The Voice As Musical Instrument

Vocal Range

Beverly Sills
Beverly Sills at the 2002 NARAS Heroes Awards, Roosevelt Hotel, NYC, December 11, 2002. Matthew Peyton/Getty Images

Each of us has a specific voice type or vocal range; some may be capable of hitting very high notes, while others are more comfortable singing low. Did you know that our voice is also considered a musical instrument? Learn more about the different types of voices.

  • Alto - Alto is a type of voice that is lower than a soprano but higher than a tenor. There are many people who sing using the alto voice. One of the popular alto male singers, also known as a counter-tenor, is James Bowman. Bowman sang some of the most memorable compositions of Benjamin Britten including the role of Oberon from "A Midsummer Night's Dream."
  • Baritone -The baritone voice is lower than the tenor but higher than the bass. It is the most common male voice type. In operas, baritones may play the role of either the main character or the supporting character.
  • Bass - For female singers, the soprano is the highest voice type, while for men, the bass is the lowest. One of the famous bass singers of our time is Samuel Ramey who played the role of Archibaldo in the opera L’amore dei tre Re by Italo Montemezzi.
  • Mezzo-Soprano - In Georges Bizet's opera "Carmen," the mezzo-soprano voice is used to play the role of Carmen. This type of voice is lower or darker than a soprano but higher or lighter than an alto.
  • Soprano - The soprano voice is the highest female voice type; the late Beverly Sills was one of the most famous coloratura sopranos of our time.
  • Tenor - If the soprano is the highest female vocal range, the tenor, on the other hand, is the highest male vocal range. One of the famous tenors of our time was the late Lucianno Pavarotti.