry or natural talent—of extending their upper range and being able to encompass the coloratura soprano tessitura. An upwardly extended "natural" soprano is sometimes called soprano assoluto.

In vocal music, the term voce faringea describes a historical singing practice developed and used especially by the bel canto tenors of the late eighteenth and early nineteenth century to extend the upper range of the voice by modifying the falsetto, which is typically heard as a weak or feminine sound, into a vocal quality that is more tenoral and powerful.

References

  1. 1 2 3 4 5 6 McKinney, James (1994). The Diagnosis and Correction of Vocal Faults. Genovex Music Group. ISBN   978-1-56593-940-0.
  2. 1 2 3 4 5 Appelman, D. Ralph (1986). The Science of Vocal Pedagogy: Theory and Application. Indiana University Press. ISBN   978-0-253-20378-6.
  3. Shewan, Robert (January–February 1979). "Voice Classification: An Examination of Methodology". The NATS Bulletin . 35: 17–27.
  4. 1 2 Stark, James (2003). Bel Canto: A History of Vocal Pedagogy. University of Toronto Press. ISBN   978-0-8020-8614-3.
  5. Peckham, Anne (2005). Vocal Workouts for the Contemporary Singer . Berklee Press Publications. ISBN   978-0-87639-047-4.[ page needed ]
  6. Smith, Brenda (2005). Choral Pedagogy. Plural Publishing, Inc. ISBN   978-1-59756-043-6.