Knowing and understanding your vocal range is an important part of moving forward in your musical theatre journey. And figuring out your voice type is actually pretty simple! All you need is a keyboard (or a virtual piano➝), a few spare minutes, and the following exercise!
The Keyboard Numbering System
When looking at a keyboard, the most important thing to remember is that Middle C is C4. From there, you can figure out everything else. Each C above Middle C goes up (C5, C6, etc.) and each C below goes down (C3, C2, etc.). For all other keys, just take a look at the keyboard below.
Now it’s time to start singing! Start at Middle C and sing down the scale until it no longer feels comfortable. Write that last comfortable note down. Then do the same singing up the scale. Write the last comfortable high note down. And that’s it!
Using the range that you now have in front of you, go through the list below to find out your vocal type!
1. Approach this exercise with an open mind. Sometimes we hold on to an idea, like “I’m definitely a mezzo-soprano”, which could cause us to sing songs that are absolutely wrong for us. I would like to encourage you to first let go of any formerly decided facts about your voice type.
2. Gender should NOT play a role in what vocal type you are. There are female tenors. There are male altos. Try to put any gender ideas aside when figuring out your vocal type. This should allow you to land on your sweet spot with ease.
3. It’s possible that your range might sit in the middle of two vocal types. Or, your range might be larger than any one vocal type. In either of these cases, terms like “bass-baritone“, “baritenor” and “alto-mezzo” may be used.
4. Try to schedule this exercise for yourself when no one is around so that you have absolutely no self-consciousness when belting out these notes.
5. Have fun!
Basses have the lowest vocal type, usually ranging between E2-E4. But some bass singers can even go much lower than that! Here are some audition songs for basses.
Famous Bass Singers: Patrick Page, Josh Turner, Leonard Cohen
Typical Range: E2-E4
Extended Range: C2-G4
Baritones have the second lowest voice range. This vocal type originates from the Greek “βαρύτονος”, which means “heavy sounding”. Here are some audition songs for baritones.
Famous Baritones: John Mayer, Michael Bublé, Nat King Cole
Typical Range: A2-G4
Extended Range: F2-B4
Tenors have the third lowest vocal type. Here are some audition songs for tenors.
Famous Tenors: Lin-Manuel Miranda, Usher, Bruno Mars
Typical Range: C3-C5
Extended Range: A2-E5
Also referred to as “contralto” or “countertenor”, the contra voice type lies in between the tenor and alto vocal types. There is no difference between contraltos and countertenors. Because of that, let’s refer to this range as “contra”. Here are some audition songs for contras.
Famous Contras: Gladys Knight, Steve Perry, Toni Braxton
Typical Range: E3-E5
Extended Range: D3-F5
We are now entering the territory as to what some label as the “high voices”. Alto is the third highest vocal type. Here are some audition songs for altos.
Famous Altos: Carole King, KT Tunstall, Chaka Khan
Typical Range: F3-F5
Extended Range: E3-A5
This is the voice type that children often fall into before their voice transforms into their adult voice. This vocal type is very similar to the adult mezzo-soprano. So if you’re looking for new songs as a treble, you can check out the adult mezzo-soprano repertoire and keep an eye out for child-friendly pieces. Here are some audition songs for trebles.
Typical Range: A3-F5
Extended Range: F3-B5
As mentioned above, this voice type is pretty similar to the treble vocal range, but there is generally a bit more power/belt in the adult mezzo-soprano voice. Here are some audition songs for mezzo-sopranos.
Famous Mezzo-Sopranos: Beyoncé, Idina Menzel, Barbra Streisand
Typical Range: A3-A5
Extended Range: F3-C6
Sopranos have the highest range of any voice type. Here are some audition songs for sopranos.
Famous Sopranos: Julie Andrews, Mariah Carey, Kristin Chenoweth
Typical Range: C4-C6
Extended Range: F3-F6
What’s your vocal range and voice type?
Did it turn out to be different than you originally thought? We would love to hear all about it in the comments below!
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Author: Stacy Karyn
Stacy Karyn is the founder of Theatre Trip, author of The Thespian’s Bucket List, and creator of The Cast Album List. She holds a BA in theatre, a TESOL drama certificate, and has worked and interned with Broadway and Off-Broadway theaters.