Wondering how to identify your voice type? Well, you’ve come to the right place! Singers are commonly asked to identify their vocal type and range, and are always looking for ways to improve their range. So, what are the “standard” vocal types? The most common voice types to see are Soprano, Alto, Tenor, and Bass (sometimes listed as SATB in choral arrangements), but there are actually 8 classifications of vocal types.
When talking about range, the notes and numbers associated with vocal ranges refer to the notes as they appear on a piano. Check out the image below while you look at the different vocal ranges to help visualize where each range sits!
Soprano – Highest voices on the treble clef with a typical range of C4 – C6
Mezzo-soprano – Second highest voices on the treble clef with a typical range of A3 – A5
Alto – Second lowest voices on the treble clef with a typical range of F3 – F5
Contralto – Lowest voices on the treble clef with a typical range of E3 – E5
Countertenor – Highest voices on the bass clef with a typical range of E3 – E5
Tenor – Second highest voices on the bass clef with a typical range of C3 – C5
Baritone – Second lowest voices on the bass clef with a typical range of Ab3 – Ab4
Bass – Lowest voices on the bass clef with a typical range of E2 – E4
These are the general ranges for the 8 voice types, however your personal range may be slightly smaller or wider than the exact notes listed. There are other elements to describe a vocal type such as vocal weight and timbre (the texture of the voice). For example, both a contralto and a soprano can hit a C4, but the sound of those voice types will be very different based on their depth and weight.
Some people will describe their voice by tessitura, which is an Italian term for the range of notes where your voice is most comfortable singing. This is different to vocal range, which is the lowest and highest notes you can possibly hit. For example, you might be able to hit a C6, but feel much more comfortable singing mezzo-soprano or alto repertoire. Most singers tend to note down their tessitura on their resume rather than their range for this reason.
Every singer will also have a passaggio, an Italian term used in classical singing to describe the transition areas within the areas of the vocal range. These will be the notes in your vocal range that you have the most difficulty singing, usually as you transition between the low, mid, and high registers of your voice. Singers are always working on smoothing out the transition between these areas of the voice. Discovering where your passaggio is and developing tools to navigate singing through those areas can be some of the most challenging and rewarding parts of working on your singing practice.
How to Find Your Vocal Range
You may already have an idea of where your vocal range sits by the voice types above. To find your specific vocal range, there are a few exercises you can do. If you’re looking to see what the extremes of your range is, it’s a great idea to do a thorough vocal warm-up before so that your voice is ready to go before testing.
The video below will take you through a range test for the lower and the higher end of your range. Write down the last notes at the bottom and top are the ones you can comfortably sing. It’s a great idea to do this on a hum or whatever vowel you find easiest to sing.
How to Expand Vocal Range
So now that you know your vocal range and type, how can you expand on them? Doing vocal exercises at both the top and bottom ends of your range will help to increase your overall range. The vocal folds are muscles; you need to work them out in order to gain strength just like any other muscle in the body. The same is true for vocal stamina – you wouldn’t try running a marathon without building up to it, and it’s the same for singing for extended periods of time. Starting off every vocal session with a good warm-up that includes range stretching exercises is the best way to take care of your voice and improve your range!
After practicing these warm-ups for a few weeks, go back to that range testing video and see if your range has improved! Like anything, consistency is key for vocal development. Singing even 20 minutes everyday can give you huge improvements in your vocal abilities over time.
Now that you know all the vocal types and ranges, play around with the different areas of your voice and see what makes most sense for you! Working on the lowest and highest ends of your range can be exciting, but remember to never push or vocalize notes that feel uncomfortable or strained. Have fun exploring your voice!