Vocal Training: Voice Types and How To Use Them

Why Understanding All Voice Types is Important for Vocal Training

Have you ever heard a singer hit an amazing high not and wonder “how does she do that?” Have you ever heard a singer sing a really low note, and think “wow that’s impressive?” If you’re wondering how some singers can sing really low or high, here’s your answer. It’s a combination of the singer’s voice type, vocal training and technique. A lot of people think 1 or 2 things about singing. They either think every aspect of your singing is God-given talent and anything you do with your voice comes from this magical force. Or they think every element to your voice is strictly vocal training. Many fail to mention a lot of what a singer can do vocally stems from his or her voice type. To fully grasp this you should know what a voice type is and how many are there. This is why when singing it’s important to know various voice types.

Get a deeper level of vocal training when you learn all about voice types.

Why knowing voice types are important for vocal training

If you’re a professional singer then you may already know the importance of voice types. If you’re a beginning singer you may not get it yet. You may think you should only know about your voice type. Your voice type is the most important. However, a true professional knows about all voice types. One of the 1st tips vocal training for beginners courses should teach you is the list of voice types and what their average range is. This will help you understand what songs you should sing more often. This will help you determine what vocal warm-ups you should do. Knowing different voice types also helps when your voice is struggling. You may say “why can’t I hit this note.” Or you may say “why don’t I sound like this singer when they hit their notes.” A lot of times it’s because you’re trying to imitate a vocalist who have a completely different voice type from you. This is why it’s very important to understand all the voice types and how they function. Below is a list of all voice types, their standard range and famous singers who fall into that category.

1) Soprano

Perhaps the most famous soprano is Mariah Carey, who’s angelic sound and iconic whistle register made her a household name.

A soprano singing voice is a female voice type. It’s the highest vocal range for women (and all voice types). The vocal range or a soprano singer traditional ranges from C4 (middle C) to C6. This is the average vocal range of a soprano singer. However, with proper vocal training, technique or a being born vocally gifted the range can be much wider. There are soprano singers like Mariah Carey who can go extremely high and really low. The vocal range mentioned above isn’t the only notes a soprano can hit. It just means this is the most comfortable area for her voice. The amazing thing about the voice is the many elements and components to it. Soprano is a voice type. However, there are different types of soprano singers. You have voice types within voice types. This is why 2 vocalists can technically be sopranos but sound completely different. The type of soprano singers are: coloratura, soubrette, lyric, spinto and dramatic.

  • Coloratura – soprano that voice can do agile runs and impressive voice trills. Famous coloraturas are Maria Callas and Mariah Carey.
  • Soubrette – soprano singer who’s voice is light and bright with smooth tone. Famous soubrettes are Aaliyah and Ashanti.
  • Lyric – soprano singer who’s voice has a full timbre with a warm sound. Voice can also be heard over orchestras and tend to have a higher tessitura. Famous lyrics are Mariah Carey and Shanice.
  • Spinto – soprano singer who’s voice is versatile. Can hit really high notes and also hit dramatic tones without strain. Voice also possess rich timbre. Famous spintos are Whitney Houston and Leontyne Price.
  • Dramatic – soprano singer with very rich powerful tone. Can sing over orchestras. Famous dramatics are Whitney Houston and Christina Aguilera
Phenomenal vocalist Whitney Houston was a soprano with an amazing mixture of a beautiful head voice yet a powerful mid range, which gave her a remarkable tone.

* A  singer with a particular voice type can fall under more than one category. Meaning a soprano vocalist can a lyric soprano and a spinto soprano. For examples vocalists Whitney Houston and Mariah Carey both fall under more than one type of soprano.

2) Mezzo-Soprano

A mezzo-soprano vocalist is female singer who’s vocal range lies between a soprano and an contralto. A mezzo-soprano is the 2nd highest level a female voice can go. It falls directly under the soprano voice. Mezzo-soprano and soprano has so much in common they often get mistaken for one another. Due to vocal training and technique, if a singer is an advanced mezzo many may mistake her for a soprano. The average vocal range of a soprano starts at A3 ( the A below middle C) and extends up to A5. However, like with soprano, a mezzo-soprano range can be much larger than this. This is simply the most comfortable range for a mezzo soprano. Like sopranos, there are different types of mezzo-sopranos. They are coloratura, lyric, and dramatic mezzo-soprano.

Singer Beyonce is a great example of a well trained mezzo-soprano voice.
  • Coloratura – mezzo-soprano that has a smooth low register and vibrant, agile high register. A famous coloratura is  Cecilia Bartoli. 
  • Lyric – mezzo-sopranos that can go really low and also have a smooth tone. A famous lyric is singer Pink
  • Dramatic – a mezzo-soprano that has a full medium register, a polished high register and a broad voice overall. Famous dramatics are Monica and Beyonce.

