One of the important considerations when classifying a voice type is finding someone’s vocal range. Your vocal range encompasses all of the notes you are able to sing, from the lowest to the highest singable notes.
Arianna Grande, Freddy Mercury, and Mariah Carey are pop singers known to have an abnormally large vocal range. But what is it, and how do you find yours?
Here’s a look at how to find and improve your own range. Follow these tips, and you’ll be ready to step inside the recording studio in no time. Don’t forget to check out Merriam’s singing lessons, both online and in-person!
1. Know Each Vocal Range
Before you explore your own range, you need to know the different voice classifications. These classifications refer not only to the typical range for each voice, but also to the quality of the voice itself. There are seven ranges for the human voice, and yours will fall somewhere within these categories.
Soprano is the highest range for women. It refers to the range between B3 and E6. Children and most teenage female voices are found in this range. It is also the most common voice type in opera. Pop sopranos have a bright, light quality to their voices and they are comfortable using the higher part of their range. Some singers, like Mariah Carey, have the ability to access notes even above a normal soprano range. This is called a whistle/flute register because the notes sound more like a sound effect than their full voice (the sound is created in a different way than their full/real voice). Not every female voice has this register. It is quite rare.
The most famous soprano is probably Julie Andrews.
Mezzo-Soprano literally translates as “medium soprano”. Many singers qualify themselves as mezzos when they are really sopranos who have not learned how to access the top of their voices. True mezzos have a darker/rounder quality to their sound. Their voices sound the best in the middle of their range, although they can access their high register when they need to. If you’re a mezzo-soprano, your vocal range likely rests between G3 and C6.
Because this vocal type is so common in pop music, there are plenty of examples of mezzo-sopranos. Beyonce is probably the most notable.
The lowest of the female singing voices, the contralto range features women singing between E3 and A5. True altos are very rare. Not only do they have to have access to naturally low notes, they also have a very round/dark sound. Perhaps the most popular contralto today is Adele.
Countertenors are the highest male voices. These voices are most commonly seen in Baroque Classical music and are very rare.
Most men with high ranges are considered to be tenors. A tenor can sing anywhere between A2 and B4 in their natural voice. Like sopranos, tenor voices tend to be lighter and brighter in sound quality. Most men can sing much higher than B4 when they access their “falsetto” which is a vocal register above the full voice/head voice in men. Using that register, some men can sing as high as women!
Freddie Mercury was a tenor commonly mistaken for a countertenor: the difference is that Mercury’s high notes were within his falsetto. Adam Lambert and Chris Martin are also pop tenors that use their falsettos to extend their range. Some of the best full-voiced tenors in pop/rock singing are heavy metal singers like Bruce Dickenson from Iron Maiden.
The baritone range sits just under the tenor voice type. Most baritones can sing between a G2 and G4, although there is room on either end of this range. Baritones tend to have a darker sound than tenors and they are most comfortable singing in the middle of their range. Perhaps the most famous singer with this vocal range was Elvis Presley.
The bass range is the lowest vocal range. Known for the low and vibrating sounds you would associate with the string instrument, this is an extremely valued voice type in choirs and quartets. True basses have very dark, rumbling voices. Some basses can sing as low as D2.
In pop music, you know it from the deep voices of legends such as Leonard Cohen.
2. Know Your Registers
Just as there are different ranges, there are also different registers.
A register is a term meaning notes within your range that are created physiologically in the same way. Your voice is designed to operate differently when singing higher notes than lower notes. In the voice world, there are many different terms used to describe different vocal registers. Chest voice, mixed tone, head tone, and falsetto are examples of terms that some teachers/singers use to describe how different parts of their voices sound and feel.
You can test where each register is for you by following the next three tips.
A). Find Your Lowest Notes
If you want to find your vocal range, you’ll need to find your lowest notes. Doing this is easy: just get a piano and start in the middle. Move toward lower notes and try to match them with your voice. When you can no longer comfortably match the piano, you’ve found your vocal basement. For a note to count as part of your usable range, you should be able to comfortably sing the note without pushing.
B). And Your Highest Notes
Repeat the above process to find your highest notes. For men, take note where your falsetto notes begin. Many male pop singers use their falsetto to extend their range in the top, but your falsetto range usually isn’t taken into consideration when deciding on your voice type. Women will usually experience a shift from their bottom register (some call it the chest register) into the middle and/or upper register. Women should be able to use their upper register or head tone with ease to reach the top of their range.
C). Record Your Range
If you have this information and know how to read music, you should be able to record your range. Simply write down your lowest and highest notes, and you’re good to go. And now that you have this information, the next step is improving your range. Remember that just because you might not be able to sing the notes in the higher register doesn’t mean that you are necessarily not a higher voice type. It might just mean that you don’t know how to sing the higher notes in your range yet. There are many cases where sopranos decide that they are mezzos or altos when, in fact, they are sopranos who have not discovered their upper register yet.
3. Begin to Expand Your Range
The most important piece to work on when expanding your range, is strengthening your breath support. Breathing should be quiet and low without the use of the shoulders and chest. Try exercises with hissing like a snake and laughing from the abdominal muscles to strengthen your breathing apparatus.
Expanding your vocal range is something you will do in small pieces each day. Slides and siren sounds can be a good place to start. As you go higher, the notes should feel lighter and not pushed. Watch that you aren’t using your neck muscles to hit the higher notes. Try shaking your head and rolling your shoulders to keep your body relaxed. The key is to do these exercises without forcing yourself.
4. Stop If You Feel Pain
You cannot force your voice while expanding your vocal range. Doing this could cause serious damage to your vocal cords, which could make it impossible to sing all together.
This is why you need to stop immediately if you feel pain while singing. Even if it’s a particularly high note that you could hit the day before: our voices are different on different days, and it’s important to play it safe. Having high notes that you can only sing once and a while is not helpful. We want to create a stable, comfortable range that you can use at any time. This takes careful practice.
5. Work With A Professional
Working to expand your vocal range isn’t easy. If you want to improve your range without risking damage or failing to reach your potential, you need to work with a voice coach.
We offer voice lessons to singers interested in self-improvement. Our goal is to help you grow as a musician and as a person. If you’re interested in expanding your range, contact us today!
Vocal Range Chart
Female Vocal Range Type
- Sopranino (A3-)D4-C6(-F6)
- Soprano (F#3-)B3-A5(-D6)
- Treble (F3-)Bb3-Ab5(-Db6) (This type of voice only applicable to kids below 11 years old, as their voices haven’t changed yet. Some vocalists classify them as Sopranos, Altos, etc…)
- Mezzo-Soprano (E3-)A3-G5(-C6)
- Alto (D3-)G3-F5(-Bb5)
- Contralto (C3-)F3-Eb5(-Ab5)
Male Vocal Range Type
- Countertenor (Bb2-)Eb3-Db5(-F#5)
- High Tenor (G#2-)C#3-B4(-E5)
- Tenor (G2-)C3-Bb4(-Eb5)
- Low Tenor (F2-)Bb2-Ab4(-Db5)
- High Baritone (Eb2-)Ab2-F#4(-B4)
- Baritone (D2-)G2-F4(-Bb4)
- Bass-Baritone (C2-)F2-Eb4(-Ab4)
- Bass (B1-)E2-D4(-G4)
- Low Bass (F1-)Bb1-Ab3(-Db4)
- Octavist (B0-)E1-D3(-G3)