I’m sure we’re all familiar with words like bass, tenor, alto and soprano, but how do we actually find out our voice type when we start singing?
Discovering our voice type is in fact a really simple exercise, and certainly one which is worth spending a bit of time on as a beginner.
Knowing and understanding vocal range gives us an important guide on the notes and songs we are able to sing safely and effectively. It's important to remember that vocal range really isn’t related to singing ability: many experienced singers can have a narrow vocal range, and are still able to produce a beautiful, rich sound.
As vocal range is mainly determined by the shape and structure of each individual's vocal folds, it's difficult to train to reach notes outside our range. However, we can strengthen the notes at the edge of our range, and much of vocal training focuses on improving the quality of the notes at the top and bottom of our register, giving us a wider range to sing with a clear and natural sound.
Here are some simple steps for finding your vocal range and voice type:
1. Warm up
Before doing any type of singing, it’s vitally important to do a vocal warm up, particularly when singing near the edges of our vocal range. This is in order to avoid straining or damaging the voice. Simple techniques to warm up the vocal choirs include: humming scales, sirening, and singing scales using different vowel sounds.
2. Find your lowest note
Using a piano, find Middle C (also known as C4) and sing along as you play the note. If you don’t have a piano, you can use an online piano here. Travel down the white keys to the lower notes and sing along to each note until you reach your lowest note. Any note within the octave of Middle C is designated a number 4, any note in the octave below is designated a number 3, and so on. Your lowest note will be the last note you can sing comfortably and sustain without croaking or breathing the note. Write down the note (for example G3). Once you’re sure you’ve found your lowest note, don’t attempt to try singing any lower as this might strain your voice.
3. Find your highest note
Much like finding your lowest note, travel up the piano from Middle C until you find the highest note in your normal voice and write the note down. Continue up the scale in your falsetto voice until you find the last note you can sing and sustain comfortably and again write the note down - this note it is the top of your vocal range. It’s very important not to push your voice and attempt to sing past this note.
4. Compare your lowest and highest note
Once you know your lowest and highest note, check these against the voice types below:-
Soprano: C4 – C6
Mezzo Soprano: A3 – A5
Alto: F3 – F5
Tenor: C3 – C5
Baritone: G2 – G4
Bass: E2 – E5
You've now found your vocal range and voice type. However, it’s important to bear in mind that many singers within the categories above can often sing higher or lower than the ranges displayed, so don't worry if your range doesn't match exactly. The top and bottom note are not the only things to determine voice type: factors such as tessitura (the most comfortable part of the range to sing) and timbre (texture and quality of the voice) also inform voices types. As you gain more experience as a singer you will develop a better awareness of the parts you are able to sing most comfortably comfortably and naturally.
Find your voice at one of City Academy's Singing Courses