Whether you want to belt it out onstage, onscreen, or via home recording, knowing your voice type and vocal range will help you land roles in voiceover, theater, film, and TV. Identify your voice type and vocal range so you can comfortably hit your highest and lowest notes—and land your next gig—with these tips.
“A Star is Born” Courtesy Warner Bros. Pictures
Voice type is the classification system for a person’s vocal range, or the range in which a voice is most comfortable. The main voice types are bass, baritone, tenor, alto, mezzo-soprano, and soprano. Voice type is determined by:
- Vocal weight: the lightness or heaviness of a voice
- Tessitura: the range in which a voice has its best timbre
- Bridge location: the gap between vocal registers
- Anatomy: the ways that resonation and articulation take place physically
Actors hoping to perform in musicals, operas, or any production that involves a singing character—think of Bradley Cooper holding his own with Lady Gaga in “A Star Is Born”—need to know their voice type and vocal range so they can audition for the right parts.
Denis Z. www.denixoid.com/Shutterstock
Voice types and vocal ranges often overlap. Generally, however, the ranges for bass, baritone, tenor, alto, mezzo-soprano, and soprano are:
- Bass: E2–E4
- Baritone: G2–G4
- Tenor: C3–C5
- Alto: F3–F5
- Mezzo-soprano: A3–A5
- Soprano: C4–C6
Guttural and gravelly, the low bass is ideal for portraying otherworldly creatures such as demons, gods, and monsters.
Bass voice examples:
- James Earl Jones
- Barry White
- Patrick Page
- Johnny Cash
Featureflash Photo Agency/spatuletail/Shutterstock/Patrick Page
The baritone is the most common voice type for men. With its rich, warm timbre, the baritone is usually used for Casanovas and patriarchs.
Baritone voice examples:
- Frank Sinatra
- Norm Lewis
- John Raitt
- Otis Redding
mark reinstein/Ron Adar/Shutterstock/Courtesy Warner Bros./Courtesy Atlantic Records
Tenor is the highest voice for adult male singers. This brassy, bright voice type is usually assigned to leading men and romantic heroes.
Tenor voice examples:
- Paul McCartney
- Adam Pascal
- Titus Burgess
- Justin Timberlake
Singers with this lower-register female voice can still hit those high notes, despite deep huskiness. The alto voice type is synonymous with Broadway belters.
Alto voice examples:
- Rachel Bay Jones
- Ella Fitzgerald
- Liza Minnelli
Kathy Hutchins/Cubankite/Courtesy Ella Fitzgerald/Featureflash Photo Agency/Shutterstock
This vocal type is the middle range and most common vocal type for women, often used for the roles of “witches, bitches, and britches.”
Mezzo-soprano voice examples:
- Selena Gomez
- Sara Bareilles
- Renée Elise Goldsberry
- Idina Menzel
BAKOUNINE/Ovidiu Hrubaru/lev radin/Quinn Jeffrey/Shutterstock
The highest traditional singing voice is often sung by women portraying romantic and regal characters, and by children.
Soprano voice examples:
- Julie Andrews
- Mariah Carey
- Laura Osnes
Everett Collection/Featureflash Photo Agency/Ovidiu Hrubaru/Shutterstock
Figuring out your vocal range is a matter of testing how low and high you can sing. After doing a comprehensive warmup, find your range in the following ways:
How to find your vocal range manually
You can discover your vocal range by testing it against a piano, keyboard, or digital instrument.
- Find middle C (C4), the closest C to the exact middle of the keyboard. On a normative 88-key piano, middle C is the fourth C from the left of the keyboard.
- Once you’ve found it, trace the keys downward and sing along with an “ah” until you hit your lowest comfortable note.
- Then do the same but follow the keys upward until you hit your highest comfortable note.
- The lowest and highest notes provide the parameters of your vocal range.
How to use vocal range apps
Determine your voice type after identifying your range
Once you know your vocal range, you can determine your voice type. Compare your range with different vocal types to see where you land. Be sure to include it on your acting résumé if you plan to apply to any roles that involve singing, especially in musical theater.
Why knowing your vocal range is important
If you want to expand your acting repertoire with singing performances, your résumé should list your vocal range, voice type, and a brief description of your specific sound and vocal capacity. A good rule of thumb is to provide a reflection of the notes you can hit at random every day of the week—not the notes you can only hit after an extended warmup session. This information can help get you hired for certain roles.
“Frozen” Courtesy Walt Disney Animation Studios
While voice type is mostly established by physical capacity, you can expand your vocal range with time, effort, and a good amount of practice. Doing so can mean landing more roles. Menzel, for example, hits high notes in “Let It Go” and low notes in “I’m Not That Girl” that extend past her normative mezzo-soprano vocal range. The Broadway star’s three-octave vocal range has undoubtedly helped her land many iconic roles.
To try and increase your own vocal range:
- Warm up: Be sure to always warm up your vocal cords before you start singing.
- Be wary of falsetto: While falsetto voice may sometimes be desirable for singing performances, its breathiness doesn’t actually increase your vocal range.
- Stand tall: Using the right posture is one of the easiest ways to increase your vocal range because it opens up the space around your voice. Stand straight, puff your chest out slightly, and focus on your posture to release your inner siren and expand your range.
- Breathe correctly: Breathe in through your mouth, paying particular attention to expanding your diaphragm. As your stomach expands, your range will increase.
- Open your throat: Open up your throat by smiling slightly and placing your tongue at the top of your mouth. This raises the velum and lowers the larynx, which creates vocal release and allows you to hit a wider range of notes.
Once you know your voice type and can hit and modulate a solid vocal range, start applying to gigs.