“He who sings frightens away his ills.” - Miguel De Cervantes
Singing is a popular pastime in the UK and it’s a great way to create social bonds. Many celebrities have made a career out of singing. However, most people in the UK are amateurs.
We sing in our cars, around the home, in the shower, or at parties with our friends. In short, everybody sings and some are even familiar with their tessitura.
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So what are the different types of voices?
Let’s have a little look at exactly what the larynx is capable of and what a vocal range is, the different types of female voice, male voice, and voice types within these distinctions.
What Are the Different Types of Female Voice?
Singing tends to be different for males and females. There are different tessiture and you’re probably aware of the difference between a falsetto and a really deep voice.
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As a reminder, tessitura is the range of notes, from the highest to the lowest, that a person can comfortably sing without straining their vocal cords.
For women, there are four main tessiture.
The deepest voices are contralto. Examples include Cher, Judy Garland, Annie Lennox, Joni Mitchell, and Amy Winehouse. This type of voice is useful for getting started with slower and gentler music.
The alto is just above the contralto and is the equivalent to a countertenor for men. It’s often thought to be a “natural” voice and very melodic.
In the higher range of voices, we find the mezzo-soprano voice, which is quite common amongst female singers. These voices are good for a lot of songs and famous examples include Ella Fitzgerald, Janis Joplin, Madonna, Rihanna, and Barbra Streisand.
Finally, the soprano is the most common voice for women and children. This is the highest tessitura and is useful for both contemporary music and classics. Julie Andrews, Sarah Brightman, and Mariah Carey are all sopranos.
There are also three subcategories of feminine voice that allows us to better classify their voice type not just by the vocal range of the chest voice and head voice but also by their vocal timbre:
Knowing your voice type will also help you to audition for the right roles in musicals, for example.
What Are the Different Types of Male Voice?
Just like with female voices, there are different categories of male voice.
- Bass is the lowest of the male ranges.
- Baritone corresponds with a typical spoken range.
- Tenor is the next range up.
- Countertenor is close to the female contralto voice.
Similarly, there are subcategories of male voice according to their heaviness. For example, there’s basso profondo, basso cantante, dramatic high bass, etc.
The same is true for baritone, where you can find bass-baritone, which is more powerful than your basic baritone. In general, this is usually the range of bad guys in opera and musicals.
Tenors have subdivisions such as lyric tenor, spinto tenor, and leggero tenor. In short, the male tessiture include a wide range of voices and it’s never a bad idea to learn what yours is.
Remember that if you want to sing you also need to protect your voice. Mastery of your voice will help you sing without straining. If you feel some resistance or trouble breathing, it may mean your voice is tired and you’ll be more likely to hit the wrong notes.
There's nothing worse than listening to someone try to hit a high note and fail but this doesn't mean that they're not a great singer. It might just mean that they don't know their voice range, need to work on their vocal technique, or even could do with a good vocal warm-up. Voice training can help with all this.
How Do You Find Out Your Voice Type?
Now that you know a bit about the different types of voices, you need to know what type you have. You’ll want to sing songs that match your voice. You should know that you can’t choose the type of voice that you have.
Of course, your voice, vocal cords, larynx, and diaphragm all play a part. This is why you shouldn’t put unnecessary stress on your voice and tire it. Make sure you have a good posture, breathe with your diaphragm, and articulate your vowels and consonants.
To find out what type of voice you have and to sing like a professional, there are three main techniques:
- Practise singing along to artists whose tessitura you know and see if you’re comfortable with it.
- Test your voice; see what the lowest and highest notes you can make are. You can use apps and websites to help you. There are also vocal exercises to help you understand your voice type and, ultimately, improve your voice. There are also online tools that can help!
- Spend an hour with a vocal coach, such as those available on Superprof, or vocal training to find out what your tessitura is.
Knowing your tessitura will help you sing well without tiring as much.
What Can You Sing with Your Type of Voice?
“Some days there won't be a song in your heart. Sing anyway.” - Emory Austin
Now that you’re aware of the different voice types, you need to find out the repertoire for your voice. So while breathing and posture are important, certain types of music are more suitable for certain voices than others. Singing according to your voice type will help you get the most out of your voice whether its contemporary music or opera.
To find the best music to sing along to, the best idea is to practise! Listen to more and more music and adapt your ear to certain sounds. Over time, you’ll find what your voice is best suited to.
The middle tessiture (tenors or baritones, for example) will probably have a bigger repertoire to choose from while the upper and lower ranges will have to find more specific songs for their voice. Whatever your voice type, it’s important that you hit the right notes. It’s harder to hit the right notes if you’ve chosen the wrong song!
Being aware of your strengths and weaknesses will help you to know whether you've picked a song where you can hit the high notes, whether your vocal folds will respond well to certain voice lessons, and which voice exercises are right for which vocal registers.
You can also learn more about registers from a singing coach or tutor. They can even show you artists with the same tessitura as you. Again, a tutor can help you work out the best repertoire.
If you'd like to learn more about singing, consider getting help from one of the talented tutors on Superprof. There are three main types of singing tutorial and voice coaching and each type has several advantages and disadvantages so what's right for one student may not be right for another.
In face-to-face tutorials, there's just you and the tutor. This means that the tutor can focus on helping you to improve your voice and will put together a bespoke programme for you to follow. These are usually the most costly type of private tutorials since you're paying for all the tutor's time both in and out of class but they're also the most cost-effective.
There are also online tutorials where the student is taught via webcam. Since the tutor doesn't have to travel to their lessons and can schedule more lessons per week, these tend to cost less per hour than face-to-face tutorials. Since the tutor isn't in the room there with you, these tutorials are better for academic subjects rather than vocational ones. If you both have a good microphone and a good internet connection, online tutorials are a great way to learn how to sing on a budget.
Finally, there are also tutors offering group tutorials. If you and a group of friends are interested in learning how to sing, you could hire a tutor together and divide the cost of the tutor's time. Of course, you won't get as much individual attention from your singing coach as you would in the other types of tutorials but you will pay less per hour per student.
No matter which type of singing coach you go for, they'll be able to help you work out your voice type, plan singing lessons near me that can help you improve your voice, and suggest songs and activities that work best with your tessitura.