Jump to content

Vocal Range Classification VS Reality

Rate this topic


Adam Round
 Share

Recommended Posts

Hi Everyone,

I'm a bit confused at the moment about vocal range classifications against how singers actually sing and could really do with some clarification if anyone is able to help. 

I know classifications vary slightly depending on who you talk to, but if I use the ones given on wikipedia as a base (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Vocal_range), it says that the top notes for different vocal ranges are:

Baritone: G4
Tenor: C5
Contralto: F5 
Alto: G5 

Mezzo-soprano: A5

If we then compare this to a few songs from different genres and look at the highest notes sung in the chorus:

Ed Sheeran - Thinking out loud - A5
Michael Jackson - Man in the mirror - B5
Multiple - Nessun Doruma - B5
Sam Cook - A change is gonna come - G5
Dave Grohl - Best of you - G#5

It seems that almost any song I pick people are singing insanely high with a full toned voice. Is it actually the case that all these people and most people in professional music are an alto or mezzo-soprano? I know that many professional musicians have also had little or no vocal training (Allen Stone is one of my favourite singers and has never had a lesson) and Ed Sheeran actually smokes before singing! So I don't think all these guys have spent years developing their head voice to be able to sing these notes and they do really sound like they're in chest voice. I've also noticed that a lot of them are quite short which may tend to mean they naturally have higher voices (although that might be going off topic a bit!).

I would really appreciate some help if anyone can as at the moment it just seems hopeless that I'd ever be able to sing any of these songs. I'd like to think that singing can be learnt, but it seems that these people are just born with high voices. 

 

If you'd like to know about my background I had singing lessons on and off for about 5 years with different teachers, then did the singing success programme and am now working through the 4 pillars.

Many thanks

 

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Ed sheeran used to sing horribly. Go on youtube and check out " ed sheeran sings badly" and in the show he says and plays an old recordingbthat really sucks and he says there is no talent involved..all practice

Link to comment
Share on other sites

First off, wikipedia is not always right, even if it is on the internet.

Second, there is a pinned thread from Felipe that used to be in this section and it went through all of this. The classifications of voice types or fachs is not important outside of opera. And in opera, it really matters most to casting directors looking for a certain sound. The director might be looking for a helden tenor and out of 10, he might pick one lead and one back-up. And that doesn't make the other eight guys less of a tenor or less trained or less accomplished or less successful. It's just that the ones he or she chose have the sound that is being sought for whatever particular production.

And that's not me just making stuff up. I have read the memoirs of Debra Lynn and Renee Fleming, This sort of thing would happen all the time. Or different people in the opera world would have different ideas of what a particular fach is.

As for all the varied singers singing in the same general area of range, this should prove that fachs don't mean anything in popular music.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Sorry, there's no G5 in "Change is gonna come."

No A5 in "Thinking out loud."

Speaking for myself, I don't think many singers like yourself  truly realize what it can take to sing some of these tunes.

By this I mean the physicality and mental concentration components.

There are easy songs and there are some seriously challenging songs out there! I know it sounds simple of me to say, but you really have to

work at it.

And I'd like to help you also by saying range and song difficulty do not always go together.

You can have a hell of a challenge just with songs that sit at, or near your break!

Ed Sheeran's song is a good example. I do that tune.  It's a tough one mainly because you have to manage your onsets and be strong in that 

area of your voice where a muscular balance is required.

B.T.W., He sings this tune live a whole step down.  Riding F4# and jumping to A4, onsetting on those notes are tough....it takes some conditioning.

Yes, you can be born with a high range, but many of us start with an average range and work like hell to improve upon it.

Hope I've helped.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

  • Administrator

that list on wiki is just mindless thinking. Also you have the octaves wrong, nessun dorma is B4 and all other are probably also an octave wrong

 

Hate to correct you old friend... but the big money note on "Nessun Dorma" is a B4, not Bb4.

