“What is my voice type?” This is one of the most common questions students have about singing. People have often heard the terms soprano, alto, tenor and bass before but are unclear what they really mean. Read on to learn more about voice types and where yours fits in!
What is a voice type?
Before we dive into the breakdown of different voice types we should first explain what a voice type actually is.
A voice type is an umbrella term that takes into account a singer’s comfortable range, transition points, tone, vocal weight and tessitura (main bridge).
The benefit of knowing your voice classification is that you can choose the most suitable repertoire for yourself. Singers that have the same or a similar voice type to that of your own are easier to sing along with. On the opposite side of that coin, singers who have a different voice type to that of your own will be more difficult to match and will most likely require a different approach.
What Are The Main 4 Voice Types?
The main 4 voice types are as follows, from the highest range to the lowest:
The term soprano is used to describe a voice that is strong and comfortable in high ranges. Sopranos are either women or boys who have yet to have their voice drop.
Some famous sopranos include Sarah Brightman, Kate Bush, Diana Ross and Tony Soprano (just kidding about the last one!).
The term alto is used to describe a voice that is strong and comfortable in medium high ranges. Altos are women with a slightly lower voice than that of a soprano, or again a boy who has yet to have their voice drop.
Some famous altos include Sade, Cher and Fiona Apple.
The term tenor is used to describe a male voice that is strong and comfortable in higher ranges. Tenor voices are lower than sopranos and altos, but are high for the male voice.
Some famous tenors include Sam Smith, Bruno Mars and Adam Levine.
The term bass is used to describe a male voice that is strong and comfortable in the lower ranges.
Some famous bass singers include Johnny Cash, Barry White and Leonard Cohen.
Are there other voice types?
Yes, there are! In fact, in the traditional classification of voices for opera there are more than 25 different voice types!
We won’t go into all of those, but we will address the most popular subtypes of the above categories.
A female voice that falls in between the soprano and alto.
Some famous mezzo soprano singers include Alanis Morissette, Idina Menzel and Dua Lipa.
A female voice that is comfortable with even lower notes than that of an alto.
Some famous contralto singers include Toni Braxton, Annie Lennox and Diana Krall.
A male voice that can stretch comfortably and fully into the higher ranges usually reserved for female singers.
Countertenors are very rare, but one example is Steve Perry from Journey.
A male voice that falls in between the tenor and bass.
Some famous baritones include Johnny Cash, Elton John and John Legend.
How Can I Find Out My Voice Type?
This is where things get a bit tricky! While you can categorize yourself with broad strokes by seeing if you can comfortably sing in the required range of each voice type, this is not 100 percent accurate.
Especially when it comes to untrained voices, which often have a range of about an octave and a half, versus trained voices which can grow to three or more octaves for most people.
So, while it can be useful to broadly know where your voice sits within the above types, it is to be taken with a grain of salt. The truth is only a voice teacher can accurately tell you your voice type, and even then they may require multiple sessions to provide a clear answer!
The human voice is malleable and shifts with training, hence it is often premature to state a specific voice type until a singer has reached a certain skill level.
Use this guide to find out approximately where your voice sits! But remember to check with a voice teacher, especially as you practice and grow as a singer. Our schools have some of Toronto’s best voice teachers who can help you fast forward your vocal progress. Give us a call today for more information!