Vocal range is the spectrum of notes that a singer’s voice can produce from the bottommost to the uppermost note which simply is the distance between the highest and lowest pitches that a singer can sing. A ‘vocable compass’ refers to the extreme range of the individual’s voice comprising utterable but non-descript sounds from the lowest grunt to the highest vocal squeak.
The range depends on the expertise of the singer with an untrained singer having a more limited range than a well-trained singer. Each vocal instrument is also unique in its vocal range capabilities. In contemporary singing styles, singers use amplification to make their range more audible and usable.
Registers and Vocal Registration
Within a certain range or pitch, a register in the human voice refers to the particular series of tones that possess the same quality with the same vibratory pattern of the vocal folds. The origin of vocal registers is the laryngeal function while they happen in the vibratory pattern of the vocal folds with a rise or fall of pitch.
Vocal registration is the system of vocal registers in the human voice. Speech pathologists and vocal pedagogues have conducted research to show that vocal folds can produce at least four distinct vibratory patterns.
Passaggi and Register Breaks
Passaggio is the place in the vocal range where the voice transitions to a different register. The human voice has two passaggi- primo passaggio and secondo passaggio connected through a passage zone. There is greater diversity of laryngeal size and vocal tract construction among males. An even timbre and consistency needs to be maintained in classical voice training.
It is derived from the Italian word for ‘false’ and broadly suggests a departure from legitimate vocal timbre. It denotes a specific timbre or vocal sound in the male upper-range and refers to a vocal technique by enabling male singers to sing notes beyond the normal vocal range.
Head voice is the phenomenon that describes the resonance of singing that happens in the head. It is sometimes called the lighter mechanism of the voice. A characteristic “ringing” tone is associated to it with modified acoustics.
Timbre is the quality or colour of the tone produced by the singer. Vocal weight is the perceived heaviness or lightness of a singing voice. Lighter voices are associated with the term ‘lyric’ and have nice agility and the ability for ‘coloratura’. Coloratura voices have great high end agility and by itself it connotes a soprano with this vocal quality and weight. Heavier voices are associated with the word ‘dramatic’. The term tessitura is used to describe the most musically acceptable and comfortable timbre for a given voice type. It’s measured by the range of pitches that a singer is comfortable singing or can also refer to most frequent pitch ranges within a given piece of music.
Perceived qualities/characteristics of one’s voice identify one’s vocal type. There are six basic voice types- bass, baritone, tenor, contralto/alto, mezzo-soprano and soprano. A bass singer is sung as the lowest male part in multipart choirs. A baritone is the male singer with a range between that of a bass and a tenor. A tenor is the highest male voice in the modal register. Males who can project falsetto pitches in a clear sound with high vocal ranges are called countertenors. Contralto refers to the deepest female singing voice and the range is below that of an alto which is the lowest female voice in a four-part harmony. Mezzo-soprano is the female singer whose range is between the soprano and alto/contralto range. Soprano is the highest female part encompassing a melody in four-part choral style harmony.
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