3) Contralto

A contralto voice is a female singer who has the lowest voice type. It’s similar to a mezzo-soprano but lower. A contralto voice usually range from F3 (F below middle C) to F5. However, a contralto voice isn’t limited to this range. A contralto can go even lower or higher. Once again this is just the most comfortable her range lies in. Like sopranos and mezzo-sopranos, a contralto voice can fall under coloratura, lyric, and dramatic.

  • Coloratura – rare voice that has light sound and sing really high. Famous coloraturas are Brandy and Alicia Keys.
  • Lyric – soft, light voice that also has a light timbre than most singers. A famous lyric is singer Sade.
  • Dramatic – contraltos that have deep, full voices and heavy tones. Voice has a lot of power to it. Famous dramatics are Toni Braxton and Adele.
Legendary vocalist Toni Braxton is the perfect example of a talented contralto with a huge range.

4) Countertenor

A countertenor is the highest range for a male singer. It’s similar and the male equivalent to that of a soprano or mezzo-soprano voice. The countertenor voice generally ranges from G3 (G below middle C) to E5. However, this isn’t the only range of a countertenor. He can also singer lower or higher. Like with female voices this is just the most comfortable area for his voice. Remember with proper vocal training or if he has a special gift his voice can sing out of this range. The difference between countertenor voice is there aren’t many sub-categories. However, all countertenors won’t still sound the same. Two male singers can both be countertenors but have completely different tones. Famous countertenors are:

King of Pop Michael Jackson is an amazing example of a countertenor with a huge range and beautiful falsetto register.

5) Tenor

A tenor is the 2nd higher range for a male singer. Tenor lies between countertenor and baritone. The traditional range for a tenor voice starts at Ab2 (A flat 2) and extends up to C5. Once again some tenors can sing higher and even lower than the stated range. A tenor voice can fall into any one of these subcategories: leggiero tenor, lyric tenor, spinto tenor, dramatic tenor, heldentenor, and tenor buffo.

  • Leggiero – a tenor voice that’s light and flexible. Generally the male equivalent to a lyric coloratura soprano or mezzo-soprano. A famous leggiero tenor is Andrea Bocelli
  • Lyric – warm, bright voice with a full and strong timbre. Voice can be heard over orchestras. Famous lyrics are Ne-Yo and Bruno Mars.
  • Spinto – are tenors who’s voices are bright but also have the power to be heavy and reach strong vocal climaxes. Famous spintos are Usher and Jason Derulo.
  • Dramatic – are tenors who have a powerful, ringing tone and emotional sound. Famous dramatics are Marvin Gaye and Trey Songz.
  • Heldentenor – are tenors who who have a rich, strong tone. Voice has the quality to to possess power and also some attributes of a lyric tenor. Famous heldentenors are Usher and Mozart.
  • Tenor buffo – are tenors that are more common in classical music and operas. This type of tenor is more determined based on the role of singer in opera.
R&B/Pop vocalist Usher is an amazing, versatile tenor with an impressive range.

6) Baritone

A baritone is a male voice that’s the 3rd highest range for a male. It’s also the 2nd lowest range for a male singer. Baritone range usually starts from F2 (2nd F from middle C) to F4. Baritones typically have a heavier sound and full chest voice. However, like all other voice types mentioned this isn’t the only ability of baritones. Baritones also have voice sub-categories, such as: light, lyric, dramatic and bass.

  • Light – a baritone with light vocal qualities, voice similar to a tenor but slightly heavier. A famous light baritone is Nat King Cole.
  • Lyric – more sensual, mellow baritone with a high tessitura. A famous lyric is Bob Marley
  • Dramatic – a full and rich voice with a darker tone. A famous dramatic is Billy Idol.
  • Bass – are a mixture of dramatic and lyric baritone. A famous bass is Frank Sinatra.
Legendary vocalist and pianist Nat King Cole was a baritone with smooth and rich tone.

7) Bass

Arguably the greatest bass singer of all time, Melvin Franklin of legendary group The Temptations had a great bass voice

A bass is the lowest voice type for a male singer. It’s actually the lowest range of all voice types. The average range of a bass singer starts at E2 (2nd E below middle C) to E4. A bass singer tessitura is usually always on the bass clef line (when reading music). You can be a particular type of bass such as a high bass or a lyric bass. However, these categories usually qualify for roles in classical and opera singing, not the actual voice itself. Famous bass singers are:

Knowing and understanding voice types are very important. It may not seem like it initially. However, knowing voice types will have extend your vocal training, enhance your confidence and help you select perfect songs to sing. Whether you’re working with an R&B vocal coach or classical teacher, you’ll need to know your voice type. The more you know and understand your voice type the better it is to utilize your natural God-given instrument.

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