What´s a voice type? Why do I need to classify mine?

What are voice types for?

With all the talk about famous singers and their vocal ranges, it can be difficult to understand what a voice type actually is. After this article you´ll have a better understanding of voice types, you will know why you need them and how you can find yours. 

But before we jump into it, you should think about what kind of singer you are! If you sing in a choir, a vocal ensemble, or in a musical/theatre production, knowing your voice type comes in very handy! 

Specific repertoire, roles in an opera or theatre plays, and voices in an ensemble will be assigned to your voice type and if you don’t have one, you might not get the role or voice in the ensemble. If you sing in a band, you don’t really need to know your voice type (classification). The band will, hopefully🤞, transpose (adjusting the key) the tune to your key, so it doesn’t matter if you are a soprano or alto, etc. 

Still, I would recommend you to find out your voice type. Not only because you’ll get to know your voice better, but also because your personal repertoire selection will be easier! 

What voice types(classifications) exist?

The German Fach system is a method that classifies opera singers by the range, weight, and color of their voices. This is a very nuanced system separating 29 voice categories. But in the interest of keeping it simple, we are only going to look at six basic voice types and their approximate ranges. 

The picture below describes a rule of thumb concerning the ranges – the majority of voices won’t fit perfectly into one specific voice type but might overlap! So keep in mind to not apply a label too strictly to your voice, we’re human and every voice is unique! 

How do you define your voice type?

A voice type is basically a combination of:

  1. Your range
  2. Your Prima Voce (definition below)
  1. In our last article, we already talked about analyzing your voice and finding your range. When you do a range test you want to find out the highest and lowest singable note, that your voice is capable of creating, but do these highest and lowest notes sound nice? Usually, they don´t!  Also, if your range overlaps different voice types, let’s say, you can sing from E2 – C5 (picture of voice type ranges – above). That doesn’t mean that you are a baritone, tenor, and alto at the same time… You need to look at the prima voce of your voice to further define your voice type.
  1. “Prima Voce“ comes from the Italian language and basically describes the sweet spot of your voice. It is the place in your vocal range where singing comes easy and your voice sounds and feels good. The sweet spot of your voice can’t be your entire vocal range, it is usually only 1-2 octaves in range, starting around a fifth higher than your lowest note. You can identify your Prima Voce by noticing at what point your voice starts working a little bit harder to achieve the low/high notes.

What makes your voice unique?

Why did you end up with that particular voice type in the first place? 

The anatomical factors are what makes your voice unique! I was talking about the german Fach system above and that the weight and color of a voice influence a voices classification majorly.  Weight and color are a result of resonances in your mouth cavities, nasal cavities, pharynx, larynx and the whole vocal tract. These organs differ in size, shape, and dimension with every person! The more space there is, the louder the voice gets for example.

The pitch of the voice depends on the length, tension, and thickness of the vocal cords. You could compare this to a violin and a double bass. The thicker and longer the strings/cords, the lower the tone.

The shape and length of your vocal tract determine which overtones and how much of them are amplified. In other words: your vocal tract gives your voice a timbre or color. And this is the part of your voice you can not really change! You can of course play around with resonance and sound placement in your head, but you can’t change your anatomic… 

📖 TERM. What are fundamental and overtones? A fundamental is the lowest frequency of a tone and what we perceive as the pitch of a note. Overtones are vibrations that have a higher frequency than the fundamental we hear. We usually don’t perceive these overtones as separate notes but as the color of the fundamental. So what you know as voice timbre/color is basically what overtones are being amplified and to what extent.

Artists Voice types and Songs they Sing

Soprano: Mariah CareyWithout you

Mezzo: Beyonce, Adele, Lady GagaHalo, When we were young,

Alto: Cher, Nina Simone Believe, Feeling Good 

Baritone: Frank Sinatra, Justin BieberMy Way, Mistletoe

Tenor: Tony Bennet, Jon Bon Jovi Steppin Out With My Baby, Its My Life

Bass: Barry WhiteMy First My Last My Everything

To find other songs in your range go here.

Reference Literature

Choosing the Right Songs – Lara Chapman 

The Fach System of Vocal classification – Nina Scott-Stoddart

Singing from the Inside out – Ineke van Doorn

Why is a mans voice usually lower than a womans voice? – Naomi E. Balaban

What Voice Classification are you? – Dr. Dan 

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