Knowing your singing range will help you find the songs that you can sing best and to communicate with other musicians about what your “instrument” can do. I’ll show you how.
Listen to your speaking voice. Is it high, middle or low? Use a piano/keyboard to accurately find your range so that you can communicate with other musicians. For instance, my range is C2-C5.
Go to VirtualPiano.net to access an online keyboard. Stand in a relaxed posture looking straight ahead. Take a deep breath and breathe out a note, “Ahhh” as low as you can go in a talking voice. Make sure that you still sound clear; don’t croak a sound that is unnatural for you.
Match it on the keyboard. Refer to the guide below.
You now have the lower end of your vocal range. Repeat the process to find the high end of your range.
There are four ranges for both genders. Highest to lowest for men are Counter-Tenor, Tenor, Baritone and Bass. Highest to lowest for women are soprano, mezzo-soprano (or just mezzo for short), alto (short for contralto) and female tenor. A female tenor, like Angelique Kidjo can sing pretty much all of the male tenor notes. A countertenor can sing almost all the female alto range. A good example of this kind of singer is Paul Kandel, Clopin from Disney’s Hunchback of Notredame. Then there’s a type of bass known as an “Oktavist”. Basically, they make me sound like Elijah Wood.
IMPORTANT: You are looking for the voice range you can sing naturally. Don’t confuse your high range with falsetto* voice.
*Falsetto: A method of voice production used by male singers, especially tenors, to sing notes higher than their normal range. Think Barry Gibb singing “Staying Alive”
The “Siren Wail”. Start from your lowest note and go all the way up to your highest note, then go down again all in one continuous exhalation, like a siren. You will hear and feel where your voice naturally wants to go.
Tip: Audition notes for a musical will often include the highest and lowest note a given character has to sing.
The siren is a great warm-up exercise and will acquaint you with your natural singing range.
These are the basic voice ranges. Nearly all songs fall within these ranges:
Define your voice range in terms of “Octaves”*
“Octave: a series of eight notes occupying the interval between (and including) two notes, one having twice or half the frequency of vibration of the other. For example, C3 to C4 (middle c) is one octave and if you were to play C3 and C4 together they will sound “the same” except one is high and one is low.
An octave includes all the flats and sharps, the half notes between the two natural notes, C3 to C4 for instance.
Most people can sing two and a bit octaves. With practice, you can stretch it to three octaves. Knowing your octave range helps you to communicate with other musicians.
A good, strong singer usually has two octaves which are enough to be a professional, have fun in general or both. There exercises for extending and strengthening your range which I’ll cover in another article.
I was once told by a baritone opera singer that it is better to have two octaves of gold than four octaves of copper.
Do I have to go through a pain barrier to increase my vocal range? Never! If you’re experiencing pain then you are doing something wrong and risking damaging your vocal cords.
Is it important to increase my vocal range? Vocal range increases naturally as you practice all the aspects of voice training, maybe not my much but if you have two octaves (and you will) then you will be able to sing a lot of songs.