Voice classification is a tool used by singers, composers, venues and listeners to categorise voice type and vocal properties of singers based on several important criteria.
Choral singers are classified into voice parts based on vocal range whereas solo singers are classified into a voice type based more on where their voice feels most comfortable most of the time (tessitura).
In operatic systems, there are six basic voice types. The three for female voices are soprano, mezzo-soprano and contralto and the three for male voices are tenor, baritone and bass. Within choral music, there are only four voice types for adult singers such as soprano and alto for women and tenor and bass for men. Children’s voices, both male and female are described as trebles.
Now, if you’re a pop singer and not a classical or chorale singer, you will probably have realised that there seems to be no apparent system of voice classification for non-classical music such as jazz, pop, blues, soul, country, folk and rock, and you would be right. The classical terms and techniques used to describe various vocal ranges and vocal timbres unique to each range are in fact, quite often unfamiliar to non-classical musicians.
But don’t despair because you can still adopt some of the classical operatic voice type systems of classification as a guideline to understand more about your voice so that you can not only train more efficiently but also understand how to select the right songs to fit you.
Generally, most people’s voices fall within the middle categories of mezzo-soprano for women and baritone for men. There are also a fair number of tenors and sopranos, but true basses and contraltos are rare. To get you started, consider these main classification criteria to help determine your voice type.
This is a key indicator of what voice type a singer has. Knowing your vocal range and where your voice feels comfortable is important so that you know which notes you should train with when doing vocal exercises and warm-ups. Staying within your vocal range, not too high and not too low, helps avoid unnecessary damage to your voice.
As your voice moves from low pitches to higher notes it goes through several changes in tone and quality, this is called vocal register changes. Knowing where your voice ‘shifts gear’ helps you to determine what voice type you belong to and allows for smoother register changes.
Some voices have vocal tones that are bright and ringing or delicate and light whereas others may sound darker, heavier and more powerful. Knowing your vocal tone helps you to know what kind of songs you can perform and which ones to avoid, especially when auditioning.
Tessitura (Voice Strength)
Determining your ‘sweet voice’ and where your voice sounds best and most comfortable is key to understanding what voice type you belong to. For example, a soprano would have a stronger head voice whereas a bass singer would have a stronger middle voice.
Speech Level Voice
This is the voice we are most comfortable using and the voice we would use for everyday conversation. Your speech level voice is a good indication of your voice type
Teaching and learning voice type within non-classical music is still an emerging field as new styles of music continue to develop and the quest for more relevant and common terms for vocalists throughout these styles continues to be sought after. Currently, it has only been within the last few years that music programs have begun to embrace alternative methodologies suitable to other kinds of vocal music.
So, as the evolution continues, be comforted by the fact that constant practice will change your voice quality and type to a certain extent and over time you will be able to move towards your dream voice no matter what voice type classification method you may adopt.
Give us a call on 011- 425 35 09 or visit us at keyboardmagic.co.za so we can assist you further with determining your voice type.