:headbang:

Link to comment
Share on other sites

 

Ed Sheeran - Thinking out loud - A5
Michael Jackson - Man in the mirror - B5
Multiple - Nessun Doruma - B5
Sam Cook - A change is gonna come - G5
Dave Grohl - Best of you - G#5

This is how you know this isn't correct - those notes correspond to something like this:

Pretty damn sure the songs you listed don't get anywhere near that... :headbang:

Link to comment
Share on other sites

that list on wiki is just mindless thinking. Also you have the octaves wrong, nessun dorma is B4 and all other are probably also an octave wrong

 

Hate to correct you old friend... but the big money note on "Nessun Dorma" is a B4, not Bb

:headbang:

Hm didnt i write B4? :) IF i wrote Bb4 thats ofc wrong, i was implying that he was writing the octaves to high for instance he wrote B5 in nessun dorma but it's the octave below.  Anyway good your keeping an eye on me i write wrong from time to time ;) hehe

Link to comment
Share on other sites

As best as I can tell fach has more to do with timbre possibilities throughout range than range. Some singers might need to start shrieking/screaming/quacking earlier than others when ascending while others might be able to take a darker/full round timbre higher.

Similarly singers will lose resonance and start having to fry when descending at varying points. The way the bottom notes are projected with no fry in the low range, is just as good if not a better reference point for singers than high notes when listening to a voice quality..

Assuming someone has been trained well enough to use their voice, how much resonance/volume would a male singer's C3, A2, G2, E2, D2, etc have? The ability to approximate larger vocal folds and open the vocal tract for amplifying lower resonance/volume is more limited than the ability to approximate smaller/thinner folds and narrow the vocal tract for higher resonance/volume. 

If fachs are loosely based on bodily limitations, it makes sense to look for the areas of maximum limitation. People with different sized, shaped vocal tracts/folds will sound different when approximating the same vocal posture (muscular positioning and air flow) due to to the difference in acoustics of the physiology.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Thanks for the replies everyone.

I seem to be not getting something with the notes I quoted, it's as though I'm saying everything is an octave higher than it actually is. Looking at the sheet music though:

Nessun Dorma - http://www.8notes.com/scores/9741.asp - Turn to the second page and at the bottom the word "vincero" goes up to a B5

Thinking out loud - http://piano-sheets-for-free.blogspot.co.uk/2014/11/ed-sheeran-thinking-out-loud-piano.html - Ed sings an A5 on "take me into your loving arms"

Would anyone be able to clarify please? I feel like I'm missing something!

Thanks

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Whoever wrote the manuscript wrote it wrong.

Man, that was easy. Give me another easy question.

 

 

 

Haha thanks. If I look at any other random songs from different sources though they all seem to be as high as well:

Foo Fighters - Best of you - Starts on G#5 - http://www.musicnotes.com/sheetmusic/mtdFPE.asp?ppn=MN0053221

Bruno Mars - The lazy song - If you click on the preview, at the bottom of the first page it shows him singing an A5 on "picking up my phone" http://www.sheetmusicplus.com/title/the-lazy-song-sheet-music/19537681

Sam Smith - Stay with me - He sings an A5 on "Oh won't you, stay with me" http://youtubesheetmusic.com/wordpress/wp-content/uploads/2014/06/Stay-With-Me.pdf

I actually also have Ed Sheeran's official sheet music book and it shows A5 on "take me into your loving arms" in thinking out loud.

 

Am I being really stupid and missing something!?

Thanks

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I have listened to "Best of You" so many times and I cannot recall that the song vocal at the beginning starts on a G#5. A G#5 is a half-step below the high note of "Child in Time."

However, I do know that manuscript for singers is written one octave off because there was no particular staff for singers. So, really, that would make the starting note for "Best of You" a G#4, which sounds a little more reasonable.

So, still want to stick with your sheet music or would it be better to listen to the song and match pitch with an instrument?

 

Link to comment
Share on other sites

  • Administrator

Is this discussion about which # "4" or "5" is correct?  Is that what this is about...?

People,... the number is based off a grand piano. Even if you have a cheap keyboard that doesn't have all the keys a grand piano has, An A4 is still an A4... the measurement of numbered octaves is based on a grand piano, whether you have one or not.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

The discussion was originally about how is it that all professional singers can sing so ridiculously high. It seemed odd to me that pretty much all of them are Mezzo-sopranos. If ronws is correct though, it may just be that all sheet music is written an octave higher than it actually is e.g. Nessun Doruma going up to a B4 in the chorus, even though the music says B5. Is anyone able to confirm this? I can't seem to find much on it on the internet.

