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What is the strong middle female voice?

What is the strong middle female voice?

Print shows a clash between the Academy of Music and the Metropolitan Opera, with Henry E. Abbey, opera singers, conductors, and orchestras

The operatic war in NY, c. 1880–1889

Voice Type

A voice type is a singing voice identified as having certain qualities or characteristics of vocal range, vocal weight, tessitura, vocal timbre, and vocal transition points, such as breaks and lifts within the voice. Voice classification is a tool for singers, composers, venues, and listeners to categorize vocal properties and to associate roles with voices.

Women are typically divided into three groups: soprano, mezzo-soprano, and contralto. Men are usually divided into four groups: countertenor, tenor, baritone, and bass. Some women fall into the tenor or baritone groups, while men identified as countertenors can be grouped as contralto, mezzo-soprano, or soprano. When considering the pre-pubescent voice, an eighth term, treble, is applied. Within each of these major categories, subcategories identify specific vocal qualities such as coloratura facility and vocal weight to differentiate between voices. The vocal range of classical performance covers about five octaves, from a low G1 (in scientific pitch notation) to a high G6. Any individual’s voice can perform over a range of one and a half to more than two octaves. Vocal ranges are grouped into overlapping types that each span about two octaves. Many singers fall between groups and can perform some parts in either type.

Listen: Vocal Anatomy and Types

Vocal Ranges

A typical choral arrangement divides women into higher and lower voices and men into higher or lower voices. Most voices can be assigned one of these four ranges, and this gives the composer four vocal lines to work with, which is usually enough. The four main vocal ranges are:

  • Soprano – A high female (or boy’s) voice
  • Alto – A low female (or boy’s) voice
  • Tenor – A high (adult) male voice
  • Bass – A low (adult) male voice
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Arrangements for these four voices are labeled SATB (for Soprano Alto Tenor Bass). The ranges of the four voices overlap, but singers may find themselves straining or getting an unpleasant sound at the top or a weak sound at the bottom of their ranges. So although the full ranges of an alto and a soprano may look quite similar, the soprano gets a strong, clear sound on the higher notes, and the alto a strong, clear sound in the lower part of the range. But there are vocalists whose strong, best-sounding range falls in a distinctly different place from any of these four voices. The names for some of these ranges are:

  • Coloratura Soprano – This is not really a different range from the soprano, but a coloratura soprano has a voice that is unusually high, light, and agile, even for a soprano.
  • Mezzo-soprano – In between soprano and alto
  • Contralto – Contralto and alto originally referred to the same voice. But some people today use “contralto” to refer to a female voice that is even lower than a typical alto
  • Countertenor – A male voice that is unusually high, light, and agile, even for a tenor
  • Baritone – A male voice that falls in between tenor and bass

Approximate, average ranges for each voice category. Soprano from middle C ranging two octaves higher. Mezzo soprano ranging from A below middle C and two octaves higher. Alto ranging from F below middle C and two octaves higher.

Voices are as individual as faces; some altos will have a narrower or wider range, or the sweetest and most powerful part of their range in a different place than other altos. These are approximate, average ranges for each voice category.

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Highest Range of the Dames: Soprano

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The soprano has the highest range of the female voice types, in fact the highest range of all the voice types. The following aspects are characteristic of her voice type:

  • Range: Often Middle C to High C, although some sopranos can vocalize way beyond High C and much lower than Middle C (see following illustration). A soprano is expected to have a High C, and many sopranos can sing up to the G or A above High C. Choral directors or musical directors listen for the singer’s comfort zone when determining whether the singer is a soprano. Although a mezzo can reach some of these higher notes, a soprano is capable of singing high notes more frequently than a mezzo.
  • Register transitions: The transitions usually occur as the soprano shifts out of chest voice around the E-flat just above Middle C and into her head voice around F-sharp (fifth line on top of the staff) in the octave above Middle C.
  • Strength: A soprano’s strength is a strong head voice.
  • Voice tone: The soprano voice is usually bright and ringing.
  • Weakness: Sopranos have a hard time projecting in middle voice. Soprano subdivisions in the classical world include light lyric, full lyric, light lyric coloratura, full lyric coloratura, light dramatic coloratura, full dramatic coloratura, light dramatic (or spinto), and full dramatic.
  • Soprano belter: A soprano belter has an easier time managing her chest voice for belting and usually belts higher than a mezzo. Check out these names to hear some soprano belters: Betty Buckley, Celine Dion, Whitney Houston, Christina Aguilera, Aretha Franklin, Carrie Underwood, Kelly Clarkson, and Jennifer Hudson.
  • Common performance roles: The soprano is usually the lead in the show, such as Ariel in The Little Mermaid, Marian the Librarian in TheMusic Man, Tosca in Tosca, Mabel in The Pirates of Penzance, and Mimi in La Bohème.
  • Naming names: Famous sopranos you may know include Julie Andrews, Sarah Brightman, Kristin Chenoweth, Renée Fleming, Beyoncé Knowles, Audra McDonald, Olivia Newton John, and Dolly Parton.
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Soprano range.

Soprano range.

About This Article

This article is from the book:

  • Singing For Dummies ,

About the book author:

Pamelia S. Phillips is a professional singer with over 35 years of teaching experience. She has designed curriculum for high school students, college BFA programs, and professional training programs, helping thousands of singers refine their singing technique.

The 6 Voice Types and their Ranges

Jade Bultitude

In classical music we classify voices into different voice categories. Although everyone human voice is different, voice types can be categorized into six main voice types. If you have sung any choral music before you may well have heard of these. These are:

When thinking about the typical vocal range of a particular voice, we think about the lowest note of the singing voice and the highest note of the singing voice. Although some people may be able to sing higher or lower than these ranges, what we will look at are the most typical vocal ranges.

It is important to note that although these labels are usually applied to classical music these voice categories can also be applied to popular music, contemporary music and any other music than invoices the voice!

Let’s look at each voice type in more detail, particularly focusing on their vocal range and specific vocal qualities. First we will look at the female voice types. The soprano, mezzo soprano and alto voices.


The soprano is the highest human voice and is most usually a female voice. The typical soprano voice range is from middle C up to the second A above middle C.

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To get a better picture of the vocal range have a look at the range on the piano keyboard.

An example of a soprano singer would be Renee Fleming and Anna Netrebko.

Mezzo Soprano

Just slightly lower than the soprano is the mezzo soprano voice. Again, this voice type is most usually sung by a female. The mezzo soprano voice range is usually from the A below middle C up to the F or G at the top of the treble stave.

To get a better picture of the vocal range have a look at the range on the piano keyboard.

An example of a this voice type would be Katherine Jenkins.


The alto voice is usually the lowest female voice and goes from the G below middle C up to the D at the top of the stave.

To get a better picture of the vocal range have a look at the range on the piano keyboard.

An example alto singer is Annie Lennox.


The tenor voice is the highest male voice range. The typical range is from the C below middle C up to the E above middle C.

To get a better picture of the vocal range have a look at the range on the piano keyboard.


The baritone voice lies between the tenor and bass voices. The typical baritone range is from two G’s below middle C to the E above middle C.

To get a better picture of the vocal range have a look at the range on the piano keyboard.


The bass is the lowest of the voice types and is always sung by the male voice. It’s typical range is from the second F below middle C to the D just above middle C.

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To get a better picture of the vocal range have a look at the range on the piano keyboard.

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