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[Singing] Voice Types, Ranges & Breaks

category: Music | course: Singing | difficulty:

This chapter I will not give you any more exercises or techniques, but I will explain a bit about what a voice can and can’t do, what people usually struggle with and the different voice ranges. These tips will help you determine what type of voice you have so you can find songs that perfectly match that range, but it might also answer some leftover questions you have about your voice or singing in general

Voice Types

While I sometimes use these interchangeably with voice ranges, I will try to make the distinction clear here. With voice types I mean the different bits of your voice that you can use at certain ranges:

  • Chest Voice: Your regular voice. Encompasses your speaking range and the bits below that. It sounds clear and strong.
  • Mixed Voice: The part between the chest voice and head voice. It contains semi-high notes for you. By that I mean that it is the range of notes that are just above your speaking zone, which usually sound a bit different. They are usually a bit louder and have less of a resonance or vibrato to them. With good vocal technique you solve these problems.
  • Head Voice: The part that contains your highest notes (that are not falsetto). These notes are usually a bit louder, clear, strong and feel fuller and more substantial than falsetto. It is basically the high chest voice, but not exactly the same.
  • Falsetto: Your highest notes. It is a different kind of singing, as your vocal chords are not exactly connected but only touch lightly. It is therefore a bit harder to control, and it should be seen differently. Most people know how it sounds or can switch to some falsetto notes – boys switch to it all the time when their voice changes during puberty. But because the technique is different, you should look at your falsetto as a range on its own: your lowest falsetto notes should have the same technique and feeling as low notes (even though they are much higher, because they are falsetto). Falsetto is trained best by going through all of the notes you can hit with lip-rolls.


Voice Ranges

Everybody is born with a different set of vocal chords, which means everybody can (naturally) sing in a different range. While you can extend your range with more higher notes, your lowest note can’t be altered, and there’s always a limit to how far you can stretch your range. These voice ranges are available:

  • Bass: E2 – E4
  • Baritone: G2 – G4
  • Tenor: C3 – C5
  • Alto: G3 – G5
  • Mezzo-soprano: A3 – A5
  • Soprano: C4 – C6

What do these letters and numbers mean? The letter specifies the note, and the number the octave. Usually, C3 or C4 is called middle C, because it is the note in the center of a piano, and the center of the vocal ranges. While this list assumes a vocal range of two octaves, it’s more common to have 1 or 1.5 max if you’re not a trained singer, and 2.5 to 3 max if you’re a trained singer.

Most men are born with a baritone range, while women are born with the mezzo-soprano.

This again leads to the question are these the only ranges? No, for example, most pop and rock singers have an extended range and are Low Tenors or High Tenors.

If you can indicate your range, you can find songs that fit. It also helps when auditioning for a musical (or even opera), as they usually need to know your voice range to see which part(s) you can play.

Breaks (passagios)

I’ve discussed the several parts of the voice, but that doesn’t mean they just magically transform into one another on a certain note. There are always a few notes that form the bridge between the two worlds, and those are called a break or passagio. Often times, those are the most difficult notes to sing (even if they’re not particularly high or low), because your voice doesn’t really know what to do with them and just tries its best. This might result in no sound at all, a weak or broken sound, or the voice constantly shifting between different notes when trying to hold a certain note for a long time.

Breaks are smoothened or ironed out by doing vocal exercises. With those you can sing them easily and in the correct way. You can’t immediately use that in actual singing, but with time and patience you’ll get used to the right way to sing those notes.

The break that is the hardest to overcome is the one between head voice and falsetto. They are just two completely different ways of singing, and you feel like you need to tense up or replace your whole singing system when switching between them. Again, vocal exercises and scales help a lot, but it also helps to do exercises starting from your highest falsetto note and then going down. Moving downwards gives you a sense of relieving pressure, and if you remember that feeling when moving up in your range, you should see improvement.

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