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Vocal Range - Definition, How it's Measured & Examples of Famous Singers

18 Jan 2024

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Vocal Range and Ways to Measure It as Explained on ipassio

In the context of singing, vocal range refers to the reach between the lowest and the highest points or notes that singers can project their voice comfortably and confidently.

Having a wide vocal range of at least two and a half to three octaves is considered to be a sign of commendable singing abilities.

It means that you can render the diverse vocal techniques at the lowest note and the highest note of your vocal range with equal aplomb.

Your vocal range also helps to determine your voice type.

The vocal range is measured in octaves.

In the context of vocal range, it is important to know about the octave. 

What is an Octave?

An octave refers to a musical interval that stretches over eight notes.

The Western musical system labels these notes as - C, D, E, F, G, A, and B.  In the Indian context, the notes or the swaras are labeled as Sa, Re, Ga, Ma, Pa, Dha, and Ni.

The eighth note in the sequence is the same as the first but at a higher or lower pitch. For example - C, D, E, F, G, A, B, C1 - makes one octave. Thus we can also say that an octave is an interval between two pitches - C and C1 or C1 and C2, and so on.

Every musical note has a certain frequency when they are sung in one octave. And the moment you ascend to the next octave - the frequency of the musical notes becomes double.

Likewise, when you descend to the octave that comes before - the frequency of the musical notes is halved. 

Measuring Vocal Range through Octaves

A singer's vocal range spans over multiple octaves, encompassing both low and high pitches.

The ability to navigate through this range contributes to the singer's expressiveness and versatility in interpreting various musical pieces.

Depending on the vocal range, there are different voice types such as bass, baritone, tenor, alto, soprano, etc.

Vocal range is measured by the number of octaves a singer can cover. Here is an attempt to break it down for a better understanding in the context of Western music-

  • Singers with Bass voice type start singing in the range of E2 to E4.
  • Alto voice types have a voice range between F3 and D5.
  • Singers with a Baritone voice start in the range of F2 and F4 for chorus and between G2 and G4 for operas. 
  • Mezzo-soprano voice types sing in the range of A3 and F5.
  • Tenor voice types sing in the range of C3 and B4.
  • Singers with Soprano voice types sing in the range of C4 and A5.

In the Indian Context

Indian classical music requires the singer to cover three octaves -

Mandra Saptak: In Indian classical music, the term "mandra saptak" refers to the lower octave. It includes a lower range of notes and is associated with deeper and bass-oriented sounds.

Madhya Saptak: "Madhya saptak" refers to the middle octave. This is the intermediate range of notes and is often considered the central and balanced part of the vocal range.

Taar Saptak: The upper octave is termed "taar saptak." It involves a higher range of notes and is associated with brighter and more resonant sounds.

Indian singers are expected to navigate these three octaves with precision and control, expressing the intricate nuances of various ragas and musical compositions.

Vocal Range of Famous Singers

Have you ever been overwhelmed by how famous and successful singers sing? Have you ever wondered how they render the most complex compositions at the highest pitches and emote with absolute finesse? Do you want to know the vocal range of your favorite singers? Here’s presenting a few of them.

Celine Dion

The voice and the magic behind songs like ‘My Heart Will Go On,’ ‘Because You Loved Me,’ and ‘Loved Me Back to Life,’ and numerous others - Celine Dion is known for her rich and full-bodied voice with the ability to sing both lower and higher notes.

Celine Dion is classified as a mezzo-soprano, a female voice type that typically ranges between the alto and soprano.

While different sources are quoting different voice ranges for her - some estimates suggest her voice range to be between B2 and D2.

Micheal Jackson

Michael Jackson's impressive and distinctive vocal range contributed to his iconic sound. While estimates of his exact vocal range can vary, it is generally considered to be around four octaves. His voice could span from the lower baritone range (E2 or F2) to the upper tenor range (around C5 and E6 or even higher.)

Please note that these are approximate estimations. The actual notes may vary as per the recording or performance requirements.

Elvis Presley

Elvis Presley is one of the legendary vocalists whose contribution to Rock music is still held with high regard. Some of the most memorable songs voiced by Presley include ‘Cant’s Help Falling in Love,’ ‘Marguerita,’ ‘Love Me Tender,’ and ‘In the Ghetto’ among many others. These magical songs remain etched in the memories of music lovers even today.

Elvis is known to have a Baritone voice with a vocal range between E1 and A5.

Indian Vocalists

The voice types in Indian classical and playback singing are not as rigidly defined as in Western classical music. Singers are often recognized for their unique tonal quality, style, and emotive expression rather than fitting into specific voice categories.

Also, as mentioned above - the vocal range is often explored through the concept of octaves (saptaks) and involves the lower, middle, and upper registers.

Classical singers like Ustad Rashid Khan and Rahat Fateh Ali Khan are known for their ability to navigate through these registers seamlessly. They can display depth in the lower octave (mandra saptak), richness in the middle octave (madhya saptak), and clarity and brilliance in the upper octave (taar saptak).

Lata Mangeshkar has a soprano voice. And it has been instrumental in her ability to sing a vast variety of songs across genres and languages.

Shreya Ghoshal is recognized for her ability to cover a broad spectrum of pitches. She is adept at singing in various octaves, smoothly transitioning between lower and higher notes.

Likewise, Arijit Singh is a tenor as per the Western classification and known to sing in the higher registers with ease. 

Conclusion

What if you don’t have an exorbitantly wide vocal range? Does that mean that you are not a good singer? Not at all. Many renowned singers have a limited vocal range. There is much more to good singing than just the vocal range. The real beauty of music lies not just in the octaves a singer can cover, but in the distinctiveness, emotion, and artistry they bring to each note.

Would you like to learn about the various nuances that go behind developing amazing vocal skills and also explore those possibilities in your voice? Then you can explore Online Hindustani Music Classes.

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