One of the most important things for new singers to determine is which voice part they are. This is true for those who sing in ensembles as well as those who sing solo. Because human voices are so variable, we naturally possess a certain range we’re most comfortable producing. Knowing which range one’s voice is suited for can help to determine which parts one sings in an ensemble and which songs their voice will be best at singing.
What Determines A Person’s Voice Part?
In the simplest terms, your voice part is determined by the range of notes you can comfortably produce while singing. Those with a naturally higher range will have a different part than those whose range is naturally lower. With that said, there are actually several characteristics used to determine each part. It isn’t just the notes you’re capable of making, but also which you’re most comfortable with, how you use your register, the weight of your voice, and more.
There are several basic factors used to determine voice parts. These include:
- Range: Plainly and simply, the range of notes you’re capable of producing normally.
- Tessitura: Within a person’s range, there will be parts of it that are more comfortable. This range-within-a-range is known as a tessitura.
- Vocal Register: This refers to all the different ways you can use your voice to produce sound. Examples of a Register include your head voice, chest voice, falsetto, or whistle voice.
- Transition Points: These are the points at which you transition between the different parts of your vocal register. Your voice part may be partly determined by things like how comfortable you are switching between your chest voice and head voice.
- Vocal Weight: Depending on how light or heavy your voice is, you may be suited for one voice part more than another within your natural range.
- Timbre: This refers to the texture or color of your voice. You can think of it as the quality that makes each voice distinguishable or unique.
What Voice Parts Are There?
There are eight major voice parts divided between four parts for females and four for males. These are:
Female Voice Parts:
- Soprano: This is the highest voice part for females. A soprano voice can reach the highest notes and octaves that most humans are capable of. There are a variety of Soprano types that differ based on vocal quality, vocal range, and so on. All soprano voice types have an especially light weight, and are highly flexible in different registers. Some of the most well-known Soprano singers are Mariah Carey, Ariana Grande, and Beyonce to name a few.
- Mezzo Soprano: Also known as Soprano II. Mezzos are the 2nd highest female voice part, and peak about an octave lower than Sopranos. Compared to Sopranos, mezzo singers tend to have a lower tessitura. Some of the most famous female singers, including Madonna and Lady Gaga, are mezzos.
- Altos: The second lowest female type. They may sing just as high as Mezzos at times but tend to sing lower. While they typically have a fair amount of vocal weight, they may also be capable of hitting higher notes at the top of their range. There have been many popular Alto singers over the years including Cher, Amy Winehouse, Lana Del Ray, and many more.
- Contraltos: Contraltos are the lowest and rarest female voice part. Those who are comfortable singing in the lowest octaves are often highly desired to sing these parts. There aren’t very many true contraltos in popular culture, but Nina Simone and Annie Lennox are two examples.
Male Voice Parts:
- Countertenor: This is an especially rare type that can sing as high as a Soprano or Mezzo with their head voice alone. People with this voice part have an especially light vocal weight and are often uncomfortable with singing lower notes. In some cases, they may be able to sing as high as the highest Soprano singers!
- Tenor: Sitting within a medium to high range, but not quite as rare as a countertenor. Tenors typically have a narrow range that’s only slightly more than a whole octave. Michael Jackson and Stevie Wonder are two popular examples.
- Baritone: This is the most common voice part for males. Baritones sing most comfortably in the middle octaves. A well-trained baritone voice can carry a lot of vocal weight. There are plenty of examples of famous baritone singers including Frank Sinatra, Elvis Presley, John Legend, and many more.
- Bass: The lowest range of all voice parts. Bass singers have a rich, low rumbling voice with LOTS of vocal weight. True bass singers are also rare, especially in younger males who often have difficulty singing the lowest notes. Some popular examples include Barry White or Johnny Cash.
How Do I Find My Voice Part?
Chances are, you already have a good idea of your range. That’s a good start, but it isn’t the final determining factor of your voice part by any means. As mentioned above, there are many other characteristics that should be taken into account. Among the most important are vocal weight, tessitura, and transition points.
Imagine a violin and a cello playing the same note at the same time. Though they may sound similar, you can still tell the difference between them. That difference is their weight, which is just as distinctive in voice parts. A bass and a baritone may hit the same note, for example, but the bass will always be heavier than the tenor. Now, think about the highest and lowest notes you’re capable of singing. This is your range, but your tessitura is the part of your range that you’re more comfortable singing. Whatever your range, it’s always important to keep your voice comfortable. While you may be able to hit notes in a high octave as an alto, you may only be comfortable in the middle octaves. Transition points, or bridge locations as they’re sometimes known, also play an important role in which notes of your range are most comfortable. Depending on whether you rely on your head, middle, or chest register to hit certain notes, certain voice parts may be more or less challenging for you to comfortably perform.
Find Your Voice At Grace Music School
With voice lessons at Grace Music School, your instructor can assist you in finding your voice part and help you sing to the best of your capability. Contact us here to learn more and enroll for voice lessons today!