Ronws - I agree it would be good just to listen to the song and match it, it's just that a lot of these people sound much higher than I do, especially Ed Sheeran. If I sing an A5 in the chorus of thinking out loud it sounds too low, but may just be that his voice tone is a lot brighter than mine.

This would be a complete revelation for me if it's true! I might have just spent years with bad instructors, thinking that songs are an octave higher than they are and it may actually be more about my tone quality.

Thanks

Link to comment
Share on other sites

  • Administrator

But the logic doesn't make any sense...  B4 or B5 or B2 or B12... it doesn't influence one bit what note you are suppose to sing or train. When you are singing a note that is too high for your voice or the song, you just know it... you don't need a "B4" or a "B5" to tell you what note to sing? This is stupid. You know what note to sing because it is just obvious.

For example, the high B4 on Nessun Dorma can be called anything you want to call it, it doesn't matter if you call it a B4 or a B5...  the note that it has to be is obvious. Im not going to look at a piano and determine if it is a B4 or a B5 to tell me what note Im suppose to sing?  If you can't hear the difference between a B4 and a B5 and if it isn't obvious to you what frequency you should be singing, then you have a lot bigger problems then sorting out the B4 vs B5 stuff... It is about hearing the frequency and common sense... not reading numbers on the keys of a piano.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

The discussion was originally about how is it that all professional singers can sing so ridiculously high. It seemed odd to me that pretty much all of them are Mezzo-sopranos. If ronws is correct though, it may just be that all sheet music is written an octave higher than it actually is e.g. Nessun Doruma going up to a B4 in the chorus, even though the music says B5. Is anyone able to confirm this? I can't seem to find much on it on the internet.

Ronws - I agree it would be good just to listen to the song and match it, it's just that a lot of these people sound much higher than I do, especially Ed Sheeran. If I sing an A5 in the chorus of thinking out loud it sounds too low, but may just be that his voice tone is a lot brighter than mine.

This would be a complete revelation for me if it's true! I might have just spent years with bad instructors, thinking that songs are an octave higher than they are and it may actually be more about my tone quality.

Thanks

The discussion was originally about how is it that all professional singers can sing so ridiculously high. If ronws is correct though, it may just be that all sheet music is written an octave higher than it actually is e.g. Nessun Doruma going up to a B4 in the chorus, even though the music says B5. Is anyone able to confirm this? I can't seem to find much on it on the internet.

Ronws - I agree it would be good just to listen to the song and match it, it's just that a lot of these people sound much higher than I do, especially Ed Sheeran. It may just be that their voice tone is a lot brighter though.

This would be a complete revelation for me if it's true! I might have just spent years with bad instructors, thinking that songs are an octave higher than they are and it may actually be more about my tone quality.

Thanks

ronws's point is that instead of relying on sheet music and taking it as the definitive answer, have a listen to the song and try to match the pitch with an instrument (guitar, pitch pipe, tuning fork, etc.)

Nessun Doruma is an opera song, and in opera I don't think any male goes as high as a B5 in a belty, operatic tone. I'm not even sure you can bring that chesty musculature up to B5, honestly. In contemporary music, a B5 is much more accessible due to the fact that modern music vocalists don't always use chesty belts: an adducted head voice is a popular option, which allows easier access to B5.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Just an insert: for some reason when I try to sing along to some songs, some, not all, I find it really difficult to match the pitch and I always end up sounding if I'm singing higher than the original singer. This is in songs with rasp, distortion etc. In songs like Take hold of the flame, dreams, separate ways, I find it easier to match the pitch even if it's high.

A good example of what I mean is the song Satellite by Rise Against. I ave to sing it in an adducted, twangy headvoice that sounds more like 80s hair metal than punk rock, and it sounds as if I'm singing higher than Tim is on the studio version.

... And this was the first version I heard so it didn't really help.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Thanks for the replies everyone.

I seem to be not getting something with the notes I quoted, it's as though I'm saying everything is an octave higher than it actually is. Looking at the sheet music though:

Nessun Dorma - http://www.8notes.com/scores/9741.asp - Turn to the second page and at the bottom the word "vincero" goes up to a B5

Thinking out loud - http://piano-sheets-for-free.blogspot.co.uk/2014/11/ed-sheeran-thinking-out-loud-piano.html - Ed sings an A5 on "take me into your loving arms"

Would anyone be able to clarify please? I feel like I'm missing something!

