Knowing what type of voice you have is the key to unlocking a successful music career. Your voice type will determine your range, timbre, and tessitura. Vocal classification is quick and easy to do and is something a lot of singers are keen to find out.
There are four main voice types, which are usually categorised into either male or female. Each voice type has its own subtypes as every voice varies in tone, range, and timbre. Your voice type is largely determined by your range, but there are other factors too.
Understanding your voice means you can choose the songs and genres you’re best suited to, ensuring you always sound great.
What are the 4 voice types?
There are actually more than four voice types altogether, but these are considered to be the main four as they are the most common:
While there is a standard criterion for belonging to each voice type, no two voices ever sound the same so there can be a lot of variation within each voice group.
What are the 6 types of voices?
You might hear some people refer to the four voice types, while others say that there are six types of voices. Both are correct, as there are a couple of extra sub-categories to the voice classifications.
The four voice types (soprano, tenor, alto, and bass) are generally considered the main voice classifications. But in full, there are six voice types: soprano, mezzo-soprano, alto, tenor, baritone, and bass.
Looking at the six voice types can be helpful if you don’t feel like your voice fits squarely into one of the four main categories. The sub-categories like mezzo-soprano and baritone act like an in-between voice type for those whose voice’s overlap between two types.
The soprano is the highest type of voice. Sopranos are usually female, but male singers with a high voice can also be called a soprano or countertenor.
A soprano singer can reach and sustain high notes with ease. The typical range for a soprano is B3 – C6, but certain types of sopranos can reach even higher notes. These are called coloratura sopranos and have the ability to reach F6, G6, or possibly even higher.
There are several types of soprano voice sub-categories, including coloratura soprano, lyric soprano, and the soubrette. Each of these voices fall into the soprano category but might vary slightly in sound, agility, and range.
The tenor is the highest male voice type. Singers who are tenors have a tessitura that’s typically between C3 and C5 and have a ringing quality to their voices.
Due to their high voice, tenors are well suited to choirs or opera. A natural tenor doesn’t just use falsetto to hit the high notes, they can also sing in a high register using head resonance.
Tenors can hit really high notes, but they have the smallest range of all the different voice types. A tenor’s range is typically around C3 – B4.
This can vary depending on the type of tenor a singer is, as there are eight subtypes: countertenor, leggero, tenor buffo or spieltenor, lyric tenor, Mozart, spinto tenor, dramatic tenor, and heldentenor.
Also known as the contralto, the alto is the lowest female voice type. True altos have a natural deep timbre to their voice and can actually be quite hard to find.
An alto has a tessitura of between F3 and F5. The typical range of a contralto is E3 – F5, but many trained altos can still high really high notes at the top of their range.
The bass is the lowest type of male voice and has the lowest tessitura of all the voice types. A bass singer typically has a range from the second E below middle C to F♯ above.
In some cases, basses can reach a lower extreme of C2 or an upper extreme of G4. Every bass singer’s voice has a different weight and dexterity which will affect their range. A basso profundo, for example, sounds low and rich while a basso cantante has a lyrical voice despite their low voice.
There are six bass singer subtypes altogether. These are dramatic bass, bass-baritone, basso profundo, basso buffo, bel canto bass, and basso cantante.
Often described as a classical singing voice, a baritone is a cross-over between bass and tenor voice-types.
A baritone voice falls between the higher register of a tenor voice and the lower bass registers. It’s the most common singing voice for a male and is recognised by its deep, rich timbre.
The typical range of a baritone singer is G2 – G4. In a choir, a baritone who has a higher tessitura tends to choose to sing with the tenor singers, while baritones with a lower tessitura choose to sing with the basses.
How do you know your voice type?
Now you know all the different types of voice, you might be wondering how you work out which one you are.
When it comes to working out your voice type, you’ll hear range being mentioned a lot. Your range is a key variable in the voice classification process, but it’s not the only thing to consider. There are actually three things to take into account when you’re identifying your voice type:
#1 Your range
Identifying the highest and lowest note you can comfortably sing will give you an idea of what your range is. You can then compare your range to the typical range of each voice type and see which you best fit into.
#2 Your tessitura
Knowing your range might not be enough to clearly identify your voice type. Your range might fall in-between categories and leave you feeling even more confused about your voice. This is where working out your tessitura comes in.
Your tessitura is the range you feel most comfortable singing in and where your timbre sounds at it’s best. You can use your tessitura to narrow down your voice type if you’re stuck between two categories.
If your tessitura falls at the lower half of your range, your voice is more likely to belong to the lower voice type of the two categories you fall in. If your tessitura is at the higher end of your range, you’re probably better suited to the higher voice type of the two.
#3 Anatomical factors
The third and final factor that decides your voice type is your genetics and physiology. The size and shape of your vocal cords, vocal tract, and larynx will determine your range and timbre, automatically filing your voice into its natural voice category.
Anatomical factors play a large role in determining your voice type, but there’s no way to actually measure and test the length and size of your voice box to find out what type of voice you have.
Vocal range chart
Hearing lots of references to ranges and tessituras can be confusing, especially if you’re not familiar with keys.
The easiest way to get a good handle of keys and to work out your vocal range is to use a piano. Testing your voice out while looking at a vocal range chart like this will really help you visualise the different keys your voice can reach in comparison to the piano keys.
You can use a real piano or an online piano to assist you in testing your vocal range.
Vocal range scale
To give you a sense of scale, it can help seeing the typical tessitura of each voice type lined up alongside each other. This would look like this:
- Soprano: C4 – C6
- Mezzo-Soprano: A3 – A5
- Alto: F3 – F5
- Tenor: C3 – C5
- Baritone: G2 – G4
- Bass: E2 – E5
You might notice that there’s a range in the tessitura of each voice group. That’s because every singing voice is unique, and charts and scales can only provide a ballpark field about a singer’s range.
