Sunday, October 23, 2011

How large is your range?

Sunday musings...

(still healing - keep those positive thoughts, prayers and energy heading my way!!! I feel it!)

When a "singer" feels the first thing they need to tell you is "I have a 3 1/2 octave range" or "I have a 4 octave range" my reaction is either "So?" to the first and "Really?" to the second.

Leading with your range SCREAMS amateur.  Lack of knowledge of what is truly important in the physicality of the voice.

A range that grunts at the bottom and squeaks at the top isn't range.  It isn't singing.

Most singers who lead with that simply have not learned enough about singing to understand just because you kinda sorta wanna "hit" that note,  doesn't mean you can, and doesn't mean it's a good idea.

The middle voice is so crucial in the true development of the voice.  This establishes a balance in the resonance to then allow the extensions - however large or small - to reveal themselves fully so that the ENTIRE range is resonance, vital and vibrant.

That range needs to be accessible.  Fully.  However,  it doesn't mean you want to use it all the time!  Where are you comfortable?  What tessitura shows YOU off the best?  Where does the voice balance most comfortably for the longest period of time?

Just because you have a high C doesn't make it a good idea to live up there.  Just because you have a low E doesn't mean you can project that over and over comfortably over the course of a show!

Range is irrelevant if you don't have balance of resonance anywhere.  Range is irrelevant if the voice is not balanced from the centre out.  If you stay in the extremes too long, the centre begins to develop inconsistencies. 

I know, especially in theatre,  singers are often asked what their range is.  This is a stupid question frankly. It doesn't give the answer that is truly needed. How should you answer it?  Give your range and then follow up with the part of the voice that you KNOW you can balance and sing in all day and never get tired.  Find your comfort zone and live there!  Acknowledge that,  nurture it and live there to allow for more!

Of course there are roles that need extreme.  OF COURSE.  So obviously if your range does not access that physically,  beating on it isn't going to coax it in!!  Until you truly find a balanced middle, you often cannot say with certainty what will happen to be able to access those extremes.

If you know that the "range" of a role is X to Z  and the majority of the time the character sits in a certain tessitura that is YOUR comfort zone,  THAT is more key!  Then it's about timbre, weight, and all those other things that DEFINE a voice.

So, bragging about having a 4 octave range means NOTHING if you can't SING it!  Sadly, most that brag about it, can't actually do it.  I know many mezzos who have high notes, so?  And many tenors who can sound like a baritone, so? If the mezzos don't live in their comfort zone,  if the tenors aren't comfortable where the tenor voice is most accessible,  it simply doesn't matter.  Range is irrelevant if you can't LIVE vocally where you need to, in order to perform the task at hand.

Many coloraturas have chest voice and can vocalize under the staff - but that's not what defines their voice type and if they stayed down there they would tire out so quickly! 

Range is less important that a solid, balanced and vibrant middle and a knowledge of the tessitura you can live in ALL DAY.

Lead with the reality of that.  Claim it. Own it.


  1. Great topic! If you can't have a range of abilities within that range of pitches, then please don't "claim" that range of pitches!

  2. Ha! Well put! I can hit 4 different F's, but there are only 3 octaves between them. I think Bobby McFerrin is probably one of the few people on the planet that can actually put more than 3 octaves to good use.

    On another note, I find it funny how some modern-day composers write a bunch of chatty phrases on high Gs and above, saying "I thought you were a soprano. Why is this uncomfortable?"

    Much to learn about the ranges of the voice!