Perfomance - Voice

Types of Vocal Timbre

Types of Vocal Timbre

How Adjusting Your Voice Can Completely Change It’s Quality and Sound

Most seasoned singers know that warming up is one of the most important tools to keep a voice healthy and maintain your tone. Vocal Timbre, or as it is described as the quality of that tone utilizing complex overtones, or sound waves, is that unique “something” that gives color and personality to your voice, and how it is recognized.

Every voice has its own distinguished timbre. Singers, especially trained singers, can change that timbre in a way that can alter the sound within the overtones and frequencies, giving a brand new sound to life, with a different color, quality, and tone. Identifying the ways in which singers can achieve this change in timbre will allow you the ability to be more versatile within your singing career.

Types of Timbre & Examples

As a singer, it is important to understand the different types of vocal timbre. These are also known as the five voice types: Soprano, Mezzo, Alto, Tenor, and Bass. These are also types of timbre because they are what is used to help recognize a voice. Sopranos sing in very high octaves and Mezzos are more of a middle range, whereas Alto is the lowest of the female voice types – I say female because that is another way of describing and recognizing timbre – male voice types such as tenor and bass are broken up by high and low as well. All of this describes timbre.

Before you can work on changing it, you first must look at the factors that go into obtaining certain timbre, qualities, and tone. For instance, a breathy sound is created by putting a lot of air behind each note as you sing. Examples of timbre are the ways used to describe the sound, so words such as Light, Flat, Smooth, Smoky, Breathy, Rough, and so on are what you use to distinguish one sound from another. How you recognize the different sounds or voices you hear is attributed to the timbre.

Vocal Timbre Audio Wave

Assessment of Timbre

Understanding your vocal type will aid you in how you can change it to fit a different timbre. You have a natural tone to your voice, but in order to change it, you have to look at these factors going into it: breath or forced air, strength, vowel sounds, headspace, use of vibrato, etc. so you can use those factors to enhance richness or darken, lighten or go higher or lower within your voice type.

Take some time to explore timbre – listen to some different voices and recognize what is used to obtain their sounds – do they use a lot of breath, do they have more space behind the note, or do they have a nasal tone?  Understanding how a voice creates its sound is an essential step in figuring out how you go about achieving that timbre with your own voice.

How to Change Vocal Timbre

How to Change Vocal Timbre

So, how can you alter the timbre to create a completely new and different sound in your voice?

The best way you can improve and work on changes to your timbre is with singing lessons, because voice coaches know how to assist in helping you obtain the right sound you desire. They are there to help you develop the proper technique to successfully create certain sounds within your voice. As a trained singer it is easier to alter your sound based on the music you are singing because your lessons give you a better understanding. It goes hand in hand with music genres as well – certain types of music will work better with certain timbres you make with your voice.

Vocal exercises, including frequent warmups, will enhance your voices strength and develop your tone. This is the best way to go about making the change to your timbre because with the exercises, you can easily alter the way your voice sounds. You can broaden your range to go higher or lower, and improve the quality in your tone, giving it a more round and rich sound, which can make a light voice sound darker or warmer.  

You utilize your entire body when you sing, but the air moving through the vocal folds, vibrating to make the sound is where your focus should be when changing timbre, where you are guiding it through the vocal folds and mouth. If you concentrate on your face – portraying emotions, working with your mouth to put feeling into your sound, and utilizing your headspace, this can also work to create the change in your vocal color.

Studying other singers is also something that you can do to help you identify and change your timbre. If you already know the sound you want to create, it will help you to do some research and find videos to watch singers who already utilize that sound in their singing.

Now, understand that your voice still has its own unique timbre overall, so being able to produce a similar timbre to a singer you are studying still will not sound exactly the same, because it is unique to you. But, you can achieve a completely different sound that you like and desire, proving that your voice has the ability to alter itself after developing the skills to do so.

Balance and Work

Changing timbre is not an easy task; it requires a lot of focus and work. Balancing all of the factors that go into your tone quality like breath support and control, stability, flexibility, and strength are important in learning how to create a new sound with your voice.

You have to be aware and be in tune with yourself, as well as maintain strong physical and mental capacity. Vocal exercises will have to be done frequently, as in almost every day, to keep your voice in shape and give you the ability to work on obtaining your new timbre.

Ultimately, getting help from a voice coach and taking lessons is the best route for you to start on your journey; it will allow you the ability to explore your voice, give you the tools you need to work on and provide you with the power to achieve those new and different qualities to reflect personality, depth, emotion, and characteristics within a song. Understanding and learning about timbre and the factors you can utilize to change it, particularly by developing the right techniques to train your voice gives you the ability to alter your sound.

Tracy Reina
Tracy Reina
Tracy was an opera major at the Crane School of Music before changing gears to study music business. She became a producer at MTV Networks, working with and interviewing some of the biggest names in music. Currently, Tracy is the co-owner of Music To Your Home and runs the day to day operations. Tracy is knowledgeable in the areas of music instruction and has matched up thousands of our clients with our talented teachers.
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