It’s quite common for singers to be able to sing a bit lower or higher than the typical range of their voice type.
Vocal range of famous singers
When you’re familiarising yourself with singing voice types, it can help to have a point of reference to help you recognise the different voice classifications.
Looking at famous singers and what their range and voice type is can give you a good comparison. Here are some of the biggest singers in each voice type category:
The Shake It Off singer’s vocal range is E3 – F#5. This makes Taylor Swift a Light-Lyric Soprano.
You might expect a rapper’s vocal range to be quite narrow, but Eminem can comfortably sing from D2 – F2. He raps in a deeper, baritone voice in some of his tracks, but Eminem is actually a tenor.
While her low notes are the strongest in her range, pop-singer Lorde’s range is G#2 – G#3. This makes her a contralto.
With her deep, rich tone, Adele is sometimes mistaken for an alto. But her vocal range, C3 – B5, puts her in the dark mezzo-soprano voice category.
Bublé is sometimes mistaken for a tenor due to the bright and warm quality to his voice. But the Canadian singer-songwriter is actually a lyric baritone, as his range is D2 – Eb5 (and possibly even higher).
What determines vocal range?
Your voice type is largely determined by your range. But you might wonder, what determines your vocal range? There are several key factors that affect your range when you sing:
- Age – singers don’t usually access their full range until their voice has matured (which can vary, but tends to roughly be around the age of 30).
- Training – a beginner usually has a smaller range than an advanced singer. The more you train your voice, the stronger your vocal cords and diaphragm become and the wider your range will become.
- Genetics – your physiology is one of the biggest factors that determine your vocal range. The length of your vocal cords and muscles of the diaphragm will determine what notes you’re physically able to reach.
What is your vocal range quiz
If you’re struggling to identify what your vocal range is, or if you just want to double–check your findings, there are dozens of online quizzes out there that are designed to do just that.
If you’re looking for a quiz that will determine your vocal range, Quizony’s What Vocal Range Am I? is a great online test.
If you’re seeking help to clarify your voice type, Which voice type am I? on AllTheTests.com asks you ten questions about your tone and range before giving you an approximate voice type at the end.
A fun alternative quiz is available on playback.fm. If you’ve always wondered what famous singer you most sound like, Find Your Vocal Range & Famous Singer Match not only calculates your vocal range but matches you with the celebrity your voice best compares to.
Vocal range test app
There’s an app for everything nowadays, voice classification included. To test your vocal range on an apple or android device, you can download an app like Vocal Range – Pitch Detector.
Vocal apps will not only help you work out your range, but they can also help you finetune your voice and test your pitch.
The Vocal Range- Pitch Detector app even finds your most comfortable songs to perform, and the artist who your voice type is closest to.
Test your singing voice online
If you’re not sure whether you’ve correctly identified your range or voice type, there’s no harm in getting a second opinion. Performing to friends or family is a great feedback resource, but there’s also plenty of singing tests online that can test every aspect of your voice.
Taking a Tone Deaf Test online will get to the very bare bones of your singing ability by testing your pitch perception.
Singing test with microphone
If you want to cross the barrier between the screen and your voice and test your voice online using real recordings, you can take the Power to Sing test. This online test gets you to use your device’s microphone to record yourself singing and gives you an accurate voice classification result.
Types of voice tones
Your tone can also help determine what voice type you have. While your range will help you find the broad voice category you belong to, your tone can help narrow down which vocal subcategory your voice fits into.
Tone is also referred to as the timbre of your voice. Some of the most common ways to describe a singer’s tone are light or dark, bright or deep, and rich or shrill.
Knowing your tone will help you narrow down your voice classification. A soprano singer with a light tone, for example, will be a lyric soprano, while a soprano with a dark or deep tone is more likely to be a dramatic soprano or a dark mezzo-soprano.
Try not to get too hung up on your voice type and trying to fit yourself into a firm category, as this can box your voice off.
Children’s voice types
Children’s voices can’t really be labelled using the same voice classification system as an adult singer. Boys and girls typically have higher voices during childhood than they do when their voice matures, meaning their range and tessitura aren’t fully developed or settled yet.
With that in mind, most children have soprano voices. This is because children tend to have lighter, higher voices before their voice boxes mature and their vocal cords lengthen.
Boys are more likely to find their voice matches a female singing voice type (soprano, mezzo-soprano, or contralto) during childhood. This is because boys can access a higher vocal range before they go through puberty when their voices will most likely deepen and change their range.
A really unique and interesting type of voice is the “treble voice.” This refers to the female and male singers whose voice remains unchanged even after puberty and maintains their soprano quality.
Frequently Asked Questions
- Can I change my voice type?
As genetics play a large role in how your voice sounds, you can’t completely change your voice type. You can, however, alter how your voice sounds.
Singing in your upper chest voice or head voice will make your vocals sound higher and lighter. Training and using good breath control will also change how your voice sounds, and possibly improve your range.
Some soprano singers try to sing in their lowest key to make themselves sound like an alto, but this can cause vocal strain, so it’s best to sing in your natural tessitura.
- What is the most common voice type?
The baritone is the most common voice type for males, and mezzo–soprano is the most common female voice type.
- What is the rarest voice type?
A contralto is the rarest type of singing voice. Contraltos are female singers who have the lowest voice and tessitura of all the female singing groups.
Naturally deep and powerful voices are usually the rarest. True contraltos are so hard to find that their roles are often filled by mezzo-sopranos or sopranos in choirs.