Thanks

Looking at the scores you posted, only Nessun Dorma is transcribed correctly - the '8' written below the treble clef indicates that it is to be performed an octave lower than what is shown. This is quite common in SATB scores for the Tenor line. All the other scores you posted are missing this notation, and based on the top notes you posted I think they are all missing the '8' below the treble clefs to indicate performing an octave lower. Tenor lines are usually written in this format so it might cause some confusion.

Edit: http://dictionary.onmusic.org/terms/2392-octave_treble_clef This should clear up the confusion.

"The octave treble clef with the number 8 printed below is also known as the vocal tenor clef. The vocal tenor clef is used in vocal music for the male tenor voice part to indicate that the tenor voice actually sounds an octave lower that where it is notated in the normal treble clef... Today, while music for the tenor voice is often written using only the trebleclef, the vocal tenor clef is a much  more accurate notation."

In the end, nothing serves as a better substitute than simply listening to the notes, then reaching for a keyboard (even MIDI ones: I recommend VMPK http://vmpk.sourceforge.net/) to identify the note. That way, you have a much clearer idea of how notes sound across different octaves, and you'll know if those scores you're reading are really missing the '8' below the treble clef or not.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Is this discussion about which # "4" or "5" is correct?  Is that what this is about...?

People,... the number is based off a grand piano. Even if you have a cheap keyboard that doesn't have all the keys a grand piano has, An A4 is still an A4... the measurement of numbered octaves is based on a grand piano, whether you have one or not.

It's just a question of knowing music conventions regarding clefs - The clef used by any instrument is designed/chosen so that most notes played by that instrument span 5 stave lines plus 2 ledger lines above and below (try reading a piccolo part with notes written at actual pitch!!!) It is just a co-incidence that soprano and tenor voices span roughly the same number of lines - if you rename the 'treble clef' more correctly as the G clef where the final curve on the spiral defines the note on the 2nd stave line as G then the unadorned clef specifies G4 -  Put 8va on the lowest point of the symbol and it now specifies G3 - put 8va on the highest point and it now specifies G5 - so a piccolo flute reading that note would sound G5 - a tenor reading the same note (you have to mentally put that 8va signal in) would sound G3 - hence the 1st ledger line above the stave can be A4 (for tenor) or A5 (for soprano) or A6 (for piccolo flute) depending on the pitch signal attached to the (commonly called) treble clef. It would be helpful if music printers followed this convention.

Cheers

TrombaCantare

aka William Hodgson

Link to comment
Share on other sites

  • Administrator

... thanks William... that is what I was beginning to assume... We appreciate your clarification on that... I knew if there was some confusion on the written charts... it was due to a charting convention that we were not all familiar with.

BTW... great to have you here... would you kindly upload a pic to your profile... thanks "Bill".

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Thanks to Rotlung for stating it better than I did and providing a link to show what to look for. That is, just looking at a normal manuscript for instruments, you might miss what is the singer's notation. 

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Well explained William. In "written music" it is really the standard that tenor voices are notated one octave higher. It is actually so standard that the small 8 that indidcates that is often left out.

Back on topic: The notions on Wikipedia are considering classical singing, as voice classifications come from this genre and they are only really applyable within that genre. If you look at classical pieces for certain voice types, the notes are indeed usually within the ranges given by wiki. The B4 from Nessun Dorma is a typical tenor high note for example.

However, those ranges are not applyable to contemporary singing styles. They are based on the on "sound ideals" that are expected from classical singers, like producing a certain kind of "round/soft/dark" tone and a certain amount of raw volume. The larynx goes up for all singers on higher notes and sustaining a full voice on higher notes usually violates the sound ideal for the lower voice types. As a bass for example, I can sustain the classical sound ideal up to something like F4. If I go higher in a full tone I have to raise my larynx more which gives a brighter sound that is not desired in classical singing. In contemporary style I can easily sing way higher in a full tone though.

It is indeed true that taller people tend to have lower voices. It's just physiology: Taller people tend to have bigger vocal folds and bigger vocal tracts, which creates lower notes and a darker timbre.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Create an account or sign in to comment

You need to be a member in order to leave a comment

Create an account

Sign up for a new account in our community. It's easy!

Register a new account

Sign in

Already have an account? Sign in here.

Sign In Now
 Share

×
×
  • Create New...