Singers should always know and be comfortable with the range that they sing in. Knowing your voice type is key when selecting songs to sing. The vocal range can be indicated by the four basic parts within a choir: Soprano, Alto, Tenor, and Bass.
There are some variations to those parts, such as a Mezzo-Soprano, Baritone, or Contralto. We can explore some vocal range tests, utilizing varying singing techniques that will help you to find your correct voice classification.
Vocal warm-ups are probably the best way to locate and test your most comfortable vocal range, also known as your tessitura. If you work with a voice teacher taking online singing lessons, which is recommended for any singer, the vocal coach will probably start by listening to your normal speaking voice as a base for your range. This creates a foundation for you to build upon during your lessons.
When you move into actual singing, starting with the ever-important warm-ups, you will then start to expand from your lowest note to your highest note and identify your voice’s true range. This might include doing some simple scales to test your voice and see how easily you can sing each note.
Then, taking your singer’s voice into some more complex vocal exercises as you feel more comfortable and warmed up, the techniques will require you to sing more extreme high and low notes and expand upon your range to see just how low and high you can physically go. From there, your teacher can give you an accurate voice classification.
Another way to check for vocal range in your voice lesson is through the use of different singing techniques. Techniques are not to be confused with warm-ups, as voice coaches use them as a way to test your ability to adapt your voice to different styles, not just to activate your vocal cords and identify a range.
You may think that you’re just an Alto and that you can’t sing high. But when you utilize certain techniques that open up your vocal cords with fuller, richer vowel sounds, this increases your vocal timbre and ultimately helps you hit even lower notes or higher octaves than you thought you could be comfortable singing.
Examples of some of these techniques include working on breath support, overall tone (vowel sounds, timbre), and even doing different types of movement with your body, such as singing laying down or moving around a room to try and “fill it up” with your sound.
There are many methods that can be used in voice lessons which can ultimately help you learn to recognize your own vocal range and test its limits to know what songs you can sing comfortably.
It also helps to identify songs that will be more challenging for you to sing, so you can do one of two things: stay away from them and only work within your comfort zone, or, if there is a song that you want to tackle that’s a bit beyond your natural range, your instructor can work with you to achieve this goal and stretch the limits of your voice.
Your vocal registers come into play here as well. When you look at a piece of sheet music and think to yourself “I can’t reach those high notes,” you may be surprised how working the transition from chest voice to head voice can allow you to do just that. Your voice type and range ultimately depend on both your voice’s capabilities and how properly you train it.
To expand more on their vocal register and singing range, men use what is known as falsetto when they go into their head voice, which leads a voice teacher to classify them as Tenors, or countertenors, where they may have originally only sung as baritones.
Low notes may come easy to these singers, but with proper exercises and warm-ups for their voice and by focusing on a more accurate voice classification and singing in a different voice, they can utilize that falsetto and learn how to sing in a higher register, which gives them more than one vocal type based on their widened range.
Identifying Voice Types
So, say you don’t have a voice teacher and you don’t take voice lessons. You can base your range on which artists you can naturally sing along with. There are many famous singers who have specific ranges that they sing within, and when you are able to identify that you sing in a similar range, you can identify with their type.
For example, Adele has an alto (bordering on almost a mezzo-soprano) voice, with about two or so octaves. If you are able to sing along with her songs and can easily reach all of her low and high notes, you likely have a similar classification and can use this to identify other songs or artists you might be able to sing along with.
Keep Expanding Your Range
Keep in mind that your singing voice is unique to you, and even though you may sing similarly to another artist, that does not mean you’re meant to sing in that style. Most people find a comfortable type of song and stick to it because they know it works with their range.
Part of being a true singer, however, is knowing how to be versatile with your voice, exploring new sounds and different genres. If you prefer to sing musical theater because you know there are great mezzo-soprano songs for your comfortable vocal range, you can venture into trying pop or jazz tunes in your tessitura as well.
Once you know your own voice range, you’re able to select songs based on it. Don’t shy away from challenging pieces that’ll consistently push you to learn more about your range and how to control it, as you practice proper singing techniques – on your own or with a singing teacher – to hit those troublesome notes. Work with your voice so that your range is constantly improving, and it’ll open up song opportunities you thought were impossible!